Deadpool, Michael Moore, and a few indies worth adding to your collection.
Pick of the Week
What is it? Mackenzie (Ella Purnell) is a teen in crisis. Her father has died, and her mother’s addictions have forced her into rehab, so with no other resources she’s sent to stay with an uncle in Alaska for the summer. He shows her kindness, showers her with gifts, and sneaks into her bed at night to do unspeakable things. It may not be the first time, and she knows it won’t be the last, so when the opportunity arises she runs away. Her luck changes when she crosses paths with a hiker named Rene (Bruce Greenwood) in Denali. He wants nothing to do with her at first, but when the two of them end up on the same deserted trail in the park he quietly allows her to join his party of one. What begins as necessity slowly grows into a relationship offering the exact thing each of them is missing.
Why buy it? This is a beautiful little gem of a film about knowing the difference between the things we get in life and the things we deserve. Mackenzie has watched as those closest to her have let her down through their absence and addictions, while Rene has settled into an angry solitude fueled by his own recent loss. It’s not a new story being told here ‐ a girl in need of a father figure, a man in need of a reason to care ‐ but it’s told with such beauty and humanity that its effect remains even weeks after viewing. It finds beauty, calm, and trust between two strangers and makes it as compelling an experience as any big-budget spectacle could ever hope to create. You’ll be entertained, but more than that, you’ll be moved. It may also get you to spend some time wandering off trail in Alaska, and that’s a feeling you’ll never forget.
[DVD extras: None?]
What is it? Deadpool, aka Wade Wilson, (Ryan Reynolds) narrates his own origin story by way of multiple fourth wall breaks, and we first meet him en route to a carnage-filled act of vengeance. We move between his present quest for revenge and the events of the past that led to his current situation. Core to his tale is Wade’s love, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), a woman who’s every bit as goofy, odd, and dirty-minded as he is, but after many months of holiday-themed fornication (you will never listen to “Calendar Girl” without smiling again) the pair are devastated to learn that Wade is dying from inoperable cancer. Desperate for a chance, he agrees to a radical experiment that ultimately leaves his body cured, indestructible, and resembling an old man’s bruised left testicle. So now you know why he’s out for revenge.
Why buy it? A simple setup and an abundance of personality make for a memorable feature turning what could have been a one-note romp into a live-action, R-rated Looney Tunes adventure that rarely takes time to breathe. The action is a stylized barrage of stunts, CG, and gun play occasionally slowed to a crawl to allow Deadpool to address the camera and crack wise or flash us back earlier in the story. If goofy, crass, sarcastic gags aren’t your thing ‐ and if Reynolds turned up to 11 on the wise-ass dick-dial grates your nerves ‐ then you’re out of luck here. For the rest of us though this is just an immensely entertaining time at the movies that mixes action, laughs, and the most romantic superhero film since Howard the Duck.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, gag reel, featurettes, commentaries]
What is it? Lale is the youngest of five sisters growing up in northern Turkey, and on one hot summer day they take a detour after school to spend some time playing innocently at the beach with some boys. Word gets back to their home, and suddenly a strict, religiously conservative shroud is draped between them and the world.
Why buy it? Individual freedom is a fickle thing in this alternately enraging and joyous look at five teenage sisters forced to mute their energy and personality for the sake of backward, conservative values. The film and the five girls at its core are filled with such spirit and vitality, and they make the message one as much of hope as anger. It’s a tale by and about women, but it should appeal to anyone who values freedom for all.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None?]
War & Peace: The Complete Miniseries
What is it? It’s early into the 19th century, and great nations are at war. Three young members of St. Petersburg’s upper crust find their search for meaning interrupted and shaped by the world around them. Pierre (Paul Dano) dreams big but lacks conviction, Natasha (Lily James) believes her greatest endeavor will be one of the heart, and Andrei heads to the front lines in the hopes of finding purpose in death.
Why buy it? Leo Tolstoy’s epic classic has hit the screen several times before, including at least two previous miniseries, and this latest incarnation lands towards the top of the list. The combined production pull of the BBC and TWC have resulted in a beautiful, lush feel as we move between opulent halls and bloody battlefields, and the cast (which also includes Brian Cox, Jim Broadbent, Greta Scacchi, Tuppence Middleton, Gillian Anderson, and Stephen Rea) help bring the characters to life without the much-feared stuffiness.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Where to Invade Next
What is it? Michael Moore likes to stir the pot, and he’s up to old tricks yet again here. His crusade to make America better (or at least to point out areas that could use work) this time takes him overseas to other countries to explore things that they’re doing right. He highlights school lunches, free college, ideal prison systems, and more and explains why and how America could benefit by making similar changes.
Why buy it? Moore’s particular brand of angry liberalism works more often than not, and this is easily one of his most accessible and necessary films yet. Sure there’s some cherry-picking happening here, and the movie could definitely use less of Moore onscreen, but the successful ideas he examines speak for themselves. He shows the methods at play, compares them to their American counterparts, and suggests improvements are in order domestically. It’s difficult to argue with his conclusions. Ignore the R-rating, and show this to everyone you know.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Where To Invade Next [Blu-ray]
What is it? A young American woman (Lauren Cohan) takes a job as nanny to a family in rural England, but she’s surprised to discover the “boy” she’s tasked with watching over is a mannequin. The elderly parents act as if he’s real, but she takes the job anyway since the money is good and she needs the escape from her own troubles back home.
Why rent it? The setup is a solid mix of the creepy and the absurd that drops our heroine, Greta, into an unusual situation. Is the couple crazy? Absolutely, but they’re clearly no threat thanks to their arthritis and blue hair, and who’s afraid of a doll? No one, that’s who… at least until the doll gives you a reason to be terrified. Good performances, a couple jump scares, and some nervous laughs make this one worthwhile. The third act loses some steam with a poorly-executed reveal, but it’s still a fun enough little chiller.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
What is it? Angela (Emma Watson) is a normal young woman in early ’90s Minnesota who one day reveals a terrifying secret. Her father has been molesting her for years. The man quickly accepts his guilt, but something isn’t sitting right with Det. Kenner (Ethan Hawke).
Why skip it? Ostensibly a dramatic thriller, director Alejandro Amenabar’s latest is utterly devoid of both drama and thrills. It’s not an issue of pacing as he proved with The Others an ability to find suspense and tension is slowly-moving stories. The setup here— a take on the false abuse claim hysteria from the late ’80s ‐ is the entire film. There’s nothing surprising here, and while a story doesn’t need to feature suspense or mystery to succeed it’s also just not told very well at all. It’s uninteresting both narratively and dramatically, and neither Hawke nor Watson have a prayer of saving it.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, featurettes]
Scream – The TV Series: The Complete First Season
What is it? The obnoxious, self-centered teenagers in the small town of Lakewood are obsessed with social media ‐ especially when it’s used to make themselves look good and others look ridiculous. Their lives are shaken when a serial killer begins thinning out the herd and taunting those left behind.
Why skip it? This is a better slasher show than the higher-profile Scream Queens, and the slick production features sharp visuals, a great soundtrack, and some fun gore, but goddamn is it a frustrating and annoying ride. The characters are consistently idiotic, and far too many of the plot turns are reliant on characters keeping things from each other ‐ it’s like Three’s Company rebooted as a slasher (but minus the laughs). The killer is identifiable halfway through the season, and why don’t any of these dumb-asses fight back?! It’s a shame too as it handles the meta smarts of its parent film franchise well enough only to allow the characters to grow dumber by the second.
[DVD extras: Gag reel, deleted scenes]
What is it? Jim and his fellow scientists develop a machine capable of opening a portal into the future, but when a millionaire investor gains a controlling interest they risk losing their invention. He’s not their only problem though as Jim’s new love interest is complicating things even further.
Why rent it? Writer/director Jacob Gentry’s latest ‐ his first since taking part in 2007’s excellent and fun The Signal ‐ is a twisty tale of time travel, love, and corporate overreach. There are elements to appreciate, but like a broken timepiece that gets it right twice a day it misses the mark far more frequently. It’s Gumby sci-fi ‐ so focused on being bendy and fun that its numerous attempts at more serious tangents immediately crack under the pressure. The time travel twists are well-crafted, and while nitpickers may find some instances to question the tightly wound threads hold together more often than not.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interviews, music video]
What is it? A poorly-lit boarding school (college?) welcomes students new and old after summer vacation, but something is amiss in these dark (seriously, someone needs to screw in some more light bulbs) halls. A doctor (Duane Jones, Night of the Living Dead) is on the case, and deeply involved, and the school’s headmistress is clearly to blame.
Why skip it? No, that’s not a spoiler. We know she’s heading up the horror early on, and that lack of suspense (among other things) makes for a watch that feels for from worthwhile. A little bit of T&A and even less bloodletting don’t help matters, and don’t be fooled by the scene where a couple are sucked down a toilet ‐ at least I believe that’s what happened as it occurs off screen ‐ as nothing else here is nearly as weird.
[DVD extras: None]
You’ll Like My Mother
What is it? Francesca (Patty Duke) lost her newlywed husband in an overseas plane crash, and now the pregnant widow arrives at her mother-in-law’s remote home in search of comfort. She’s never met the woman before, but it takes only a few minutes to realize she dislikes her. Francesca decides to she has no need for family, but her new family has other ideas.
Why rent it? The setup feels a little familiar, but the story doesn’t quite go in expected directions (outside of yes, Francesca is trapped by a weirdo and in some serious trouble). There are some solid moments of suspense here alongside a terrifically creepy turn by Richard Thomas, and Scream Factory brings this little-seen thriller onto home video with a pair of lengthy interviews and a fine, albeit soft HD picture.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews]
Also Out This Week:
Beauty & the Beast: The Third Season, Classic Hitchcock (Criterion Collection), Creative Control, In a Lonely Place (Criterion Collection), Killjoys: Season One, Manson’s Lost Girls
Related Topics: Home Video