This week on home video, we’ve got a new action thriller from Luc Besson, a mediocre Conjuring spinoff, and Laika’s latest stop-motion feature film. Then we also have a number of notable smaller films, like a Certified Fresh crime drama starring Tom Hardy and an acclaimed documentary about an internet activist. Read on for details:
French writer-director Luc Besson has been the brains behind some of the most gleefully brainless thrillers in recent memory, like the Taken franchise, and though he doesn’t get behind the camera as often as he once did, we still get something like Lucy every once in a while. Scarlett Johansson stars as an American ex-pat living in Taiwan who is forced to become a drug mule by a Korean mob boss. When the experimental drug begins seeping into her system, she begins to experience heightened physical and mental abilities, which she utilizes to seek revenge. Besson has a thing for powerful leading ladies, and Lucy seems to be aware of its own silliness, so critics were relatively kind to the film, ludicrous logic and all. It may dumbfound you and confound you, but if you’re looking for a cheesy actioner, this may do the trick.
The very beginning of 2013’s horror hit The Conjuring introduced audiences to the paranormal team of Ed and Lorraine Warren via the story of a mysterious doll named Annabelle. While we wait for the sequel to that film, the producers thought, “Eh, why not throw’em a bone in the meantime?” Hence, last year’s Annabelle, a Conjuring spinoff that includes the same introductory scene from the earlier film and builds off that to explain the origins of the creepy possessed doll that makes things go bump in the night. Unfortunately, critics weren’t too impressed with the story, which, like a lot of horror films these days, simply borrows elements from better predecessors and attempts to jump-scare you into submission. At just 29 percent on the Tomatometer, Annabelle is kind of a poor appetizer for The Conjuring 2, but if you just want to spend more time in that universe, it’ll do.
The stop-motion animation studio Laika had great success with their first two features, 2009’s Coraline and 2012’s ParaNorman, so there was some anticipation for their third, The Boxtrolls. Isaac Hempstead-Wright leads an all-star voice cast as Eggs, a human boy raised by the titular Boxtrolls in an underground home beneath the city of Cheesebridge. The Boxtrolls are misunderstood, however, and when an exterminator named Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) vows to wipe them out, Eggs teams up with this first human friend, Winnie (Elle Fanning), to save his family. If you’ve seen the trailer for this film, you know that its visuals are both typically spectacular and a little off-kilter, which is also indicative of its sense of humor. Though it’s not Laika’s best effort to date, it’s still an entertaining family film that’s fascinating to watch.
The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (93 percent), a Certified Fresh documentary about the programming wiz (and Reddit co-founder) whose tireless efforts in information activism resulted in legal troubles and, ultimately, suicide at the age of 26.
The Drop (89 percent), starring Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini in a Certified Fresh crime thriller about a bartender who gets targeted by the Chechen mob when a robbery goes awry.
The Mule (85 percent), a dark comedy about a drug mule who decides withhold evidence by not… performing his bodily functions.
The Green Prince (77 percent), a documentary about Mosab Hassan Yousef, a Palestinian who operated as an Israeli spy.
William H. Macy’s Rudderless (63 percent), starring Billy Crudup and Anton Yelchin in the story of a grieving father who discovers his son’s demo tapes and decides to form a band to play the music.
Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem (52 percent), starring Christoph Waltz and Matt Damon in a sci-fi drama about a computer genius tasked with discovering the meaning of life.
White Bird in a Blizzard (49 percent), starring Shailene Woodley in a coming-of-age drama about a young woman whose mother goes missing and who slowly comes to grips with the truth about the disappearance.
A Little Game, starring Janeane Garofalo and F. Murray Abraham in a family drama about a young girl who doesn’t get along with her peers but becomes unlikely friends with a local chess master.