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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:

  • Focus. Here’s what we said in our original review:
    It simultaneously winks at cheap genre patterns like the One Big Score that lets a thief retire and indulges other familiar gimmicks in the lengthy gambling sequence that rounds out the New Orleans portion of the screenplay. Movies like this have to get by on the charm of their ensembles, and while Smith and Robbie each deliver plenty of it, they still come up quite a bit short of the bar set by stuff like Ocean’s 11. It’s hard to blame them for the clunky overall feel of the film, though, given the movie’s inherent confusion about which type of story it wants to focus on telling.

OUT THIS WEEK & WORTH YOUR TIME:

  • McFarland USA. Here’s what we said in our original review:
    I did not expect to like McFarland, USA. It’s a Disney movie about race in America. It’s a white savior narrative. It’s a sports movie. It has Kevin Costner, whose other recent film on race in America was in shambles at best. It’s being released in February, one of the softest seasons for movies, usually where expected failures go to recoup some costs and whither away in the polar vortex between Oscar eligibility and summer blockbuster season. So when Thomas (Carlos Pratts) busts apart hill-running practice to lecture his coach Jim White (Kevin Costner) about where his food comes from, and what that means for the invisible people who put it on his plate, color me surprised. And when the audience was cheering and clapping as Thomas bursts past yet another tall blonde jock in a fancy uni as he closes in on the finish line, I found myself doing the thing I least expect – clapping and cheering along with them.
  • Jupiter Ascending. Here’s what we said in our original review:
    We should be thankful the Wachowskis are not timid. Even without The Matrix and its sequels, films like Bound and Speed Racer function on their own terms, and are so strange they take time before finding an audience (years after its release, a handful of critics consider Speed Racer a masterpiece).Jupiter Ascending, the latest crazed film from the Wachowskis, appears to have the same destiny: a visually-gorgeous saga that’s initially maligned, only to become a cult classic. Unabashedly sincere and based on an original idea, this is the sort of movie that appeals to children with big imaginations, or adults that haven’t yet forgotten theirs.

INSTANT VIEWING OF THE WEEK:

  • What Happened, Miss Simone? Here’s Brian Tallerico over at RogerEbert.com:
    Liz Garbus’ What Happened, Miss Simone?, premiering on Netflix this Friday after opening this year’s Sundance Film Festival, falls just short of greatness but captures enough of the remarkable story and talent of its subject that it warrants a look. Your mileage for a film like this often comes down to how much the viewer knows about the subject. I knew very little about the life of Nina Simone, although I did sense that if you are more educated on her life story, there may not be enough here that truly enlightens. Garbus’ approach fluctuates from standard, music doc talking-head appreciations to long performances from archival video that are simply mesmerizing. Nina Simone could hold an audience in such rapt attention that when she stops a song at one point in What Happened and orders someone to sit down, you almost don’t blame her. And What Happened features some of the best concert footage and musical performances in recent music doc memory, even if it never quite answers the question in its title.
  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Here’s what we said in our original review:
    This examination of loyalty between an individual and a culture, and the way herd mentality and tribalism can still dominate even in the interconnected 21st Century, is the best aspect of the film. If you felt a momentary thrill at seeing the Twin Towers go down, does that make you sick? Or does that just mean you’re aware of how the World Trade Center could operate as a symbol of arrogant, culture-crushing power as much as one of American pride and values? If you return to your religious and cultural roots after being strip searched and feeling the sideways glances of your neighbors, is that radicalism or just an effort at psychological protection? When your girlfriend tries to make sense of the cultural gap between the two of you with an outlandish art installation, is that exploitation, xenophobia, or just her unusual way of processing matters? Just how much can you really expect one person to reject another for their violent millitancy, when the two share so many cultural roots and similar grievances with their American neighbor?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SQs2Y8drP8

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.

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

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