This week is light for big releases, but it does offer one of last year’s big surprise Oscar Winners, and a classic that just turned 60. If you like barely memorable romantic comedies, this is a good week for older titles, and if you like a film that sticks with you for days on end, there’s at least one great documentary worth watching. Check out this week’s releases below…


  • The Darkest Hour: Each Christmas there’s usually some kind of film meant to be counter-programming – an exploitation film that’s an alternative to the big Oscar Hopefuls and family films. In 2011, that film was The Darkest Hour. It features Emile Hirsch and Olivia Thirlby among others as a group of friends who go to Russia for a vacation, only to face an alien invasion/end of the world type situation. Unfortunately modern bad films/ B-movies aren’t so cheap that you can laugh at all of them. If this film had some rubber suit monsters, it might be more entertaining. Alas.
  • Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life: Werner Herzog‘s documentary about the Death Penalty is profoundly effecting, though many might view it as propaganda. Perhaps we’re in a culture where there is no such thing as non-partisan documenting. Even if the maker comes to the subject matter with no agenda, and only comes to a conclusion at the end, it will be seen as a statement. But this is one of those films that cuts deep and makes you think about your beliefs, so it’s highly recommended for that.
  • The Iron Lady: Though I wasn’t crazy about The Help, when Meryl Streep won Best Actress for this – for this – over Viola Davis, I was shocked and puzzled. The Iron Lady is a terrible Bio-pic about Margaret Thatcher, with Streep playing her in a film that covers her run of England through to her more recent years, where she may be suffering from dementia. It used to be that you could call something like this a TV movie of the week and everyone knew what you were talking about, but those don’t really exist any more. But this is a TV movie of the week, and it says nothing interesting about one of the most fascinating leaders of the 20th century – it exists solely to win Streep awards. In that it was successful.


  • Bounce, Kate and Leopold: Director’s Cut, Don Juan DeMarco, and The Truth About Cats & Dogs: I don’t know what about this time of year has unleashed these odd romantic comedies, but here we are. Of this lot, I’d say that Don Juan DeMarco is the best as it features a younger Johnny Depp and a bloated Marlon Brando in a reasonably charming little romantic comedy about the role of fantasy in love. And then in Bounce, that’s Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow in a film that tries to be as thoughtful meditation on death and romance. The others are forgettable.
  • A Streetcar Named Desire: This was the film that launched Marlon Brando and Elia Kazan into prominence, and through this they became two of the most important artists in the 20th century. Based on the Tennessee Williams play, the film stars Vivian Leigh as Blanche DuBois, who is a delusional woman at odds with her brother in law Stanley (Brando). Though the play may have been neutered for its cinematic run, you watch Brando in this and you see that sometimes words are secondary. Brando is dangerous and sexy and rough and indelible. He is cinema. It’s a truly great performance, and well worth picking up to see what movies could only intimate sixty years ago.

What are you purchasing this week?