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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.

OUT THIS WEEK & PROCEED WITH CAUTION:

  • The Humbling. Here’s AA Dowd over at The AV Club:
    The Humbling is interesting only in how it fits into the filmography of its major talents. For Levinson, who shot the film on the cheap in and around his own Connecticut home, it’s a chance to free himself from the shackles of studio hack work. (He’s like a Broadway mainstay going black box, though the results feel refreshing mostly just as an alternative to, say, Envy.) And Pacino—delivering off-the-cuff monologues, playing straight man to various loons, only once engaging in some characteristic bellowing—seems to have rediscovered his passion for the craft by playing a man who’s lost his own. He and Levinson both appear rejuvenated. Now they just need to apply that renewed energy to less tiresome and navel-gazing material.

OUT THIS WEEK & WORTH YOUR TIME:

  • Big Hero 6. Here’s what we said in our original review:
    What directors Don Hall and Jordan Roberts have created here – along with their fellow writers and animators – is essentially a genre exercise in the superhero mold, but with a community rather than an individual. There are several whiz-bang action sequences, particularly a car chase through San Fransokyo and a throwdown fight in an underground bunker. The story also uses Baymax’s purpose as a health care provider to create genuine moral depth. That Tadashi chose to use his skills for this purpose speaks to his own character, and the responsibility he saw as coming along with his abilities. That in turn becomes a legacy of sorts to Hiro. Baymax helps Hiro because his programming identifies their quest as something that will heal Hiro emotionally. But his programming also prevents him from doing anyone any actual harm, and there is a genuinely dark and disturbing sequence in which Hiro – driven by rage and the need for vengeance – rejiggers Baymax’s protocols to make the robot capable of killing. The sense of violation in the aftermath of that decision is palpable, and Big hero 6 wisely allows Hiro to have real flaws and a capacity for real destruction, which in turn lends moral weight to his character arc.
  • Beyond the Lights. Here’s what we said in our original review:
    Beyond the Lights, written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (of Love and Basketball), seamlessly incorporates the engines of fame, like cable news (CNN anchor Don Lemon is essentially a supporting actor), social media, and awards shows. When does the mask melt to the face? In a tough-to-watch scene, Noni performs at an awards show with her white rapper boyfriend (Richard Colson Baker, really nailing his sleazeball role). Their relationship is both real, in that they “hit it,” but also drummed up for the media. His public reaction when she dumps him before the performance, in a media environment where we’re finally discussing issues like domestic violence and objectification, should really get people talking.

INSTANT VIEWING OF THE WEEK:

  • Force Majeure. Here’s Dana Stevens over at Slate:
    Force Majeure (the title comes from a legal term for an act of God that frees both parties from a contract) is intellectually and visually enthralling and often savagely funny, but it also demands a significant investment of both patience and stamina on the viewer’s part. There are long stretches of silence broken by scenes of grueling emotional rawness, played with go-for-broke intensity by the fearless Kongsli and Kuhnke. Several times, children are placed in situations of either physical danger or emotional violence. Clara and Vincent Wettergren, the young siblings (11 and 8 at the time of filming) who play Tomas and Ebba’s kids, don’t talk much, in the convenient way of movie children—but boy, do they convey that they’re miserably attuned to what’s going on.
  • The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. Here’s what we said in our original review:
    All of this could also take a decided turn for the (unbreably) melodramatic and a little gimmicky (the movie flips and flops between timeframes and points of view with seemingly nothing but haircuts to clearly lead your way) but it is to Benson’s and his worthy cast’s credit that this never, ever happens. Chastain, especially, in the role of a broken woman (not a girl) in search of her (new? old?) self is amazing. A spectacularly intelligent actress, she doesn’t ask for your sympathy, she doesn’t need you to understand, she just needs to cope with things in a way that make sense to her, in this time and place. Sometimes not coping is the only coping there is. Sometimes people around you can’t quite accept the fact that you don’t need their help. MacAvoy, whose exaggerated features are a great contrast to Chastain’s porcelain structure is much more impulsive and weak as Conor, and the two sides of the coin play up so well you do wish you could spend those extra 68 minutes with them learning a little more about what makes these two be the way they are when we find them.
  • Life Itself. Here’s what we said in our original interview with director Steve James:
    When Steve James’ Hoop Dreams came out in 1994, film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert called the film one of the best of the year. Ebert was a champion of James’ work since then – he called 2012’s The Interrupters the most important film James made – so when Ebert decided to make a documentary based on his memoir Life Itself, he announced James would direct it. At that point, Ebert was the peak of his abilities: aside from his prolific output of criticism, Ebert’s blog was one of the best on the internet, filled with his insight on everything from bigotry, alcoholism, philosophy, to his favorite recipes. This period was remarkable because it arrived after Ebert was diagnosed with cancer, and several surgeries left him without the ability to speak. James was going to end the documentary on a high note, but then Ebert’s health deteriorated again, to the point where his email correspondence devolved from paragraphs to mere words. James still had to finish the film after Ebert’s death last year, and while parts of Life Itself are heartbreaking, it is a moving celebration of a man without any equal in the world of film or journalism.

That’s it for our weekly Netflix guide! Let us know what you’re watching in the comments.

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