After celebrating Memorial Day weekend partying with your friends and family, eating good food, and drinking way more than you planned, there’s nothing better than relaxing in the cool confines of your home while watching a movie. Thankfully, there are a few new Blu-rays out today to help pass the time, including a personal favorite from last year and one of the more enjoyable sports comedies in recent memory.
Every once in a while, a movie comes along that knocks you completely on your ass, and Lynne Ramsey’s psychological thriller “We Need to Talk About Kevin” is such a film. A thoroughly engaging and disturbing look at the strained relationship between a mother and her sociopathic child, Ramsey has crafted a modern day “Rosemary’s Baby” of sorts that lingers in the back of your mind long after it’s over. Tilda Swinton delivers a powerhouse performance as a mother trying to adapt to life after her son commits a Columbine-esque massacre at his school, although most of the story takes place before the tragic event, with Ramsey exploring the idea of nature vs. nurture and how much Swinton’s parenting tactics are to blame for the subsequent actions of her malevolent son. Though the constant use of red imagery throughout the film feels a little forced at times, “We Need to Talk About Kevin” is so brilliant from top to bottom (especially the acting, score and cinematography) that it’s absolutely mesmerizing.
Blu-ray Highlight: “Behind the Scenes of Kevin” isn’t your typical making-of featurette, but rather an intelligent discussion about the movie with interviews from the cast and crew on a number of topics like adapting Lionel Shriver’s controversial novel for the big screen, casting, production design and the film’s various themes.
With the exception of Disney’s “The Mighty Ducks” series, the hugely overrated “Slap Shot” and a handful of other films, hockey has been inadequately represented by Hollywood compared to most sports, which is probably why “Goon” is such a welcome treat. Though the Michael Dowse-directed comedy is a fairly average underdog story in most respects, it’s still one of the best sports films in recent years. Seann William Scott has never had a better role than that of bouncer turned hockey enforcer Doug Glatt, and his understated performance is a big reason why the movie works as well as it does. In fact, most of the cast is excellent throughout, including Liev Schreiber as a fellow enforcer nearing retirement, the divine Alison Pill as Doug’s awkward but sweet love interest, and Kim Coates as the no-nonsense coach who recruits Doug for his special talents. Speaking of which, the fight scenes are awesome, delivering plenty of blood and laughs with every blow. And if you didn’t know much about hockey goons before, you’ll have a newfound respect for them by the time it’s over.
Blu-ray Highlight: Magnolia’s two-disc release of “Goon” comes jam-packed with extras, some of which are actually quite good. Though the audio commentary with director Michael Dowse and actor/co-writer Jay Baruchel is definitely worth checking out, there’s a pretty lengthy interview with Baruchel and star Seann William Scott that covers a lot of the same material about making the film in a third of the time.
Don’t let the trailer for Ralph Fiennes’ directorial debut fool you into thinking it’s an action movie, because it’s pretty far from it. A political drama that re-imagines William Shakespeare’s historical tragedy by transporting the story from ancient Rome to modern day Serbia, the movie definitely has its moments (particularly early on), but there’s a good reason why it’s one of the Bard’s lesser known works. Fiennes plays the title character with a rabid intensity that’s required of the role, and Vanessa Redgrave delivers a superb performance as his domineering mother, but your own mileage will vary depending on how you feel about the contemporary setting. While I appreciate the attempt to appeal to those who wouldn’t normally see a film based on one of Shakespeare’s plays, the decision to preserve the original prose doesn’t exactly help to make it more accessible. Had Fiennes updated the dialogue along with the setting, “Coriolanus” might have been a bigger success, but as it stands, it’s a somewhat unnecessary adaptation of a play that’s not popular for a reason.
Blu-ray Highlight: There aren’t very many special features to choose from, but the audio commentary by actor/director Ralph Fiennes is an excellent supplement to the movie. Along with discussing the various changes that were made to modernize Shakespeare’s play, Fiennes also talks about some of the more general aspects of production and even serves as a translator of sorts for those who have trouble following the story. In other words, it’s a lot like having your own personal tour guide.
Amanda Seyfried doesn’t really get the credit that she deserves as an actress, but as long as she continues to settle for films like “Gone,” that isn’t going to change. A paint-by-numbers mystery disguised as a psychological thriller, the movie never fully commits to the possibility that her sister’s disappearance could all be in her head, and as a result, it squanders the one thing that it actually had going for it. The film is also incredibly wasteful with its cast, as many of the actors are barely given more than a few lines each in an attempt to make every character a suspect. (Wes Bentley, for instance, is missing for most of the final two acts.) Though it’s not as terrible as it could have been, “Gone” is still pretty dull for a so-called thriller. There are a few unintentionally funny moments that make it a little easier to sit though (including a female cop played by Katherine Moennig who always looks like she just rolled out of bed), but unless you’re desperate, there are far better ways to spend your time.
Blu-ray Highlight: Apparently, even Summit recognizes a lost cause when they see one, because the Blu-ray release of “Gone” is a completely barebones affair.