We’ve got another relatively thin selection on home video as we approach the summer movie season. This week, the big movies are the latest Liam Neeson actioner, a drama that earned some acclaim for Jennifer Aniston, and a little-seen but well-received Iranian vampire movie. After that, we’ve got a few indies and a couple of choices from the Criterion Collection. Read on for details:
Taken is officially a trilogy, and as it is with many franchises, each successive film has experienced a sharp decline in quality, at least according to the critics. Liam Neeson reprises his role as the beleaguered Bryan Mills, the ex-special ops guy with, yes, “a very particular set of skills,” who this time is framed for the murder of his ex-wife (Famke Janssen). Fearing his daughter (Maggie Grace) may be next, Bryan evades police and attempts to clear his name. Surprisingly, nobody was “taken” in this installment, but its deviance from formula wasn’t enough to sway critics, who stuck the film with a measly 9 percent Tomatometer for its watered down action scenes and senseless story. We’re all for Neeson’s reinvention as a gritty, middle-aged action icon, but there’s probably better stuff out there for him than this.
Marlon Wayans impressed a lot of folks with his role in Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream, in which his portrayal of a heroin addict showed audiences he was capable of more than lowest-common-denominator comedy. But then he went right back to making Scary Movies. Why mention Marlon Wayans in a writeup about Cake? Because Jennifer Aniston has had similar trouble shedding her ditzy “Rachel” persona from Friends and being taken seriously, despite an acclaimed turn in 2002’s The Good Girl. Then, last year, along came Cake, the story of a bitter, troubled woman who is haunted by a tragic car accident and the suicide of another woman in her support group. It gave Aniston the chance to dress down and showcase her dramatic chops, which most critics agree was quite effective. Unfortunately, the film built around her performance largely failed to meet her halfway, and Cake only managed a 49 percent on the Tomatometer. It’s arguably worth seeing for Aniston, but not a whole lot else.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) (95 percent), Ana Lily Amirpour’s much talked-about debut, combining elements from different genres in telling the story of a young vampire who meets other denizens of the night.
Little Accidents (2015) (52 percent), starring Elizabeth Banks and Josh Lucas in a drama about three strangers learning to deal with a local tragedy in their small town.
Everly (2015) (34 percent), starring Salma Hayek in an action thriller about a prostitute defending herself against assassins sent by her former boss.
The River (1951) (86 percent), Jean Renoir’s first color film about an English girl living in India, is the first offering from Criterion.
The second offering is a collection of three crime films from legendary Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu.