What to Watch: Feb. 4-10, 2014

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While there is a likely Oscar-winner, a massive box set from HBO, and some true crowd-pleasers in this week’s What to Watch, it’s a bit of a downer compared to some more recent jam-packed weeks of Blu-ray and streaming greatness. We also couldn’t find an On Demand title this week worth mentioning, although Denis Villeneuve’s “Enemy,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal, hits DirecTV On Demand this Thursday and you can bet we’ll be there to check it out before a March theatrical release. Until then, rent or buy something below.

Treme: The Complete Series
Treme: The Complete Series
Photo credit: HBO

“Treme: The Complete Series”

HBO’s “Treme” never became the cultural touchstone that “The Wire” turned into over the year but it does have a loyal, devoted following who will be overwhelmed by the ability to own it all in one box set. One also gets the feeling that “Treme,” much like “The Wire,” could work best as a complete experience. David Simon crafts TV like a novelist, with each season as a chapter in a book. Now, the book is complete. Collectors will want to know that the special features from the standalone releases have had their special feature imported, and accompanied by a disc of new bonus content. HBO is the best TV studio working when it comes to complete series sets and “Treme” is another collector’s item to add to their set.

From my 2010 TV review of the premiere: “For fans of “The Wire,” expectations are ludicrously high for HBO’s “Treme” (pronounced “tre-MAY”), the newest dramatic work from David Simon and Eric Overmyer. Two of the creative voices behind one of the best television programs of all time have turned their focus from Baltimore to New Orleans and lost none of their dramatic resonance, delivering an incredibly rewarding show that will have viewers tapping their feet to the rhythm of a city that doesn’t just “enjoy” or “play” music, it needs it to survive.

Amid the ruins of an American city, ordinary people - musicians, chefs, residents - find themselves clinging to a unique culture and wondering if the city that gave birth to that culture still has a future From the creators of The Wire comes a new series about adversity and the human spirit, set in New Orleans, in the aftermath of the greatest man-made disaster in American history. Welcome to Treme.

Special Features:
o Interactive Features On The Music And Unique Culture Of New Orleans
o 8 Featurettes That Provided A Look Behind The Scenes At The Making Of Treme As Well As The History And Culture That Inspires The Series
o 16 Audio Commentaries With Cast And Crew

Where to Watch: Blu-ray, DVD, HBO GO, iTunes, Amazon Instant Streaming, Vudu

About Time
About Time
Photo credit: Universal

“About Time”

Richard Curtis’ romantic version of “Groundhog Day” is a clever, cute riff on the idea that we need to live every moment to its fullest. With a star-making central performance from Domnhall Gleeson (son of Brendan), “About Time” is about a time-travelling romantic. It has its romantic and humorous beats in which our hero jumps back in time to correct those moments in which we all had a do-over but it becomes a message movie about making sure you enjoy life enough the first time that you don’t need to repeat it a second one. The pacing of the film is off (it didn’t need to be two hours) and too many of the narrative beats are repeated but this is generally charming, original stuff.

From Patrick McDonald’s film review: “Period jumping is an old science fiction conceit, and in most hands fairly interesting (“Back to the Future,” “Star Trek IV”). The type of time travel in “About Time” is not interesting, even when it’s attached to a conclusive moral fiber. However, it does communicate the subtle emotion of love with vigor and sincerity, and manages a few smiles along the way.

The night after another unsatisfactory New Year party, Tim’s (Domhnall Gleeson) father (Bill Nighy) tells his son that the men in his family have always had the ability to travel through time. Tim can’t change history, but he can change what happens and has happened in his own life - so he decides to make his world a better place…by getting a girlfriend (Rachel McAdams). But as his unusual life progresses, Tim finds out that his unique gift can’t save him from the sorrows and ups and downs that affect all families, everywhere. From filmmaker Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Notting Hill, Four Weddings And A Funeral), About Time is a comedy about love and time travel, which discovers that, in the end, making the most of life may not need time travel at all.

Special Features:
o Deleted Scenes With Intros By Director Richard Curtis
o Blooper Reel: Making Movies Is a Serious Business
o Ellie Goulding “How Long Will I Love You?” Music Video
o About Tim And Time Travel
o The Look, Style and Locations
o The World Of Richard Curtis

Where to Watch: Blu-ray, DVD, iTunes, Amazon Instant Streaming, Vudu

Dallas Buyers Club
Dallas Buyers Club
Photo credit: Universal

“Dallas Buyers Club”

Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto seem likely to win Oscar for their work in this Oscar bait drama later this month. While I admire their performances (and the underrated work from Jennifer Garner) have notable issues with a screenplay that I think masks the real issues and people within the story it’s trying to tell. Dismiss for a minute the assertions that Ron Woodroof wasn’t the homophobic straight guy that the movie contends (his friends and doctors have reported that they thought he was gay) and consider that Leto’s Rayon is little more than a plot device, a drag queen with a boyfriend whose name we never even learn. I worry that people will take this as more than a performance piece (as the Best Picture and Screenplay nods prove they do) when its narrative is dangerously thin. We should be telling more complex, character-driven stories about the battle against AIDS and for equal rights for all who fight it.

From Patrick McDonald’s film review: “Matthew McConaughey’s performance as a 1980s-era HIV positive man in the drama “Dallas Buyers Club” is a gangbusters piece of acting. However, some highly exaggerated characters and soft soaping of reality creates a more gauzy romance of the situation than true grit.

Matthew McConaughey gives the performance of his career in this uplifting and powerful film inspired by true events. Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof (McConaughey) sees his free-wheeling life overturned when he’s diagnosed as HIV-positive and given 30 days to live. Determined to survive, Woodroof decides to take matters in his own hands by tracking down alternative treatments from all over the world by means both legal and illegal. After finding an unlikely ally in Rayon (Jared Leto), he establishes a hugely successful “buyers’ club” and unites a band of outcasts in a struggle for dignity and acceptance that inspires in ways no one could have imagined. Co-starring Jennifer Garner, Dallas Buyers Club is “deeply moving. A livewire of a movie!” (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone)

Special Features:
o Deleted Scenes
o A Look Inside Dallas Buyers Club

Where to Watch: Blu-ray, DVD, iTunes, Amazon Instant Streaming, Vudu

Mother of George
Mother of George
Photo credit: Oscilloscope

“Mother of George”

Andrew Dosunmu’s film made some of the strongest waves of buzz at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival but didn’t find much of an audience on the arthouse scene. Thank God for the great Oscilloscope for bringing it to its widest audience to date on Blu-ray and DVD. See “Mother of George” for its subtle, strong storytelling but do so on Blu-ray if you can for it was shot by the GREAT Bradford Young, who also shot “Pariah” and “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” and is going to be one of the most important cinematographers of the next decade if there’s such a thing as cinematic justice.

Adenike and Ayodele (The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira and veteran actor Isaach De Bakolé) are a Nigerian couple living in Brooklyn. Following the joyous celebration of their wedding, complications arise out of their inability to conceive a child - a problem that devastates their family and defies cultural expectations, leading Adenike to make a shocking decision that could either save her family or destroy it.

Acclaimed director Andrew Dosumnu (Restless City) captures the nuances of this unique and fascinating culture by creating a beautiful vibrant, and moving portrait of a couple whose joys and struggles are at once intimate and universal.

Special Features:
o Feature length audio commentary with director Andrew Dosunmu, editor Oriana Soddu, and costume designer Mobolaji Dawodu
o A Human Story - a short program featuring interviews with star Danai Gurira and screenwriter/producer Darci Picoult and behind the scenes footage
o Seven deleted scenes
o Theatrical trailer

Where to Watch: Blu-ray, DVD, iTunes, Amazon Instant Streaming, Vudu

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