A full, robust, and curious week of new home videos arrive with a diverse and wide array of films to sample and consider. Two singer/songwriters have their lives explored in two engrossing documentaries, a polarizing political documentary hopes to influence our upcoming Presidential election, Adam Sandler seeks previous glory with another go-for-broke comedy, and a film franchise reaches new heights and a filmmaker returns to form.
To say there is something for everyone is an understatement, because we also have found footage horror, classic old-school horror and the biggest grossing film of all time returning to Blu-Ray in 3D.
Our pick of the week however is a toss-up. Do we turn to Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, which became his biggest grossing film in years and drew analogies to Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris, in terms of a return to form for the respected director? Some feel Anderson’s film is potentially in line for some Oscar consideration, possibly even as a darkhorse Best Picture contender.
But alas, when in doubt, go with the most appealing option, right? And I am perfectly fine selecting Madasgascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted as our Movie of the Week. If you survived the incessant “Circus Afro” trailers and TV spots that had a manic Chris Rock as Marty the Zebra screaming “Duh-da-da-da-da CIRCUS AFRO! AFRO CIRCUS!” then you will find the film much easier to tolerate. After a drab and listless second entry in the Madagascar series, this third film is hyperkinetic, full of energy, and throws a whole lot at the wall to see what can stick. Madagascar 3 became the biggest grossing film in the series, with worldwide ticket sales surpassing $681 million. I am sure a 4th film is already in some form of pre-production as we speak.
More than just another column about new home video releases, we will link to reviews, summarize the film, drop in some factual tidbits, and (naturally) offer you a chance to purchase the film (clicking the images and/or links and purchasing the film of interest helps keep the lights on!).
Consider it your weekly trip through the video store, both virtual and physical, scouring the shelves and combing the racks to find something you can enjoy at home, no matter what your personal preferences…
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted finds Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer), and Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) stranded in Africa, as those irascible Madagascar Penguins fly off to Monte Carlo to gamble. Deciding to go to Monte Carlo to make the penguins fly them back to the New York Zoo, Unknowingly, this places them front and center on the radar of an unrelenting animal control officer (Frances McDormand), who wants the quartet’s heads as trophies on her wall of fame. Narrowly escaping her, the animals end up as stowaways on a Russian circus, badly failing and operating under depressed circumstances. When the penguins unexpectedly blow their winnings and purchase the traveling circus, the zoo animals are left with no other option but to try and turn the fortunes of the circus around. Of course, they also want to return home.Expecting little, I had a lot of fun with Madagascar 3 and I think you will as well. Avoiding heartfelt moments and flat gags, Eric Darnell and Noah Baumbach infuse the film with a healthy dose of farce and ridiculousness that surprises and entertains in equal measure. After Madagascar 2 was a drag, I never thought I wanted a third entry in the franchise. Now, I welcome a fourth. Family/Animated/Comedy, PG, 93 Mins, Dir: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, and Conrad Vernon.
See what else arrives in stores and via streaming services…after the cut!
One of 2012’s most acclaimed films is Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, a film I missed during a sabbatical I took for six weeks earlier this year. People I trust love the film tremendously and have proclaimed it as a rebirth of sorts for Wes Anderson. I cannot wait to finally see the film, which some feel could be in line for a couple of Oscar nominations this coming year, including Best Original Screenplay and potentially Best Picture. Comedy, PG-13, 94 Mins, Dir: Wes Anderson.
Someone should save Adam Sandler from himself. That’s My Boy was supposed to be a return to form for Sandler, an R-rated go-for-broke tour de force for the comedic actor whose box office and A-list status have rapidly plummeted in recent years. After the unspeakable Jack And Jill, and pitiful, unfunny films of recent years, Andy Samberg joins Sandler and the film was met with slightly better reviews but about half of the box office of Jack and Jill, one of the worst-reviewed films of recent years. Comedy, R, 116 Mins, Dir: Sean Anders.
Oren Peli’s breakthrough, the 2009 gamechanger Paranormal Activity has now blossomed into a massive franchise, with a 4th entry in the series arriving in theaters on October 19. Peli has moved on to television production (“The River”) and serving as a producer for other found-footage style features, as well as the divisive horror film Insidious. As the writer and producer of The ChernobylDiaries, the filmmaker forgoes found footage contrivances and instead sets up a slightly more conventional film by setting his horror film against the backdrop of the 1986 Russian Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Shot like a found footage film, although I do not think anyone is actually using a camera in the cast, The Chernobyl Diaries has been described a everything from good to bad to laughable to offensive. Bottom line here is that the film was not pre-screened for critics and immolated at the box office when it was released. Oren Peli continues to struggle mightily in finding another successful project, but those Paranormal Activity checks keep coming, so at least he has that. Includes an alternate ending. Horror, R, 86 mins, Dir: Bradley Parker.
In 2004, Joshua Marston debuted with the compelling and gripping Maria Full Of Grace, which saw lead actress Catalina Sandino Moreno land an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Seven years later, Marston’s second film The Forgiveness Of Blood arrives with a Criterion Collection release and immediate availability via Netflix Instant Streaming. Initially selected as the 2011 entry from Albania for Best Foreign Language Film, Marston’s film was eventually disqualified when a competing film director levied charges that the film was not a purely made production., native to the country Marston’s film was disqualified and the other director’s film was entered by Albania, only to not secure a nomination. Forgiveness Of Blood tells a stunning and insightful tale of long-standing Albanian blood feuds and how a land use dispute leads two families down the path of centuries old traditions that no one ever stops to question and/or ponder. A step below Maria Full Of Grace, but certainly a fine example as to Marston’s talents and the fact that he should make more films. Foreign/Albanian/Drama, Unrated, 109 mins, Dir: Joshua Marston.
Performance artist Marina Abramovic is someone who confronts, provokes, and revels in people’s unease and uncomfortableness of her work. Almost unlike anyone you will ever encounter, Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Presentfinds someone “never not performing”, fearless in exhibiting her body, her desires and interests, in any venue she can. One of the things I have heard is most interesting, and unique to this documentary, is that some of the talking heads are not all that encouraging or understanding of Ambrovic’s art, featuring shots of exasperation and bewilderment. I am really curious about this entire project. Documentary, Unrated, 105 mins, Dir: Matthew Akers.
I cannot imagine that Neil Young and Chely Wright have ever collaborated together, but each find documentaries on their lives hitting DVD this week, after critically acclaimed theatrical runs. For Neil Young:Journeys, the Rock-and-Roll Hall-of-Famer gives Oscar-winning filmmaker and good friend Jonathan Demme a ride in his 1956 Crown Victoria as they drive to the final two nights of Young’s 2010 world tour. Young reveals stories from his life and childhood while Demme juxtaposes sequences from Young’s concert performances. Some have complained that the film is only for Neil Young fans and shuts out any other interested audiences. I have the film here and as a casual, but not rabid fan of Young’s music, I will put that notion to the test. Documentary, PG, 87 mins, Dir: Jonathan Demme.
Chely Wright: Wish Me Away tells the compelling story of country singer CHely Wright , who became the first and thus far only mainstream country music artist and performer to come out as gay. Raised as a devout Christian in an evangelical home, Wish Me Away dives into Wright’s past, success as a country singer, and her own internal homophobic feelings about who she truly was inside. Shot over the course of three years, directors Bobbie Birleffi and Beverly Kopf take an unflinching look at how Wright has been ostracized from a community that embraced her and how Wright has stridently become an activist for gay rights. Incredibly personal and yet another example of how tolerance and acceptance have seemingly made huge steps in our culture, but throughout Wish Me Away, you learn how much further we truly have to go. Documentary, Unrated, 95 Mins, Dir: Bobbie Birleffi and Beverly Kopf.
And here it is. Three weeks before we elect our next President, 2016: Obama’s America arrives on home video, with the distinction of being the second biggest-grossing political documentary of all time. Co-director and conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza claims to take the high road in simply trying to show that President Barack Obama is the least known President ever elected and that his family history and upbringing all have played in role in his being dishonest about his true motivations and vision for the United States during the course of his Presidency. Many on the right politically claim that this film will cost the President re-election, with liberals claiming that Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 failed to do the trick for Democrat John Kerry in 2004. While I think the influence this film has had has waned substantially since its improbable box office run, the film is now available for anyone and everyone to purchase. And I will be taking my first look at it this week. Documentary, PG, 90 Minutes, Dir: Dinesh D’Souza and John Sullivan.
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To be updated, links not available at time of publication.