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Discs Section: Pick of the Week

disc short term 12Short Term 12

Grace (Brie Larson) works at a home for troubled teens, but while she’s fantastic at her job, her empathy for the kids sees her bringing home their pains far too often. Her boyfriend (John Gallagher Jr.) works there too and hopes the two of them can grow as a couple, but he knows her past has led to too much of her heart being cordoned off for the kids. Their situation grows even more untenable when a new girl arrives at the facility.

Writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton‘s film is a small wonder. It’s essentially a character piece, a glimpse into the life and love of one woman and the people around her, but it’s crafted and performed so effortlessly that it feels like emotionally rich time spent laughing and crying with friends. There’s a slight misstep in the third act where the film loses sight of its characters in deference to a more conventional narrative, but it’s a minor trespass. Check out Allison’s full review here.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, behind the scenes, featurettes, original short film]

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disc fruitvale stationFruitvale Station

Pitch: “Every Step Brings You Closer To The Edge.” Mind the gap…

Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) is trying to put his life in order. He’s turned his back on drug dealing and is trying to go straight, and the main motivator is the love of his daughter. But while so many others spend New Year’s Day hoping to start resolutions that they’ll eventually let slip, Oscar is unknowingly living the last day of his life.

Writer/director Ryan Coogler‘s film tackles a real life incident with sensitivity and a cast intent on delivering fantastic performances, and Jordan gives one of the year’s best as a man whose actions haven’t always lived up to his intentions. The problem comes in Coogler’s decision to frame and shape his film as more sympathetic to a cause than to the truth. Check out my full review here.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, Q&A]

disc the spectacular nowThe Spectacular Now

Pitch: “From the writers of (500) Days of Summer” comes a completely different movie…

Sutter (Miles Teller) is a bit of a prick, but it’s forgivable because he’s just so damn charming. This is never more true then when he’s drinking, and lucky for his friends that’s pretty much all the time. His life hits some bumps when his girlfriend breaks up with him, but he gets a second chance at happiness when he meets a nice, innocent, and unassuming girl named Aimee (Shailene Woodley). Good luck, Aimee.

Like the film above (but for different reasons) I’m torn in my affection for this movie. The acting and characters are achingly honest, the supporting cast is equally fantastic (Brie Larson, Kyle Chandler, Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and it tells a story that teen-centric films rarely touch. The ending is a major disappointment to me though, not in the narrative sense, but in regard to the script. Check out Allison’s full review here.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, commentary]

disc youre nextYou’re Next

Pitch: “The pack is back.” This is an odd tagline for a non-sequel…

The Davison family is gathering to celebrate an anniversary, but as they all settle in for dinner it becomes clear that something is amiss. The first clue? The crossbow bolt that shoots through a window and pierces someone’s eye socket. It seems they’ve been targeted for a home invasion of some sort, but as the bodies start falling a few unexpected revelations come to light.

This comedic thriller was the unfortunate victim of release date shuffling and overhype by festival audiences, but while it’s far from the “smart” classic it’s been heralded as, it is an incredibly entertaining and often laugh out loud thriller with a kick-ass female lead. There are some fun little twists to be found as well, and while the overall tone is humorous the film doesn’t shy away from the blood and brutality. Check out my full review here.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, commentaries, trailer]

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20 Feet From Stardom

Morgan Neville‘s new documentary looks at the people behind the voices you don’t even know you’ve heard. Interviews with name singers are the background noise here as the main focus is on the actual background singers who’ve accompanied those stars over the years. It’s slight but inspirational in fits and spurts.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, short film, Q&A]

A.C.O.D.

Adam Scott stars as an adult child of divorce in this fast-talking comedy about family, relationships, and the difficulty of moving on. There are some good laughs here, but with this cast that’s the bare minimum expectation. Richard Jenkins, Catherine O’Hara, Amy Pohler (as Scott’s step-mom), Jane Lynch, Clark Duke, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Jessica Alba round out the fantastic supporting cast.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, PSAs, outtakes]

Big Sur

The “character” of Jack Kerouac has been present in a handful of films in recent years, but this meditative adaptation is the first to capture his essence while also being entertaining visually. It’s filled with Kerouac providing voiceover as events unfold onscreen, and the poetic rhythm of his words succeeds in ways the earlier films haven’t.

[DVD extras: None]

Blind Date

Bruce Willis post Die Hard and Kim Basinger post 9 1/2 Weeks join forces for a frustrating Blake Edwards comedy. It works for some people, but this is the kind of comedy that annoys me far more than it entertains. But hey, the film looks good in its Blu-ray debut.

[Blu-ray extras: None]

Carrie

A young girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) raised by a fundamentalist mother (Julianne Moore) discovers she has psychic powers triggered by a visit from her Aunt Flo. Stephen King‘s first novel gets a second adaptation, and while it’s a solid enough film on its own merits it offers nothing new to justify its existence. Fans of the genre or cast will want to give it a watch all the same though.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Alternate ending, deleted scenes, featurettes, commentary]

Enough Said

Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is a single mom and masseuse who finds herself falling for a man (James Gandolfini), but she begins to question her judgement on the basis of hearsay and soon her romantic life is in even bigger disarray. This is a lightweight film, but it’s sweetly comic and honest enough to make it worth a watch. And it doesn’t hurt that one of Gandolfini’s final roles sees him smiling more than he ever has before.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

Fresh Meat

A home-invasion/cannibal comedy that opens with a lesbian shower scene in an all-girls school? Yes please. The script suffers with some of the characters’ actions/reactions, but there are enough laughs and gun gore effects throughout to make it a fun romp.

[DVD extras: Interviews]

Plus One

A trio of friends attending a party discover something is amiss when they notice they’re already there. As in they can actually see themselves talking to other people, partying, and doing the same things they themselves did several minutes ago. It’s a fantastic Twilight Zone-like setup, but then the execution fumbles almost the entire thing.

[DVD extras: Commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, interviews]

Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen’s classic novel of love, class, and principle has seen multiple adaptations, and this BBC/A&E production is probably the second best. (Sorry, but Keira Knightley will always win.) Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle both deliver fantastic performances, and the miniseries format offers far more time to get to know and experience these characters and their world.

[Blu-ray extras: Featurettes]

Rewind This

VHS ruled the world i n the 1980s, and this documentary looks at the format’s birth, life, and death in the mainstream media wars. Just as fascinating though are interviews with people who still find value in what VHS has to offer. Some people love the artwork and collectible nature of searching for VHS, and with thousands of titles on tape that have yet to hit DVD/Blu-ray (and probably never will) there are still plenty of reasons to hang onto your VCR.

[DVD extras: Commentary, animations, music video, additional interviews]

Riddick

Riddick (Vin Diesel) is back in action after The Chronicles Thereof! Left for dead on a mostly uninhabited planet, Riddick sets about escaping the planet’s hostile wildlife and competing groups of bounty hunters after his head. David Twohy once again writes and directs, and once again he fails to capture the magic of what made Pitch Black work so well. This is big and messy and unimpressive, so consider it for fans of The Chronicles of Riddick only.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Theatrical and director’s cuts, featurettes]

Run

As someone who says “parkour!” everytime I trip or stumble I’m unashamedly entertained by action movies featuring the sport. While District 13, the epic foot chase in Casino Royale, and numerous other action films of the past decade have used parkour for spectacular action set-pieces, this movie is entirely set in the world of parkour youths. And it is not good. The bad script and mediocre acting could have been salvaged by some cool action, but that’s just not in the cards.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of]

A Single Shot

A man (Sam Rockwell) out hunting discovers a stash of cash after accidentally shooting a woman, and as he struggles with guilt and lies the rest of his life begins to crumble dangerously around him. Rockwell is always great, but there’s particular appeal in seeing him play something straight and serious. The film itself isn’t quite as engaging as its lead actor, but there are some solid thrills to be found.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, trailer, interviews]

Sunrise

A farmer and his wife seem to be living a simple but loving life, but when he’s tempted by a big city woman their affair leads to plans of murder. The film won an Oscar at the very first Academy Awards for the “Most Unique and Artistic Picture” which at the time was of equal weight to “Best Picture,” and it’s easy enough to see why. Though occasionally melodramatic the story and emotions are at the forefront here, and the technical/narrative achievements are pretty impressive for 1927.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, outtakes, trailer, screenplay]

Terraferma

A small island off the coast of Sicily is home to a working class community, but it’s also visited on occasion by two distinct breeds of people. Carefree vacationers arrive in the summer, and refugees land on the shores year round, and the three worlds come together leading to some unlikely relationships and events. The film offers some engaging characters forced into situations that enforce and challenge their varied class distinctions. And not for nothing, but the cinematography is pretty gorgeous too.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, trailer]

Discs Section: Also

Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and/or review material was unavailable:

Blue Caprice
The Butler
Cafe de Flore
Four
Gasland Part II
How to Make Money Selling Drugs
I’m In Love With a Church Girl
Khumba
Marvel Knights: Wolverine vs Sabretooth
Our Nixon
Paradise Hope
Rififi (Criterion)
Thief (Criterion)
The Year of the Cannibals


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