Rush - Universal - Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD
Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde,Alexandra Maria Lara, Pierfrancesco Favino. Full cast + crew
As a sport, F1 racing has never held much appeal for me. However, it continues to prove a viable source of great, cinematic drama. If you've seen and enjoyed the likes of Senna, then you're probably going to love Rush. And if you haven't seen Senna, well, you totally should, because it's great. And so is Rush. My system for recommending movies really isn't that complicated.
You don't have to know anything about F1 racing to appreciate this true story of two highly talented men who had a very public rivalry right in front of the world's eyes. It's an energetic, evenhanded film about what it takes to win. And in the case of the men played by Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl (who should be a part of the Best Supporting Actor awards talk but isn't), it apparently takes being an asshole-- not only to each other, but to everyone around you. And that's what makes Rush one of the most refreshing sports movies in recent years: it's not afraid to show the bad sides of its superstars.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 - Sony - Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD
Director: Cody Cameron
Cast: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Will Forte, Kristen Schaal. Full cast + crew
My wife and I are happy to watch Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs on our own, while my young son seems to be only mildly amused by its emphasis on character and story and subtle sense of humor. However, he's getting kind of obsessed with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. That should give you a pretty good picture of the difference between the first film and the second.
It's not that the sequel is bad. Not at all. It's just a touch more kid friendly. There's nothing subtle about it. The bad guy is this wacky, constantly moving, fairly annoying jerk that's a clear parody of Steve Jobs, only for no discernible reason than all guys who run giant companies should look like Steve Jobs, I guess. There's much more running around and fighting absurd, food-based monsters. There are more talking animals. There's just... more. There's more everything. And it's enjoyable enough, especially if you're a little kid, it just lacks a bit of the magical combination of absurd and thoughtful that made the first one one of the best kids' book adaptations ever made.
Other Notable New Releases
Of all the hidden-camera TV shows and movies, the Jackass series has consistently remained a cut above the rest. Okay, so the show may have been saturated with pranks that really didn't offer anything to the world other than bodily harm for late-night amusement, but Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa is an evolution beyond just crashing into things with a shopping cart. It combines hidden-camera footage and nonactors with an actual script (one that can claim Her mastermind Spike Jonze as a writer, we should point out), to deliver a vulgar, funny portrait of America's relationship with crude entertainment. Basically, if you like the other Jackass movies, you'll probably love Bad Grandpa. Also out on the comedy front this week is Last Vegas, aka The Hangover for old people. I haven't seen it, but with a cast that includes Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline, there's got to be at least a few laughs in it.
Steering away from this week's funny stuff, you can check out Concussion. This sexually charged indie drama is about a middle-aged woman who learns she can make some pretty decent money by offering companionship to other women. In another director's hands, that plot description could get very sleazy, very quickly, but Stacie Passon mixes it all to form a rather moving portrait of a woman slowly spiraling out of control and away from a life that wasn't that bad in the first place.
Above I mentioned that Rush worked so well because it wasn't afraid of showing how the real men it was based on were assholes in their own right. The Fifth Estate also doesn't mind showing how Julian Assange isn't exactly an angel, but that's not enough to make this film about Wikileaks all that compelling. It's plodding and forced, and feels a bit like trying to twist one story (a procedural drama about the search for truth) into another (about those who want to silence the truth). In a way, it's a victim of trying too much to be like a typical thriller, when the material itself just doesn't really warrant it.
Lastly, out this week is Metallica: Through the Never, which is basically just a high-concept concert film. If you love Metallica, recent work and all, you'll probably be on board with it. If you don't, you'll probably just want to move along.
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