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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 & WORTH YOUR TIME:

  • The Martian. Here’s what we said in our original review:
    The Martian abandons the implausible heroics of space opera in favor of basic problem-solving. This sort of science fiction, which focuses on determined engineers and scientists, has its foundation in pulpy magazines and would continue in the work of Isaac Asimov, as well as films like Ridley Scott’s Alien. Scott also directs The Martian, so this film serves as a sort of homecoming: there are the trademarks of his work, including polished photography and detailed production design, but Drew Goddard enhances Scott’s gifts with an intelligent, funny script. But the best thing about The Martian, the thing that makes it have more in common with Fury Road than Interstellar, is how it ties competence to character development.
  • Grandma. Here’s what we said in our original review:
    If you had told me in 1999 that the writer and director of American Pie would go on to make a thoughtful movie about abortion, I would have probably laughed. Yet the kernels that would eventually inform Grandma are there in American Pie: Weitz has tenderness for his characters, and goes out of his way to accept their faults. While Sage’s day is difficult, sometimes harrowing, Elle does little to sugarcoat it, and in Tomlin/Weitz’s hands this approach is more loving than more straightforward support. Elle is acutely aware of her age, whether it’s through Sage’s inexperience or the fact that she’s a widower. Grandma ends with the wisdom that advanced age means more looking back, not forward. Its drama and humor come from a corollary to that wisdom: even if someone is older, it does not mean they’re done yet. That seems obvious, sure, but look at how Grandma ends and see just how easy we forget it, too.
  • 99 Homes. Here’s what we said in our original review:
    It begins with blood. The first forty minutes of 99 Homes is among the best stretches of cinema I’ve seen in years. Perfectly crafted and spellbindingly executed in every way, 99 Homes reveals itself in its opening act as something of a horror movie. It simultaneously manages to evoke an otherworldly dread and a spiritual terror as potent as any horror film, relying on monsters and metaphors while depicting something as banal as it is harrowing for that very banality. At its very best, 99 Homes, the latest film from the prodigiously gifted Ramin Bahrani, isn’t just the best film yet about the economic crisis from which the United States is still recovering; it may very well be the best possible film.

INSTANT VIEWING OF THE WEEK:

  • Seymour: An Introduction (now on Netflix). Here’s what we said in our original review:
    There’s choreography in classical piano that can seem a little childish. When a player starts and stops a note, the way they move their arm/torso around the finger has a small, perceptible impact on the note’s quality and timbre. I played piano for years – I stopped when I was eighteen – and I always thought sighing into the keyboard (or whatever) was silly. Not only was I dead wrong, but immature about it, too. Part of the joy of Seymour: An Introduction, the new documentary directed by Ethan Hawke, is that goes deep into the virtue of practice, and how it intertwines with talent. Many documentaries are about creative people; this is one of the few that is also about creativity.
  • Experimenter (now on Netflix). Here’s what we said in our original review:
    Most biopics nowadays have a Great Man problem. They shoehorn complex lives into discreet acts, omitting crucial details in favor of broad entertainment and gold statuettes. The end of the year is lousy with biopics – The Theory of the Everything is last year’s most inoffensive example – so Experimenter is refreshing since writer/director Michael Almereyda breaks every biopic convention. His film is unabashedly bizarre, at times theatrical, and designed to get us thinking like his titular experimenter. Since the experimenter is a psychologist who unearthed disturbing patterns of human behavior, anything conventional would not do him justice.
  • Amy (now on Amazon Prime). Here’s what we said in our original review:
    Amy does not play out like a cautionary tale – Kapadia is too curious about his subject for that – nor is it a biopic in a traditional sense. I have no sense of what omissions and liberties the documentary takes, and instead Amy is about the wrongheaded connection between talent and suffering. Amy Winehouse was at her productive when she was clean, when she was happy, and when she was with the right people. Photos of her emaciated from heroin, while heart-wrenching, do not add to her mystique. Amy ends with wise words from Tony Bennett, a peerless talent who was also one of Amy’s idols. It is easy for the mainstream to take Bennett for granted – I know I certainly do – but Amy never once did, and his earned wisdom adds depth to his songs, Amy’s songs, and the melancholy duet they once recorded together.

That’s it! Let us know what you’re watching in the comments.

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