This week, a more than acceptable sized amount of 2015 releases are hitting Blu-Ray and DVD during this first week of February. It’s actually one of the better weeks we’ve had in a while, with this upward trend set to continue all month. This is definitely on the stronger side when it comes to the slates we’ve recently had, like I just mentioned, though today is not quite as good a grouping as we’ll have going forward. Stay tuned for that though, as it’s not that time yet. My top pick today was originally going to be one of the Best Picture nominees, but then I had a spark of originality. Yes, my PICK OF THE WEEK this time around is something very different than normal. You’ll see what I actually went with in a few moments, but for now…it’s Vintage time once again folks!
In honor of this week’s release of “Hail, Caesar!,” I’m going to be citing one of the better movies about movies that I’ve seen in the past few years. Yes, it’s “Argo,” the rare Best Picture winning film to also be my number one title in a given year. This is what I had to say in my review (found here) when the flick first opened:
“There are few things more pleasurable than to see a filmmaker just get better and better behind the camera, literally evolving before your very eyes. With Ben Affleck and ‘Argo’, you have the added benefit of seeing the actor/writer/director doing the best work of his career in a movie that may just be my favorite of the year. From his great directorial debut ‘Gone Baby Gone’ to his amazing sophomore feature ‘The Town’, and now to his damn near perfect new film ‘Argo’, Affleck can now be talked about as one of the great directors working today, that’s for sure.”
As one of the most enjoyable Hollywood centric titles in a while, it’s well worth another watch this week.
The two titles I’m going to discuss here in this section aren’t quite on par with my top pick, but they’re nothing to dismiss out of hand either. Behold:
“Bridge of Spies” (DreamWorks)
Despite some initially mediocre buzz, this latest Steven Spielberg outing still managed a half dozen Oscar nominations. Clayton had this to say back at the New York Film Festival:
“One of the most prolific directors in the history of cinema, Steven Spielberg returns to the silver screen with his new period thriller “Bridge of Spies” starring two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks. It features competent and solid filmmaking from its director, writers, and crafts team however, the film doesn’t quite ignite passion and excitement from its standard storytelling. What really manages to standout is the impeccable and sensational performance of Emmy Award nominee Mark Rylance, who steals and owns every scene he’s present.”
The boss is right too. This is a solid movie, but not one to really go nuts over. That being said, if you haven’t seen it, you’ll be in for a good time if you keep your expectations somewhat in check.
Special Features: Featurettes
Total Box Office: $71,884,220 (and counting)
Major Awards: Nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture
“Man Up” (Studio Canal)
This romantic comedy does just enough to get folks on board, even if they’re not usually rom com fans. As I said here in my review: “Whenever a romantic comedy seeks out to try to rewrite the rules of the genre, one of two things happens. Either the filmmakers are able to subvert what you expect from a rom com, or they can’t and you wind up being all the more dissatisfied. Luckily, by not going too far in the direction of subversion, Man Up is able to capably put a spin on the chance meeting sub genre. Mostly, director Ben Palmer and writer Tess Morris seek to balance comedy and romance in a way that doesn’t feel shoehorned, and that’s one of the reasons why Man Up works. The other main reason is that stars Lake Bell and Simon Pegg have an almost unbelievable amount of chemistry together in the film, making for a couple that’s worth following. You buy them as both a comedy pairing as well as a romantic one, that’s half the battle”. Could you do better this week? Totally. Could you do worse too? Damn right.
Special Features: Gag Reel
Total Box Office: N/A
Major Awards: None
Other Films Being Released
“Big Stone Gap” (Picturehouse)
An indie that I never got the chance to see, I really never heard much about it either. One pundit who did see it, Glenn Kenny, more or less sums up the lack of enthusiasm that I found:
“The movie ambles along amiably enough for a while; it’s better if you are a fan of one or more members of the cast.”
The cast is admittedly good, but that’s just one element and not enough here, it seems.
Box Office: $1,009,301
I have yet to see this one time Oscar hopeful, but I’m expecting very little after our fearless leader had this to say:
“In a time when our nation is going through some the most progressive and long overdue changes in history, a film as timely as “Freeheld” would be welcomed with open arms and minds from critics and audiences. Unfortunately, what director Peter Sollett creates, in partnership with Academy Award nominated screenwriter Ron Nyswaner, is an uninspired, insipid, and downright cheap take on a same-sex couple fighting for death benefits.”
I’ll still see it because I’m an Ellen Page fan, but it doesn’t seem like this is a winner, at all.
Box Office: $573,335
“Ladrones” (Pantellion Films)
A comedy that I’m almost entirely unfamiliar with, the fact that this titled still managed to make a few bucks is a testament to catering to an underrepresented audience. I have no doubt that t’s a solid flick, but I just can’t go ahead and vouch for it in any way.
Box Office: $3,063,505
“The Last Witch Hunter” (Lionsgate)
Life is short, so I didn’t bother with this action movie, and judging by the reviews, I was right to avoid it. Alison Willmore of Buzzfeed was one of the nicest pundits to it when she wrote this:
“His latest, The Last Witch Hunter, is as untrammeled a combination of fantasy geeking-out and ego-driven muscle movie as you’ll find in theaters this year. It is terrible. It is fabulously entertaining. It is the most Vin Diesel project of all time.”
Still, that’s hardly a ringing endorsement.
Box Office: $27,367,660
“Our Brand is Crisis” (Warner Bros.)
Once upon a time this was, in my eyes, a dark horse Academy Award player. Then, well, I saw it. My somewhat generous review (which can be found here) said the following:
“I’ve long been anticipating filmmaker David Gordon Green taking a leap towards the Oscar hopeful mainstream. He’s one of the most interesting directors in the business, so if you pair him with prestige material, the results should be outstanding, right? Well, in the case of Our Brand is Crisis, a poor script torpedoes some solid performances and effective direction on the part of Green. You can see why this project has so much potential, especially considering how George Clooney and Grant Heslov originally had this as one of their vehicles. They remain producers, with the lead role now being played by Sandra Bullock in a gender swap. Sadly, Bullock is one of the few successes here, as so many other elements are just half developed. Our Brand is Crisis doesn’t know if it wants to be a comedy or a drama, a political satire, a look at South American corruption, an expose of sleazy campaign managing, or something else entirely. By taking pieces of all of those sources, it really winds up being about nothing.”
A very much a missed opportunity.
Box Office: $7,002,261
I love Bill Murray, as well as co-star Zooey Deschanel, but this box office bomb was not well liked at all. Colleague Mike McGranaghan wrote the following:
“The sillier scenes of Bill Murray traipsing through a dangerous part of the world are fun, but when the story tries to get at something more serious, it falls apart pretty quickly.”
Believe it or not, that’s about as nice as it gets for this one. Alas.
Box Office: $3,020,664
As a general rule, I have a soft spot for actors going behind the camera. This time, however, it wasn’t enough to lead to a recommendation. From my review (here) at the time:
“Over the course of 2015 (with 2014 film festivals counting as well), there’s been a sudden boom in movies depicting life on the streets of New York City. On heels of Heaven Knows What as well as Time Out of Mind now comes Shelter, which can’t stand up to those powerful films. The writing and directing debut of actor Paul Bettany, this melodrama is well acted but ultimately feels more like an exercise than anything seeking a level of realism. You can tell that Bettany has his heart in the right place and feels like this flick can make a difference, but he succumbs to just depicting indignity after indignity without ever making it compelling. It’s almost as if he took every single story of homelessness that he’d heard and crafted them into Shelter. Casting the duo of Jennifer Connelly and Anthony Mackie in the central roles was a terrific choice by Bettany, but he just doesn’t give either of them nearly enough to do.”
It’s nothing to avoid, but it’s nothing to go out of your way for either.
Box Office: N/A
I really didn’t care for this prestige picture wannabe. From my pan of a review (found here) at the time:
“Laden with the gloss of prestige from start to finish, Suffragette can’t seem to get out of its own way in order to tell a compelling story. The issue at hand is important, even essential in our current time, but the man in which the struggle for women to gain the right to vote is told will leave you yawning more likely than applauding. Director Sarah Gavron has an eye for period detail, but the screenplay by Abi Morgan leaves a lot to be desired. There’s just not quite enough for the talented cast, led by Carey Mulligan, to do here, which seems illogical considering the material, yet here we are. Somehow, Suffragette manages to be boring, and that’s an unforgivable sin in my book.”
Once would be Oscar player that fell by the wayside.
Box Office: $4,702,420
“In case you didn’t already know, Cate Blanchett is one of the finest actors working in the business today. As if her lauded performance in Cannes darling Carol wasn’t enough, the Australian thespian has brought another outstanding performance to TIFF in the true story journalism drama Truth. Blanchett is in crackling form in this impressive debut film from James Vanderbilt, proving that there’s hardly any role she can’t do to perfection.”
I agree that the acting is solid, but that just wasn’t enough in my book.
Box Office: $2,539,393 (and counting)
Falling Skies: The Complete Fifth Season
Falling Skies: The Complete Series
From Dusk Till Dawn: Season Two
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Complete 2nd Season
Scarlet Pimpernel: The Complete Series
PICK OF THE WEEK
“Show Me a Hero” (HBO)
As previously mentioned, I’m going in a different direction with this top pick today. I absolutely loved this HBO miniseries, which plays like one long six hour movie. I’d never seen The Wire, so this was my introduction to David Simon, and boy did he win me over. From his deft handling of small time politics to his use of Bruce Springsteen as a sort of consistent mood soundtrack, it’s just brilliant stuff. Throw in how fantastic Oscar Isaac is as the doomed former Mayor of Yonkers and this is a special project. It deserved more acclaim than it actually received, so hopefully you all will be giving it a shot now that it’s even more widely available to view. Especially if you’re an Isaac fan, this is an absolute must see.
Special Features: N/A
Total Box Office: N/A
Major Award: Won Best Actor (Oscar Isaac) in a Miniseries at the Golden Globe Award
–What will you be watching this week? Discuss in the comments!