Monday, September 14, 2015

This week's DVD releases


Click on title to see the film’s trailer

Love & Mercy ***½ Directed by Bill Pohlad. In the 1960s, Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson (Paul Dano) struggles with emerging psychosis as he attempts to craft his avant-garde pop masterpiece. In the 1980s, he (John Cusack) is a broken, confused man under the 24-hour watch of a shady therapist (Paul Giammati). In telling the story of one damaged suburban genius and his unlikely rebirth, Love & Mercy captures the vanished possibilities of 1960s pop music, the fecklessness of the California dream and its decay into tragedy and madness, and other things less easy to describe or define.

Buzzard *** Directed by Joel Potrykus. After ripping off his employer, paranoid flimflam man Marty Jackitansky (Joshua Burge) decides to lay low in Detroit. But as his growing fear of capture makes Marty ever-more desperate, a truly monstrous side of him begins to emerge. Under Potrykus’ clever direction and with a striking performance from Burge, Marty goes from quirky to desperate to dangerous gradually and effectively. He’s not a character to be taken lightly, or quickly forgotten.

Heaven Knows What *** Directed by Ben Safdie, Joshua Safdie. Follows a 19-year-old heroin addict (Arielle Holmes) and her mercurial, obsessive relationship with an abusive junkie boyfriend (Caleb Landry Jones). A strange film, at once distancing and transfixing. If it’s not as impactful as it might have been considering the experiences portrayed, it has potent atmosphere and an admirable refusal to put any kind of gloss on the bleak reality of its limbo world.

Monkey Kingdom *** Directed by Mark Linfield, Alastair Fothergill. A documentary that follows the perilous lives of a monkey and her newborn daughter in the jungles of southern Asia. As part of a larger group, mom and baby risk starvation if they fail to abide by the stringent social rules. Everything the movie lacks in scientific rigor, it makes up for in pure entertainment value — and then some.

The Seven Five *** Directed by Tiller Russell. In the 1980s and ‘90s, cop Michael Dowd terrorized New York City’s drug dealers, shaking them down at gunpoint for cash and cocaine. This documentary looks at his fall from grace and the biggest police corruption scandal in the city’s history. It would be hard to imagine a more entertaining corrupt-cop documentary than this, a slick and fascinating portrait of a disgraced New York policeman.

Cinderella *** Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Young Ella (Lily James) finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and her daughters. Never one to give up hope, Ella’s fortunes begin to change after meeting a dashing stranger (Richard Madden). Though this Cinderella could never replace Disney’s animated classic, it’s no ugly stepsister either, but a deserving companion.

Furious 7 *** Directed by James Wan. Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) seeks revenge against Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his family for his comatose brother. It’s joyous, it’s crazy — cars skydive out of aircraft in Azerbaijan, no less — it’s exhaustively long, and, still, it’s clunkily lovable.

The Overnight **½ Directed by Patrick Brice. Transplants from Seattle, Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) feel like fish out of water in Los Angeles until a meeting at a park leads to a play date for their son (R.J. Hermes) and a dinner date for them. But they soon discover that their hosts (Jason Schwartzman, Judith Godrèche) have more in mind than friendship. Promises more than it can deliver: Some of the supposedly provocative material ends up being juvenile, and the movie ends just as the situation gets truly, weirdly interesting. It’s too tame a resolution to a film that suggested the capacity for more.

Closer to the Moon ** Directed by Nae Caranfil. A Romanian police officer teams up with a small crew of old friends from the World War II Jewish Resistance to pull off a heist by convincing everyone at the scene of the crime that they are only filming a movie. Caranfil, who’s made several previous features in Romanian, struggles throughout to find the right tone, mostly in vain. There’s no way to know whether he was hampered by the need to go international, but the film’s general lack of authenticity certainly doesn’t do it any favors.

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