This week’s biggest new release on DVD and Blu-Ray is either 2014’s smartest dumb movie or dumbest smart movie, depending on who you ask. Luc Besson’s “Lucy” is predicated on the absurd notion that humans only use 10% of their brains, and the film’s actual science-influenced material is oversimplified. But Besson puts together some of the most breathtaking, transcendent images even put in a popcorn movie, as much “2001” or “The Tree of Life” as “Leon: The Professional,” and Scarlett Johansson’s performance as a woman slowly evolving past humanity rivals her work in “Her” and “Under the Skin” as her best.
Other new releases include Laika’s “The Boxtrolls,” a recent Academy Award nominee for Best Animated Film; “Annabelle,” the silly-looking prequel to “The Conjuring”; “Bullhead” director Michael R. Roskam’s English-language debut “The Drop,” featuring the final screen performance of James Gandolfini; Gregg Araki’s “White Bird in a Blizzard,” featuring a terrific lead performance from Shailene Woodley; Terry Gilliam’s “The Zero Theorem,” a disappointing “Brazil” retread; and a pair of documentaries, “The Green Prince” (about Mosab Hassan Yousef, Israel’s undercover agent in Hamas from 1997 to 2007) and “The Internet’s Own Boy” (about internet activist Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide following an overzealous prosecution for computer crimes).
On the classic front comes Criterion’s release of the great Preston Sturges screwball comedy “The Palm Beach Story,” which features a sextet of all-timer comic performances from Claudette Colbert, Mary Astor, Rudy Vallee, Joel McCrea, Sig Arno and Robert Dudley as “the Wienie King.” Criterion also has a disc for Guy Maddin’s documentary “My Winnipeg,” a surreal mockumentary about the director’s hometown. Twilight Time, meanwhile, has releases of “The Bride Wore Black,” Francois Truffaut’s flawed but interesting Hitchcock homage with a bridal revenge storyline that predates “Kill Bill,” and “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” one of Woody Allen’s funniest and most purely romantic movies that serves as both a love letter to the (in this case literally) transportive power of the movies and a reminder of when Allen could use fantasy for more than just a self-congratulatory pat on the back (I’m looking at you, “Midnight in Paris”).
Drew Taylor, The Playlist
Whether or not “The Boxtrolls” signals Laika’s big breakthrough obviously remains to be seen, but that doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme. Their films are esoteric wonders that fully defy the general etiquette of animated features —they’re loose, wild and barely contained. But they’re also incredibly emotional, beautiful and resonant. Read more.
Michael Phillips, The Chicago Tribune
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, The A.V. Club
Jason Bailey, Flavorwire
Araki pulls off a rather remarkable bait-and-switch here, indicative of a filmmaking sophistication that continues to impress (particularly after sitting through the ugly, screeching likes of “The Doom Generation”). And Woodley reminds us that she’s not just the hippie queen of YA adaptations, but a bracing actress who’s not averse to taking some gutty risks. Read more.
“The Zero Theorem”
Criticwire Average: B-
Stephen Whitty, The Star-Ledger
I’m not quite sure I have a handle on what Terry Gilliam is trying to say in “The Zero Theorem.” I’m not sure he does, either.But I also think his movies tend not so much to be his answers to things, as records of his questions: What has technology given us? What has it taken away? What’s next?It’s a subject he returns to every so often. “Brazil” was the first chapter; “12 Monkeys” was the next. Now comes the third — and, I’m afraid, least — installment with “The Zero Theorem.” Read more.