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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’re focusing on challenging, feel-bad thrillers that you should probably watch once you get the nerve.


  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Here’s what we said in our original review:
    McDonagh started as a playwright, and like his film debut In BrugesThree Billboards is a terrific showcase for its actors. McDormand, Harrelson, and Rockwell have meaty roles, imbuing their characters with as much humanity as McDonagh’s limited script can allow. Still, this film simply cannot reach the highs of In Bruges. It is easy to make a film where the lead characters are tourists; it is another thing entirely to give the suggestion that the characters are natives, living in the same place for years. Many of McDonagh’s early plays are set in Ireland, with clumsy titles like The Cripple of Inishmaan. Having conquered Ireland and becoming a voice for its people, McDonagh thought he could do the same for Middle America. I hate it break it to him, but it’s not that easy.


  • Lady Bird. Here’s what we said in our original review:
    Lady Bird has the wisdom to ends well past graduation, a more natural ending point. Instead, Gerwig follows her hero to college and beyond. During these final scenes, where friendships are cemented and futures seem bright, a strange thing starts to happen. An entirely new conflict emerges, one that unfolds silently. It involves Ronan and Metcalf, two fiercely committed actors, and its conclusion is not easy. Perhaps Gerwig draws from real life – her vision of Sacramento comes with the weary nostalgia of someone who suffered through living there – except the film is too sharp, and too acutely felt for that to be the only answer. This film is a triumph for Gerwig, and Lady Bird is so great that it would be insult to call it a promise of what’s to come.

  • Murder on the Orient Express. Here’s what we said in our original review:
    For nearly thirty years, Kenneth Branagh’s filmography has struck a balance between high culture and populist entertainment. His Shakespeare adaptations like Henry V and Othellowere sincere attempts to bring the Bard to a wider audience, while cult hits like Dead Again were terrific Hollywood baubles. His latest film, an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, continues in that tradition. It is explicitly NOT for longtime fans of Christie, her beloved Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, or the 1974 Sidney Lumet adaptation. Branagh accomplishes something tricky: his film stands on its own – mixing a hammy, old-fashioned procedural with modern direction and effects – but longtime fans of Christie or Lumet may enjoy how this version compares and contrast with previous ones.

INSTANT VIEWING OF THE WEEK (challenging thrillers edition):

  • The Gift (now on Netflix). Here’s what we said in our original review:
    Joel Edgerton is known in the United States as a hunky character actor, but his work in his native Australia is more ambitious than that. He’s written several screenplays, including the excellent thriller The Square, that unfold with the sort of implacable logic that The Coen Brothers might admire. The Gift is Edgerton’s debut as a director, and he succeeds at something that eludes most directors: he is able to create tension and suspense from nothing. The Gift shifts gears often – we think we are watching one film, only to discover another layer of intrigue – and while it tilts toward the absurd, the performances lift the material anyway.

  • We Need to Talk About Kevin (now on Amazon Prime). Here’s Roger Ebert:
    In an ordinary movie, there would be scenes in classrooms, meetings with counselors, heart-to-heart discussions between the parents. Not here. They never talk about Kevin. I have the feeling that this film, by entering Eva’s mind, sees only what has been battering her down for 16 years. Ramsay regularly cuts to a scene where Eva is driving her car past flashing police lights toward the scene of some tragedy. Maybe everything else is intended to be a flashback, and the timeline begins when she finds out what Kevin did at his high school. Then she goes home. Does she ever.

  • Detroit (now on Hulu). Here’s what we said in our original review:
    The Algiers interrogation is the lion’s share of the film’s two and half hour runtime. Bigelow and Boal are pitiless: they systemically dismantle any pretense of civil rights or humanity, creating a situation where more violence is the only alternative the cops have left. This interrogation is more suspenseful and disturbing than any thriller, since Boal’s script combines centuries systemic racism alongside the horror of being wrongly accused. Bigelow’s camera is constantly moving, with no wasted shots and an escalating sense of claustrophobia. Her shooting style matches the aesthetic of local news footage – she peppers the film with actual reports from the era – except her masterful editing also creates a complex, cohesive sense of space. Cops and victims alike move in and out the hallway. They all have limited information of what’s really happening, yet the true sense of danger is always clear.

That’s it! Get streaming, kids.