In 2009, one of the kings of quirky dramedy, Wes Anderson, managed to surprise us again with a star-studded, fully stop-motion-animated adaptation of Roald Dahl’s deliciously absurd Fantastic Mr. Fox. This laid-back bad boy has settled down with his wife and pup, but can a fox ever really change his nature?
Director Abdellatif Kechiche has crafted an engaging, truthful tale of unexpected and tempestuous romance between two young women. At three hours, it explores these characters and their relationship in extraordinary, almost excessive detail, so be warned. The graphic lovemaking scenes have garnered something of a reputation for Blue Is the Warmest Color, but they are in service to a powerful story of wild emotion. Despite dozens of international awards, including the top prize at Cannes, this one was hard to find in theaters here in the States, so this Blu-ray is especially welcome.
Fasten your seat belts for the fastest thrill ride of 2013! Ron Howard’s best film since A Beautiful Mind chronicles Formula One during the mid-’70s—the deadliest era for one of the world’s deadliest sports—and dramatizes the true story of champions James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl), whose rivalry mirrored Frazier/Ali and Borg/McEnroe. Peter Morgan’s screenplay evenhandedly illuminates the destructive and empowering aspects of their competition. Hemsworth and Brühl channel two genius drivers with divergent personalities: Hunt, the cavalier, reckless playboy versus serious, disciplined Lauda, whose obsession with besting Hunt culminates in a crescendo of flames that nearly kills him.
Bearing the lofty Jackass mantle, this feature film eschews the basic format of the erstwhile MTV series, which bombarded viewers with a string of standalone stunts and running jokes performed by a brave troupe with a high tolerance for pain. Instead, Bad Grandpa emulates the Borat model, crafting a basic plot and characters as a scripted backdrop for multiple outrageous set pieces that unfold before unsuspecting bystanders.
High on the list of stars needing a good movie under their belt we would find the beleaguered Mr. Schwarzenegger. His box office clout was waning, then he spent many years away from show business to run California. At one point his most promising comeback vehicle seemed to be a bizarre "Governator" cartoon, and then it all came crashing down amid a horrible public scandal. But could he still hold his own on the big screen if he wanted to?
There are many reasons to enjoy RoboCop, still beloved (and now remade) after 27 years. If you don’t like the brilliantly executed action, there’s the biting statement about ’80s greed in America. If you don’t appreciate the scathing satire, there’s the poignant struggle of a good man trying to regain his identity.
Gravity doesn’t waste a single second: After a brief text reminds us of how utterly dangerous space is, disaster strikes a shuttle crew in the midst of a Hubble telescope upgrade. With the help of veteran spaceman Matt Kowalski (the ever-affable George Clooney), scientist Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock, ditching her blatant sass in favor of genuine emotion) must find a way to survive her first mission and return home alive somehow. But with one unfortunate twist after another, her ordeal is relentless.
Now celebrating its 30th year, Vacation recalls a bygone era of station wagons, roof racks, sing-alongs, roadside attractions, whiny kids (they never go out of style) and a whole generation that drove everywhere for their summertime frolics. The late, great John Hughes adapted the memorable script from his earlier story in the pages of National Lampoon magazine, and director Harold Ramis scored a sophomore hit following his debut, Caddyshack. But the movie truly belongs to star Chevy Chase...
Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up to his justly acclaimed District 9 is Elysium, another social commentary set in a strangely relatable future. This time he contrasts the lives of the wealthy against those of the downtrodden, with all of Earth having become a decrepit, overcrowded hellhole. A former criminal (Matt Damon) is trying to stay on the straight and narrow, but when he becomes collateral damage of the rich getting richer, his only hope for survival is to infiltrate that utopian space station of the title.
Magnifying the crisis in midlife crisis, arrested adolescent Gary King (Simon Pegg) coaxes his better-adjusted childhood chums to revisit their hometown and reattempt the feat that conquered them 20 years earlier: drinking their way through all 12 pubs of Newton Haven’s Golden Mile. Last stop: The World’s End. The five friends soon realize that most of the citizenry—including two of their own—have been replaced by alien automatons (“blanks”) and that sleepy Newton Haven is the beachhead for world conquest.