Saturday, August 8, 2015

Saturday Night Movie Recommendations with Abe

Welcome back to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. I'm going to be providing a handy guide to a few choice movies currently playing in theatres as well as several films newly released on DVD and Netflix. I invite you to add in your thoughts on any films I haven’t seen in the comments below.

Due to a busy summer where TV with Abe has gotten far more of my attention, this week is devoted just to new DVD releases from mid-June to now, of which there are plenty!

New to DVD

Tangerines (must-see): The last of this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Film to be released is also one of the best of that slate. Estonia’s first nominated film is a powerful and worthwhile account of a tangerine farmer who saves two men on different sides of a war, with strong performances, an engaging story, and a stirring score.

Wild Tales (must-see): I loved this Best Foreign Film Oscar nominee from Argentina so much when I saw it at Sundance. Its clever format is matched by impossibly entertaining stories that transition effortlessly between drama and comedy. The only true recommendation is to see it with an audience so that you can share in the experience.

Clouds of Sils Maria (highly recommended): Juliette Binoche stars in this complicated, fascinating tale of stardom and an esteemed actress returning to her first project in a markedly different role. Binoche, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Kristen Stewart in particular are terrific as personalities in celebrity culture.

Deli Man (highly recommended): Who wouldn’t salivate at the idea of a documentary about the history of Jewish deli in America? Its primary subject, the owner of a deli in Houston, is extremely entertaining, and the mix of anecdotes, cultural quirks, and celebrity interviews with plenty of food thrown in is a true delight.

Human Capital (highly recommended): This enjoyable Italian film, which I saw at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, is a clever combination of a number of chapters tying together the same story of sex, scandal, and murder with terrific performances all around. It’s vividly interesting and engaging, and an underappreciated cinematic experience.

The Salt of the Earth (highly recommended): This documentary, which was nominated for an Oscar this past year, is easily the best of its category, a captivating account of the life of one photographer and his many long-term projects that chronicle much of the world over the past few decades.

’71 (highly recommended): I can’t remember the time I saw something as intense as my final film screened at Sundance this year, which is a feverish account of one tempestuous, fateful night in Ireland for a British soldier separated from anything familiar or safe. Jack O’Connell, who is a true breakout, delivers yet another strong performance in this nonstop thriller.

Zero Motivation (highly recommended): This Israeli film, which earned a handful of Ophir nominations, is an entertaining and enticing comedy about life in the Israeli army, with a special focus on a woman’s unit. Nelly Tagar and Dana Ivgy are particularly great.

52 Tuesdays (recommended): This Australian indie, which played at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014, checks in with a 16-year-old girl and her mother, who is undergoing a sex change, every Tuesday for a year. It’s an energizing and powerful journey anchored by strong performances.

Kill Me Three Times (recommended): Entertainment is paramount in this Australian comedy-thriller with enjoyable performances from Simon Pegg, Teresa Palmer, Alice Braga, Luke Hemsworth, and a handful of others.

Red Knot (recommended): Vincent Kartheiser and Olivia Thirlby star as a married couple drifting apart on a boat to Antarctica, as Kartheiser’s author eats up the opportunity to visit his favorite subject and Thirlby’s wife finds herself considerably neglected. It’s captivating at times and anchored by a terrific Thirlby.

Slow West (recommended): Kodi Smit-McPhee and Michael Fassbender star in this slow-moving but decent Western from the United Kingdom and New Zealand that should please fans of the genre as well as those who like the actors.

Woman in Gold (recommended): This story of a Holocaust survivor who took on the Austrian government to reclaim a family painting illegally taken by the Nazis and then inherited by a national museum is an endearing tale of triumph and perseverance, with Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds at the helm and Tatiana Maslany providing strong support as the younger version of the protagonist.

Maggie (mixed bag): Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as a devoted father intent on saving his daughter from certain transformation into a zombie in this independent drama. It’s a decent attempt at trying to turn this subject matter into strong storytelling, but ultimately it doesn’t manage to succeed in that regard.

Timbuktu (mixed bag): Mauritania’s first-ever Oscar submission for Best Foreign Film made the cut and earned itself a nomination, and most have reviewed this film with the utmost fervor and praise. It didn’t wow me, presenting what could have been a few interesting stories in a fashion that didn’t do them justice. It’s a fine start for a film industry but nowhere close to one of the best foreign films of the year.

True Story (mixed bag): James Franco stars as a man on trial for murdering his family and Jonah Hill plays the journalist he wants to tell his story to. It’s a decent premise, based on a true story, but nothing about the film makes it come alive or feel necessary.

The Gunman (anti-recommended): This film may feel a lot like “Taken,” and while the two share a director, this mindless action blockbuster doesn’t have nearly the brains of that already questionable prototype. Sean Penn is at his least enthusiastic in this truly absurd flick.

No comments: