If there’s a theme for this week’s new DVDs, it would be films that failed to live up to their expectations. Besides The Counselor (pictured above) there’s a big budget box office bomb, a critical darling forgotten by the Oscars, an historical (that’s right, Vince I said ‘an historical’) biopic the critics loathed, and a franchise-starting family adventure film that won’t be getting a sequel. So yeah, a banner week all around.
All Is Lost
The Best Man Holiday
The Armstrong Lie
How I Live Now
The Adventurer: The Curse Of The Midas Box
Balls To The Wall
Of course not every movie coming out on DVD today failed to meet expectations, and even some of those that did could and probably should still be considered good movies. But then again, at least one or two of this week’s DVDs totally did live up to their expectations, but those expectations were that the films would be awful. The only way to know which is which is to continue reading. So do just that. Along the way I name drop Brigham Young and Shooter McGavin -it’ll be a good time.
Ridley Scott may have an uneven career as a director, but his highs are pretty damn high and when it was announced that he would be directing Cormac McCarthy’s first original screenplay, it seemed pretty reasonable to assume The Counselor would be another one of his highs. With Michael F. Assbender in the lead role and supporting roles played by Oscar-darlings Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, and Golden Globe darling (I guess) Cameron Diaz, it seemed practically unimaginable that this movie would be anything less than a critical favorite and, probably, a box-office success. Then it came out. The critics weren’t kind, giving it a Rotten Tomatoes score of 34% (meaning the only Ridley Scott film to date that the critics like less is A Good Year, which you probably don’t even remember is a romantic comedy from eight years ago about Russell Crowe trying to sell a vineyard). Vince’s conflicted “B-“ review was one of the rare positive ones, and even then he cautions viewers to adjust their expectations. Bad reviews and terrible word-of-mouth led to it getting spanked during its opening weekend, taking fourth place in the same weekend that Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa took first. The trends set by that opening weekend continued as The Counselor was generally hated by the few people who did go to see it, and it finished its domestic theatrical run with less than $17 million in ticket sales. Once presumed to be a lock for a few Oscar nominations, The Counselor now sits in relative infamy (as the film best known for Cameron Diaz f*cking a car), and meanwhile Bad Grandpa is an actual, real-life, Oscar-nominated film. Which just goes to show you what I’ve long suspected to be true: The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences loves films with little boys in drag performing pole dances. It was true when they honored Schindler’s List with seven Oscars (including Best Picture) and it’s true now.
Speaking of box-office disappointments, this week also gives us the DVD release of Ender’s Game, a sci-fi film about kids learning to fly space ships from Han Solo. Or something. For those who don’t know, this film is based on a beloved-by-some sci-fi novel originally published in 1985. I say ‘beloved-by-some’, of course, because the book’s author, Orson Scott Card, is pretty outspoken and unapologetic about his anti-gay beliefs. I leave it to you to decide if your beliefs on the subject affect your willingness to see the film. Homophobia’s a pretty strange aspect of our society because for as many people as it disgusts, there’s just as many here in America who still seem to embrace it openly, which creates quite the pickle for this movie and its association with Card. It’s not like the Woody Allen kerfuffle, in which some condemn him and his films because of accusations made against him while others support him because they believe in his innocence; Card openly and regularly admits that he’s anti-gay. There’s no debate about what he believes, it’s on the record and he stands by it. So that’s that and if you think, as author of the source material, that his position regarding homosexuals is something that turns you off from wanting to see the film, that’s certainly your choice. On the other hand, if you don’t particularly care about Card’s beliefs, or feel that his stake in the film (he’s credited as a producer in addition to writing the source novel) isn’t enough to turn you off, you might very well want to check out Ender’s Game. Regardless of your reaction to Card’s beliefs, everyone really ought to know this: Ender’s Game is from the same director who gave you X-Men Origins: Wolverine. You know something? I probably should’ve led with that bit of information and said nothing more.
This movie is one hour and forty-six minutes of Robert Redford, alone, trying to manage a series of calamities while stuck in the middle of the Indian Ocean. There’s almost no dialogue, and there are literally no other characters in the film. The critics really loved this movie, citing it as one of this year’s big recipients of the Oscar ‘snub’, as if the voters know that they really liked this movie better than ones that did get nominated, or that they know Robert Redford gave a better performance than at least one of the actually nominated actors, but they were deliberately slighting the film because of one reason or another. The whole concept is just silly. Besides, it’s not like this movie didn’t get any Oscar nominations -it’s up for Best Sound Editing. If anyone was snubbed it was All Is Lost’s sound mixers. You just know that after the Oscar nominations were announced, the editing nominees sauntered over to the sound mixing guys and were like, “Hey Gillian, Micah, did you hear? We’re nominated. I just wanted you to know that our edit wouldn’t have been nominated if not for your great mix on it. Really, we’re sharing this nomination. But not as much as the guys who mixed and editing Captain Phillips, because, you know, they actually did get nominated in both categories. Anyways, we just wanted you to know that despite your mix –I’m sorry, I misspoke- what I meant was because of your mix, we’ve been nominated. And if there’s anything from the gift bag they give out at the ceremony we don’t want, you’re first in line for dibs. There’s always good stuff, like vacations and spa visits and jewelry and other stuff we’re definitely keeping. But there’ll probably be some crap like Beats by Dre headphones, so yeah, let us know…” And once they leave Gillian and Micah start in with a bitch session all about how nobody appreciates how hard it is to mix both ocean water sounds with rain sounds, or how seagull caws can get lost in the rustle of a windbreaker, and how it’s actually easier to mix when there’s dialogue like in Captain Phillips, and ultimately sometimes less is more, god damn it. For real though, there’s more dialogue in this paragraph than actually gets spoken in this movie.
I haven’t seen the first The Best Man film from 1999 and I don’t know anything about this sequel, but it’s from the same director who gave us Scary Movie 5, so I feel like I know enough about this movie just the same. It’s kind of the black rom-com equivalent to Ender’s Game in that way. There’s a sentence nobody’s ever written before.
This film is about a woman obsessed with Pride & Prejudice, so she goes to a Jane Austen-themed theme park, hoping to find love. It’s co-written and directed by Jerusha Hess, based on the book by Shannon Hale (who also co-wrote the screenplay) and produced by Stephanie Meyer –who is the author of the Twilight books. I’d like to simply point out that all three of these women are Mormons and declare this the Mormon version of Ender’s Game, but as it turns out, Ender’s Game author and noted bigot Orson Scott Card is himself a Mormon (and a direct descendant of Brigham Young, no less) so I guess Ender’s Game is already the Mormon version of Ender’s Game, and Austenland is just terrible. Probably.
Hey, remember when Princess Diana died? Yeah, I do too. I didn’t care then, I don’t care now and I really don’t care about this movie starring Naomi Watts as Di and holding an embarrassing 8% on Rotten Tomatoes. To be fair, this movie could have a 100% rating and I still wouldn’t care. I’m American and like all true Americans the only royalty I care about is His Royal Highness, The Burger King. And King Mswati III of Swaziland, but that goes without saying.
Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney had been following and filming Lance Armstrong for four years with the intention of making a film about the cancer-survivor’s return to cycling and quest for another Tour de France win when Armstrong shocked the world by admitting to doping. The tone and title of the film changed, Armstrong agreed to more interviews in light of the admission, and now we have The Armstrong Lie, a much more compelling film than whatever boring ‘triumph of the human will’ movie Gibney had originally envisioned. Given the millions of dollars he’s raised for cancer research, and given that he’s far from the only cyclist who cheats to win, plenty of people want to cut Armstrong some slack. On the other hand, even more people truly hate the man for cheating and especially for destroying the careers and lives of his accusers. Personally, I couldn’t care less about the doping, and I think the cancer research is commendable, but man do I hate liars, so I lean towards the ‘Lance Armstrong can go f*ck himself’ side of the debate, especially because now that he’s openly hated, he’s really embracing being a douchebag. My general impression of the man since he’s admitted to doping is that he’s not sorry he did it or that he ruined other peoples’ lives in the process of covering it up, but he is very very sorry that he was caught. As for this film, I don’t think it will change anyone’s opinion of the man, but it could prove interesting as an examination of the how and why he did what he did, if you’re curious about it. To be honest, I’m not that curious. I think cycling is a terribly boring sport and I think Lance Armstrong is an asshole and if I want to watch a movie about an asshole I can always watch my racist uncle’s Facebook ‘Look Back’ video again; it’s a whole lot shorter and only occasionally makes mention of cycling.
Among this week’s DVDs, there’s an unusual little sub-genre: films starring child Best Supporting Actress nominees. The first instance of this was actually Ender’s Game, which features not one but two of these young thespians, Hailee Steinfeld (nominated for True Grit) and Abigail Breslin (nominated for Little Miss Sunshine). The second film within this sub-genre is How I Live Now, from Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald and starring Saoirse Ronan (nominated for Atonement) as a teen girl searching for her boyfriend amidst a nuclear war. The film looks okay, but you’d probably have heard more about it if it were actually any good. The third and final film in the Oscar-nominated kid actress film festival is Haunter, a haunted house movie starring Ender’s Game‘s Abigail Breslin. Haunter doesn’t have the critical or box-office clout of How I Live Now (slight though they may be), and that’s why it’s getting the short shrift. Honestly though, it’s a haunted house movie called Haunter –it’s lucky I’m mentioning it at all. It’s from director Vincenzo Natali. His film Cube is totally over-rated, but his movie Splice is totally under-rated. So maybe Haunter is good, but probably not. If you were hoping for a movie starring Quvenzhané Wallis, I’d remind you that she was a Best Actress nominee, not a Best Supporting Actress nominee, and as such she only stars in high quality films like the upcoming Annie remake. Did you hear? Annie’s black now! Can you imagine, a black orphan getting adopted by a rich guy? I guess it could work -diff’rent strokes for different folks, and all that.
Michael Sheen, Lena Headey, Sam Neill, and Ioan Gruffudd star in this, the first film in the ‘The Adventurer’ series of films, based on the Mariah Mundi series of books by G.P. Taylor. On that note, it seems that practically nobody has actually heard of this movie before now because it is quite possible that literally nobody has actually heard of that series of books. As such, this movie barely got any promotion or theatrical release and there won’t be any further films in this series. (Admit it, you’ve never heard of it before now, and you’ve heard of The Oogieloves In The Big Balloon Adventure.) The actors have all been released from their contracts and have been seen sniffing around the casting offices for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay. Ioan Gruffudd has even offered to bulk up for the role of Plutarch Heavensbee.
With a title as…clever…as that, I really don’t have any choice but to share the official synopsis:
Christian O’Connell (Ivan Sergei) has met the girl of his dreams in Alison Marks (Jennifer Love Hewitt). Unfortunately, Christian told Alison (who happens to be a rabbi’s daughter) that his name was Avi Rosenberg, and that he was Jewish- neither of which are true. Desperate to keep up the illusion, he turns to his childhood best friend, Adam Lipschitz (Joel David Moore) to teach him how to “act Jewish.” But Adam has problems of his own, with a fiancé (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) pushing him closer to a mental breakdown as their wedding approaches. With the best intentions, Adam and Christian attempt to help each other out, but things quickly go completely and hilariously off the rails in this outrageous all-star comedy from the creators of the original hit international play seen by millions.
So a guy named Christian is pretending to be a Jew, and Jamie-Lynn Sigler plays a nagging Jewish woman making her husband’s life miserable. This sounds a lot like Divorce Invitation, a movie that came out on DVD last June. For those of you who don’t remember, Divorce Invitation was about a guy named Christian pretending to be a Jew and Jamie-Lynn Sigler played a nagging Jewish woman making her husband’s life miserable. Of course these movies, while extremely similar, do have some differences. For one thing, Jewtopia has a higher-profile cast. Besides Sigler there’s Jennifer Love Hewitt, Nicollette Sheridan, Joel David Moore, Wendie Malick, Jon Lovitz, Camryn Manheim, Tom Arnold, Ivan Sergei, Peter Stormare, and Chet Haze’s mom. I feel -for the sake of my integrity- that I must stress that I said ‘higher-profile’ and not ‘high-profile’. At any rate, you just know the writers of this movie are proud of that title. They probably high-fived when they thought of it and then called it a day.
So, for whatever reason, this week’s DVD releases include several films that would be otherwise unremarkable if not for including someone of reasonable fame or acting renown in the cast. I have almost nothing to say about any of these movies, so I’ll simply provide a list: Grace Unplugged (Kevin Pollak, Dove-Approved), GBF (Megan Mullally), Reaching For The Moon (Miranda Otto), Life Of A King (Cuba Gooding Jr.), 22 Bullets (Jean Reno), Sorority Party Massacre (Ron Jeremy), The Reverend (Rutger Hauer), 2 Jacks (Danny Houston), Stitch (Edward Furlong), and Bottled Up (Melissa Leo). SEAL Patrol gets the featured spot because it gives top billing to everyone’s favorite master of the craft, Eric Roberts. For those keeping track (so, only me) this is already his fifth acting credit for 2014, with another 49 on the docket for this year alone. I’m sure they will all be winners like this one.
Just the pertinent facts: It’s a male stripper movie that looks like an attempt to turn Magic Mike into a broad comedy. It’s from the director of Wayne’s World. It co-stars Shooter McGavin. Oh, and it also co-stars Channing Tatum’s wife. And it was actually made before Magic Mike. Which means, if anything, Tatum and Soderbergh stole ideas for Magic Mike from this movie and not the other way around. You should probably get a tissue right about now, because your nose just started bleeding.