This week, three of 2020’s best films so far come to Blu-ray/DVD in “Buffaloed,” “Onward,” and “The Way Back.” That trio alone makes it not just one of the year’s top slates, but one of the highest quality ones we’ve seen in some time. Today is truly a terrific day for home media. Read on for more.
PICK OF THE WEEK
Best Actor Ben Affleck? Depending on how this year turns out, that may be an actual possibility, and it will be thoroughly deserved, too. Affleck marvels in what is easily one of 2020’s most phenomenal performances. His investment in the alcoholic character on screen is something to behold. The pain and recognition in his eyes of who this person is really does resonate. Our four star review here on the site goes all in on Affleck’s work:
Ben Affleck truly deserves his first acting nomination for his work here. He gives his all, combining three hugely compelling parts of his character and channeling them into the best performance of his career. Affleck makes Jack a coach you’d run through a brick wall for, an alcoholic you can’t look away from, no matter how ugly it gets, and a grief-stricken man you wish would ask for help. His evolution is a slow burn wonder. At the start, he’s insular and charming, though quick to keep everyone at a distance. Then, as the team stirs something within him, the demons are fighting with his better angels for brain space. Finally, when one side wins out, and he finally speaks to his pain, it’s the most heartbreaking we’ve ever seen the man.
“The Way Back” is one of the very best works of the year. Had our current pandemic not been on audiences’ minds when it opened, the theatrical haul would likely have been stronger, boosting Affleck’s Oscar potential. Pick it up and you’ll see why he deserves to be in the awards race, whatever form it eventually takes.
Total Box Office: $13,590,514 (theatrical run shortened by COV-19)
Major Awards: None yet
Zoey Deutch stuns in her best role to date, taking an already witty script and elevating it. Truly a shame, this movie wasn’t given the theatrical push it deserved. Deutch digs into her “Buffaloed” character and goes to town, delighting viewers throughout. Our rave review on the site heavily praises her, along with the quality of the screenplay:
“Buffaloed” is an absolute riot. You’ll laugh consistently, but you’ll also marvel at how intelligent it is. The smarts of the movie are truly what sets it apart, along with Deutch’s amazing performance.
“Buffaloed” is the sort of under-seen gem that this column is tailor made to highlight. Don’t sleep on Deutch’s turn, which is among the best of not just this year, but last year as well.
Total Box Office: $29,118
Major Awards: None yet
Pixar did it again with this emotionally satisfying and incredibly fun adventure. Not only is it exciting, there’s genuine pathos to be found. Once again, the animation giant will bring adults to tears. Karen’s review here on the site sums it up well:
The good people at Pixar are especially adept at taking familiar tropes and concepts and turning them into stories that feel fresh. Once again, they have done it with “Onward,” a story that is predictable in nearly every way, but still gives us characters we can care about and root for.
“Onward” is an easy pick for families this week, plain and simple.
Special Features: N/A
Total Box Office: $61,555,145 (box office also affected by COVID-19)
Major Awards: None yet
For today’s Vintage pick, those struggling to deal with being out of work are on our minds. The recommended pick, “Up in the Air,” given its protagonist fires people for a living, may seem odd, but a specific scene sticks out. Toward the end, when the film includes actual individuals who have been laid off, giving testimonials about their trials and tribulations. Even over a decade ago, Roger Ebert knew the movie captured something special:
Up in the Air takes the trust people once had in their jobs and pulls out the rug. It is a film for this time.
OTHER FILMS BEING RELEASED
Here is what else is being released today, aside from the recommended trio of “Buffaloed,” “Onward,” and “The Way Back.”
There are a few misfires, and fans of “Force Majeure” are sure to feel this is a little too close to the source material to justify its existence. But as a snapshot of a tested relationship, “Downhill” gets more right than wrong.
Adapting Jane Austen in 2020 requires a new take on the material. Sadly, “Emma.” never quite gets there. It thinks it does, but there really isn’t as much on display below the surface as is intended. Karen hit on that deftly in her mixed review of the movie:
“Emma.” doesn’t quite work as a joyful adaptation of a happy romantic comedy. But it hits all the main plot points of Austen’s writing and thus serves as a passable retelling. It is superficially perfect, but in this version the beauty is only skin deep.
If you’re a fan of costume dramas, give it a shot.
Nick Kroll co-writes and stars in this homage to “Lost in Translation,” set (and filmed) in the Olympic Village. This is the sort of film where every moment is one you can see coming, but never becomes bothersome due to the realism of the developments. An astute and intimate two-hander, The Hollywood Reporter enjoyed it:
A raw depiction of emotional intimacy between two people who are both slightly neurotic in different ways, but nevertheless want big things out of life.
Sonic the Hedgehog
After the awful buzz generated by the original Sonic design, the fact that this video game adaptation wound up fairly well received was a pleasant surprise. Anyone expecting a disaster instead got some light entertainment. Joseph was fond of it and even thinks there’s a sequel on the way, as you can see in his review below:
“Sonic the Hedgehog” launches a promising new franchise that spins perpetual fun and even carries resonating themes for all ages.
Another family friendly option to consider today.
Back at the New York Film Festival last year, this unique take on both voodoo and the undead consistently upends expectations. NYFF was sure to lean in to its hard-to-label nature, which was very much to the movie’s benefit. From our festival review, here on the site:
If you’re hoping for “Zombi Child” to be a traditional zombie tale, you’re going to be disappointed. The New York Film Festival has instead chosen to showcase a movie that defies easy labels. It’s compelling, entertaining, and ends on terrific sequence after terrific sequence. The one thing it’s not? A film about a zombie.
Special Criterion Collection Section
Dance, Girl, Dance
Our one and only Criterion option today is a true rarity. This effort from 1940 is helmed by Dorothy Arzner, the only female filmmaker in the Hollywood studio system at the time. Literally no other women were able to direct in the 1930’s and early 40’s except for her. The Collection doubles down on its importance like so:
The rare Hollywood picture of the era to deal seriously with issues of female artistic struggle and self-actualization, Arzner’s film is a rich, fascinating statement from an auteur decades ahead of her time.
A great option for those looking to see Hollywood back in the day actually promote artist women!