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Pick of the Week
What is it? Two old friends reunite in crisis while one is hiding out from a potential mob hit.
Why see it? Elaine May’s filmography consists most memorably of comedies like A New Leaf (1971), Heaven Can Wait (1978), and The Birdcage (1996), but this drama about friendship’s end is every bit as deserving of attention. Peter Falk and John Cassavetes star as friends spending one last night out together as the latter hides from mobsters he’s crossed, and as the two reflect, talk, and make plans an overwhelming feeling of sadness pervades the screen. May’s writing and direction are paired beautifully with their performances for an affecting tragedy. The film looks great thanks to Criterion’s new restoration, and while the disc isn’t loaded with extras the ones we get offer some insight and thoughts on the production.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 4K restoration, interviews]
What is it? Neil Armstrong prepares for the Apollo 11 flight to the moon.
Why see it? Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to his acclaimed modern musical La La Land is a biopic about the famed astronaut centered on his trip to the moon. Ryan Gosling takes the lead alongside a strong supporting cast Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, and more, and delivers a fantastically restrained performance. It’s an engaging time in his life, but the bigger draw here is the visuals and complete sensory experience of the flight and moon landing. It’s a film you want to crank up the volume and settle in for, and when it ends you can reflect on how kick-ass of a species we can actually be when we’re not busy being so damn terrible.
[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, commentary]
What is it? A team of Navy SEALs on leave in Bosnia pursue a sunken treasure.
Why see it? Three Kings (1999) this ain’t, but what it lacks in wit, smart writing, and engaging performances it makes up for with generic straight to DVD competence. The early action scenes are actually quite good, and while later ones are a bit less effective there’s still fun to be had for action genre fans. Sullivan Stapleton headlines so if nothing else you know he’s familiar with action beats.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
What is it? Two men become fast friends over sketchy shared interests, but the good times can’t last forever.
Why see it? The Room (2003) is an oddity that captured an audience despite its many faults, and there’s an argument that the magic in a bottle was a once in a lifetime occurrence. This pair of films is exhibit A in that argument. What previously felt like brilliant incompetence now feels crafted and intentional, and the effect suffers because of it. Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero haven’t exactly spent the last decade and a half honing their acting/filmmaking skills.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, commentary]
What is it? Atomic tests release yet another monstrous beast to terrorize the Earth’s surface.
Why see it? As stop-motion creature features from the 1950s go this is probably one of the last. It’s fine, and the effects work is on par with others from the era — King Kong‘s Willis O’Brien handles the effects while director Eugene Lourie is chasing his own The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. We get plenty of destruction here as the creature makes its way across the land, but the finale beneath the ocean lacks the same kind of spectacle. Still, fans of the time and genre will enjoy this release.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary by Dennis Muren and Phil Tippett]
What is it? Famed British spy Johnny English is back on the job.
Why see it? Look, you’re either in the bag for Rowan Atkinson’s particular comedic style or you’re not. His blend of pantomime and idiocy is an acquired taste, but it’s typically good fun watching him interact with his surroundings. Unlike his Mr. Bean character, here he’s also a talker, and he manages some laughs that route as well. The action is merely okay, but it succeeds as a minor entertainment, and of nothing else we also get Olga Kurylenkoin a supporting role.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentary]
Also out this week:
4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days [Criterion Collection], 10 to Midnight [Scream Factory], The Apparition, Breath, Cobra [Scream Factory], Dirty Rotten Scoundrels [Shout Select], Here and Now, I Am Not a Witch, Road House 2, Skinner [Severin Films], Waterworld [Arrow Video]