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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:

  • Zootopia. Here’s what we said in our original review:
    In a recent essay from The AV Club, critic Ryan Vlastelica observes that most social issue films are set in the past, or have such small distribution that they cannot be influential. Vlastelica must have written his essay before he saw Zootopia, as it taps into genuine anxieties with a setting that resembles ours. Talking animals notwithstanding, the city of Zootopia goes through a checklist of twenty-first century life: there is everything from annoying smartphone apps, to an infuriating local bureaucracy, to a craven mayor who is happy with the status quo (ironically, the mayor is a lion). Thanks to its visuals and subtext, the film is about as ambitious as Pixar’s best, if not more. Most allegory is a little smug: adults are already hip to the point, or they’re so far gone they cannot see it. The crucial difference is how Zootopia recognizes allegory should be for younger minds. They’re more malleable, and the sunny animation ultimately hides a smart, big-hearted message of hope.
  • Hail Caesar. Here’s what we said in our original review:
    Since it has such deep knowledge and affection for Hollywood, it is a little surprising that the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar! arrives in theaters at this time of year. Early February is an odd time for the movies, a lull between winter’s Oscar Bait and when big blockbusters begin again. Longtime Coen fans worried about the film’s quality simply by virtue of its release date, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the movie’s protagonist would object to it. And yet the timing is ultimately perfect: Hail, Caesar! is delightful mainstream counter-programming, with a mix of sincere old-school entertainment and a subversive philosophical streak. Like many other Coen films, this one is tough to nail down. It is as light as anything they’ve done, yet has the same depth of inquiry as their most serious work.
  • The Family Fang. Here’s what we said in original review:
    The movie itself is a road trip, a mystery, and a family drama (Baxter and Camille have one of the better sibling on-screen dynamics since Skeleton Twins). Maybe it fails to some extent because it doesn’t quite commit to any of the very specific genres it is in, but those who love it will truly love it, flaws and all. Regardless, this is a great little weird gem of an addition to the pre-summer movie going schedule.

INSTANT VIEWING OF THE WEEK (ALBERT BROOKS SPECIAL EDITION):

  • Lost in America (now on Netflix). Here’s Roger Ebert:
    Lost in America is being called a yuppie comedy, but it’s really about the much more universal subjects of greed, hedonism, and panic. What makes it so funny is how much we can identify with it. Brooks plays a character who is making a lot of money, but not enough; who lives in a big house, but is outgrowing it; who drives an expensive car, but not a Mercedes-Benz; who is a top executive, but not a vice president. In short, he is a desperate man, trapped by his expectations.
  • Defending Your Life (now on Netflix). Here’s Roger Ebert:
    The movie is funny in a warm, fuzzy way, and it has a splendidly satisfactory ending, which is unusual for an Albert Brooks film (his inspiration in his earlier films is bright but seems to wear thin toward the third act). The best thing about the movie, I think, is the notion of Judgment City itself. Doesn’t it make sense that heaven, for each society, would be a place much like the Earth that it knows? We’re still stuck with images of angels playing harps, which worked fine for Renaissance painters. But isn’t our modern world ready for images in which the angels look like Rotarians and CEOs? Stanley Kubrick’s “2001” ended with the astronaut leaving the solar system and finding himself, quite unexpectedly, in a spotless hotel room. The usual explanation for that scene is that a superior race from elsewhere in the universe had constructed this room for him as a place where he would feel at home, while they studied him – much as a zoo throws in some trees for the monkeys. The best joke in Defending Your Life is that heaven is run along the lines that would be recommended by a good MBA program.
  • Mother (now on Netflix). Here’s Roger Ebert:
    I’ve seen “Mother” twice, once at the Toronto Film Festival and again with a capacity audience in Santa Monica, Calif. There was a lot of laughter both times, and the second time, listening closely, I recognized a certain quality in it. It wasn’t the automatic laughter produced by slam-dunk punch lines, but the laughter of recognition, of insight, even sometimes of squirmy discomfort, as the truths hit close to home.

That’s it! Get watching, kids.

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