The 10 Best Streaming and DVD Choices of February
Celeste and Jesse Forever -- The indie romantic comedy from Rashida Jones got mixed praise from Dan, who appreciated that the film sought to dig deeper into relationship: "Not all the emotions ring true, though: Celeste and Jesse have been friends since childhood, but we're given no real reasons for their separation aside from Celeste's vaguely worded worry, nor do we get the feeling that any real thought went into their separation. They demonstrate no anguish or remorse over the situation, which would play if they weren't together but clunks a little when they have to still be best buds. Large parts of the movie feel like things happening to real people, but there are also plenty of moments and set-ups that feel too clearly contrived to bring about a situation instead of letting it unfold on its own. For digging deeper into relationships than most other movies in the genre, the film deserves praise."
Flight -- Courtney wrote of the single most disturbing thing about Flight, a post that was far more enjoyable than the film, which was incredibly misleading in its promotion. As I wrote in my review, "Very few movies have been as disappointing versus the expectations that marketing established for us than Flight. I had expected, like anyone who'd seen the trailer and television spots for Flight, a studio contrived, feel-good legal drama pitting an underdog against corporate overlords that would perhaps be elevated above formula by another powerful performance from Denzel Washington. What I did not anticipate, however, was an incredibly expensive public service announcement for the 12-Step Program, or a movie about the random, unexplained nature of "God's plan."
Anna Karenina -- Joe Wright's Karenina didn't kick up much of a splash at either the box office or during the awards season, but Amanda was a somewhat enthused fan: "Beautiful and thoughtful, Anna Karenina is worth seeing for the strength of the performances and the lavish design. People who love the book will likely be disappointed, but as an adaptation, it's fresh and exciting, never too much, audacious. While most versions of the film tend to cast Anna as a heroine, director Joe Wright has taken care to present the multifaceted nature of Anna. The film lays waste to the idea of romantic love conquering all, and perhaps the only real moments of respite come between Levin and Kitty, (the remarkable Alicia Vikander who also appears in this month's A Royal Affair) as two souls who attempt to make a good life together. Still, Wright is infatuated with the possibility, as are we all, that perhaps this new love is worth it, that by leaving our old life behind we can become the person we imagine ourselves to be, shining and bright, filled with possibilities and purpose. Yet, as Anna learns, all that glitters is not gold."
The Man with the Iron Fist -- RZA, Eli Roth, and Russell Crowe is a batshit combination, and the result is a batshit movie that TK got a huge kick out of: "The film is an homage to the martial arts flicks of old, films that RZA and his fellow Wu members have been lifelong fans of. It's a ridiculous, off-the-wall splatterfest featuring plenty of wire work, absurd weapons, flying punches and kicks, and a hint of the supernatural to tie it all together. RZA plays a nameless blacksmith in a tiny little hamlet called Jungle Village, forced to make elaborate, wicked-looking weapons for the warring factions that vie for control. The editing is a bit spastic at times, and there's a touch too much slow-motion for my tastes, yet it's still pretty indicative of the genre that they're trying to emulate. What makes it ultimately satisfying is a wickedly grim cheekiness and an absolute dedication to being as beautifully, chaotically bloody as possible. "
Sinister -- I haven't personally seen Sinister yet, but if my Facebook feed is any indication, the horror film is scaring the bejesus out of a lot of people. It certainly worked its magic on Agent Bedhead: "On paper, the movie looks like hell, but in practice, it will likely scare the hell out of you at some point. To wit: My feet, which I propped up on the seat in front of me, kept jumping despite my efforts to maintain a cool control; during the third act of the movie, I got up out of my seat and moved closer to other audience members (who I generally try to stay as far away from as possible) to provide the illusion of comfort; upon arriving home, my poor daughter had to accompany her own mother into the bathroom because I couldn't be alone in a room after watching this movie; at this very moment (the morning after), I cannot even sit in the office with the lights out (as is the custom) to write this review. Was it worth it? Obviously! It's been a long time since a movie creeped me out like Sinister does, and that's refreshing in a year where the horror movies have generally been laughable.
Perks of Being a Wallflower -- Your mileage could certainly vary on Perks. I thought it was great, and the last few minutes absolutely floored me. But I like quirky, maudlin flicks, and I'm a sucker for coming-of-age movies. Amanda, who reviewed the film and also put it on her worst movies of 2012 list, was decidedly not a fan. I guess I'm not ready to grow up yet! "I'm bored of the faux-intellectual life. I'm tired of meeting people spoon-fed on this exact Perksian diet of liking the right music, the right movies and the right books, thinking they somehow invented The Catcher in the Rye or their appreciation for "obscure" bands such as Radiohead. I think I'm mostly sick of coming of age movies. I'm sick of feeling like I'm living through that confusing time over and over again, watching other teens and young adults come to the same startling, new-to-them realizations, over and over. People miming intelligence and experience at us because they simply don't have it yet. Perhaps the book was more shocking at its time of release, the year 1999, but with the advent of shows such as "Skins" and "My So-Called Life," the phenomena of this particular era of teenage angst has been explored rather thoroughly, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower simply has nothing new to add to the conversation. Aren't we all ready to grow up a bit?"
Robot and Frank -- A very little seen but ultimately fantastically charming and sweet movie, Robot and Frank got big ups from Amanda, who I forgive for her Perks review: "Robot and Frank is a remarkable testament to the power of keeping things simple, with such a strong singular grain of an idea there's nothing to hide behind, no magic tricks or obfuscation, just powerful comedic and dramatic performances and pitch-perfect pacing. From love to friendship, parenthood and the responsibilities that all entail, Robot and Frank manages to be touching and honest without sacrificing humor and intellect."
The Master -- I loathed The Master, but it was definitely a divisive film, as several among the staff put it in their ten best of 2012 (see, we don't always agree with each other around here). The problems I had with the film somewhat echo the problems that Dan has had with Soderbergh's films in recent years. Dan, who reviewed the The Master, was a big fan: "The Master is a cold film, but not an unfeeling or unforgiving one. Its greatness -- in terms of scope and achievement, from narrative and performance on down -- can't be denied. Anderson's style may have changed over the years, but he's still a student of small moments and little changes, and of the minor instances that can change lives. His latest work is mesmerizing and challenging, gripping and damning, funny and confounding. It says something that he intended it to be seen in 70mm, too, on actual film instead of the digital projection that's taken over today's theaters. I was fortunate enough to see the film in that format, and I found myself marveling at how movies -- real movies -- can look. Instead of the slick edges and occasional noise of a digital image, I saw grain and light flickering on screen. Over the dim rattle of the projector, I remembered that film's brightness is always complemented by those instantaneous flashes of darkness as the gate closes over the lamp and the sprockets push the next frame into view. The light and dark come together to carve dreams out of color and space, and it's that symbiotic method of creation that best defines The Master. It's a film about people trapped by their desperation to be understood, only occasionally able to make their true selves known. The answers here are in the little moments, flashing by so quickly your eye might not catch them. But they're there. Paul Thomas Anderson knows they are. And I believe him."
Skyfall -- I am again in sync with Amanda's assessment of Skyfall, which she calls the best Bond yet: "Skyfall is beautiful and brilliant, blunt and precise, wielding violence, contemplation and excellence in equal measure. The kind of movie that holds your rapt attention and makes you glad you went and saw it, which is a rarity these days, to be sure. Skyfall is wonderful, everything a Bond film should be -- meditations on purpose almost always overruled by a more pressing, immediate need for action on the part of our hero."
Argo -- Amanda also echoes most opinions on this week's Best Picture winner (it was Pajiba's second best of 2012), although I have seen a groundswell of folks turn on the movie of late. "Argo is a movie that will happily please a wide swath of the population, captivating and realistic, moving and intricate, broad and simple enough, and tinged with the thrill of reality. Whenever you base something on a true story you run the risk of failing to include some important detail, some small matter, but Argo feels wonderfully full, complete with the details and tension that elevate a great script and premise into something more -- a fantastic film."