Blu Tuesday: Bond, Oscars and More

It’s been a little slow these past few weeks in regards to major releases, but there’s no shortage of high profile titles this week as the first batch of award-worthy films arrives on Blu-ray. Of course, not every entry is Oscar material, but there’s enough variety and quality here that you won’t have to look very far for something that perks your interest.

“Skyfall”

Just like a good scotch, it’s amazing what a little time can do for a movie’s quality. After the disappointing “Quantum of Solace,” it was imperative that the next James Bond film didn’t follow suit, and although the MGM bankruptcy fiasco that put production indefinitely on hold was worrying, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Not only does the story feel more polished as a result, but it features one of the best Bond villains in the series’ history. Javier Bardem’s platinum-haired cyber-terrorist doesn’t appear until the midway mark, but the actor makes the most of his limited screen time, including a particularly memorable introduction. It’s hard to imagine Bardem would have even been interested in doing a Bond movie if it weren’t for Sam Mendes, and the same could probably be said for the rest of the cast as well. Though he was certainly an unconventional choice, having a director of Mendes’ caliber behind the camera is something the Broccolis should strive for more often, because it’s clear from the start that “Skyfall” is in a totally different class than past installments. It has everything you could want in a 007 film – action, intrigue, style and even a little humor – resulting in Daniel Craig’s best Bond adventure to date.

Blu-ray Highlight: A review copy wasn’t provided in time to sample the bonus material, but between the audio commentary by director Sam Mendes and the 13-part making-of featurette “Shooting Bond,” it’s a safe bet that diehard fans won’t be disappointed.

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”

It’s not every day that the author of a critically acclaimed novel gets the chance to adapt their book for the big screen, let alone direct it, but after watching Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” it’s hard to imagine anyone else doing a better job. After all, Chbosky knows the material inside and out, and it definitely shows in this modest but heartwarming tale about finding your place in the world. It’s your typical coming-of-age story, but one that’s handled with a certain level of maturity rarely found in high school films, and though the comparisons to “The Breakfast Club” may be somewhat warranted, it’s one of the few movies about high school that actually gets it right. Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller deliver excellent performances in their respective roles (especially Miller as the openly gay senior that takes Lerman’s freshman under his wing), and Chbosky’s deft script earns every emotional moment. It’s just a shame that “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” got lost in the awards season shuffle, because it’s one of 2012′s very best.

Blu-ray Highlight: In addition to a short but sweet featurette about the close friendships formed while making the film, the Blu-ray also includes a pair of audio commentaries. The first track with writer/director Stephen Chobsky is definitely the more informative of the two, but the second track with Chobsky and his young cast is more entertaining.

“The Sessions”

Writer/director Ben Lewin’s “The Sessions” may sound like some really bizarre cross between “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “My Left Foot” – after all, it’s essentially about a disabled man (real-life polio survivor and journalist Mark O’Brien) trying to get laid for the first time – but this incredibly low-key and feel-good dramedy is about so much more, and that’s why it was such a big hit at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. Though it would have been all too easy to produce the kind of heavy-handed Oscar bait that you normally see with these types of true inspirational stories, Lewin never martyrizes his main character, instead relying on O’Brien’s charming personality and self-deprecating wit to lighten the mood. The sex scenes are also handled with a frankness and intimacy that you don’t see very often in films these days, and that, coupled with a pair of superb, award-worthy performances by John Hawkes and Helen Hunt, is what makes “The Sessions” such a joy to watch.

Blu-ray Highlight: Like “Skyfall,” a review copy wasn’t provided in time for press (blame Fox), but I’ll update this space as soon as I’m able to check out the bonus material.

Pages: 1 2  

You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook for content updates. Also, sign up for our email list for weekly updates and check us out on Google+ as well.

2012 Year End Movie Review: Jason Zingale

2012 wasn’t exactly an unforgettable year at the movies – I know that, you know that – but it can hardly be described as a disappointment, because while there weren’t many films that will be remembered 20 years from now, there was still plenty of quality to be found if you looked hard enough. As is usually the case with these year-end features, my Top 10 deviates a little from the typical crop of movies that you’d expect to find on most critics’ lists (some that I didn’t love as much as others, and some that I never had the chance to see), but it’s nothing that will surprise anyone who’s read my past work.

Best Movies of 2012

1. “THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

It’s not every day that the author of a critically acclaimed novel gets the chance to adapt their book for the big screen, let alone direct it, but after watching Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” it’s hard to imagine anyone else doing a better job. After all, Chbosky knows the material inside and out, and it definitely shows in this modest but heartwarming tale about finding your place in the world. It’s your typical coming-of-age story, but one that’s handled with a certain level of maturity rarely found in high school films, and though the comparisons to “The Breakfast Club” may not be completely warranted, it’s one of the few movies about high school that actually gets it right. Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller all deliver excellent performances in their respective roles (especially Miller as the openly gay senior that takes Lerman’s freshman under his wing), and Chbosky’s deft script earns every emotional moment. It’s just a shame that “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” will probably get lost in the shuffle come awards time, because it has everything you could possibly want in a film.

2. “SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

Leave it to David O. Russell to create a romantic comedy as quirky, dark, funny and surprisingly touching as “Silver Linings Playbook,” because the movie is almost as crazy as its two leads. One minute a fiercely honest character study about a man coping with bipolar disorder, and the next minute a charming rom-com revolving around an amateur dancing competition, the film performs such an amazing tightrope act that it’s really to Russell’s credit that it doesn’t come crashing down like a house of cards. Of course, the movie wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable if it weren’t for the risks that it takes thematically, but none of that would matter without its outstanding cast. Bradley Cooper finally gets the chance to show what he’s fully capable of in the best role of his career, and Robert De Niro has some great moments as Cooper’s superstitious father, but it’s Jennifer Lawrence (already so good at such a young age) who steals the show with a phenomenal performance that all but guarantees she’ll win the Oscar for Best Actress.

3. “ARGO

Ben Affleck may have proved that he was more than just a one-hit wonder with “The Town,” but for his next project, the Boston-born multihyphenate moved away from the comforts of his hometown to a much larger stage, delivering arguably his best film in the process. A politically charged thriller that felt eerily timely in the wake of the U.S. embassy attacks in Libya, “Argo” is unique in that it also juggles a lighter Hollywood insider subplot in addition to its main story. By all accounts, it shouldn’t work, but Affleck makes the blending of the contrasting tones appear almost effortless. The comedy provided by Alan Arkin’s veteran producer and John Goodman’s makeup artist never undercuts the seriousness of the action in Tehran, and yet the strategically placed laughs help break up the tension that mounts over the course of the film. It’s been a while since a movie literally had me on the edge of my seat, but “Argo” is extremely taut and suspenseful, topped off by a fantastic nail-biter ending and one of the year’s best ensembles. The fact that it’s also based on a true story is simply the icing on the cake.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to October

Much like the month before it, October isn’t exactly overflowing with quality, but what it lacks in that area it more than makes up for with plenty of variety. Though there aren’t many films worth getting genuinely excited about, the schedule does provide some audience-friendly fare as well as an early look at a few potential awards contenders.

“TAKEN 2″

Who: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace and Rade Serbedzija
What: In Istanbul, retired CIA operative Bryan Mills and his wife are taken hostage by the father of a kidnapper Mills killed while rescuing his daughter.
When: October 5th
Why: Though it’s one of those sequels that doesn’t really need to exist, the original film was so much fun (not to mention made a decent bit of coin at the box office) that it’s not surprising Fox was so quick to greenlight another installment. After playing the helpless victim in the first movie, it’ll be refreshing to see Maggie Grace get in on the action this time around, even if all people care about is watching Liam Neeson kick ass and take names. Granted, the setup is ridiculous, as it’s hard to imagine the villains would have the resources to track down Neeson’s character, let alone know when he’s in a different country (a U.S.-based story would have been much more exciting), but it’s one of those details you just have to ignore in order to enjoy the movie for the action fantasy that it is.

“THE PAPERBOY”

Who: Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron and John Cusack
What: A reporter returns to his Florida hometown to investigate a case involving a death row inmate.
When: October 5th
Why: Unlike most of Hollywood, Lee Daniel’s “Precious” failed to convince me that it was anything more than a well-made afterschool special, so I’m curious to see what he’s able to do with his latest film, a pulpy erotic thriller featuring a trio of dependable actors. Though it’s been awhile since Nicole Kidman or John Cusack did anything of note, you can never count them out, while Matthew McConaughey has been on a bit of hot streak recently. The wild card of the cast is undoubtedly Zac Efron, because despite the actor’s dogged determination to shed his “High School Musical” image with more adult roles, he’s yet to really prove that he has the talent to back it up. Reaction was pretty mixed when the movie debuted at this year’s Cannes Film Festival (not terribly surprising considering the material), so you would be wise to approach it with caution.

“BUTTER”

Who: Jennifer Garner, Yara Shahidi, Ty Burrell, Olivia Wilde and Rob Corddry
What: An adopted girl discovers her talent for butter carving and finds herself pitted against an ambitious local woman in their small town’s annual contest.
When: October 5th
Why: A black comedy that takes place in the offbeat and seemingly trivial world of butter carving competitions? What’s not to love? The concept sounds like something that Alexander Payne might make (it’s especially reminiscent of his 1999 cult hit “Election”), but while that may speak well of the movie’s potential, it’s a little worrying that it’s take so long to get a theatrical release. Directed by Jim Field Smith, who also made the underrated rom-com “She’s Out of My League,” “Butter” played the festival circuit at the end of last year, but the Weinstein Co. hasn’t shown a lot of confidence in the movie by dumping it in October. With that said, however, the cast is awesome (Jennifer Garner is great at playing the uptight socialite), and the script by newbie Jason A. Micallef landed a spot on the 2008 Black List. That doesn’t guarantee it will be any good, but it helps.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Related Posts