The House with a Clock in Its Walls
Black, more than anyone else, should have been the one to wind up The House with a Clock in Its Walls. Too bad he doesn't…
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What happens to a lifelong sidekick when he loses his companion? This is the relatively slight premise of "The Ballad of Lefty Brown," a solid Western with great work from Bill Pullman in the titular role as a man who finds himself untethered but with renewed focus when he loses his best friend. It's not a film that breaks the mold in any way but asks you to look at its genre a little differently. The sidekick character is as old as the genre when it comes to Westerns and it's interesting to consider the role the sidekick plays in movie history. It's not always someone ready for the spotlight like Lefty Brown. Most of all, it's a great performance piece for Pullman, an actor who I've hoped would find better material in recent years. He's certainly ready for the spotlight himself (and also great on last year's USA mini-series "The Sinner").
Bringing the Truth to Myth: Inside the Characters of The Ballad of Lefty Brown
Designing the Look of The Ballad of Lefty Brown
Audio Commentary with Director Jared Moshe and Actor Bill Pullman
Takashi Miike's latest earned a lot of press for being the prodigious filmmaker's 100th work behind the camera. Just think, Quentin Tarantino, a man clearly inspired by Miike, is planning to retire after 10. This is a perfect movie for Miike's 100th, a flick about an immortal warrior who decides to protect a girl who needs his help. It channels so much of Miike's previous work, as well as classic Samurai fiction, and it shows how much the filmmaker still has to give. Yes, it's a bit too long, but there are so many great scenes here that one can forgive the length. And one can hope that Miike makes 100 more.
Manji vs. 300
Interview with Takuya Kimura
"The Deuce: Season 1"
James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal are fantastic on HBO's newest drama, a show about Times Square in the '70s, when "adult entertainment" was on the rise. Sure, Times Square may be a hotbed of tourist traps now, but it was very different four decades ago. David Simon, the creator of "The Wire," brings his ensemble approach to the era and the result is a show that's undeniably interesting if less than thrilling. It gets better as it goes along, but I found the first few episodes plodding, other than the work by Franco and the show-stealing Gyllenhaal. I'm still curious to see where it goes in season two and the Blu-ray is typically strong for HBO with special features and a couple of cool commentary tracks.
The Deuce in Focus - Delve inside The Deuce with Michelle MacLaren, James Franco and Roxann Dawson as they talk about bringing the show to life.
The Wild West: New York in the Early '70s - Head back in time in this featurette that focuses on the frontier of the pornography business - New York City in the early 1970s - with the cast and crew of The Deuce. Creators David Simon and George Pelecanos plus James Franco and his co-stars open up about this unique period in NYC history, as porn moved from the street to the mainstream screen.
Audio Commentaries - Commentaries on Episode 1 and Episode 8 with cast and crew, including David Simon (Co-Creator/Executive Producer), George Pelecanos (Co-Creator/Executive Producer), Nina Kostroff Noble (Executive Producer), Michele MacLaren (Director), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Actor/Producer) and James Franco (Actor/Executive Producer).
What is going on with Sam Raimi? Sure, he was distracted by "Ash vs. Evil Dead" and made that horrible "Oz the Great and Powerful" (EASILY his worst movie) but why has it been almost a decade since he directed a truly good flick? Don't tell me he's entered that dreaded late period that it feels like all horror masters inevitably slide into a dull, warm blanket (John Carpenter and Wes Craven being solid recent examples). I'm not ready for that yet. At least we'll always have "Drag Me to Hell," a really fun horror movie, especially considering that Raimi made it after his "Spider-Man" flicks when he could have just made junk like "Oz" instead. At least he had one more personal, risky movie in his career. Let's hope it's not the last.
Production Diaries - With Behind-the-scenes Footage And Interviews With Co-writer/director Sam Raimi, Actors Allison Lohman, Justin Long, David Paymer, Dileep Rao, Lorna Raver, Special Effects Guru Greg Nicotero, Director Of Photography Peter Deming, And More Vintage Interviews With Director Sam Raimi And Actors Alison Lohman And Justin Long
To Hell And Back – An Interview With Actress Alison Lohman
Curses! – An Interview With Actress Lorna Raver
Hitting All The Right Notes – An Interview With Composer Christopher Young
The issues with Rob Reiner's semi-biopic of Lyndon Johnson aren't really directorial or performance but script. First, it's an oddly-framed film, choosing to focus on the period just before and just after Kennedy's death. This makes it as much about JFK and Bobby Kennedy as LBJ himself, which is a strange choice. I like focused biopics that don't feel they need to go from cradle to grave, but the focus here gives the film a bit of unearned hero worship, as we see LBJ hold the country together after tragedy and fight for civil rights against caricaturish opponents. Hagiography is to be expected in a biopic but it's more damaging here given how much Woody Harrelson works to ground LBJ. It's a really good performance in a barely-OK movie.
Who would have guessed that the director of "Tron: Legacy" could do an emotional hero story better than Peter Berg? The subgenre of American tragedies in cinema has only grown over the last decade. We love to watch fictional versions of the best of our country and there's something cathartic about paying tribute to them through major Hollywood productions like this one. It's a film that's tough to capture in a capsule review, but trust me that it's a solid drama, elevated by truly impressive fire effects and a great cast, including Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, and Jeff Bridges. It sounds like a broken record but this is the kind of mid-budget movie they don't make much anymore (and it only made $18 million, domestically) but that adults claim they want to see. Do your part.
Dierks Bentley featuring S. Carey's "Hold The Light" Music Video & Featurette
Feature Audio Commentary with Director Joseph Kosinski and Josh Brolin
Honoring the Heroes: The True Stories
Behind the Brotherhood: The Characters
Boot Camp: Becoming a Hotshot
"Roman J. Israel, Esq."
At Sundance this year, a common question was "What's the least deserving Oscar nomination this year?" Denzel Washington's shocker for a movie no one seemed to really like came up a lot (especially considering he got in over James Franco or even Tom Hanks). Washington is fine here, but it's nothing special, and the movie is one of those weird dramas that can't figure out what story it's telling. Honestly, it feels like something that was once conceived for television, and then a season's worth of characters and ideas got distilled into two hours. The result is inconsistent and strangely flat. And, honestly, Washington doesn't even give the best performance in the MOVIE much less of the year. (I'd go with Colin Farrell, who always elevates everything he's in.)
Denzel Washington Becoming Roman
The Making of Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Colin Farrell: Discovering George
8 Deleted Scenes
There's a weird trend to this week's guide: solid, non-flashy adult dramas. Here's a good one starring Josh Wiggins and Matt Bomer that made its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival over a year ago. It feels like IFC couldn't figure out how to get this to an audience, so most people probably haven't seen it. It's a movie your father-in-law is almost certain to like, an old-fashioned tale of survival in which a father's injury forces a son to save both of their lives in the wild. Some flashbacks to the father's youth are tonally misguided, but the current two-hander works, as the filmmakers make good use of their natural setting and the pair of performers sell the danger of their situation.
Stephen Chbosky's adaptation of R.J. Palacio's hit book was one of the biggest surprise hits of 2017, making almost $300 million worldwide. It's the biggest film in the careers of Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts in almost a generation. It's easy to see why. While this story of a unique child and his friends and family is almost oppresively manipulative, most of the manipulation works. It's basically another story of not reading any book by its cover, but it's handled with genuine sweetness and compassion. It's also one of those rare live-action films that appeals to both parents and children alike.
Buy it here B0789G9LSL
Summer of Fun: 5-part Documentary
A Child's Sense of Wonder Featurette
What A Wonderful World Featurette
Audio Commentary with Stephen Chbosky and R.J. Palacio
'Brand New Eyes' Music Video
Wonder Soundtrack Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
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Jason Statham versus a very big fish.