Denzel Washington does everything humanly possible to keep this movie in the air. Yet, for all his talents, Flight crashes all too soon because the script just doesn’t have the right design. Washington plays Whip Whitaker, a talented pilot with a substance-abuse problem. When Whip’s plane malfunctions, he saves the day by turning it upside down. Despite the heroics, his character flaw is revealed — setting in motion a dull courtroom drama that fills the back half of the movie. A confused and uneven drama built around a spectacular special effects sequence in the first 20 minutes, Flight moves in circles as it tries to separate the idea of personal responsibility from perceived heroism without success. Special features include Origins of Flight, Making-Of, Anatomy of a Plane Crash and digital copy.
A Late Quartet
Slowly dragging a horsehair bow across four taut strings of character, director Yaron Zilberman creates a tight little piece of cinematic chamber music in A Late Quartet. Neither flamboyant nor sedate, this moody winter’s tale goes for a very tempered, authentic mood as it scratches at the guts of a seasoned string quartet. Christopher Walken pulls us into the “F hole” of this particular instrument as Peter Mitchell, a veteran cellist who is diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the top of the picture. An ensemble piece featuring Mark Ivanir as the first violin, along with Catherine Keener and Philip Seymour Hoffman as a married couple struggling to keep their egos in check, Zilberman nails the inner tensions of a veteran ensemble, but doesn’t take it anywhere all that special because the actual drama often feels childish. At least Walken proves he can play ordinary characters without a crazy streak, and redeems this soap opera with unvarnished honesty. Special features include discord and harmony featurette.
Paul Williams: Still Alive
Three and a half stars
He wrote for the Carpenters and David Bowie, and his name is all over the soundtrack for A Star is Born. Yet, Paul Williams disappeared from the show-business radar once the 1980s kicked into high gear. Documentary filmmaker Stephen Kessler always wondered what happened to the short, mop-haired pop-culture fixture, so he set off on a journey of discovery — camera in hand — that begins in a Winnipeg nightclub. Kessler tries to capture Williams’ story from a standard documentary perspective, but even Williams is veteran enough to know the mission will fail miserably. Kessler doesn’t have the chops of a Barbara Kopple. He’s too immersed in his own fandom, and too novice to understand his own gaze, but when Williams encourages him to stand tall and acknowledge his own yarn in the denouement, things don’t get any less awkward — but they do become more cinematic. Special features include commentary and more.
Celeste and Jesse Forever
Two and a half stars
When a movie begins on a note that doesn’t ring true, it’s almost impossible to keep that balloon of disbelief aloft. And yet director Lee Toland Krieger and writer-actors Rashida Jones and Will McCormack insist on punting us through a sometimes funny, often tired, but perpetually bewildering ride through a supposedly amicable divorce. Jesse (Andy Samberg) and Celeste (Rashida Jones) are madly in love when we meet them, but as the montage of balloons and swoons peters out in the opening frames, we realize their relationship is on the skids. The couple calls it quits, but for some reason, they can’t let go. Bound by friendship and familiarity, Jesse and Celeste have to navigate their way to personal empowerment without using the other as a crutch — and it’s hard to watch, mostly because neither character is all that strong, or all that in touch with their inner truth. Aiming for quirky cool, Celeste and Jesse finally feels irritating because in the end, it’s a little self-absorbed. Special features include audio commentary, making-of, and deleted scenes.
Hello I Must Be Going
The movie got lots of attention during its Sundance run last year, but this Todd Louiso movie promptly disappeared under layers of Hollywood drivel. It’s too bad, because Melanie Lynskey delivers one of the most underappreciated performances of the year as Amy, a woman stunted by her post-divorce depression. Comparisons to Lena Dunham’s Girls are inevitable, especially with Girls co-star Christopher Abbott in the frame as the object of desire. Sweet, believable and completely unexpected, Hello I Must Be Going may finally get some respect as an in-home release.
Here Comes the Boom
Kevin James plays a biology teacher who wants to save special programs at his cash-strapped school. Yet, where most faculty members would turn to bake sales and car washes, this teacher turns to mixed martial arts fighting. The yuks are supposed to start there, but every gag feels like a wrestling match in itself as good taste, grown-up behaviour and overall intelligence are sacrificed in the name of screwball violence. Special features include gag reel, deleted scenes and Here Comes the Cast featurette.
Also released Feb. 5:
Ballad of Narayama
Big Lebowski Collector’s Edition
Best of Warner Bros. Musicals
Cabaret 40th Anniversary Edition
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel
End of Animal
Gabe The Cupid Dog
My Worst Nightmare
Peter Pan Diamond Edition
Tyler Perry’s Madea Gets a Job
Whitney: The Woman Behind the Voice
© Copyright 2013