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:
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Here’s what we said in our original review:
In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, whenever a person runs into the legendary Captain Jack Sparrow they’ve heard so much about, their reaction is always, “What happened to you?” Wanted posters for Sparrow that used to offer hundreds for his capture have now been crossed out, the asking price now only a single pound. Sparrow has no ship, no money, and barely any crew – just his occasional rum and his ability to somehow win over the ladies. To be fair, Sparrow and Johnny Depp’s portrayal haven’t changed all that much, but the schtick has grown so exhausted, it’s hard to imagine what made Sparrow charming in the first place. The fifth film in the franchise, Dead Men Tell No Tales isn’t just a slog in this franchise, it somehow takes the viewer back to the original to question what the hell we ever saw in these films in the first place.
- The Book of Henry. Here’s Keith Watson over at Slant:
Schmaltzy, manipulative, and tonally schizophrenic, The Book of Henry is such a monumentally misguided venture that it ends up being oddly, if unintentionally, compelling. If not for Colin Trevorrow’s bland, listless direction, it would be tempting to read the film as a parody of slushy Hollywood tear-jerkers, a dark satire that uses the uncannily vacuum-sealed mawkishness of a Hallmark Channel movie as an ironic backdrop for a twisted Hitchcockian thriller. But Trevorrow is no Hitchcock, and his film is unfortunately far closer to Gifted than Shadow of a Doubt. That’s what makes it such a grimly fascinating disaster: It’s a cloying weepie that attempts to pull an inspirational moral out of a story about a mother attempting to murder her next-door neighbor because her dead son told her to.
OUT THIS WEEK & WORTH YOUR TIME:
- War of the Planet of the Apes. Here’s Bilge Ebiri over at The Village Voice:
These last two Apes films were directed by Matt Reeves, who previously distinguished himself with the bleak, beautiful teen vampire drama Let Me In, a superior remake of the hit Swedish thriller Let the Right One In. This new one has all the reliable virtues of a well-made studio blockbuster: The effects are incredible, the action is exciting, the music is great, and Andy Serkis, once again embodying a nonhuman character through motion-capture technology, remains terrific. But there’s something more here: Reeves likes his stuff dark — visually, thematically, narratively — and now he’s plunged us headlong into the gloom. War for the Planet of the Apes is certainly the most melancholy tentpole since…well, since Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The subject matter may well lend itself to melodrama and spectacle, and while Reeves never skimps on suspense or emotion or epic imagery, he also understands the power of restraint, of quiet. The apes usually speak in sign language. The humans barely speak at all — those that can don’t really have anything worth saying. Meanwhile, the grim settings and mood — thick forests and desolate valleys and pitch-black caves — enhance the imperative for survival at all costs. The picture pulls us as viewers into an atmosphere so oppressive that it leaves no room for morality; we’re too caught up in the characters’ struggle for survival to worry about anything else. To put it another way: This movie is a dangerous place to be.
INSTANT VIEWING OF THE WEEK (Smart sci-fi edition):
- Arrival (now on Amazon Prime). Here’s what we said in our original review:
Anyone who texts knows the power of language and grammar. If a text includes a period, particularly after the word “OK,” it can signify anything from certainty to simmering hatred. Language, particularly how it creates the possibility of a perceived slight or threat, is at the heart of Arrival, the remarkable science fiction film from director Denis Villeneuve. In an era where special effects coincides with a dearth of ideas, here is a cerebral film that relies on curiosity for its ample thrills. Villeneuve is a fascinating genre filmmaker, although most of his work approaches Kubrickian detachment. His latest is moving, too, in ways that are quietly shocking.
- Cloud Atlas (now on Netflix). Here’s what we said in our original review:
Ultimately, Cloud Atlas is a risky, audacious big-budget film. It’s a unique and daring exercise in storytelling that, in the end, challenges and engages the audience. While the underlying ideas may be more welcome in a high school philosophy class (we are talking about the Matrix producers, after all), it’s remarkable to see these themes engaged at all, let alone in an unfamiliar and novel presentation. Even when its reach exceeds its grasp, Cloud Atlas is a drop of daring in an ocean of mediocrity. If we take as granted that Western cinema is patently incapable of more than three original screenplays a year, Cloud Atlas is still a wonderful example of the form’s potential; it gets much more right than it gets wrong, and serves as a reminder of why we, as a civilization, bothered building cinemas in the first place.
- High Rise (now on Netflix). Here’s what we said in our original review:
One thing high-minded critics often complain about is too much exposition in movies: Audiences being spoon-fed everything they need to know about the plot through dialogue, rather than allowing the information to emerge organically from character conversation and behavior. High Rise feels like it took that criticism to heart, to the point that it erred catastrophically in the opposite direction. It’s a movie so committed to its satirical vision that it’s damn near impossible to follow. Which doesn’t mean that vision isn’t still giddy, and at times even captivating.
That’s it! Get streaming, nerds.