With most small screen outlets avoiding the cluttered landscape of Christmas week, five films will hit the shelves on DVD and Blu-Ray this week.
1. Emma Stone's Starring Turn in "Easy A" (B-)
Shortly after receiving a Golden Globe nomination for Emma Stone's lead role in the film, Will Gluck's high school comedy "Easy A" comes home on DVD. Framed around the story of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter," Emma Stone stars as a high school girl who decides to use to her advantage the rumor mill that has spread lies about losing her virginity. In his Screen review for the film, Tim Grierson says, "Sassy but also sincere, 'Easy A' is an immensely likeable high-school comedy powered by an appealing lead performance from up-and-coming actress Emma Stone...[The film] doesn’t entirely reconcile its conflicting desires to be both a realistic teen comedy and a fizzy fantasy of adolescent life, but with ample help from a strong supporting cast, Stone’s star-making turn helps smooth over the movie’s rough edges."
2. Chad on Screen: "A Screaming Man" (criticWIRE rating: B-)
Mahamat-Saleh Haroun has created a global story centered in a nation rarely explored on film: Chad. In "A Screaming Man," an older former swimming champion, Adam, works at the pool of an upscale hotel in Chad capital N'Djamena. At a time of civil war, Adam is enlisted to help the authorities just as he must concede his position at the hotel to his son when new Chinese owners take over the hotel. Todd McCarthy, writing from Cannes, said it is a film "in which an African civil war is seen strictly from the intimate point of view of one city-dwelling family, is beautifully composed, absorbing in a low-key way but rather pat in the final analysis."
3. The LaBeouf/Douglas Team of "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" (criticWIRE rating: C+)
The sequel to 1987's "Wall Street," Oliver Stone's "Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps" follows Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) as he slinks out from behind bars to make good with his daughter (Carey Mulligan), and ends up finding a mentor with whom he can foster his sneaky ways in her fiance (Shia LaBeouf). Writing during its early screenings, Anne Thompson notes, "The movie follows so many threads and characters that none of them is fully-fledged, somehow. I wanted more of Mulligan, Douglas and LaBeouf, who lost his father early in life and cares deeply about his old lion boss (Frank Langella) and seeks a relationship with Gekko, who manipulates him effectively..,The movie pops in and out of satirizing and referencing itself and trying to create an authentic drama. And yet it moves along entertainingly, even if the resolution seems Hollywood pat."
4. A Feminist Comes Home in "Let it Rain" (criticWIRE rating: B-)
In Agnes Jaoui's third film, the author of a feminist bestseller, played by the director and co-writer herself, returns home from Paris to manage the affairs of her deceased parents. Writing on the film, which was written by Jaoui and her hsuband, iW's Eric Kohn writes, "Closer in tone to smartly scripted American cable programs than anything currently unspooling at the multiplexes, Jaoui and Bacri’s script adopts a humble, unhurried approach. There’s no climactic eruption of emotion where latent anger bursts forth in a tell-all monologue. The cheery finale avoids fully resolving each personal dilemma. Instead, 'Let It Rain' positions happiness as a constant work in progress."
5. From Hole in the Wall to Haute Cuisine in Hamburg: "Soul Kitchen" (criticWIRE rating: B-)
Day in and day out, working class people in Hamburg come to Soul Kitchen. When things start looking bleak for the restaurant and a talented chef crosses the path of Soul Kitchen's struggling owner, the restaurant gets a facelift. Expecting more of the nuanced serious or revolutionary tones of director Fatih Akin's previous films, Mike D'Angelo observed of his viewing experience of "Soul Kitchen," "once I finally surrendered to its goofy charm (which took nearly half an hour, so conditioned was I by Akin’s fairly somber previous film, 'The Edge of Heaven'), it became one of those rare cinema experiences that’s more akin to a party than a movie."