Including something called Shark Exorcist. Obviously.
Pick of the Week
Clouds of Sils Maria [Criterion Collection]
What is it? Maria (Juliette Binoche) is a popular actress heading to Zurich to celebrate the playwright who helped start her career, and along for the trip is her assistant, Val (Kristen Stewart). When Maria is offered a job in a remake of the play that made her famous ‐ but as the older character, while a hot Hollywood starlet takes on her original role ‐ her issues with age, youth, and Val rise up.
Why buy it? Olivier Assayas’ 2014 release is a sharply written look at the relationships Maria has with herself and others. The film pairs the play’s themes with Maria and Val’s own back and forth beautifully leaving both characters and viewers unsure where one starts and the other begins. Stewart was the first American to win the French Cesar for acting, and her supporting turn here is casually mesmerizing. The story is equally engrossing in subtle, personable ways. The interviews included on Criterion’s release add insight into the film’s drama and humor. It’s the kind of film that benefits from re-watches too meaning a purchase is money well spent allowing you to immerse yourself in the Swiss Alps with two tremendous actors for two hours at a time.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, 1924 documentary, booklet]
Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb [Criterion Collection]
What is it? When a madman intent on starting a war puts his plan into motion the only hope of stopping it rests with Peter Sellers. As the fleet of B-52 bombers heads towards the Soviet Union the US president (Sellers), a timid captain (Sellers), and an equally mad scientist (Sellers) all work with other top brass to avoid World War III.
Why buy it? Stanley Kubrick’s pitch-black satire on politicians, the war machine, and international relations remains as sharp a film as it ever was. The film, written by Kubrick, Terry Southern, and Peter George, is a laugh out loud but intelligent dissection of personalities and situations that still packs a punch. Criterion’s new 4k remaster is crisp, and the talking head extras add backstory and anecdotes. This is a movie you re-watch for the laughs, the smarts, and the reminder that the real world hasn’t quite gotten this bad… yet.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, documentaries, booklet]
Eye in the Sky
What is it? A coalition mission to capture a known terrorist in a Kenyan town gets complicated when live-feed intel confirms the suspects ‐ including three members of the area’s 10 Most Wanted ‐ are preparing for multiple suicide bombings. A drone strike is ordered, but when a young girl unknowingly enters the strike area the British and American leaders are forced to determine what degree of collateral damage they can tolerate.
Why rent it? The recent Good Kill covered some similar ground, but Gavin Hood’s suspenseful drama does an even better job of exploring both sides of the dilemma. The strike will most likely save innocent lives in the near future, but it will also most likely take innocent lives now. The film moves back and forth as the various players debate the issue intelligently, and the tension carries through into brief action beats too. This is a solidly relevant film.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
What is it? Gummi and Kiddi are brothers who’ve lived their lives in the same Icelandic town including decades spent as immediate neighbors. They also haven’t spoken to each other in over forty years. The only passion they share is for the sheep each of them show at annual contests, but when a bacteria strikes the town’s sheep herds the authorities order the animals’ destruction. The brothers are forced to swallow their pride, forget their ancient grudge, and work together to save their sheep.
Why rent it? As much intimate drama and dry comedy, this minor Icelandic gem is a richly satisfying watch. The events play out matter-of-factly, and while the brothers take it all with great seriousness the film knows that so much of their behavior is plainly ridiculous. Attractive landscapes keep things visually appealing throughout.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interview, short film]
What is it? George Lucas’ Star Wars spawned an enormous empire of films, toys, and celebrated cast members, but beneath the masks and makeup of the initial film’s numerous characters are unnamed extras whose faces have never really been seen. This doc tracks down several of them to talk about their small but collectively important role in cinema history.
Why rent it? This is more of a doc for Star Wars completists than general audiences as the mostly unnamed characters these people played are such small parts of the film. There’s a joy though, and occasionally a sadness, to looking back to a moment when they were unknowingly a part of something so immense.
[DVD extras: None]
The Girl in the Photographs
What is it? A successful photographer (Kal Penn) from the American Apparel-school of sleazy marketing catches wind of a serial killer photographing his victims in his hometown of Spearfish and is immediately inspired and challenged. He heads back to recreate the pictures for his next campaign ‐ only fair as the bodies seem to be posed similarly to some of his catalog shoots. He connects with a local girl being targeted by the killer and tries to convince her that the “dirty pictures” he wants to take are a better option than the ones this psychopathic admirer might have planned.
Why skip it? As appealing as so much of the film is to the eye though there’s nothing here to satisfy our minds. The thrills are equally sparse as too many moments are telegraphed in advance. The ones that approach the neighborhood of effectiveness are cribbed from higher profile affairs including The Silence of the Lambs, The Strangers, Kiss the Girls, and others. Skip it and watch any of those instead.
[DVD extras: None]
What is it? A little ditty, about Jack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and Karen (Claire Forlani), two American thieves stealing stuff and doin’ the best they can. When Karen crosses a crime boss (Bruce Willis) she recruits Jack to help dig her way back out.
Why rent it? Direct to DVD action movies “starring” Willis are a dime a dozen these days, and while he’s playing his usual heavy with limited screen time here the surrounding movie is actually pretty fun. There are some fun action beats and dialogue choices here that make this an enjoyable enough diversion for DTV action fans.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, interviews]
Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan [Arrow Video]
What is it? The stop-motion animator behind such classics as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, The Beast from 20000 Fathoms, It Came from Beneath the Sea, Mysterious Island, and Clash of the Titans is celebrated here by current filmmakers and through clips and interviews.
Why rent it? There’s a joy that comes from seeing Harryhausen’s work on the screen that is missing from modern-day CG creations. Obviously CG has resulted in stunning effects, but the personality and character visible in stop-motion beasts is unmistakable. Harryhausen is among the talking heads here alongside James Cameron, Terry Gilliam, Peter Jackson, John Landis, Nick Park, Steven Spielberg, and the great Ray Bradbury.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, deleted scenes, Q&As, commentary]
Return of the Killer Tomatoes [Arrow Video]
What is it? The killer tomatoes that terrorized the world ten years earlier return to wreak havoc in the form of tomato men ‐ muscular guys slathered in suntan oil ‐ led by the evil Prof. Gangreen (John Astin). The world’s only hope rests with a pair of unassuming pizza makers. And yes, one of them is George Clooney.
Why skip it? I like my share of dumb comedies, but this kind of camp just leaves me cold. It almost tips into the rental category on the strength of one gag ‐ product placement ‐ but even that’s run into the ground through overuse. It’s broad comedy with a capital BROAD COMEDY, but the jokes and gags just continually feel weak and obvious. It’s inexplicable to me that some people don’t like tomatoes, but the people who enjoy this are just as confusing to me. There are fans though, and for them this new 2k restoration from Arrow will be a delight.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interview]
What is it? “ A demonic nun summons Satan to a small fishing village, where he takes over the bodies of a great white shark and a young woman. A chain reaction of evil grips the tiny community as shredded bodies wash ashore. A Catholic priest arrives, and he must fight both teeth and temptation on land and sea in order to send these man-killers back to Hell before the tide comes in for good!”
Why rent it? I haven’t seen this and hadn’t even heard of it before compiling a list of this week’s releases, but the official synopsis above makes it sound like the greatest movie ever made.
[DVD extras: None]
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
What is it? Kim Baker (Tina Fey) is a reporter stuck covering mundane news items from behind a desk, so she decides to strike out for something more adventurous and ends up stationed in Afghanistan in the early days of the war. It might just be more than she can handle.
Why rent it? Fey is always fun to watch, but her character and comedic bits shine more brightly here than they did in something like Sisters. The supporting cast adds to the laughs with folks like Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton bringing the funny. The story tries for some heart and finds something of a mixed bag there, but it’s never less than watchable. There’s a bonus too in the form of Margot Robbie playing a normal person.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, making of, interview, featurettes]
Also Out This Week:
Adventures in Babysitting, Aferim!, Cemetery of Splendor, Francofonia, Kung Fu Panda 3
Related Topics: Home Video