This week, one of my favorite films of 2013 hits shelves, and luckily for me, the column (and you the reader), it’s joined by a whole host of other worthy titles. Yes, this is easily the best release slate of 2014 to date, not that there’s been much competition, but it’s also one of the best release days in some time overall, so it’s a cause for celebration in my book as the column debuts a new title. We may have a bit more of a utilitarian name, but the content is still the same, I assure you. As a happy accident, this debut comes with a stacked release week, so it’s all good here. Even without those other films, the #1 choice today would make this particular installment of the column well worth my upmost respect, but combined with a pair of movies that just missed my Top 10 making its way to Blu-Ray and DVD along with other quality features, it’s nearly an embarrassment of riches here. Even a bunch of the flicks I didn’t care much for have some solid fans, so there’s truly something for everyone on display. I didn’t have any real trouble whatsoever choosing my PICK OF THE WEEK due to how in love I am with this particular movie, but it’s a choice I’m damn proud of regardless, so that’s a nice change of pace. Anyone who’s been following me at all over the course of 2013 should know the film I’m referring too. If somehow you don’t know the movie I’m talking about, you’ll be clued in soon enough, but for now, it’s that time first…yes, time to look at my Vintage pick for the week!
In honor of this week’s release of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (my review of which should be up later this week), my choice is a favorite Kevin Costner film of mine that never gets enough love. It’s For Love of the Game, and I’ve spoke of this baseball romance before, but it’s certainly worth talking about again as baseball season (okay, spring training, but it counts!) is only a few months away. Costner is terrific in the flick, but I just loved how it felt like the rare movie that knew the sport it was depicting. I dig Costner, so I’m always interested in what he’s doing, but he seems to be at his best when making a sports film. If you’ve yet to take me up on my recommendation for this one, take the leap now…
The distinguished quartet of titles I’m about to discuss below weren’t quite able to make it up to top pick status this week, but that’s due to just how good my #1 choice is this time around, as a few of them are still among the better films to come out on Blu-Ray/DVD in some time and I deem them at the very least more than worthy of purchase. Here’s a little bit about each of them:
20 Feet From Stardom
This musical documentary could very well be about to receive an Oscar nomination, and it certainly deserves it. Anything that features Bruce Springsteen is good in my book (and by the by, his new album hit today, so I think we all know what I’m listening to for the next few weeks), so this had a distinct advantage, even if he’s very much a periphery character. My Oscar vote would still go to Tim’s Vermeer, with Stories We Tell next in line, but if the Academy gives this one the win (though the aforementioned nomination is still very much up in the air, as this category is wide open), you won’t hear me complaining one bit. This doc definitely deserves a spin…
Special Features: N/A
Total Box Office: $4,831,814 (and counting)
Major Awards: One of the Top Five Documentaries of 2013 from the National Board of Review…
Even though I’m not as wild about this romantic comedy as many are, it’s still a pleasant little flick. James Gandolfini is excellent in one of his final roles ever and the movie does just give you an old fashioned happy feeling. There is a bit of melancholy at the end considering the man’s real life fate, but this rom-com does manage to do its job rather well otherwise. I don’t think it’s a perfect film, but it’s very enjoyable and a real easy watch. If you haven’t sought it out yet, it could be a solid movie choice for you this week…
Special Features: N/A
Total Box Office: $17,536,788 (and counting)
Major Awards: Nominated for Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical at the Golden Globes…
Short Term 12
I was so pleased to see my colleagues slowly but surely embrace this indie drama as the year went along. I’d seen it in the spring and as the summer progressed, more and more people came on board to champion this flick, particularly Brie Larson’s lead performance. I loved the movie and was honored to moderate a Q and A with co-star John Gallagher Jr. once the film opened in New York City. It damn near made my Top Ten list, and as you can see in my review here, it has a lot to offer. This is one to pick up for sure! Consider it my runner up today as well.
Special Features: N/A
Total Box Office: $1,008,984 (and counting)
Major Award: Nominated for Best Actress at the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards…
After sitting on the shelf for a number of years, this horror hybrid finally came out at the end of the summer and for me at least managed to very much live up to the hype. It’s a really creative and fun fright flick, with some comedic and thriller aspects to mix it up. I spoke fondly about the movie in my review here and since it didn’t really catch on at the box office as I felt like it should have, now’s the time to seek it out. If you’re a genre fan, this is a film not to miss…
Special Features: N/A
Total Box Office: $18,494,006
Major Award: Second Place at the Midnight Madness section of the Toronto Film Festival…
Other Films Being Released
Here simply is what else is hitting shelves on this stacked day, just sans my personal recommendation. Behold:
I’d never even heard of this supernatural thriller until now, and considering that there’s no box office numbers available for it, it seems that almost no one has heard of it in general. Still, it got some kind of a theatrical run, so it exists. I can’t speak for its quality though…
Box Office: N/A
I wasn’t wild about this Sundance comedy (as you can see in this short take review from last year’s festival here), but it’s hardly offensive or anything like that. It just wastes Adam Scott and its cast to some degree while trafficking too much in sitcom type silliness for my taste. I giggled here and there, but it just left me wanting at least a bit more in the end.
Box Office: $175,705
While I didn’t see this drama at Sundance, I did get a DVD sent to me in advance of this column and had a chance to check it out. In short, it’s a bit better than the middling reviews that it received last year, but it’s still nothing too special. You can do worse this week, but you can do a lot better as well, simply put.
Box Office: $37,466
Another Sundance alum that underwhelmed me, this features a solid lead performance from Isaiah Washington and little else in my eyes (give or take Joey Lauren Adams in a supporting role). It reduces the story of the D.C. sniper to a message about violent video games and other buzz words as opposed to being the character study I think it wants to be. I was very much disappointed by this one back at the fest and I expressed it here in my review.
Box Office: $92,336
This horror remake really has no reason to exist besides an attempt to make money, and judging by how it wasn’t particularly a hit, it seems like even that reason was error prone. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s just another inferior remake, plain and simple. Sigh…
Box Office: $35,266,619
Yet another acclaimed flick from Park City that wasn’t able to get a thumbs up from me, this one nonetheless has its fair share of good to go with the issues I found. Namely, Michael B. Jordan is incredible here. You can see my mixed review here as well as my recent chat with Jordan and the film’s writer/director Ryan Coogler here, but since I know most of you like this movie a lot more than me, perhaps take my thumbs down with a grain of salt?
Box Office: $16,101,339
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
I’m no Lee Daniels fan, but this is his best work to date, problematic as it may be. I went into my issues with the film here in my review, but I think it’s just a mess, enjoyable as it may be at times. This movie became a certified blockbuster though, so maybe I’m wrong, but I just didn’t see what made it so good…
Box Office: $116,427,149 (and counting)
I’ve seen worse sci-fi flicks of late, and this franchise has even had lower points, but this just didn’t do a whole lot for me beyond some cheap action enjoyment at times. You can see my fuller thoughts in my review right here, but I suspect this won’t be the title that everyone is rushing to pick up today.
Box Office: $42,025,135
A Single Shot
This Sam Rockwell indie has some solid direction and typically strong work by the actor, but I couldn’t quite go all the way and recommend it. Perhaps it was just the quality of my recommended titles this week, but something was missing. That being said, it’s worth getting if you’re curious. I spoke to the film’s writer/director David M. Rosenthal a few months ago as well, so you can find that interview here if you’re interested.
Box Office: $18,642
- Best of Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild
- Pappyland Volume 1
- Top Gear: The Complete Season 20
- Yu-Gi-Oh Classic: Season 3
PICK OF THE WEEK
The Spectacular Now
One of the best high school movies in years (yes, it’s better than The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and I’ll go to the mat on that one), this is a modern classic. I raved about it back at Park City (here) when it was the best thing I saw at the festival, then once again here when it hit theaters in the summer, so you know I’m a fan. It deserved way more attention than it got (I did my part, interviewing the director James Ponsoldt, which was a great time…that chat can be found here), including a stronger chance at Oscar love. Regardless of that, this is a touching and realistic story that gives you a coming of age tale in a way that you’ve never quite seen it done before. I could go on and on about this one, but I’ve done it enough already. It’s going to be prominently displayed on my Top Ten of 2013 list, so that should be enough for you!
Special Features: N/A
Total Box Office: $6,854,611
Major Award: Won a Dramatic Special Prize at the Sundance Film Festival…
–What will you be watching this week? Discuss in the comments!