One of last year’s most controversial and polarizing movies hits DVD this week. David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s twisted black comedy/thriller “Gone Girl” arrives on DVD and Blu-Ray, and with it more chances to admire Fincher’s as always stunning formal control and Rosamund Pike’s terrific work as Amy (also, a chance to hit pause on the Ben Affleck penis scene, if you’re so inclined). This week’s other big studio films hitting DVD include the solid Liam Neeson thriller “A Walk Among the Tombstones,” hitting shelves just in time for people to check that out instead of “Taken 3,” and Jason Reitman’s disastrous internet drama “Men, Women & Children,” which looks at the rise of technology with the same hysterically alarmist tone that “Reefer Madness” did with pot.
Also of note in new releases is a handful of overlooked films that have developed passionate followings. From Germany comes the gross-out film “Wetlands” and Ramon Zurcher’s delightful debut feature “The Strange Little Cat,” likely the best thing to come from a student filmmaker in years (it was made during a film seminar run by Bela Tarr). From France comes the oddity “Bird People,” which is best seen without much foreknowledge of what it’s about. Finally, from the U.S. comes Andre Benjamin’s flawed but fascinating Jimi Hendrix biopic “Jimi: All Is By My Side,” the inventive horror film “Honeymoon,” the Jim Thompson-influenced “Bad Turn Worse,” and Ira Sachs’ heartrending drama “Love Is Strange,” which works as a modern day analogue to “Make Way for Tomorrow” or “Tokyo Story.”
This week also brings some noteworthy classics to home video. Criterion is updating Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s terrific “The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant” for Blu-Ray, while Kino Lorber Studio Classics is releasing the drug-trade drama “The Falcon and the Snowman,” starring Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn, and the harrowing “the kids aren’t all right” drama “River’s Edge,” which features strong performances from Crispin Glover, Keanu Reeves and Dennis Hopper, among others. The big one, however, is the long-awaited DVD release of “Middle of Nowhere,” the breakthrough film from “Selma” director Ava DuVernay.
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Joe Bendel, Libertas Film Magazine
Noel Murray, The Dissolve
The emotions evoked by “Bird People” should be familiar to anyone who ever stared out the window of a classroom, imagining what it would be like to leave school, hop on a bike, and go for a ride around the mostly empty neighborhood. This is a wisp of a movie, and yet it deals with an experience so pervasive that it’s usually barely acknowledged—this restlessness people feel to fly off to somewhere else where they can be unsatisfied. Read more.
Criticwire Average: A-
Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York
Toggling between the developing investigation and flashbacks to the couple’s happier days in a Brooklyn brownstone (as did Flynn’s original structure), Fincher brews an ominous mood of irreconcilable differences. The director’s images—beautifully captured by cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth—don’t burn; they chill you with corpse-ready cool. Read more.
Criticwire Average: B
Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com
Marjorie Baumgarten, Austin Chronicle
“Jimi: All Is by My Side” is an evocative, probing, enlightening, and impressionistic look at the lesser-known period of Hendrix’s life: the pivotal time from 1966-67 during which the musician discovered his style and voice. Read more.
Stephen Whitty, The Star-Ledger
John Lithgow and Alfred Molina play Ben and George and they are truly wonderful, not just in their interactions, but the quiet pauses in between. You feel the seething anger Molina is keeping just in check; you watch Lithgow’s face as he listens to a piece of classical music, and you see the joy washing over it. Read more.
“Men, Women & Children”
Criticwire Average: C+
Jason Bailey, Flavorwire
Following last year’s bizarrely tone-deaf adaptation of Joyce Maynard’s “Labor Day,” Reitman’s latest is a peculiarly alarmist ensemble piece about how, in spite of our copious technology, we’re all just so disconnected, man. When Reitman burst on the scene with “Thank You for Smoking” back in 2005, he seemed bent on making another “Dr. Strangelove”; based on his new picture, he’s apparently spent those years harboring the desire to make another “Crash.” Read more.
“Middle of Nowhere”
Criticwire Average: A-
Sam Adams, The A.V. Club
The power of “Middle Of Nowhere” is cumulative, conveyed in sustained tone and deepening character rather than bravura sequences or explosive confrontations. But its lack of pyrotechnics doesn’t translate to a paucity of feeling. If anything, it’s more affecting for the leisurely way it rolls out its story, allowing each step to resonate before moving on to the next. Read more.
“The Strange Little Cat”
Criticwire Average: A-
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, The A.V. Club
Movies work, in part, by alternately capturing and inventing reality. The medium has a power—too rarely tapped nowadays—to make the ordinary seem more interesting or meaningful than it really is, imbuing commonplace objects and interactions with suspense. That’s exactly what “The Strange Little Cat” accomplishes in its best moments. The result is entrancing. Read more.
Matt Singer, The Dissolve
“A Walk Among The Tombstones” also has Neeson at the peak of his powers as a glowering antihero, even though the film pushes him into a decidedly more subdued register than the Taken films, where his character is portrayed as a combination of Rambo, MacGyver, and Jesus. While still cutting a convincing figure as a badass—particularly when peering over the upturned collar of a terrific corduroy overcoat—Neeson plays Scudder as a lonely recovering alcoholic, hounded by unrelenting guilt and regret. Read more.