This Weekend's Best Movies are In Your Home

Aside from one lighter-than-air romantic comedy that costars two appealing veteran actors in small roles, this might be an ideal weekend to stay home and catch one of the fine films coming to DVD, Blu-ray and Video on Demand (VOD).

 

Unfriended
This thriller about teens stalked by an otherworldly evil unfolds entirely on a desktop computer screen. Hit “delete.”

 

5 to 7
Embedded in this disarming comedy about a young New York novelist ( Star Trek’s Anton Yelchin) having an affair with a married Frenchwoman (Bérénice Marlohe) are sparkling, don’t-miss performances by Glenn Close and Frank Langella as the scrivener’s quirky but devoted parents.

 

Child 44
Tom Hardy, one of our great screen actors, stars as a disgraced Stalin-era KGB agent on the trail of a child killer. Persistently grim and convoluted, the film (from the novel by Tom Rob Smith) is a notch above standard TV crime procedurals thanks to its fine cast, especially Gary Oldman as a Soviet officer. It’s been banned in Russia, so you’ll have to catch it over here.

 

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2
Hey, look—it’s Kevin James on a Segway again. Ha!

 

New on DVD and Home Video

The Babadook
The scariest, creepiest, most compellingly perfect horror movie since The Exorcist is this story of a monster that leaps from a children’s book to terrorize a mother (sad-eyed Essie Davis) and her troubled son (haunting Noah Wiseman). “You can’t get rid of the Babadook,” the book says. Too true, you’ll realize as you leave all the lights in your place burning for the next several weeks.

Big Eyes
The saucer-eyed waifs who populated the paintings of Margaret Keane helped define American culture in the early 1960s, so naturally Tim Burton’s telling of her story is up to its peepers in period atmosphere. The men’s ties are wide, Capri pants are everywhere, and fin-tastic sedans line the streets of tract developments straight out of Levittown. It’s enough to bring tears of nostalgia to your big, dewy eyes.

Goodbye to Language (3D)
As confounding as ever, 84-year-old French film legend Jean-Luc Godard continues to delight his faithful and infuriate his detractors with seemingly random shots, out-of-context dialogue and nearly indecipherable plot lines. This time the director of such classics as Breathless and Alphaville works in 3D, but don’t expect Hollywood’s customary comin’-atcha 3D stunts. Love him or hate him, Godard uses the technology in ways no one ever has.

Interstellar
As he transports his intrepid crew of space explorers (including Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway) to a distant black hole, writer-director Christopher Nolan ( Inception) nods to sci-fi classics from 2001 to Ziggy Stardust. The results are spectacular, but we’ve grown to expect more originality from this screen visionary. (FULL REVIEW)
CLICK HERE to hear an interview with Bill Irwin, who plays the dry-witted robot of Interstellar.

Maps to the Stars
Despite a great cast — including  Julianne Moore, John Cusack and Robert Pattinson — director David Cronenberg’s satire of Hollywood is as phony as the culture he attempts to skewer. ( FULL REVIEW)

 

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Still out there in theaters:

50 Shades of Grey
We’re not supposed to laugh out loud at a movie that features beautiful young people having kinky sex, right? Yet that’s precisely what happens almost from the moment we meet billionaire bondage boy Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and his oh-so-willing submissive partner (Dakota Johnson).

Cheatin’
Renegade animator Bill Plympton has created a true toon for grownups — a darkly engaging fantasy about the wife of a helpless philanderer who finds a way to magically become each and every one her husband’s lovers. Opening in limited theaters and available this month on Video on Demand.

Cinderella
Disney’s live-action adaptation of the animated classic keeps the most charming elements of the original’s damsel-in-distress scenario and transforms the central character into a strong-willed young woman determined to overcome her dismal plight at the hands of a truly wicked stepmother ( Cate Blanchett).

Danny Collins
Al Pacino triumphs in this joyful story of a legendary pop-music star who faces a late-midlife crisis when he discovers that, way back in 1971, John Lennon had written him a letter urging him not to sell out as an artist. The superb cast includes Annette Bening, Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Garner and Bobby Cannavale (FULL REVIEW)

Desert Dancer
The central characters (a band of dancers trying to defy the Iranian government’s ban on their art) are plenty young and pretty. But their true story — of ordinary people who consider artistic expression essential to their being — is timeless. The distractingly by-the-numbers storytelling is redeemed by several glorious interludes of exquisite dance.

Effie Gray
Writer-costar Emma Thompson ( Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice) has dipped into Britain’s bonneted past one time too many, producing this lifeless account of the loveless “marriage,” if you want to call it that, between Victorian artist John Ruskin (Greg Wise) and his decade-younger bride, Effie Gray (Dakota Fanning).  (FULL REVIEW)

Furious 7
“What’s that?! Sorry, you’re going to have to scream louder over all these revving engines!” Seriously, Vin Diesel: Put a muffler on it.

Get Hard
This comedy about a convicted exec ( Will Ferrell) who hires a streetwise guy who owns a car wash (Kevin Hart) to help him prepare for prison commits any number of offenses. The worst? It reminds us how desperately we miss Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, who played the same gag to untouchable perfection in Stir Crazy.

The Longest Ride
Superhunk Scott Eastwood ( Clint’s son) and superhottie Britt Robertson ( Under the Dome) costar in this latest weepie from the pen of Nicholas Sparks ( The Notebook). But for acting aficionados, Alan Alda (in a small but pivotal role) provides the real eye candy.

Maps to the Stars
Despite a great cast — including  Julianne Moore, John Cusack and Robert Pattinson — director David Cronenberg’s satire of Hollywood is as phony as the culture he attempts to skewer. ( FULL REVIEW)

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
In this sequel the original stars (including  Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy) prove to be just as delightful the second time around. Regrettably, the script adds precious little to the  first installment. Yes, Richard Gere is charming as a new guest, but young Dev Patel wins Actor We’d Most Like to Defenestrate. (FULL REVIEW)

While We’re Young
A middle-aged documentary maker ( Ben Stiller) and his wife ( Naomi Watts) add some spark to their humdrum lives when they befriend a couple nearly half their age (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried). Bonus points for Charles Grodin as Stiller’s father, resplendent in a tux. (FULL REVIEW)

Woman in Gold
Helen Mirren is the real golden girl in this true story of Maria Altmann, the woman who sued the Austrian government to recover a painting the Nazis stole from her family. As her young L. A. attorney, Ryan Reynolds at first merely humors his client, but soon he’s as blindly driven as she is to bring home the painting, Glustav Klimt’s “Woman in Gold.” (FULL REVIEW)

 

New on DVD/BluRay and Video on Demand (VOD)

The Black Cat (1934) (VOD)
The setup is familiar: Three people — a honeymooning couple and a mysterious stranger — take refuge in the remote house of an obviously mad scientist. For the short 65 minutes of this poison dart of a film, horror greats Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff play a chilling game of cat-and-mouse that involves hallucinogenic drugs, a collection of dead women under glass, that titular cat and, most gruesomely, someone getting skinned alive. The Black Cat is still as stylishly shocking today as it was for the audiences unprepared to see it on its release in 1934.

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