This week, a medium sized amount of 2015 releases are hitting Blu-Ray and DVD during this second week of 2016, though once again I can say that more than one of these titles are a solid option for your viewing pleasure. This is overall on the stronger side when it comes to the slates that we tend to have during this part of the year, though it’s not on the level of what we had last week. My top pick today was potentially a choice between three very different movies, but it really wasn’t a choice at all for me. Yes, my PICK OF THE WEEK is easily one of the best films to come out of the year that was 2015, with Academy Award nominations coming its way in a matter of days. You’ll see which I went with in a few moments, but for now…it’s Vintage time once again folks!
In honor (or, I suppose “honor”) of this week’s release of 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (which I won’t be bothering with), I wanted to cite another politically tinged action thriller. It’s Zero Dark Thirty, an undoubtedly superior work. From my review (found here) at the time: “Among the many successful elements of Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s new film ‘Zero Dark Thirty’, the thing I feel they should be most proud of is the fact that this movie lingers in your mind the way a good documentary does. Yes, there’s elements of action and thriller moments, but this is more than anything else a dramatization of real life. The press notes accurately speak of it as a unique kind of movie: “the reported film”. It’s got the relentlessness of a Hollywood manhunt, but the stakes of reality. Everything feels authentic here, and I think it’ll be rather hard to find people who aren’t having to catch their breath during the final half hour of this flick. We may all know the end result of this story, but Bigelow’s direction and Boal’s script fill in the blanks with aplomb. Those looking for a guns blazing story of the United States government finding and killing Osama bin Laden will be disappointed, but those who were hoping for an intense and thoughtful rumination on the more than decade long manhunt will likely be more than satisfied. I’m not sure that it’s as good as ‘The Hurt Locker’, but it’s a very different animal. This is about as close to reality as a dramatized cinema gets, even if its structure is more like a procedural than anything.” It has held up pretty well in the ensuing years, so definitely revisit this before diving into Michael Bay’s attempt at something similar…shudder.
The other two titles I’m going to discuss here today aren’t in the same league as my top pick, or even close to it, but they’re nothing to dismiss either, that’s for sure. Behold:
As many of you know by now, I almost always enjoy a Woody Allen movie, so it’s just a matter of if it’s top tier, middle of the road, or lesser Allen. This is definitely middle of the road for him, as I discussed (here) in my review: “Every so often, Woody Allen chooses to repeat himself in one way or another. With his latest outing Irrational Man, he is sort of crossing his own streams between prior works Crimes and Misdemeanors as well as Match Point. The result is one of Allen’s most serious films in some time, though one not without its own dark sense of humor. Armed with a pair of solid performances from leads Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone, Allen is able to make something that moves along despite a number of potentially long winded philosophical conversations that could have always stopped the film dead in its tracks. To me, Allen had four distinct categories that a new work of his could fall into. There’s his overt masterpieces, like Annie Hall, Hannah and her Sisters, and Manhattan, for example. There’s great films like Blue Jasmine, Bullets Over Broadway, Midnight in Paris, and Radio Days (not to mention his early comedies). There’s decent works that are a cut below his better outings but still easily enjoyable, with the vast majority of the rest of his filmography falling into that realm for me. There’s also the occasional weaker effort that many dislike but I still find passable, mainly because I enjoy Allen’s voice (think The Curse of the Jade Scorpion). For me, Irrational Man is in that third category.” No one gave this one a chance, and that’s a shame. Give it a look, and as further incentive, here is my interview with co-star Parker Posey.
Special Features: N/A
Total Box Office: $4,030,360
Major Awards: None
The Look of Silence
I know I don’t adore this documentary nearly as much as most of my colleagues do, but it’s still quite good. From my initial review (found right here) that I submitted after having initially seen it the year before at the New York Film Festival: “Though it might not be of particularly strong interest to anyone who hasn’t seen director Joshua Oppenheimer‘s award winning and Academy Award nominated prior documentary The Act of Killing, that shouldn’t be an excuse not to go out and see The Look of Silence. This is a compelling companion piece and pseudo sequel that looks at a similar issue in a very different light, though just as an effective one. Whereas the last doc took a look at the leaders of an Indonesian genocide and listened to them detail their actions in a horrifying and unsettlingly casual manner, this time Oppenheimer follows a survivor and his family as he confronts those men. The family man in question is someone who lost his brother to the homicidal monsters and approaches them in a way that you would not expect. It’s very heavy material, obviously, but again, Oppenheimer handles it just as well as he did the last time. I’m not as over the moon for The Act of Killing as some (though my thumb would clearly be up), but in my eyes, The Look of Silence is on the same level of quality, so fans of the prior outing should be very eager to see this. I was fond of it at last year’s New York Film Festival and I’m still fond of it now.” Especially if you’re trying to see all of the Oscar nominees, this is one to check out for sure.
Special Features: N/A
Total Box Office: $109,089
Major Awards: Nominated for Best Documentary at the Producers Guild of America Awards
Other Films Being Released
Here now is just a simple list of what else is hitting shelves on this particular day, sans my recommendation. Behold:
Contracted: Phase II
A sequel to the little indie horror film Contracted, I didn’t hear especially good things, but the first one isn’t bad, so make of that what you will. It’s hardly a must see, but I feel like if you gave this one a blind shot, you won’t find yourself fully regretting that decision. You likely can do worse…
Box Office: N/A
Hotel Transylvania 2
I haven’t seen either movie in this animated franchise, despite being occasionally an Adam Sandler apologist. It seems pretty mediocre and run of the mill, which might appeal to kids. Anyone else…if this doesn’t get a surprise Oscar nomination, it’s probably something that you can safely avoid.
Box Office: $169,051,260 (and counting)
A low budget horror title, I haven’t seen this one, but I believe it’s a werewolf flick. We don’t get nearly enough of those, especially that really commit to the creature feature premise, so I might be diving into this one in the coming days. Perhaps you’ll do the same?
Box Office: N/A
Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension
This franchise is one that I gave up on a few installments ago. I liked the first three, but number four was pretty bad, leading me to abandon ship. Some of you might be fans of it still though, so if that’s the case, feel free to pick it up. I wouldn’t do that, but I’m not your parent…
Box Office: $18,300,124
The Second Mother
One of the year’s many foreign titles to get some degree of Academy Awards buzz, it ultimately fell short. If you’re curious as to why that happened to this drama, you might want to give it a look firsthand. I don’t know that I can give it a full endorsement, but it’s hardly a bad movie. Make of that what you will…
Box Office: $376,986
I actually really liked the first film in this now franchise, having experienced my ex girlfriend absolutely lose her shit due to fear while watching it (I’ve never actually seen someone get that scared from something not relating to an outright phobia. It was fascinating, really). I didn’t see this sequel, but by all accounts, it’s a real step down, regardless of if you’re a fan or not. This wasn’t a premise that was calling out for a sequel at all, so I suspect that they’ll quit while they’re behind now. I’ll get around to it eventually, but it’s your call today if you do the same as me or not.
Box Office: $27,740,955
The Yes Men Are Revolting
I didn’t see this documentary, but I heard pretty solid thing. Again, when it’s this point in the year, if the doc in question isn’t shortlisted, you have to put it to the side for the moment. Then again, I won’t tell any of you what to do, so if this is the one you want to check out…go for it.
Box Office: $50,190
Hill Street Blues: The Final Season
Mr. Robot: The Complete First Season
The Wonder Years: Season Four
PICK OF THE WEEK
For almost a full year, I was mildly terrified that the film adaptation of one of my favorite recent books wouldn’t be properly handled. Luckily, that wasn’t the case with this soon to be Oscar nominee, as I said (here) in my near rave review: “As a huge fan of Andy Weir‘s novel of the same name, I was just as nervous as I was pumped for Ridley Scott‘s adaptation of The Martian. I’d loved the idea of filmmaker Drew Goddard writing and directing this film version, but when Goddard left (he’s still the screenwriter here though) and Scott took over, I was hesitant. After all, he’s a filmmaker who hasn’t made a great movie in a number of years, and this wasn’t the easiest material to translate. Well, I’m happy to report that The Martian is a terrific flick, one of the best that I’ve seen this year, and a truly faithful adaptation. Armed with one of Matt Damon‘s best performances in a good long while, Scott and company made this an exciting, fun, moving, and scientifically fascinating adventure. Damon is just one member of a strong ensemble cast, while Goddard and Scott make a better pair than you’d ever expect. A few changes to Weir’s book weren’t what I would have preferred, but they’re tiny issues.” It deserves all of the acclaim coming its way on Thursday morning. It’s a must own, plain and simple.
Special Features: Various Featurettes
Total Box Office: $226,486,935 (and counting)
Major Award: Won Best Picture (Comedy) and Best Actor (Comedy) for Matt Damon at the Golden Globe Awards
–What will you be watching this week? Discuss in the comments!