Sorry, What to Watch took a turkey day break as last week was really light on new product worth mentioning. This week? Pretty much the same but we don’t want you to miss us too badly. Here’s five recent Blu-ray, DVD, and streaming releases that may have caught your attention on new release shelves lately, ranked in the order we’d add them to our holiday wish list.
CHICAGO – Greta Gerwig is a gift to the type of film acting that dominates the screen. This beautiful, versatile actor gives poignant energy to her latest title character, “Frances Ha,” a collaboration with indie director Noah Baumbach (“Greenberg”).
CHICAGO – From “(500) Days of Summer” to “Ruby Sparks,” Fox Searchlight has been distributing some of the most refreshingly honest films about twentysomething romance in recent memory. The unapologetically flawed titular heroine in “Lola Versus” may have appeared more groundbreaking had she not debuted the same year as HBO’s “Girls,” which has the market cornered on such heroines.
CHICAGO – Writer/director Woody Allen continues his film travelogues in “To Rome with Love,” touring The Eternal City with four separate vignettes. An all-star cast – including Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Alec Baldwin, Penélope Cruz and Woody himself – hit and miss with this varying blend of stories.
CHICAGO – Greta Gerwig is now being recognized in the movie universe, and has climbed a ladder from micro-budget independent (“Baghead”) to mainstream monstrosities (the “Arthur” remake). She takes the lead role in “Lola Versus,” and anchors a terrific story about “settling down” and the decisions behind that certain time of life.
CHICAGO – The sly satires of Whit Stillman have cultivated a fan base that appears to consist largely of his fellow peers. Manhattan-based filmmakers such as Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach and Lena Dunham have cited his subdued comedies as an influence on their own similarly mannerist yet considerably more accessible work. For many moviegoers, Stillman’s brilliantly constructed, emotionally distant pictures are easy to admire but difficult to like.
CHICAGO – It takes a special kind of talent to appear wholly natural on-camera. Delivering dialogue with dramatic inflection is easy.
CHICAGO – Have we reached such a politically-correct place in our culture that drinking excessively can’t be seen as humorous even in a dumb comedy? How else to explain the boneheaded decision to basically make the legendary character of Arthur Bach (played by Dudley Moore in the Oscar-winning original and Russell Brand in the potential-Razzie-winning remake) into a man-child instead of an actual drunk? That decision (along with a few others) sunk “Arthur,” recently released on Blu-ray and DVD, before it even shot a frame. Although the actual production didn’t help.
CHICAGO – I have become nearly exhausted by writing reviews about the modern decline of the romantic comedy, the genre most in need of a complete overhaul. Most of them nowadays are horrendous. So, no one is more surprised than this critic to say that “No Strings Attached” with Ashton Kutcher & Natalie Portman, now available on Blu-ray and DVD, isn’t bad. It’s no genre classic, but it’s an enjoyable comedy on a Saturday night.
CHICAGO – Critics were pretty hard on the remake of “Arthur” starring Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Jennifer Garner, and Greta Gerwig (including our very own Patrick McDonald, who gave the film 2 stars out of five) and the film relatively bombed at the box office, opening in 2nd place to “Hop” and making only $12.7 million in its first frame with a lower per-screen average than “Hanna” or “Soul Surfer.” Now you can compare the new version to the award-winning original and its dreadful sequel in a 2-movie collection, now on Blu-ray.
CHICAGO – There are many problems inherent in film remakes, starting with comparisons to the original source. The first “Arthur,” while not a classic, did have a warm, funny story and Dudley Moore’s title performance. The current remake has none of that.