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.