New releases this week include an Academy Award winner, a road-trip comedy, a ballroom dancer’s feast of a comedy, and an inspiring tale based on true events.
Note: To order any of the following films, click on the poster.
The first fifteen minutes of director David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook is so manic with its overlapping speech and its continual feel of chaos you fear the worst. Then, like all good movies, something happens and before you know it you find yourself pulled in to the film’s uneven rhythm and even embracing its chaotic style. What makes Silver Linings Playbook so much fun is watching this cast of neurotic characters come to life with such energy and vigor by a top notch cast of players, including Robert De Niro as Pat Sr., a man banned from attending any Eagles’ game because of past bad behavior. But the center of attention whenever she’s there is Jennifer Lawrence as the persistent Tiffany. Lawrence has already proved herself with the magnificent Winter’s Bone, not to mention The Hunger Games and its sequels to come, but to see her here among seasoned professionals like De Niro and to shine with such an emotionally multi-layered character is bliss to watch. Available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
What works best in The Guilt Trip is the surprisingly inspired pairing of Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen. Their relationship is the obvious center of the film, and together they make a truly convincing mother and son. The quibbles in the car as they journey across country together have a genuine ad-libbed feel about them that is initially fun to watch, but it becomes all the more frustrating as the film, and the journey, continues, especially when you realize that the situations and the dialog are never going to rise above the basic, mild bickering that began the trip. The film is consistently pleasant enough, and the bickering between mother and son is relatively amusing, but it’s never flat out funny. The film goes for poignancy when you’re expecting laughs and ends on a touching note that would have worked perfectly fine had it built up to it with some solid comedy, but doesn’t. Available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Australian director Baz Luhrmann is about to burst back on the big screen with his new version of The Great Gatsby, so the timing of the Blu-Ray release of his earlier film, the 1992 comedy Strictly Ballroom couldn’t be more timely. Even though many consider Moulin Rouge to be Luhrmann’s crowning achievement, for me it’s Strictly Ballroom that remains the flamboyant Australian director’s best work. With the success of TV’s Dancing With The Stars bringing ballroom dancing to people’s living rooms, Strictly Ballroom looks at the subject from the other end, the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of over-competitive dancers and the steps they take to win at all costs. It’s like one, huge, colorful cartoon populated by humans that practically explode in front of you. And with the clarity of hi-def, the film has never looked better. Available in Blu-Ray.
Little Red Wagon opened in theatres last year and tells the true story of young Zach Bonner, an 8 year old boy who decided to help children rendered homeless by the devastation of Hurricane Charley. The film was made by the same team that brought Hoosiers and Rudy to the screen and while Little Red Wagon never quite rises to the cinematic level of those earlier two films, it still conveys a message of hope, resilience and inspiration. Surprisingly, the film is not as cloying as you might think, and even though it’s soon apparent that Little Red Wagon works better as a TV movie of the week, it’s sincere, good intentions ultimately win you over. Available on DVD.