Blood Ties

Warner Bros.

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Winter’s Tale Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) is a man out of time in early 20th century New York City. He’s on the run from a devilish mob boss (Russell Crowe) when a last minute detour lands him in love with a socialite (Jessica Brown Findlay) dying of tuberculosis. Can their romance survive human mortality, a Jimi Hendrix-loving Satan and a self-directed script by Akiva Goldsman? Winter’s Tale, so named because some scenes take place when it’s cold out apparently, is a terrible movie in most senses of the word. The romance doesn’t work, the fantastic elements feel out of place, there’s barely a single effective moment of suspense or emotion and the metaphysical message is a confused jumble of words randomly typed by chimpanzees while peyote smoke is blown into their anuses by drunken clergymen. There’s no getting around any of that, and yet… I want you to see it. To experience it. And to confirm for me that I didn’t just dream the whole damn thing. Check out my full review here if you still need convincing. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

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Blood Ties

Writer/director James Gray has explored brotherhood with real depth over his career. From We Own the Night to the  The Yards, Gray shows a deep understanding for unconditional love. He knows how to make cliches feel honest, like two brothers on the opposite sides of the law. Gray slyly subverted that idea in We Own the Night, a drama that went unnoticed in 2007. Blood Ties, which Gray co-wrote with the film’s director Guillaume Canet, will likely go unnoticed as well, but for very different reasons. Unlike We Own the Night, Canet’s film shows no interest in reinventing the wheel or putting down any personal stamp. When the protagonists at the center of Blood Ties make the tough decisions, Gray and Canet are unwilling to do the same with their by-the-number crime picture. Ever since Chris (Clive Owen) and Frank (Billy Crudup) were kids they’ve been different. Chris was the troublemaker of the two, while Frank followed the rules. Neither of them changed their ways as they grew older. At the start of the film Frank is released from prison. He’s been away so long that his kids, who are quickly pushed aside after one scene, don’t even recognize him. Chris can’t find a decent job, owes a ton in child support, and has to live with his brother, who’s now a straight and narrow cop.

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Blood Ties

James Gray has directed a total of five films over the past two decades, and while a movie every four years isn’t too shabby it’s also not quite a workmanlike pace either. He takes his time on personal projects like The Yards or divisive, subversive ones like We Own the Night. He’s an American filmmaker we don’t talk about often enough, but 2014 may change all that seeing as he’s attached in varying capacity to two different films. April will see the release of his latest directorial effort, The Immigrant, and a month earlier a film he co-wrote, Blood Ties, will hit theaters. Both films premiered at the Cannes film festival last year, a festival that’s always welcomed Gray’s work, and our Shaun Munro was mixed on Blood Ties, calling its 144 minute runtime “wholly excessive – even counter-productive – to telling this story. Furthermore, though Blood Ties will be no doubt be marketed on the strength of its brief bursts of action, it is in retrospect difficult to see the film having much commercial appeal outside of getting butts in seats by way of trailer-based manipulation.” Shaun’s prediction has been proven correct, since the newly released trailer does lean heavily on its occasional bursts of action. Take a look at the possibly misleading trailer for Blood Ties below.

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Guillaume Canet earned the goodwill of many with his immensely potent 2006 thriller Tell No One, before the misjudged – and like this film, much too long – Little White Lies came along and eroded plenty of that promise. However, Canet returns with his latest feature, and the busload-full of skilled actors he has brought with him damn near ensures a compelling sit, even if the film’s ponderous pacing and resulting length do detract somewhat from its finer qualities. A remake of 2008’s French film Rivals – which starred Canet himself – Blood Ties begins in 1974 New York as Chris (Clive Owen) is released from prison after a 12-year-stint for murder. While welcomed warmly by his father (James Caan), Chris is received less so by his brother, Frank (Billy Crudup), a respected policeman who is nevertheless called upon by his family to take him in. Adding to the drama is the litany of anguished lovers sitting on the periphery; Chris shacks up with a gorgeous young receptionist named Monica (Mila Kunis), much to the chagrin of his drug-addled hooker ex-wife Monica (Marion Cotillard), while Frank continues to pine for a former flame he broke it off with, Vanessa (Zoe Saldana), whose current relationship with the dangerous Scarfo (Matthias Schoenaerts) is on the rocks.

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Clive and Mila

If the Cannes Film Festival is good for anything, it’s letting a select few people see great movies that the rest of us are going to have to wait months to get our eyeballs on. In one respect it’s a tantalizing glimpse at our film future, and in the other it’s a torturous tease that only gives us whispers about unattainable pleasures. Every once in a while a film debuting at Cannes will at least release a trailer around the same time though, so those of us not at the festival can get a taste of what we’re missing, and this seems to be the case with Guillaume Canet’s first English-language film as a director, Blood Ties. You should be warned that there’s some naughty language in the clip that lies below, but if that isn’t the sort of thing that offends you, then you’re going to want to click through and watch, because Blood Ties is a 70s-set crime drama that stars Clive Owen, Mila Kunis, Billy Crudup, Marion Cotillard, Zoe Saldana, Matthias Schoenaerts, and James Caan, and if you’re not willing to admit that you have a crush on at least a handful of those people, then you’re just a liar. A stinking liar.

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