5 Flights Up
Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman are the year’s most adorable screen couple. They star as a long-married pair who must decide whether or not to relinquish the fifth-floor Brooklyn walkup apartment they’ve shared for four decades. The film addresses some serious issues, notably “aging in place,” and has some insightful lessons to impart about planning for the future versus constantly fretting about it. FULL REVIEW
Arnold Schwarzenegger will never make us forget Sir Laurence Olivier, but that doesn’t entitle us to dismiss his stabs at serious screen acting. As the tragically conflicted father of a young woman (Abigail Breslin) who is slowly succumbing to a zombie virus, Ah-nult gives a satisfyingly rounded portrayal of a powerful man traversing the unfamiliar terrain of incapacity.
New on DVD and Home Video
Black or White
In this corner, it’s Kevin Costner as an L.A. lawyer fighting to keep custody of the mixed-race granddaughter he has raised from infancy. And in the opposite corner it’s Octavia Spencer as the child’s paternal grandmother, convinced the girl would be happier living with her black relatives in Compton. Best reason to watch? Two Oscar-winning pros at the top of their game. CLICK HERE for an exclusive video of Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer talking about filming Black or White.
Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies
Now there’s a cheery title! But don’t be dissuaded by the subject matter of this three-part PBS series produced by Ken Burns, now on DVD and Blu-ray. Director Barak Goodman has created the definitive film about a disease that is actually thousands of diseases, and which touches virtually everyone. From the groundbreaking research of Dr. Sidney Farber in the 1940s to the latest breakthroughs in harnessing the human immune system to fight cancer, this binge-watching may actually be good for you.
Frank Sinatra Five-Film Collection
Almost a century has passed since Frank Sinatra opened those baby blues. Amid the hoopla attending his matchless recording career, this lovingly restored set of Frank flicks does a nice job of recalling his memorable screen roles as well. There’s the service musical Anchors Aweigh (1945), Frank’s fun turn as Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls (1955), the original Ocean’s 11 (1960), Robin and the Seven Hoods (1964), in which Frank first sang “My Kind of Town.” But the gem of the set — and the film that changed movie musicals forever when it busted out of the Hollywood soundstage and onto the streets of New York City — is On the Town (1949).
Focusing on a pivotal three-month period in 1965, this stirring historical drama follows Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) as he lays the groundwork for his epic civil-rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Oyelowo uncannily channels King’s every facet, from his appearance and speech mannerisms down to his quiet charisma. The supporting players — including Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King and Oprah Winfrey (the film’s producer) as activist Annie Lee Cooper — are uniformly wonderful.
Still out there in theaters:
The Age of Adaline
Never aging a day past 29 sounds like a pretty sweet deal — at first. But as Blake Lively’s titular character discovers, it also means watching everyone you love grow old — including your 80-something daughter (a radiant Ellen Burstyn) and that handsome hunk with whom you once had a thing (the ever-dashing Harrison Ford).
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Captain America (Chris Evans) has been around since World War II. Tony “Iron Man” Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is well into middle age. Those facts give an aarpish tinge to the latest all-star Marvel comics screen epic. The gang’s all here — including The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Nick Fury ( Samuel L. Jackson) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) — to battle a disagreeable robot voiced with trademark spookiness by James Spader.
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.
Far from the Madding Crowd
Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel about a plucky farmer (adorable Carey Mulligan) and the three men who woo her (a sheep farmer, a military man and a rich bachelor) gets its fourth screen incarnation. We’ll always be partial to John Schelsinger’s 1967 version , however, with Julie Christie in the lead role.
“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.
This final film from legendary documentary maker Albert Maysles ( Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens) is a love letter to style icon Iris Apfel, who at 93 still wows the fashion world with her distinctive looks. “Life is gray and dull and you might as well have a little fun when you dress,” says Apfel.
An appealing cast — including Tom Wilkinson, Kevin James and Emily Watson — enlivens this heartfelt story of a World War II-era child convinced he can magically bring his beloved dad back from the battlefield.
The Water Diviner
First-time director Russell Crowe tackles one of World War I’s most consequential events: the Battle of Gallipoli in Turkey. Crowe also stars as an Australian farmer who travels to Turkey after the war to learn what became of his three sons, reportedly among the battle’s 150,000 casualties.
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)
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