This week, we’ve got two misfires — a Will Ferrell-Kevin Hart comedy and a Sean Penn action thriller — and two Certified Fresh films — Noah Baumbach’s latest wry comedy and a warm drama starring Al Pacino. Then, we’ve also got a handful of notable smaller releases, as well as a couple of choice selections from the Criterion Collection. Read on for the full list:
Put two popular, likeable, and dependably funny actors together in an odd couple-meets-fish out of water comedy, and you’d think it’d be a fairly surefire hit. Not so for Get Hard, which starred Will Ferrell as an investment banker about to go to prison and Kevin Hart as the car wash man who agrees to prepare him for life in the clink. Most critics felt that while the premise held potential, the script chose to rely on offensive stereotypes and hackneyed gags to deliver its laughs, which seldom landed. The film only managed a 29 percent Tomatometer, but if you decide to pick up the Blu-ray, you’ll get the unrated cut of the film and a number of goofy featurettes, as well as the requisite gag reel and deleted scenes.
Age, aging, and growing up (or failing to do so) often play into the films of Noah Baumbach, and While We’re Young is no different. Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play Josh and Cornelia, a childless mid-forties couple who meet and begin spending time with much younger hipster couple Jamie and Darby (played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried). Though the older pair find their younger counterparts inspiring and energizing, Josh begins to suspect something is awry. Critics were enthusiastic about the film, calling it funny and relatable en route to a Certified Fresh 84 percent. The Blu-ray contains six behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Al Pacino’s had some trouble finding his footing in recent years, so it’s nice when he gets a role that allows him to shine a bit. What might be surprising is the fact that some of his best work would come in the directorial debut of the man who wrote Cars, Tangled, and Bolt. Dan Fogelman’s film stars Pacino as an aging rocker who sets out to straighten out his past when he discovers an encouraging note written to him by John Lennon decades ago. While the supporting cast is top notch — Annette Bening, Bobby Cannavale, Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Garner — Danny Collins is Pacino’s show, and he makes the most of it, leading to a Certified Fresh 77 percent score. There are only two bonus features: a behind-the-scenes clip and a gallery of the title character’s fictional album covers.
Pierre Morel helped kickstart Liam Neeson’s late career badass phase with Taken, so why not try the same for Sean Penn? It probably wasn’t a terrible idea in and of itself, especially when Morel got the likes of Idris Elba, Javier Bardem, and Ray Winstone to surround Penn in supporting roles. The end result, however, was an uninspired, unoriginal action thriller about an ex-black ops agent (Penn) on the run from unknown assailants who may be connected to a successful hit he executed years ago. Critics were either confused or bored to exhaustion by the film, which only earned a 17 percent Tomatometer score. If you pick it up, the only extras you’ll get are trailers for other films.
Hard to Be a God (2015) (94 percent), a Russian sci-fi film based on the novel of the same name about an Earth scientist who is sent to a foreign planet for research and is treated like a deity.
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (2015) (87 percent), starring Rinko Kikuchi in a drama about a Japanese woman obsessed with the film Fargo who travels to North Dakota in search of the buried money from the movie.
Last Knights (2015) (16 percent), starring Clive Owen and Morgan Freeman in a medieval actioner about a warrior who rises up against a corrupt ruler.
And finally, two choices from the Criterion Collection: Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (100 percent), a surreal Czech New Wave fairy tale about a girl coming of age, and Five Easy Pieces (86 percent), starring Jack Nicholson in a drama about an oil rig worker who returns to his wealthy family home and attempts to reconnect with his ailing father.