What to Watch: Jan. 14-27, 2014

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

We’re breaking form this week and going alphabetical instead of preference order because of the INCREDIBLE diversity of product available for you to rent, buy, or stream over the next ten days. How does someone really compare “Sunrise” to “You’re Next”? Why bother?

If you need to know, “Closed Circuit” and “Runner Runner” aren’t really worth your time and “A.C.O.D.” and “Riddick” are flawed but everything else in here comes with varying degrees of recommendation, particularly the quiet beauty of “Sunrise” and the incredible charm of “Enough Said”. We’re also loading you up since we’ll be off next week seeing flicks in Park City at the Sundance Film Festival. There’s plenty in here to tide you over. Pick your favorites.

20 Feet From Stardom
20 Feet From Stardom
Photo credit: The Weinstein Company

“20 Feet From Stardom”

One of the most crowd-pleasing documentaries in years is likely to find an even bigger audience through word-of-mouth on the home market. And it’s one of several 2013 Sundance hits making their home debut the same week as the launch of the 2014 edition (this one, “Fruitvale Station,” “The Spectacular Now” [which we’ll cover separately], and “A.C.O.D.”). I remember when “20 Feet” premiered last year, Park City loved the movie. We could tell it would be a hit immediately. And it doesn’t hurt that the GREAT Judith Hill from “The Voice” is one of the subjects. These are incredibly talented people who deserve a bit of attention. I’m happy there’s a movie to give it to them.

From Patrick McDonald’s theatrical review: “And therein lies the centerpiece emotion in the documentary, and what sets it apart from just a music history lesson. That a hit record, a breakout as a front-and-center artist, is a right-place-right-time twist of fate. Springsteen, Jagger, Bette Midler, Stevie Wonder are all praising these singers to the heavens, but the fickle nature of name recognition and “the hit record” eludes their grasp. If that’s not a life lesson, then what is?

While the lead singers in rock, pop, and R&B are the ones who get the glory, knowledgeable music fans will tell you the backing vocalists often add the touches that make a performance truly memorable, and though many backup singers have the respect of their peers in the music business, they’re all but unknown to the average listener. Twenty Feet From Stardom pays homage to some of these unsung heroes, including Darlene Love (the un-credited lead voice on some of Phil Spector’s most memorable productions of the 1960s), Merry Clayton (who contributed a striking vocal cameo on the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”, Lisa Fischer (who has appeared on albums by Sting, Tina Turner, and Aretha Franklin, as well as touring with the Rolling Stones), and the Waters Family (they sang with Michael Jackson on the album Thriller and lent their voices to the films The Lion King and Avatar).

Special Features:
o Deleted Scenes
o Short Film - The Buddy System
o Q&A with Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fisher, & Director Morgan Neville

Where to Watch: Blu-ray, DVD, Amazon Instant Streaming, Vudu, iTunes

Photo credit: Paramount


A lackluster script holds back a fantastic comedy ensemble but there are enough talented people involved in “A.C.O.D.” and occassional laughs that you might want to take a look on a snowy January night. Fans of “Parks and Recreation” especially. I wish “A.C.O.D.” was as smart as its cast and it suffers from the common problem of the 2013 Sundance comedy (weak final act) but you could make worse comedy choices this Blu-ray season.

From my theatrical review: “The incredibly talented men and women who make up the cast of “A.C.O.D.” make the relative failure of its script easier to bear. Just hearing brilliant actors like Richard Jenkins and Catherine O’Hara at each other’s throats or watching remarkably likable stars like Adam Scott and Mary Elizabeth Winstead figure out their relationship has enough charm to get one from lights down to credits roll. And the first hour of “A.C.O.D.” is pretty damn funny, allowing one to hope that it will develop into something truly memorable.

A.C.O.D. follows Carter (Adam Scott), a seemingly well-adjusted Adult Child of Divorce. Having survived the madness of his parents (Richard Jenkins and Catherine O’Hara) divorce, Carter now has a successful career and supportive girlfriend (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). But when his younger brother (Clark Duke) gets engaged, Carter is forced to reunite his bitterly divorced parents and their new spouses (Amy Poehler and Ken Howard) for the wedding, causing the chaos of his childhood to return including his wacky therapist (Jane Lynch).

Special Features:
o Cast and Crew Discussions About A.C.O.D.
o “Coping with A.C.O.D.” and Other Hilarious Public Service Announcements
o Amy Poehler Outtakes

Where to Watch: Blu-ray, DVD, Amazon Instant Streaming, Vudu, iTunes

Photo credit: MGM


Too many critics and film goers immediately write off remakes as having no creative value. If you’re one of those, don’t bother here. Kimberley Peirce’s admittedly-flawed remake of the Stephen King classic doesn’t bring enough new to the game to win over those automatically against remakes but I found enough interesting in the central performances to justify a look. Leave your expectations at the door and you may do the same.

From my theatrical review: “Director Kimberly Peirce (“Boys Don’t Cry”) doesn’t convey the dread or atmosphere of Stephen King’s “Carrie” to a degree that elevates it to the source material’s true potential but she does handle performance in a way that’s rare in the genre, making this remake one of the best horror films of the season. It won’t soon supplant the De Palma version but it brings King’s story to another generation, finding the relatable truth in the story of a girl pushed too far by religion, adolescence, bullying, and society.

Chloe Grace Moretz and Oscar nominee Julianne Moore star in this exhilarating reimagining of Stephen King’s iconic best seller. After merciless taunting from classmates and abuse at the hand of her religious fanatic mother (Moore), Carrie’s (Mortez) anger - and her telekinetic powers - are unleashed. And when a prom prank goes horribly wrong, events spiral out of control until the terrifying conclusion of this powerful, pulse-quickening horror story.

Special Features:
o Alternate Ending Not Shown In Theaters
o Deleted/Alternate Scenes
o Creating Carrie
o The Power Of Telekinesis
o Commentary By Director Kimberly Peirce
o Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise

Where to Watch: Blu-ray, DVD, Amazon Instant Streaming, Vudu, iTunes

Closed Circuit
Closed Circuit
Photo credit: Universal

“Closed Circuit”

Such a stunning cast of talented actors just totally wasted on an inert spy thriller script that goes nowhere quickly. It starts with such promise but just fizzles out before long.

Patrick McDonald liked it way more than I did in his theatrical review: “The performances are top drawer and the cast is deep with veteran players. Eric Bana is more character-driven than leading man in the story, and is able to communicate the frustration of the circumstance. Rebecca Hall is too young and too physically striking to embody an intellectual defense attorney, but she pulls it off by creating gravitas and vulnerability. And what is a British bureaucrat film without the impressive Jim Broadbent, and the essential Clarán Hinds? Both men know what they’re doing in approach to stoic characterizations.

From the producers of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy comes a riveting and suspenseful mystery starring Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall. A high-profile terrorism case unexpectedly brings two exceptional lawyers (Bana and Hall) with a romantic past together on the defense team. They soon realize they’ve stepped into a dangerous web of cover-ups and lies, and their knowledge of the government’s top-secret classified evidence has put their reputations and lives at stake. Co-starring Ciarán Hinds, Julia Stiles and Jim Broadbent, it’s a non-stop, heart-racing guessing game that critics call “an entertaining conspiracy thriller.” (Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press)

Special Features:
o Secrets Behind the Camera: Closed Circuit

Where to Watch: Blu-ray, DVD, Amazon Instant Streaming, Vudu, iTunes

Enough Said
Enough Said
Photo credit: Fox

“Enough Said”

A beautiful, heartfelt script from the great Nicole Holofcener allows great actors like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Toni Collette, Catherine Keener, and the late James Gandolfini to do some of their career-best work. This is one of those movies that people like to claim doesn’t get made any more. The next time that someone asks you why there are no more romantic comedies for adults that treat them like intellectual, emotional people, point them to the fantastic “Enough Said,” one of my favorite films of 2013.

From my theatrical review: “It gets to the heart of some very rarely explored concepts in relationship films like the idea that just because a person isn’t right for one spouse doesn’t mean he won’t be right for another. Holofcener and her ridiculously talented cast find truth about love and second chances not in their set-up but in the honesty of the characters placed within it. I love this movie.

Divorced mom Eva (Louis-Dreyfus) may be falling for Albert (Gandolfini), a sweet, funny, like-minded divorcé. But as their relationship blossoms, Eva befriends Marianne (Keener), who’s always complaining about her ex-husband. When Eva realizes that Albert is the target of Marianne’s rants, she begins to question her own perceptions about first impressions and second chances.

Special Features:
o Second Takes
o Promotional Featurettes: Cast, Story, Meet Eva and Albert, Nicole Holofcener, Julia

Where to Watch: Blu-ray, DVD, Amazon Instant Streaming, Vudu, iTunes

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