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:
- Black or White. Here’s what we said in our original review:
The biggest disappointment, both as a viewer and a critic, is that Black or White is not particularly provocative. It’s just good enough to be mediocre, and little else. It’s more than thoughtful enough not be plainly dumb or offensive, but not nearly thoughtful enough to challenge its audience. Peppered with jokes at inappropriate moments, flush with distractions and oddities (the sole point of Gillian Jacobs is to provide unfunny, sexist humor), its premise is so thoroughly manufactured, going out of its way to avoid asking any interesting questions, so its climax is contrived as to ensure none get answered. In the end, Black or White is a fascinating document of a certain perspective on race in America in 2015, but that need not make it a good movie.
OUT THIS WEEK & WORTH YOUR TIME:
- Black Sea. Here’s what we said in our original review:
Black Sea is the perfect counterexample to when a cranky, older relative complains, “They don’t make movies like they used to anymore.” Profanity notwithstanding, director Kevin Macdonald and screenwriter Dennis Kelly follow the heist/adventure that was all the rage in the mid-twentieth century: they take a group of hardened, competent men, played with varied personalities by recognizable character actors, and give them one taxing hardship after another. Kelly’s script heightens the economy and tension by confining the action to one setting: a decrepit Soviet submarine. “Old-fashioned” is a more generous way to say “familiar,” so of course there are parts of Black Sea that are laughably predictable. But since Macdonald and his cast are so effective, they elevate the material (pun intended) until it is ruthlessly involving.
- Camp X-Ray. Here’s Matt Zoller Seitz over at RogerEbert.com:
Camp X-Ray has cinematic and moral intelligence. This debut feature by writer-director Peter Sattler about a female soldier stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is a quiet, patient drama that focuses on a handful of characters and plays out in a few key locations: a cell, a hallway, a prison yard, some offices. It articulates its observations and emotions through shots and cuts, and actors’ reactions. It’s also about culture clashes, patriotism, idealism, duty, and what it means to be a woman in a job defined by primordial ideas of manhood. It is not a perfect movie—a couple of developments feel shoehorned in, and the final leg squanders the goodwill built up in the preceding 90 minutes—but it’s ambitious, and it has soul. It’s one of the better mainstream American film portraits of what happened to America’s psyche after 9/11: the moral numbness that set in right away, and never entirely lifted.
INSTANT VIEWING OF THE WEEK:
- The Boxtrolls. Here’s Amy Nicholson over at The Village Voice:
The Boxtrolls is a kiddie charmer that makes you laugh, cower, and think of Hitler. That’s an unusual trifecta, but then again, this is an unusual film. If the German Expressionists were skilled at stop-motion animation, they’d have already made it. This is cartoon Caligari, a fable set on a hillside village crammed with cobblestone streets that look like old photographs of the Frankfurt ghetto. Nothing is perfect. The doorknobs are crooked, the clothes are dirty, and the humans’ faces are smudged with pinks and blues, as if Wassily Kandinsky had painted them on a bender.
- The Aviator. Here’s Nathan Rabin over at The AV Club:
It’s a measure of The Aviator‘s complexity and ambiguity that it can be read equally as a celebration of rugged, capitalist individualism and as a leftist critique of cutthroat free-market competition. Hughes emerges as a towering figure of Shakespearean depth, and Scorsese does justice to both the heroism and the tragedy of a man who was able to accomplish the superhuman, but couldn’t master the most mundane aspects of simply being human. Hughes’ obsessive-compulsive disorder gradually turned him into a reclusive hermit, doomed to live in constant fear and suspicion. But his obsessiveness and his mania for conquering the frightening world from which he eventually withdrew made him a legend.
- Oculus. Here’s what we said in our original review:
Oculus should have been a short film. It’s competently acted, relies heavily on atmospherics, takes place almost entirely within a small set, and director Mike Flanagan – who also co-wrote the script and edited the film – shows a subtle confidence with his camera. He doesn’t overplay the gore factor, and when demonic spectral forms do start showing up, they’re used more for psychological oomph than for cheap scares. Anyway, those are the positive aspects Oculus shares with short films. The negative aspect is that it doesn’t really have anything to say. At 15 minutes, a lack of real thematic substance is forgivable. Not at 105 minutes.
That’s it for our weekly Netflix guide! Let us know what you’re watching in the comments.