Out This Week: Steve Jobs, The 33, Black Mass, Trumbo, Charlie Chaplin, & More!

SteveJobs

Steve JobsSteve Jobs is probably one of my favorite movies of 2015. It is — in a word — brilliant. The entire film takes place backstage before three of Jobs’ famous product launches, and in each case he has to deal with a revolving cast of characters: his illegitimate daughter, his chief engineer, his apple partner Steve Wozniak, his rival CEO, his right hand woman, and so on. Yes, the film is largely dialogue-driven, but with Aaron Sorkin behind said dialogue you know it’s going to be good. And it’s so much better than good. The film is riveting from the very first scene and it never lets up in intensity. Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet are both absolutely amazing and I could not have been more engaged if I was watching a $400 million action spectacular. I can’t stress enough how much this movie is worth watching.

the33The 33 – It’s been a while since Antonio Banderas has had a lead role, so it was good to  see him back in action in The 33, a film that certainly could have performed better than it did. Based on the true story of a group of 33 Chilean miners who spent an ungodly amount of time trapped beneath the surface of the earth, the film is a solid, at-times harrowing account of a story that captured the world’s attention. Even though we all know how the story ended (or most of us, anyway), this account gives us our first glimpse of what it was like for the miners, and it wasn’t fun. Banderas is terrific, and I think if the film had been marketed better, it could have been a medium-sized hit.

BlackmassBlack Mass – Another based-on-real-life film, Black Mass tells the story of New England’s most notorious mobster, Whitey Bulger. Johnny Depp leads an all-star cast and he’s an absolute dynamo here, inhabiting the role completely. Even though there is make-up involved to make him look like the aging Bulger, it’s nice to see Depp playing a regular human being again instead of a hatter or vampire or pirate or chocolate maker. I actually knew very little about Bulger, and even though I take all Hollywood biopics with a grain of salt, I found this story fascinating. Plus, with an ensemble that includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, and a ton of other recognizable faces, this is a film that should also have done much better at the box office.

TheKidThe Kid – Charlie Chaplin’s first foray into feature-length movies (even though it only runs 53 minutes, pretty short by today’s standards), The Kid remains one of my favorite Little Tramp outings. Filled with the signature physical comedy that made Chaplin an icon, the film also has a sweet sentimentality at its center that was always present in the best Chaplin movies. As this is a Criterion Collection release, not only has the film been restored and remastered but you also get a plentiful helping of extra features including deleted scenes, a Chaplin short, interviews, essays, and more. This one is a must have for any fans of Chaplin or silent comedy.

VincentPrice3The Vincent Price Collection III – Shout Factory’s terrific Scream Factor imprint goes back to the classic well for this release, which collects five lesser known Price horror films: Master of the WorldTower of LondonDiary of a MadmanAn Evening of Edgar Allen Poe, and Cry of the Banshee. Admittedly, this set pales a bit compared to the first two in terms of high-profile films, but lets be honest, they packed the first two collections with so many of Price’s career highlights, a drop in quality was bound to happen. They are starting to run out of marquee films, and that’s okay. This set, then, is for the more discerning Vincent Price fans. Each film has been restored and remastered, too, which means the picture and sound quality for each film is very good, but of course, you have to keep in mind the ages of the films. On top of that, each film is packed with bonus features, making this a real value for fans of Vincent Price or classic horror films in general.

TrumboTrumbo – Bryan Cranston stars as the world’s most famous blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter in this lively biopic. While it suffers some of the same flaws as many other biopics (compressed timelines, a bit in love with its own subject), I found this to be a very enjoyable film. Cranston is terrific as always — even if the role doesn’t really give him any heavy lifting — and the supporting cast is great as well (John Goodman, Diane Keaton, Helen Mirren, Elle Fanning, among others). I don’t think this is a movie for everyone, and I suspect that people like me who have a fascinate with Hollywood history will enjoy it more than other people will, but it’s worth watching.

LoveTheCoopersLove the Coopers – It’s hard to find much bad to say about Love the Coopers. It’s also hard to find much good to say about it. That’s because it’s just such a warm, unoffensive, apple pie kind of movie that it’s hard to really formulate a strong opinion about it one way or the other. It’s perfectly enjoyable, predictable as heck, and as familiar as a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. What really elevates it is an amazing ensemble cast that includes John Goodman, Diane Keaton, Ed Helms, Anthony Mackie, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin, and Amanda Seyfried. I mean, how do you argue with a cast like that? You don’t. You sit back and enjoy it for what it is.

CriminalActivitiesCriminal Activities – I’ll be honest, John Travolta appearing in a new direct-to-video crime thriller doesn’t do much to excite me. However, Dan Stevens being in said crime thriller absolutely does. For my money, Stevens (who’s most known for his role as Matthew on Downton Abbey) is one of the best actors working in Hollywood today, and while he’s starred in a number of films since leaving Downton, he’s managed to stay somewhat under the radar. Personally, I’ll watch anything he’s in. Which is how I ended up watching Criminal Activities, the directorial debut of actor Jackie Earle Haley. The film is a patchwork of other films, wanting really hard to be something akin to Reservoir DogsThe Usual Suspects, and any number of heist movies.  The film twists and turns until the end, where it twists even more, and the word “ridiculous” would not be out of place here. But it is a certain amount of fun and Stevens is excellent as always, so make of that what you will.

Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:

  • Girls: Season 4 – Despite the fact that I really don’t like Lena Dunham, I keep reviewing Girls, just in case it gets better. After all, the show has been such a hit and gotten such good reviews, eventually, I’d have to figure out why, right? Umm… no. In fact, not only is Girls: Season Four more of the same, but it’s basically the exact same thing as the first three seasons. A self-absorbed and obnoxious New York twentysomething and her self-absorbed and obnoxious friends live their lives and ruminate on boys, work, and life, but they do so in completely annoying, unlikable, and narcissistic ways.  Dunham’s brand of “comedy” does nothing for me, and I still find the show unbelievably annoying. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that I really, really, REALLY don’t like this show. Even if Kylo Ren is in it.
  • Freaks of Nature – Despite the plethora of names above the tile on the cover of this disc (Denis Leary, Keegan Michael Key, Bob Odenkirk, Joan Cusack, Pat Healy, Mae Whitman, Vanessa Hudgens, Patton Oswalt) most of the stars listed are more glorified cameos in this oddball horror/comedy. Basically, you have a town where zombies, vampires, and humans live in relative peace… until alien invaders show up. Three teens (one from each group) then have to team up to defeat the aliens. It’s a great concept, and I wish I loved the film as much as I wanted to. I mean, it’s perfectly enjoyable (if a little silly), but it just isn’t the slam dunk I wanted it to be. Still worth a look.
  • The Brady Kids: The Complete Animated Series – Annnnd… this is why home video is great. Not because The Brady Kids is some sort of high water mark for animation. And not because it’s a great show. But because somewhere out there, in some corner of suburbia, there’s a guy or a girl who has been waiting to watch this show again for the past 47 years. And that’s a wonderful thing. As for the show itself, it’s an awesome throwback to an earlier age. It’s cheesy and the animation is limited, but it’s a lot of fun. And congratulations to that person who’s been waiting a lifetime to watch it again.
  • Hangman – Jeremy Sisto stars in this low-key found footage style horror film about a psycho who lives in secret in a family’s house while the unsuspecting family goes about their lives. Now, I don’t really like found footage movies at all, but this one isn’t bad. It isn’t great, either, but in this case the found footage style works for the fact that we’re seeing how this madman secretly stalks this family. Sisto adds a little weight to the proceedings, raising this a little above the usual no-name fare.
  • Saints & Strangers – Vincent Kartheiser and Ron Livingston star in this fictionalized retelling of the pilgrims’ journey to America. Running a little over three hours, this miniseries is pretty good for what it is. Was I dying for a movie about the pilgrims? Not really. But if I’m going to watch one, this at least tells the story in a solid way. Even though it’s over three hours long, it’s actually fairly concise considering how much material there is to cover.
  • McHale’s Navy/McHale’s Navy Joins The Air ForceMcHale’s Navy was a comedy juggernaut back in the day. Running from 1962-1966, this show featured Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway as part of a crew of misfit navy seamen who were constantly trying to stay one step ahead of the commander who wanted them out of the navy. It’s classic sitcom stuff, and it fits alongside other brilliant sitcoms of the era like I Dream of Jeannie, Gilligan’s Island, and Hogan’s Heroes. These two films were produced during the show’s run and were made in color, and now they’re released for the first time in a nice double feature DVD. Very cool.
  • Snowfire, Station West, The Younger Brothers – A trio of Westerns hits DVD for the first time courtesy of the Warner Archive, which prints discs on demand at www.warnerarchive.com. Snowfire is a1958 family film that also crosses slightly into the western genre, about a young girl trying to tame a horse that she has a connection with. It has its fair share of cheesy moments, but I’m sure there’s a nostalgia factor at work for some people. Dick Powell stars in Station West, which sees military officer Powell investigating the murder of two gold shipment guards It’s a rough-and-tumble black hats vs. white hats flick that western fans will love. Finally, The Younger Brothers is a fictionalized account of the real-life notorious outlaws, and it was probably my favorite film of the three.
  • The Trials of Jimmy Rose – Ultimately, The Trials of Jimmy Rose is another “ex-con gets sucked back into the life he swore to leave behind” crime drama. What sets it apart is that in this case, Ray Winstone plays the ex-con in question. I don’t know if two things ever went together better than the words “crime drama” and “Ray Winstone,” because it’s a role he was born to play. The story is solid and the supporting cast is good, but Winstone is the reason to watch here.
  • Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution – Most of us know who the Black Panthers are. I imagine very few of us know anything about the at all beyond simply who they are. Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution is an in-depth, two-hour documentary about the rise of the Black Panther party, told by the people who lived it. It’s a fascinating look at civil rights, the power of the people, and a part of American history that is underserved in the media.
  • Estranged – Estranged is a horror film that belongs squarely in the “creepy family” sub-genre. Unfortunately, it’s not a genre of which I’m a huge fan. The story revolves around a girl in a wheelchair who was in an accident and has amnesia. Unfortunately, she’s stuck with her family, which also happens to be the world’s creepiest family. Things go downhill from there. It’s not a terrible film, I just don’t generally like these kinds of movies and this one didn’t do much to change my mind.
  • Hatched – Sean Astin and Jeff Foxowrthy star in this semi-Chicken Little knock off that features characters named Angelina Poultrie, Tiny ScharzHENegger, and Meryl Cheep. No, I’m not making that up. It’s a silly little animated film, and I don’t think adults will get more than a few chuckles out of it, but kids might like it.