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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. This week we scope out smaller films from the year you may have missed.

OUT THIS WEEK & PROCEED WITH CAUTION:

  • Life Itself. Here’s what we said in our original review:
    The benefit to tearjerker schmaltz on television is that a series has at least ten episodes to parse out its bombs of emotion. This is how Dan Fogleman’s show This is Us can thrive. All those hours of TV give audiences time to get invested in the characters, so that when death and destruction come raining down, people care. Unfortunately, Fogleman in his film Life Itself has tried to squeeze all the melodrama of a season of This is Us into less than two hours. This is akin to emotional torture porn.

  • Venom. Here’s what we said in our original review:
    Here’s the deal: Venom is not good. I don’t know whether it was a victim of the editing, or if it was the writing, but put together, there is little to salvage. I don’t understand how a movie that could have been a macabre take on the new Spider-Man turned out to be a fantastic mess, complete with what looks like unfinished computer graphics and a aspiring world-saver who also murders homeless people in a test lab. He says he wants to cure cancer and get the first human tourists in space. Listen to Eminem’s theme song for the film. However you feel about that song is how you will feel about this movie.

OUT THIS WEEK & WORTH YOUR TIME:

  • The House with a Clock in its Walls. Here’s what we said in our original review:
    Eli Roth might seem like a strange choice to adapt a PG-rated version of John Bellairs’ The House with a Clock in Its Walls, but Roth has always had a childish streak to his films. His gory films like Hostel and Cabin Fever indulge juvenile curiosities, with Roth himself going over-the-top to childish, ridiculous level. While Roth has shown an admiration and reverence for the horror of the 80s, like Cannibal Holocaust and Evil Dead, The House with a Clock in Its Walls plays with a different type of 80s nostalgia. In his first kids movie, produced by Amblin Entertainment, Roth attempts to make his own those version of those early Amblin films, movies like E.T. the Extra-TerrestrialGremlins, or The Goonies, which could meld horror elements with childhood adventure. Roth’s first film for a younger audience plays like an experiment, as he tries to see how far he can push his usual button-pushing, yet still make an accessible kids film.

INSTANT VIEWING OF THE WEEK (art house catch-up edition):

  • Roma (now on Netflix). Here’s yours truly over at The Washington City Paper:
    Try and picture a vivid memory from your childhood. The details of this memory and others like it are often more acute than the memories from adulthood. The reason for this is simple: A young person has fewer experiences, and so there is a freshness to emotions and stimuli when they happen for the first time. Roma, the new film by Alfonso Cuarón, vividly recreates that childlike perception. It is the rare family drama that’s also a feast for the eyes, and it hinges on an act of empathy that few filmmakers dare attempt.

  • Zama (now on Amazon Prime). Here’s what we said in our original review:
    Don Diego de Zama thinks everything is beneath him. A bureaucrat in the Spanish colonial government, he dreams of leaving Argentina for a station that matches the dignity he imagines for himself. Zama is a satire about his fall from power (if he ever had it in the first place). Director Lucrecia Martel’s first film in a decade is a marvel, but a ponderous one. A lot of the drama happens in the background, away from whatever squabble Zama finds himself in. There is also a formal beauty to the film, while not exactly serving as a travelogue. This is the sort of comedy that’s not exactly funny. Its points are too angry – and dispassionately argued – to be a laugh riot.

  • Madeline’s Madeline (now on Amazon Prime). Here’s what we said in our original review:
    Normally I try and avoid direct comparisons, since most films deserve to be discussed on their own merits. But in the case of Madeline’s Madeline, comparisons may do it a favor since much of it is unusual, even hostile. This film is Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade crossed with Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan: it tells a fractured, highly subjective story about how a young woman deals with the world, using the confines of theater and performance to deepen her sense of alienation. Parts of the Decker’s film are maddening and deeply uncomfortable; she scarcely gives the audience room to breathe. What makes it tolerable are the performances, including a galvanizing one from Helena Howard. But for all its character study goals, this film becomes something else entirely towards its conclusion. Its stirring a climax is nothing short of an artistic mutiny, one borne out of empathy, rage, and the joy of artistic interpretation. Sound bonkers, right? I guess you’ll just have to see it for yourself.

That’s it! Get streaming, kids.

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