I haven't been keeping as up to date on things as I'd like, so in an effort to make up for lost time here's a joint look into the new DVD releases from both February and March. Usually handled in a monthly installment, missing February has forced me to play a little catch up (January's recommendations). And since there's no shortage of Oscar contenders arriving on DVD these past two months, I'm going to offer my top 8 movie selections for February and March.
Room - 3 and a half stars out of 4 - (Read my full review here)
Lenny Abrahamson's Best Picture nominee, Room, is an emotional conquest that possesses 2015's finest performance. The well-deserved Best Actress Oscar winner, Brie Larson, is an absolute marvel. Her deep-rooted portrayal of an imprisoned sex slave and mother who's forced to raise her child in a 10 foot by 10 foot shed is as gut-wrenching as it sounds. But equally as amazing is her character's second half of the film where she has to come to terms with the choices she made while raising her son. It's introspective and moving on so many levels. Room is one of 2015's most powerful films and it's clearly a must-see. (March 1st)
Spotlight - 3 and a half stars out of 4 - (Read my full review here)
There are plenty of reasons why Tom McCarthy's gripping true story, Spotlight, won the Oscar for Best Picture just last month. On top of an excellent screenplay the film's cast offers one of 2015's finest ensembles. There are no shortage of spectacular moments from onscreen talents such as Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci and many more. Spotlight examines the hard-nosed investigation performed by The Boston Globe's reporting team into sexual abuse allegations and an eventual cover-up by the Catholic Church. Spotlight is a well-paced and riveting film and that's worthy of its Best Picture title. (February 23rd)
Brooklyn - 3 stars out of 4 - (Read my full review here)
2015's most memorable romance is the adapted crowd-pleaser from John Crowley, Brooklyn. Best Actress Nominee, and perhaps a winner on any other year, Saoirse Ronan gives an earnest turn as Eilis Lacey, a young Irish woman who journeys to Brooklyn in the 1950s in hopes of a better life. But as home-sickness begins to stir up second thoughts, an emotional romance with an Italian plumber named Tony (Emory Cohen) helps her find happiness thousands of miles from her family. Despite an obviously rushed third act that's intended to generate more controversy than it manages to, Brooklyn wins over its audience with passionate and endearing characters that leave a lasting impression. (March 15th)
The Hateful Eight - 3 stars out of 4 - (Read my full review here)
Writer and director Quentin Tarantino's latest linguistic masterpiece, The Hateful Eight, blends together a Western-style backdrop with the filmmaker's unique storytelling. Kurt Russell stars as "The Hangman", a bounty hunter transporting a wanted criminal, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), to be hung in a nearby city. But when blizzard conditions forces them to take shelter in a store for the evening with a mysterious collection of strangers, "The Hangman" must see to it that he and his prisoner escape the night alive. A natural comparison will be made between The Hateful Eight and Tarantino's other most recent work and Western, Django Unchained. And although this latest entry is a tiny step below its predecessor, make no mistake about it that The Hateful Eight stands very well all on its own. (March 29th)
The Big Short - 3 stars out of 4 - (Read my full review here)
The Academy Awards' Best Picture race came down to a trio of mighty competitors. Mentioned above was the eventual winner, Spotlight, and one of the other heavy hitters was Adam McKay's true story comedy of sorts, The Big Short. Spanning from 2005 through the eventual 2008 housing crisis that devastated this country, McKay's film examines a select few who had the foresight to see this inevitable economic disaster. Christian Bale rightfully earned an Oscar nomination and other strong performances were turned in by Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt and many more. Perhaps the greatest aspect of The Big Short was the film's ability to put a more entertaining and comedic twist on an otherwise intimidating and wordy industry.
99 Homes - 3 stars out of 4 - (Read my rapid review here)
Andrew Garfield delivers what may be a career best performance in Ramin Bahrani's hard-hitting drama, 99 Homes. Similar to The Big Short, this film addresses a more personal representation of the horrors that surrounded the housing market collapse in 2008. After a recently unemployed father (Garfield) loses his family's home in a foreclosure, he must sell his soul to the same crooked real estate broker (Michael Shannon) who evicted him. What begins as a saddening examination culminates in a tense and gripping finale that's beautifully executed. The Big Short garnered an enormous amount of acclaim but, in all honesty, 99 Homes stands right up there with it. (February 9th)
Bridge of Spies - 3 stars out of 4 - (Read my full review here)
Steven Spielberg's latest Best Picture Nominee, Bridge of Spies, marks a triumphant return for leading star Tom Hanks, who missed out on a nomination himself, as well as the emergence of a new star, Best Supporting Actor winner Mark Rylance. During the height of the Cold War a Russian spy (Rylance) is captured by the U.S. Government and ordered to stand trial. Meanwhile, an American pilot is forced to eject from his plane and becomes seized by the Russians. An insurance lawyer (Hanks) is handed the difficult task of negotiating a swap between these two hostile nations. Spielberg always swings for the fences and, although Bridge of Spies falls short of being a home run, the films represents a solid line drive double in the gap. (February 2nd)
Steve Jobs - 3 stars out of 4 - (Read my full review here)
I've been pretty clear in labeling Danny Boyle as my favorite director. I love his colorful style and phenomenal use of music to tell imaginative stories. But while his most recent endeavor, the biopic Steve Jobs, fell short of my expectations, it still represents a solid film in its own right. The uniquely structured screenplay examines the controversial and iconic technological visionary at three specific product launches throughout his career. Aaron Sorkin's dialogue heavy script delivers plenty of fantastic one-liners and Michael Fassbender offers a brilliant portrayal, but the overall effect leaves something to be desired. Danny Boyle always has a way of generating such an explosive and unforgettable finale in almost all of his works, but Steve Jobs never packs an impactful punch like it should. (February 16th)
Honorable Mention: The latest James Bond film, Spectre (2/9), is available as well as critically adored options such as Creed (3/1) and Black Mass (2/16). I wasn't as big of a fan of those two films but I found modest enjoyment in other marketed titles such as Concussion (3/29), The Night Before (3/1) and the Tina Fey & Amy Poehler comedy, Sisters (3/15). A trio of Oscar contenders I'd suggest staying away from are Trumbo (2/16), The Danish Girl (3/1) & Carol (3/15), as well as Ron Howard's special effects letdown, In the Heart of the Sea (3/8).