Since we know how important at-home-entertainment is for all of us – every week we do a little “what’s getting released on DVD/on demand/Netflix this week” round up for you, with nice little excerpts of our past reviews and more. You’ll love it. Trust us.
OUT THIS WEEK & PROCEED WITH CAUTION:
- Colossal. Here’s what we said in our original review:
Colossal is a new kind of disaster movie in which the disaster emerges from within, rather than fears of nuclear disaster, and is very millennial. But at the same time, it’s tricky. What is Anne Hathaway doing in a monster movie? It turns out she’s responsible for the manifestation of the giant creature that stomps around Seoul, South Korea. The idea of her problems and unrestrained emotional outbursts become a physical being is interesting, but about halfway through, it takes a turn. The solution is satisfying, but the film is muddy in the way it handles key issues and questions raised.
OUT THIS WEEK & WORTH YOUR TIME:
- Gifted. Here’s what we said in our original review:
Is it possible to fit more tropes into a family drama than you’ll find in Gifted? Maybe, but it’s awfully hard to imagine. This is a film that features an uncle-turned-loving-single-dad, a precocious blonde first-grader, a teacher interested in the well-being of both the kid AND the uncle, an emotionally-invested neighbor, a custody battle complete with a courtroom scene out of A Few Good Men, a lovable one-eyed cat named Fred, and even a (pretty good!) joke about Congress. But the thing about tropes is that they’re tropes for a reason. If you get the formula right and have enough charm and chemistry, many audiences don’t mind predictability, whether you’re talking about a superhero movie, a rom-com, or a whodunnit mystery. There’s no question of where Gifted is going to end up when the credits roll, but it has exactly the right balance of charisma, wit, and emotional manipulation to ensure that fans of this particular style will have a lovely time getting there.
- The Lovers. Here’s what we said in our original review:
In the hands of lesser leads something like this wouldn’t work. But the ease with which Letts and Winger work as actors – both of whom should be in more films – deal with the awkwardness of the situation is applause-worthy. And the chemistry flip flops between the four leads keep the viewer unsettled, even during the genuinely funny parts. The tempo of the film is partially responsible for this. “I listen to a lot of music when I write”, said Jacobs, “and a lot of it is reggae, which may explain why things happen sort of slower in my movies than in some others.” The leisurely pace of dealing with non-leisurely things is definitely amplified by the actual up-tempo sweeping score that is reminiscent of Old Hollywood, but often misleading when it comes to what is actually happening.
INSTANT VIEWING OF THE WEEK (existential dread edition):
- The Double (now on Netflix). Here’s what we said in our original review:
The world of The Double is aggressively bleak. It’s always night, for one thing, and pale pools of yellow light make everyone look sickly. The film’s retro science fiction is a reminiscent Brazil, except Terry Gilliam at least had the mercy to populate his sets with inventive flourishes. Working from a Dostoevsky novella, director Richard Ayoade is more relentless: there is a minimalist vision here that’s admirable. The look of his film is depressing, through and through, but at least he has a sense of humor about it his main character. The hero of The Double is easy to identify with, and the joke is that he also happens to be a loser.
- John Dies at the End (now on Netflix). Here’s what we said in our original review:
There’s an early scene in John Dies at the End where two buddies are trapped in a basement, and a giant monster is about to kill them. One of them reaches for the door, but when the doorknob instantly transforms into another object entirely, he boldly announces, “We cannot get out of here.” I won’t spoil what the doorknob turns into, except to say it’s an apt summary for what’s appealing about Don Coscarelli’s latest horror/comedy. The emphasis here is on comedy, and although the action reaches across alternate universes and has its share of fiendish ghouls, Coscarelli grounds his movie with goofy characters and clever dialogue. This has more in common with Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey than The Call of Cthulu.
- Viral (now on Netflix). Here’s Ed Gonzalez over at Slant:
And one’s expectations are duly met, though the filmmakers notably doodle in the margins from the start, slightly reorienting our perspective on the familiar tropes of both the teen and apocalyptic genres, making them feel almost new again. Early on in Viral, when only the audience is privy to the story’s looming parasitic catastrophe, Emma is caught by a friend, Gracie (Linzie Gray), “creepin’” on a boy from a distance, watching him swap saliva with a girl as if in revolt against the soul-crushing sea of antiseptic-orange lockers that surround them. Throughout, the most performative aspects of teenagehood are seen less as flaws than as sparks for rebellion, like the scene where students go to a rager in defiance of a curfew that’s issued after several teens come down with the virus. Where a nastier film might have treated how the party becomes ground zero for the virus’s spread as a punchline, Viral pushes the carnage to the sidelines so as to less cynically home in on how young lives cope with danger in communal spaces.
That’s it! Get watching, nerds.