Blu Tuesday: Evil Children, Fistfights and More

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.

“We Need to Talk About Kevin”

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.

“Goon”

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.

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2011 Year End Movie Review: Jason Zingale

Looking back at this year’s slate of films, it would be easy to label it a disappointment. But while 2011 may not have been very memorable, it wasn’t exactly forgettable either. In fact, the biggest problem I came across while compiling my year-end list was that while there were a lot of movies I really enjoyed, there weren’t very many that I loved. That might not be the most encouraging statement to make before announcing one’s Top 10, but it’s the honest truth, and it doesn’t make the movies listed below any less deserving of my praise, even if there are some films missing that you believe should have made the final cut. But that’s why critics love writing year-end reviews; each one is unique to their specific taste, and mine is nothing if not unique. Well, except for maybe my worst-of list, which is filled with movies that I think we can all agree sucked big time.

Best Movies of 2011

1. “DRIVE

Though I wasn’t that impressed by Nicolas Winding Refn’s previous films, they have an undeniable visual flair and originality that you don’t see very often. “Drive” took those qualities and applied them to a conventional Hollywood thriller, resulting in a movie that feels much more mainstream without abandoning Refn’s art house sensibilities. The film is as beautifully poetic as it is strikingly violent, while Ryan Gosling (who’s had a banner year between this, “The Ides of March” and “Crazy Stupid Love”) has never been better as the soft-spoken yet brutally intense protagonist. But for as much attention as the film’s graphic violence has received, it’s the opening sequence – an edge-of-your-seat car chase packed with tension so thick you could cut it with a knife – that is without a doubt the biggest highlight. And when a movie can start so brightly and continue to build on it like “Drive” does (thanks in part to fine supporting turns from Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston and Albert Brooks), it’s no wonder why so many people love this film.

2. “ATTACK THE BLOCK

It’s not every day that you get to see a film before the rest of the world, so I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that being among the lucky few in attendance at the SXSW premiere of Joe Cornish’s “Attack the Block” played a part in my overall enjoyment of the movie. A genre hybrid film with influences ranging from “The Warriors” to “Critters,” Cornish’s directorial debut is a lean, mean sci-fi action thriller that, although it boasts a mostly unknown cast and was made for a fraction of the cost of the average Hollywood movie, is the most fun I’ve had at a theater all year. The young actors are great, the creature effects are even better, and the film is fueled by a relentless, infectious energy that keeps the action moving at a rapid clip. There might have been several alien invasion movies in theaters this year, but “Attack the Block” was the best of the bunch – a fun slice of nostalgic geek cinema that blended action, comedy, horror and sci-fi to create an instant cult classic.

3. “YOUNG ADULT

It’s no secret that Diablo Cody has her share of critics, but “Young Adult” proves that she’s more than just a vending machine for the kind of quirky one-liners that initially earned her notice back in 2008 with “Juno.” Thematically darker and more mature than her first feature, the film also feels more personal in its examination of what it means to grow up, providing the perfect platform for Cody’s voice to shine. Blisteringly funny and surprisingly poignant at times, “Young Adult” is so daringly original that its somewhat contentious ending has even divided audiences. But while Cody deserves a lot of credit for taking these risks, it’s Charlize Theron’s performance that brings out the comedy and emotion of the situation, delivering some of her best work as the beautiful but bitchy Mavis. It’s not very easy to make a character like that sympathetic, but Theron pulls it off so effortlessly that it would be criminal to see her name absent from any award ballot.

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