Monday, January 5, 2015

This Week’s DVD Releases

(Click on title to see the film’s trailer)
NOTE: It’s quite possible the best and the worst films to be released on DVD this year are both coming out this week.

Boyhood **** Directed by Richard Linklater. Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane. Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke. The life of a young man from age 6 to age 18. The greatest movies, the ones that stick with us, are those that hold up a mirror to the human condition and reflect something back at us that we too often manage to overlook. Boyhood is one of those movies, and with it Linklater proves he is among the best practitioners of that art.

Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case *** Directed by Andreas Johnson. A documentary that reflects on artist Ai Weiwei’s battle against the lawsuit thrust upon him by the Chinese government in an effort to silence him. While Johnsen competently follows Ai over the course of more than a year of contemplation and anger, The Fake Case doesn’t introduce anything new to the equation, and mainly succeeds by virtue of its subject’s inherent appeal.

Get On Up *** Directed by Tate Taylor. Chadwick Boseman, Nelsan Ellis, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer. Traces the legendary James Brown’s rocky road from humble origins to superstardom as the Godfather of Soul. A triumph — a messy, qualified triumph that even at 138 minutes makes an incomplete case for Brown’s meaning to American life and culture — but a triumph nevertheless.

Dinosaur 13 **½ Directed by Todd Douglas Miller. A documentary about the discovery of the largest Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil ever found. Using home-video footage and talking-head interviews, Dinosaur 13 dramatically depicts the thrill of archaeological discovery. But the overbearing soundtrack and shots of weeping palaeontologists do feel a touch manipulative.

Ways to Live Forever **½ Directed by Gustavo Ron. Ben Chaplin, Emilia Fox, Greta Scacchi. Like most inquisitive boys, 12-year-old Sam wants to know about UFOs, horror movies, ghosts, and girls. Sam also has leukemia, and although his mother and father don’t want him to dwell on it, Sam wants to know everything about his disease and death, a possibility he might face. A little wan but a lot likable, Ron’s film is a forthright and surprisingly buoyant drama about facing death before you have really lived.

Horns ** Directed by Alexandre Aja. Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Max Minghella, Joe Anderson, Kelli Garner, Heather Graham, David Morse, Kathleen Quinlan, James Remar. In the aftermath of his girlfriend’s mysterious death, a young man awakens to find strange horns sprouting from his temples. This seems to have been made by people who couldn’t decide if their film was a horror flick, a whodunit, or a Hellboy knockoff.

The Houses October Built ** Directed by Bobby Roe. Looking to find an authentic, blood-curdling good fright for Halloween, five friends set off on a road trip in an RV to track down a legendary underground haunt. If you’re relatively easily scared or are in a room full of people who are, the film might be good for a few screams. But only if you’re the patient sort. It takes almost an hour to get to the good stuff.

Two Night StandDirected by Max Nichols. Miles Teller, Analeigh Tipton. After an ill-considered one-night stand, two young New Yorkers are obliged to extend their time together when a paralyzing snowstorm strikes the city, confining the pair to a small cramped apartment. Two Night Stand is a one-act sex comedy badly in need of two more acts, not nights.

The Longest Week Directed by Peter Glanz. Jenny Slate, Olivia Wilde, Billy Crudup, Jason Bateman. After his wealthy parents divorce, 40-year-old Conrad Valmont (Bateman) loses his generous living allowance and posh hotel digs. It takes effort to turn a movie with a cast as appealing as the one in The Longest Week into a grating exercise in narcissism, but writer/director Glanz proves up to the task.

No Good Deed * Directed by Sam Miller. Taraji P. Henson, Idris Elba. An unstable escaped convict terrorizes a woman who is alone with her two children. By its end, No Good Deed becomes troublingly easy to read as a parable about the untrustworthiness of black men. The filmmakers, hopefully, may not have intended it that way, but the movie is so bereft of anything else that its forays into moralistic paranoia stick out.

Left Behind ½* Directed by Vic Armstrong. Nicolas Cage, Chad Michael Murray, Cassi Thompson, Nicky Whelan, Jordin Sparks. A small group of survivors are left behind after millions of people suddenly vanish and the world is plunged into chaos and destruction. Good God almighty: Not since Edward D. Wood Jr. unleashed a flotilla of paper-plate UFOs on beautiful downtown Burbank has there been a movie as stem-to-stern inept as this adaptation of the bestselling Christian novel series.

Atlas Shrugged III: Who Is John Galt (no stars) Directed by James Manera. The few remaining entrepreneurs in a country whose economy is on the verge of collapse rise up against a bureaucracy that’s squeezing the lifeblood out of the populace. The movie’s so slipshod and half-assed that I almost feel for author Ayn Rand, whose ideas have proved enduring enough that they at least deserve a fair representation, if only for the sake of refutation.

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