Midnight in Paris: In Woody Allen’s latest Owen Wilson’s plays a man who finds himself trapped by a lucrative yet unfulfilling job and gorgeous yet hectoring wife (Rachel McAdams) until he finds himself transported back to Hemingway’s Paris where he finds the intellectual stimulation and younger lover he craves. The film, which is pleasant enough when focusing of the murder’s row of character actors that makes up Allen’s fantasy Paris, is not the return to form its deluge of critical praise and blockbusting $143 million worldwide gross would suggest. It’s competently made and Wilson doesn’t get overwhelmed by the Woody Allen persona like John Cusack and Jason Biggs when were Allen’s surrogates did but it is crazy self-indulgent and the subject matter was more poignantly covered in the all-around superior The Purple Rose of Cairo. Hopefully Allen will get back to chronicling the corrosive decadence of the idle rich. Also starring Kathy Bates, Marion Cotillard and Adrien Brody.
Special Feature: Photo gallery and a panel discussion from the Cannes Film Festival about the film.
Dolphin Tale: Reassuringly voiced scientist Morgan Freeman builds a prosthetic tail for a plucky dolphin named Winter due to the efforts Harry Connick Jr. and Ashley Judd. Despite its decidedly Hallmark Hall of Fame premise, this film earned a healthy $88 million against its modest $37 million budget. Part of this can be explained by parents and the pious among us wanted to have an offense free night at the movies and there’s hardly a safer choice at the theaters than a movie with a poster that features a dolphin swimming with a child just below Connick Jr.’s Walmart remainder bin face but this film always looked incredibly punishing to me. Not Chip-wrecked in 3D awful but bad enough that you can’t pretend that a movie full of B-listers and one A-lister with a soft spot for saccharin pap with a plot that makes Free Wily look like a sensitive portrait of the human condition was a wise use of your time and money. Also starring Kris Kristofferson, Jim Patrick and Winter as herself.
Special Features: A 3D presentation of the film, a digital copy, deleted scenes, a gag reel and five featurettes.
Colombiana: Luc Besson writes and Olivier Megaton directs this violent travelogue about a young (Zoe Saldana) woman who, in pseudo Batman style, becomes a devastatingly stylish and effective hitwoman after seeing the brutal execution of her parents. The film is neither the Natalie Portman less Professional sequel that we all hoped it would be nor is it a propulsive action romp in the mold of Besson’s recent ultra-efficient and nearly emotion free works like Taken and To Paris with Love. If the film was only slightly more audacious in its plotting and slightly more lurid in its set pieces it’d be a b-grade action classic as opposed to the decent movie to have playing in the background while doing something else that it actually is. Also starring Michael Vartan, Cliff Curtis and Callum Blue.
Special Features: Digital copy of the film, PS3 wallpaper and four featurettes.
Warrior: Future super terrorist Tom Hardy and future Tom Buchanan Joel Edgerton play two estranged brothers who unknowingly enter the same mixed martial arts tournament for different but equally compelling reasons. If you’re surprised to learn that the two brothers eventually end up in the ring together where they hash out their differences, you’ve never seen a sports movie or the film’s trailer. Warrior is far from a great film but director Gavin O’Conner’s naturalistic aesthetic and Hardy’s roughhewn performancemake it better than the sum of its clichéd parts. But those clichés, which include so much family trauma and desperate personal circumstances Ken Loach would say to dial it back a little, make the film more of a slog than it needs to be. Also starring Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison and Frank Grillo.
Special Features: Commentary with O’Conner, Edgerton and writer Anthony Tambakis, gag reel, deleted scene with commentary and four featurettes.
Straw Dogs: The Contender helmer Rod Lurie grapples unsuccessfully with Sam Peckinpah’s brutal 1971 treatise on masculinity in this incredibly tepid remake. If this film had a more adventurous and frankly talented filmmaker in the director’s chair it might not have been the crushing failure it ended up being but that’s a big if. The original Straw Dogs was effective because of how uncompromising its commentary of the 70s American male was whereas the 2011 version tries to graft an antiquated viewpoint onto a group of good ol’ boy stereotypes that don’t make sense in the present day. No one’s ambivalent about how to deal with terrorism in a post 9/11 society. Starring James Marsden, Kate Bosworth and James Woods.
Special Features: Four featurettes and commentary with Lurie.
All of the releases mentioned here have links to their respective Amazon pages but you can also visit Cleveland area Blockbusters, Family Videos, and redboxes for these and other new releases.
Mario blogs regularly at A Polemic Killer Room.