Monday, April 13, 2015

This Week's Major DVD Releases

The Babadook ***½ Directed by Jennifer Kent. Starring Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinny, Barbara West, Ben Winspear. A single mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son’s fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her. The feature debut of writer-director Kent is not just genuinely, deeply scary, but also a beautifully told tale of a mother and son, enriched with layers of contradiction and ambiguity.

Goodbye to Language *** Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Starring Héloïse Godet, Kamel Abdeli, Richard Chevallier. A drama that puts an adulterous couple in the midst of a chorus of voices and kaleidoscopic images denouncing the ills of modern society. Godard’s full length take on 3D is bold, brilliant and exactly what the format needed — a iconoclast taking it and making his own, and almost every time he frames a shot in three dimensions, from opening credits to the final moments, there’s something attention-grabbing going on. It looses a little on standard television screens, however.

Antarctica: A Year on Ice *** Directed by Anthony Powell. A chronicle of what it is like to live in Antarctica for a full year, including winters isolated from the rest of the world, and enduring months of darkness in the coldest place on Earth. The extremes of the film might seem routine to fans of nature documentaries, but photographer/director Powell produces some dazzling imagery in his droll study of isolation way, way down under.

Maps to the Stars *** Directed by David Cronenberg. Starring Julianne Moore, Mia Wasilowska, John Cusack, Robert Pattinson, Olivia Williams, Evan Bird, Sarah Gadon. A tour into the heart of a Hollywood family chasing celebrity, one another and the relentless ghosts of their pasts. Cronenberg’s map doesn’t lead to a satisfying destination in a typical story sense, but it is a remarkable quest. For a movie that has so many problems, it is one of the more watchable ones.

Big Eyes **½ Directed by Tim Burton. Starring Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman. A drama about the awakening of the painter Margaret Keane, her phenomenal success in the 1950s, and the subsequent legal difficulties she had with her husband, who claimed credit for her works in the 1960s. Entertaining in spots, obvious and irritating in others, with a one-note schticky performance from Waltz, this is a strangely conventional entry in Burton’s filmography.

God Help the Girl **½ Directed by Stuart Murdoch. Starring Emily Browning, Hannah Murray, Olly Alexander. A young girl, whose gift for songwriting sees her through a troubled life, winds up in Glasgow, where she finally meets others who share her passion. While Murdoch exhibits masterful control in a recording studio, he isn’t a natural-born filmmaker. Much of this film feels haphazardly stitched together, with pieces missing or placed in the wrong order, as though he didn’t get all the footage he needed.

You’re Not You **½ Directed by George C. Wolfe. Starring Hilary Swank, Emmy Rossum, Josh Duhamel, Loretta Devine, Ernie Hudson, Frances Fisher, Marcia Gay Harden, Ali Larter, Jason Ritter, Julian McMahon, Andrea Savage. Finding her life upended after being diagnosed with a fatal illness, a classical pianist inexplicably hires her polar opposite — a flighty college student — as a caregiver. Here’s the frustrating thing about You’re Not You: Wolfe clearly knows what he’s doing and has the actors to pull it off, but he’s tasteful to a fault. Great melodramas achieve the sublime by risking ridicule, something which You’re Not You does only once.

The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death Directed by Tom Harper. Starring Phoebe Fox, Jeremy Irvine, Helen McCrory, Adrian Rawlins, Leanne Best, Ned Dennehy. Evacuated from London to a long-deserted country estate during World War II, a group of orphans and their teacher think they’ve found refuge. Soon, however, the youngsters’ odd behavior reveals a force even more evil than what they were fleeing. Every good idea this sequel has to offer winds up taking a backseat to the most obvious cat-in-the-closet "BOO!" moments imaginable.

Kidnapping Mr. Heineken * Directed by Daniel Alfredson. Starring Jim Sturgess, Sam Worthington, Ryan Kwanten, Anthony Hopkins, Mark van Eeuwen, Tom Cocquerel, Jemima West. The inside story of the planning, execution, rousing aftermath and ultimate downfall of the kidnappers of beer tycoon Alfred "Freddy" Heineken, which resulted in the largest ransom ever paid for an individual. A dull, trite thriller.

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