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. Now all you need is someone to watch these movies with:
OUT THIS WEEK & WORTH YOUR TIME:
- Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself. Here’s what we said in our original review:
There are many common nightmares and George Plimpton made a career out of one of the most universal. In the name of “participatory journalism,” a term he coined, he would humiliate himself in public. His specialty was sports. Plimpton pitched for the Yankees, was a quarterback for the Lions, and at age 50, played goalie for the Bruins. He would turn his experiences into successful books, which helped build his celebrity and possibly undermined his writing career. The enormously entertaining Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself does not give a complete portrait of the man, exactly. Close friends and family members would later admit he was a tough guy to know. Instead, the documentary offers a thrilling sense of a curious man who was always moving forward.
- Cheap Thrills. Here’s Scott Tobias over at The Dissolve:
E.L. Katz’s wickedly entertaining black comedy Cheap Thrills turns on a series of escalating wagers that recall Clouzot’s film, but shifts a good portion of the moral burden back to the gamblers. Unemployment and desperation play a role for the protagonists too, as the film turns a long night of crazy dares into a grisly, existential The Price Is Right: How much does a man’s dignity cost? How about honor? His loyalty? His body? His soul? Cheap Thrills functions like a clearance sale on all of the above, but its seriousness is cloaked in a darkly hilarious game of frat-guy oneupmanship. It’s about the things bros are capable of.
- A Birder’s Guide to Everything. Here’s Sheila O’Malley over at RogerEbert.com:
A Birder’s Guide to Everything uses birding as the launching point for a tender and gentle coming-of-age story, as well as a meditation on grief and letting go. It is also that very rare thing, a movie about teenagers where the characters actually seem like real teenagers, as opposed to mini posing adults. There’s an innocence here, a real sweetness. Director Rob Meyer (the script was co-written by Meyer and Luke Matheny) finds the right tone early, sweet and almost sad, and, except for a few minor bumps along the way, doesn’t falter with that tone. The coming-of-age clichés are certainly present here, but handled so sensitively that you don’t mind it. The film cares about these characters.
INSTANT NETFLIX/AMAZON VIEWING OF THE WEEK:
- The Spectacular Now (now available with Amazon Prime). Here’s what we said in our original review:
Everyone knows a kid like Sutter Keely. Bright and gregarious, he thinks he can talk his way into a girl’s pants or out of trouble. Kids like Sutter never really excel at school – they think it’s a party, not an opportunity for education – so coming of age is foreign to them (or at least difficult). The Spectacular Now is the story of how Sutter drunkenly fights against adulthood. It is also the story of how, in spite of himself, he falls in love. Director James Ponsoldt has the patience to watch his characters talk and grow, so there’s an organic, gentle transition from breezy comedy to serious drama.
- Big Bad Wolves (now available on Netflix). Here’s Matt Cohen over at The Week:
Big Bad Wolves flirts with morality in ways that are designed to play with the audience’s emotions. The film’s gratuitous, tense, and drawn-out torture makes us question Gidi’s motives: Are we meant to sympathize with a grieving father dolling out what he thinks is justice? Or are we meant to be horrified by his methods? That moral dilemma is echoed by Micki, who eventually shifts sides, now unsure of what he was once wholly convinced of. Employing a darkly comic tone throughout, Big Bad Wolves manages to evoke as many laughs as it does cringe-worthy moments of suspense and gore. But it ultimately leaves you with a moral bellyache: Are we meant to laugh or be horrified at its cynical finale? It’s no surprise that the film’s moral ambiguity was loved by the guy who made Pulp Fiction.
- The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology. Here’s Diego Costa over at Slant:
Philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek has done more than anyone to disseminate psychoanalytic concepts as cinematic content. As in Sophie Fiennes’s earlier The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology features Žižek “lecturing” on recreated sets of emblematic films that serve as tangible examples for otherwise extremely opaque abstract concepts. Much can be said about the man’s slightly manic manner of speaking, the way his ideas travel from his brain to his mouth with such tremendous force that he can barely control his bodily movements, and about the film’s brilliantly authorial editing, which works like a prosthetic extension to his analysis. But what’s most significant about the film is the way Žižek manages to explain some of Lacanian psychoanalysis’s most inscrutable notions with disarming clarity and infectious urgency.
That’s it for our weekly streaming guide! Let us know what you’re watching in the comments.