There aren’t a ton of new releases this week, but since you’ve got one of last year’s most successful and critically acclaimed movies hitting disc, I’m sure most studios wanted to stay out of its way. Here’s the full list:
Interstellar – Interstellar is not Christopher Nolan’s best film. It’s not even the best film that came out last year. But it is a Christopher Nolan film, and that is cause for celebration. While it has some flaws for sure (notably the third act), it is also big, bold, epic, and filled with ideas. In short, it’s what you wish more movies were like. Visually spectacular, emotionally challenging, and solidly intellectual, the film doesn’t pander or stoop to a lowest level. And while it’s set in space and filled with some spectacular set pieces, this is a film that is — first and foremost — about family. Even though I have some issues with it, I really enjoyed it. And I suspect it’s one of those films that will benefit from repeat viewings, something I’m more than happy to do.
Silicon Valley: Season 1 – While Mike Judge has never been able to replicate the success of Office Space, his new HBO comedy about life at an upstart in Silicon Valley at least comes close. It’s not as funny as Office Space, but it is highly watchable. It’s basically about a bunch of computer nerds who create an algorithm that could change the world, and what they go through as they try to create a company to bring it to life. There are some issues with the show (I like TJ Miller usually, but I find his character here extremely grating) and some characters I don’t like (venture capitalist Peter Gregory’s out-there demeanor gets pretty tiring), but the core characters and actors are fun to watch, and the show is smartly written for the most part. It also benefits from an eight-episode season. It was just enough to get through in one sitting, and now I’m ready to take a break and wait for Season Two.
Wild Card – I’m a huge Jason Statham fan, and I will unreservedly watch any movie he’s in. Wild Card is different from his usual fare, and while I enjoyed it, it isn’t as good as something like The Bank Job, which also saw a different approach for The Stath. I guess what I found disappointing about this film is that it was written by William Goldman, acclaimed author and screenwriter, best known for The Princess Bride. I had hoped that this would be a real hidden gem due to his contribution. As it is, it’s enjoyable enough to recommend, but not the kind of movie I’ll be watching over and over again, which is what I was hoping for.
The Rewrite – A very pleasant surprise, The Rewrite is a charming little film starring Hugh Grant and Marisa Tomei. The story is as by-the-numbers as they come, following a has-been Hollywood screenwriter who’s forced to take a teaching job in upstate New York (Binghamton, to be exact. I recognized much of the scenery!) But Grant is in top form doing what he does best, Marisa Tomei is delightful, and the film is cute, charming, and easy to watch. It won’t win any awards or redefine the rom-com genre, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. Credit also goes to a top-notch supporting cast, including J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney and Chris Elliott (not playing an idiot for a change.) Give it a try, it’s a fun little movie.
Island of Lemurs: Madagascar – Last year’s big screen nature film played out a lot like a DisneyNature movie, even though this one was made by Warner Brothers. I always have mixed emotions about these films, because they’re interesting to a point, but I don’t know if I need a full-length movie about most of the animals involved. But I enjoyed Island of Lemurs quite a bit. The animals are both cute and fascinating, and watching them bounce around and lead their little lives (as told by Morgan Freeman) was more fun than I was expecting. Kids and nature lovers alike will enjoy this one quite a bit.
Case Histories: The Complete Collection – Case Histories is an extremely well-made British TV show that stars the always-excellent Jason Issacs as a private investigator with a troubled past of his own. The show is extremely compelling, with engaging mysteries, terrific performances, and sharp writing. Fans of American shows like CSI and Criminal Minds will certainly take to this show without much trouble at all. My only complaint about the show, and the reason why it’s not quite a slam dunk for me, is that the mysteries tend to focus what seems like exclusively on bad things happening to people’s children. While there are some other mysteries to be found, a large portion of the show’s narratives focus on kids either disappearing or being killed, which makes the show a bit too dark for my tastes. That being said, there’s no denying the quality of the show if the dark subject matter doesn’t bother you. This set collects the entire series into one nice box set, which offers a lot of bang for your buck.
Also available on Blu-ray and DVD this week:
- I don’t know why I like so many of HBO’s drama and genre shows and hate so many of their comedies, but boy is VEEP: The Complete Third Season a perfect example of what I don’t like. I’m a pretty big Julia Louis-Dreyfus fan, and I generally find her both very funny and a great actress. I figured that her playing the Vice President in a half-hour show would be comedy gold. Instead, I really don’t like this show at all. And the fault isn’t really Dreyfus’s. She’s absolutely fine in the lead role. It’s every other character on the show. I get that Washington DC is a place run by backstabbers and sharks, but there seriously isn’t one character in this show who isn’t an obnoxious a-hole. The dialogue is mean-spirited and insulting, and there isn’t a warm or mirthful bone in the show’s body. This is a nasty, ugly show, and to make it worse, it’s just not that funny.
- Mortal Kombat: The Complete First Series is a true gem for fans of the long-lived franchise. This TV series from the late ’90s followed the success of the first theatrical film, and it has many of the same charms, even if only about a fifth of the budget. The good news is that if you’re a fan, it’s fun to see the back stories and histories of the characters you know and love from the games and movies. The bad news is that the show looked cheap even back then; it definitely hasn’t aged well. You might want some wine to go with all this cheese. Still, fans of the show will be happy to have it on DVD for the first time ever.
- It freaks me out a bit to see Ian McShane when he was young. Like, even when he was young, he was old. That said, though, fans of his will be happy to see another collection of the popular hustle and con show Lovejoy: Series 5 hitting DVD. I’ve seen a few seasons of this show about a shady pawn shop dealer and his brushes with the law (and his quest for riches), and it’s pretty fun. This season sees a few cast members leave and a few new ones come on board, making it a bit more uneven than some of the previous ones, but it’s still good fun overall.
- Directed by Emmy and Peabody award-winning filmmaker David Grubin (The Buddha, The Jewish Americans) Language Matters With Bob Hollman is less a documentary about language than an exploration of the extinction of language. This two-hour program explores what happens when languages die, and how they become excitant, plus what the effect of that is. It’s interesting stuff, and it goes to some unexpected places (such as aboriginal Australia.) Perfect for the English major in your life!
- If you’re like me and like to keep up on current world events but don’t want to watch the world news every night, then Frontline: Putin’s Way is an invaluable tool. This hour-long documentary chronicles the rise of Russia’s controversial leader, and this is no loving tribute. It’s a hard film that asks hard questions about a man that many believe is as corrupt as they come. Interesting stuff.
- Housekeeping is the latest horror flick from the After Dark Originals line that Lionsgate shepherds. These are usually low-budget, no-name movies that are directed at the hardcore horror audience. Housekeeping is no different, offering up a tale of a seemingly innocent girl who takes a housekeeping job for money and then finds herself being instructed to do very specific things. I can’t say much more without going into spoiler territory, but I appreciate that the film has a somewhat unique concept and tries to be original. It’s not the greatest horror film I’ve ever seen, but it’s something different.
- Fulfilling this week’s faith-based quota, we have WWJD: The Journey Continues, starring John Schneider and Lorenzo Lamas. Apparently this is a sequel to a movie simply called WWJD. Also apparently, it’s based on a book that’s sold over 40 million copies. Having no experience with the previous film or the book, I have to judge it on its own merits. Let’s just say, I think it might appeal to the core audience, but not anybody else. And I’m not in the core audience.
- Not sure how I followed up the Christian drama with a movie about a homosexual revolution, but The Circle is based on the true story of two men who met at the pioneering gay organization and internationally renowned underground club of the same name. It’s a dramatic retelling of gay life in Zurich in the 1950s and is a moving if somber tale.
- Another month, another Chuggington DVD. Chuggington: Fire Patrol Rescue is the latest collection of the popular kids’ show. This show is sort of hipper, more fun version of Thomas & Friends. A cast of computer-generated train characters get into mischief and have various adventures, and along the way they usually learn a little something, too. There’s also a really good voice cast in this show. It’s some of the better voice work I’ve heard on a kids’ show. Chuggington is a fun little show, and this new collection will be sure to excite your children.
- I don’t know that “acclaimed Turkish drama” are words you hear all that often, but Ships falls into that category. This romantic drama set amongst the port city in Turkey is an interesting film. It’s a bit of a tough watch at times, but it’s fascinating to see what life is like in another part of the world. The film feels very authentic and effective, even if the pacing flags a bit for me from time to time.