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Sasha (Leighton Meester) and Paige (Gillian Jacobs) are best friends enjoying the single life on the cusp of turning thirty together. They’ve each had short-term relationships, but none of them have stuck. That all changes though when Paige meets and falls for Tim (Adam Brody). Their growing romance takes time away from Sasha, and soon the two friends are struggling to balance growing up and growing apart.
Director/co-writer Susanna Fogel delivers an incredibly charming look at adult friendship that manages to stay fresh and funny even as its characters deal with familiar hurdles. Sharp writing keeps the exchanges and interactions both honest and entertaining, and they’re enhanced even more by the incredibly likable cast. All three leads manage the necessary emotion while also excelling at the comedic bits ‐ Jacobs is fantastic as usual, Meester is a lovely surprise and Brody proves once again that he’s the second best Brody (after Chief Martin Brody obviously).
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Rough week for new releases…
Adventure Time: Frost & Fire
Ice King is renowned for his short temper and readiness to fight, but even he’s not prepared for the steady burn of aerial assaults by Flame Princess. The bigger surprise is who’s actually responsible for their constant feuding. It’s Finn. Finn the human is responsible. Find out why in this curated collection of episodes focused on the two temperature extremes at play in this wonderfully effed up land. I love Adventure Time, and the only reason this isn’t under “the Best” is because these releases are unnecessary filler ‐ TV shows should only come to DVD in full seasons (or full series).
[DVD extras: None]
Sam is a college student with big plans, but complications result in a large tuition bill he has no idea how to pay. Inspiration comes when he sees someone raising donations from churchgoers, and soon he and his friends are scamming the faithful with a false charity. But what happens when his conscience threatens to get the better of him? There’s some amiable drama and comedy here alongside fun supporting turns by the always fantastic Christopher McDonald and Nick Offerman.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, outtakes]
The Better Angels
Abraham Lincoln is a young boy is rural Illinois learning many of life’s lessons from his hard-working and loving family (Jason Clarke, Brit Marling, Diane Kruger). Our greatest president’s childhood is the focus of A.J. Edwards’ film that shows young Lincoln facing the joys and hardships of life. Far from a standard biopic though the film takes a Terrence Malick-like approach in its visuals, pacing and lack of proper narrative ‐ this makes sense as Malick is one of the film’s producers. That approach is an acquired taste, one I don’t share, meaning for me anyway the film is a meandering series of shots more concerned with artistic value than telling a story.
[DVD extras: None]
Blacula / Scream Blacula Scream
An African prince (William Marshall) is turned into a vampire by Dracula himself, and a century later when his coffin is transported to America he awakes to find a world of necks just waiting to be bitten. The sequel, Scream Blacula Scream, sees the cool cat count resurrected by way of voodoo and the presence of Pam Grier. Both films have their high points ‐ the first has a good sense of humor, the second has Grier ‐ and while they’re not exactly classics they’re both fun enough. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray follows Eureka’s recent release with an equally attractive picture but ups the special feature content with a commentary track and interview.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interview]
A young girl goes missing leaving her parents’ (Ryan Reynolds, Mireille Enos) lives in disarray and a pair of intense detectives (Rosario Dawson, Scott Speedman) struggling with the truth. The story here is the stuff of a traditional thriller, but writer/director Atom Egoyan tells his tale with an intentionally jumbled chronology that does the film no favors. Kevin Durand is equally ineffective as the master villain of the piece ‐ he’s a reliable bad guy in general, but the character’s refined nature eludes him here.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurette, alternate ending, commentary]
Exterminators of the Year 3000
It’s the year 3000, give or take a century, and the world is a post-apocalyptic wasteland. A small band of survivors struggle to survive longer, but when they’re threatened by a ruthless gang of marauding motorcyclists and hot-rod enthusiasts they turn to a roguish stranger for help. There were many Road Warrior knock-offs that rushed to screens in the early ’80s, and this is one of them.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interview]
John du Pont (Steve Carell) is a millionaire with a desire to make a mark on the sporting community ‐ specifically, he wants to coach the Americans to victory on the Olympic stage. He chooses Dave and Mark Schultz (Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum), brothers who already won gold at the previous games, but unwavering ambition and emotional instability lead to tragedy. The story, based on true events, is a bleak slow-burn of sad obsessions. This is a movie built on performances (and prosthetics) as opposed to an evolving and engaging narrative, and while it’s a solid enough watch it’s also a movie I can’t imagine watching a second time.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurette]
Simon Axler (Al Pacino) is a once-successful actor struggling to find his enthusiasm and his audience, but after a failed suicide attempt leaves him befuddled he finds a friend in a young woman named Pegeen (Greta Gerwig). Barry Levinson directs this dramatic comedy (co-written by Buck Henry), and it’s filled out with a strong supporting cast including Dylan Baker, Charles Grodin, Kyra Sedgwick and Dianne Wiest. They all bring moments to the film, but as a whole it struggles to engage. If nothing else though it at least serves as a reminder of how good Pacino can still be.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) survived the Quarter Quell and has made her way to the heart of the rebellion, District 13. There she becomes a key element in a PR blitz against the Capitol, but the stakes head even higher when the powers that be begin using Peeta as a mouthpiece against Katniss herself. As is standard practice these days the final book in the series has been split into two films, and that stretched narrative is evident here. Katniss spends most of the film whining, and too much of the action underwhelms, but there’s some fine character work along the way from the likes of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland and others.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, documentary, featurettes, music video, deleted scenes]
Beckett is a teenager recovering from the loss of her mother (in the world’s lamest surfing accident) and enrolling in a fancy New York City school for girls, but she soon begins to suspect that all is not kosher at Hamilton Prep. An early suicide is only the first bad omen, and while she finds love it’s quickly followed by the discovery of supernatural shenanigans that threaten her life. You might be surprised to learn that this is based on a YA novel. I was kidding about you being surprised.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife
Ward’s wife is a terrible woman, a bad mother and a worse friend. His friends joke that they should do Ward a favor and kill her, but when an opportunity leads to her death they’re faced with the reality of their decision. Well, reality is too strong a word as the events here are treated with a heavy dose of black comedy. As dark as it is the gang is a bit too cruel to the dead woman and her weight, but the rest of the humor works well enough. The cast is reason enough to watch though including Scott Foley (who also wrote and directed), Patrick Wilson and Amy Acker.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Outtakes]
To Write Love on Her Arms
Renee (Kat Dennings) is a young woman in trouble. A sexual assault opens the door to a world of addiction and depression, but with the support of good friends, old and new, she struggles towards recovery. This is based on a true story and manages to display effective heart in its tale of suffering, hope and the power of friendship. Dennings does good work here, but it’s Rupert Friend who stands out as a recovering addict struggling with new challenges. The film is emotionally satisfying overall, but it does occasionally feel a bit too “it gets better”-ish in its message. And then there’s Chad Michael Murray’s hair/beanie combinations.
[DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, on-set video blogs]
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and/or review material was unavailable:
Barbie in Princess Power
Da Vinci’s Demons: The Complete Second Season
Lalaloopsy: Festival of Sugary Sweets
Outlander: Season One Volume One
Tinkerbell and the Legend of the Neverbeast
Related Topics: Home Video