Monday, July 6, 2015
DVD Outlook: July 2015
Although the summer DVD and Blu-Ray releases never seem to stack up very well against the in-theater blockbuster selections, July offers a diverse selection of worthwhile titles (June's releases). In fact, two of this month's top recommendations currently sit among my favorite films so far this year. Here are the best offerings for the month of July.
Ex Machina - 3 stars out of 4 - (Read my full review here)
My top suggestion of the month is the cerebral sci-fi thriller, Ex Machina, which comes from the inventive mind of writer/director Alex Garland. Also a notable novelist, Garland is best known for authoring The Beach, in addition to his many collaborations as a screenwriter for filmmaker Danny Boyle on other projects like 28 Days Later and Sunshine. Yet, finally given the freedom to work alone on his own unique vision, Garland delivers the story of a young programmer (About Time's Domhnall Gleeson) who wins a competition at his company that affords him the opportunity to spend a week with their CEO (Oscar Isaac) working on a groundbreaking new project. But once he arrives, he quickly learns that his job is to assist in an experiment with the world's first legitimate artificially intelligent robot. Ex Machina dives deep into the psyche with many fascinating subplots tackling all different angles of this scary and not-so-distant possibility. The writing it top notch and the performances are gripping in this rare sci-fi treat. (July 14th)
Clouds of Sils Maria - 3 stars out of 4 - (Read my rapid review here)
As the old adage says, "never judge a book by its cover". While scouring through the programming for last year's Philadelphia Film Festival, I noticed a lot of attention had been given to the female centric film, Clouds of Sils Maria. Since nothing else in its time slot caught my attention, I reluctantly gave Olivier Assayas' drama a chance and I was pleasantly surprised. In the later stages of her career, famous actress, Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche), is forced to confront her middle-aged reality after being asked to star in the revival of the same play that sparked her career. Except this time around, she tackles the opposite role of a frail and older woman who's manipulated by her younger co-star. As both the writer and director, Assayas conjures up an insightful and clever screenplay that draws heavy parallels between the current life of this veteran actress and the storyline of play she's co-starring in once again. Binoche is tremendous in the role and Kristen Stewart gives a career best performance. Admittedly, though, Clouds of Sils Maria is a slow paced and dialogue heavy film that should be solely reserved for fans of stage-plays, because that's exactly how the movie unravels. (July 14th)
'71 - 3 stars out of 4 - (No official review available)
Another premiere selection from last year's Philadelphia Film Festival was Yann Damange's action-thriller, '71. Unbroken star, Jack O'Connell, had a breakout year in 2014, and this entry is a far more engaging war-time film than Angelina Jolie's religiously-infused clunker. O'Connell stars as Gary Hook, a young British soldier who is mistakenly left behind by his unit following a riot on the volatile streets of Belfast. Scared and unable to distinguish between allies and enemies, Gary must survive the night in hopes that his unit will return to rescue him. '71 brandishes an elevated amount of intensity and suspense that's guaranteed to appeal to moviegoers of all different tastes, especially those with an affection for war-centered features. (July 7th)
Honorable Mention: The comedy sequel, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (7/14), doesn't quite stack up to the original but it's sure to appease select audiences. Another crowd-pleasing, albeit it hokey, drama reaching the shelves this month is Simon Curtis' Woman in Gold (7/7). For anyone craving a romantic flick, Nicholas Sparks strikes again with The Longest Ride (7/14). The rest of this month's second tier mentions have a darker angle to them. First up is one of the most raved about American indie horror films in recent memory, It Follows (7/14). And finally, the vampire comedy-horror that dazzled audiences at the Toronto International Film Festival and garnered lavish reviews is What We Do in the Shadows (7/21).