It’s a short week for this week in home video with one major release and a host of minor ones. The major release this week is the long-anticipated Blu-ray release of “Mad Max: Fury Road” one of the absolute best pictures of the year. Directed by a 70-year-old George Miller, “Fury Road” is the fourth film in the “Mad Max” franchise, and the first without Mel Gibson in the titular role, but after spending twenty years in Development Hell, the film triumphed in theaters wowing critics and audiences alike. Captured by the army of the tyrannical Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) in the midst of a dystopian nuclear holocaust, Max (Tom Hardy) is imprisoned and used as a “blood bag” for depleted army members (colloquially called War Boys). When one of Joe’s lieutenants Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is sent to collect gasoline, but when she escapes with five of Joe’s wives, Joe leads his entire army to track her down. When Max and Nux (Nicholas Hoult), a War Boy, escape Joe’s clutches, they join forces with Furiosa to take on Joe’s evil army. Beautifully directed, stunningly choreographed, and wonderfully acted, “Mad Max: Fury Road” is the best action film in recent memory, but also stands alone as one of the most inventive, unique films of this year.
Other new Blu-ray releases this week include “Boulevard,” Robin Williams’ last film about a man living a monotonous existence who’s forced to confront his own deepest secret. Next, there’s “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” starring Blythe Danner, about a woman who decides to embrace the world and all the myriad experiences that come with it. Then, there’s “The D Train,” with Jack Black and James Marsden, about a lowly high school reunion committee head desperately trying to lock down a once-popular student for an impending reunion. After that, there’s the Andrew Niccol’s “The Good Kill” starring Ethan Hawke as an Air Force pilot assigned to fly armed drones into combat areas, and explores the murky politics involved with said warfare. Finally, Music Box Films is releasing “Gemma Bovery,” an adaptation of a Posy Simmonds graphic novel about a Normandy baker who projects his love of Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary” on a young British couple who moves in across the street.
Keith Phipps, The Dissolve
Not that much else about the film, apart from the mostly wordless evolution of the relationship between Max and Furiosa, can be called subtle. Miller co-wrote “Fury Road” — whose origins date back to the late 1990s, and whose troubled production includes one false start in 2001 and a continent-shifting change of venue — with actor Nick Lathouris and comic-book artist Brendan McCarthy (“Judge Dredd,” “Rogan Gosh”). The latter provided storyboards and designs, and the film sometimes plays like an attempt to realize ideas that only make sense on the pages of comics, bringing to life cars covered in spikes and characters like “Rictus Erectus,” who more than live up to their names. It’s a world gone wrong, yet one that’s assumed a kind of horrible beauty as humanity’s impulse to survive and desire to create and innovate have become twisted toward barbaric ends. It’s also a place troubled by some of the same fundamental philosophical questions about who we are, where we’re going, and how we’re supposed to live together. But here, they’re played out at breakneck speeds, along savage stretches of unforgiving desert, in a flood of fire, a hail of bullets, and accompanied by a deafening roar. Read more.
Criticwire Average: B-
Bilge Ebiri, Vulture
The most surprising thing here might be that “Boulevard” doesn’t overtly present itself as a narrative of liberation — Nolan isn’t suddenly giddy and free as a result of his realization, but rather conflicted and depressed in a different way, wary of hurting the woman he still loves. So the emotions are complicated; the film is anything but. Director Dito Montiel and screenwriter Douglas Soesbe seem to understand the value of simplicity. For much of the film, we’re watching Nolan reacting, or Nolan driving, or Nolan looking. They let the movie play out on Williams’s face — a risky move, given that the actor in his later years had struggled to really shine in a part. But here, it works. “Boulevard” is a sad, hesitant little movie about a sad, hesitant little man. That may be a far cry from the Robin Williams roles we knew and loved, but it’s not a bad one on which to go out. Read more.
“I’ll See You In My Dreams”
Criticwire Average: B+
Glenn Kenny, RogerEbert.com
Co-written and directed by Brett Haley, “I’ll See You In My Dreams” is notable for its tempered sweetness and never on-the-nose wisdom. It makes genuine cinematic hay of scenarios that 99 out of one hundred other filmmakers would play for cheap look-at-the-old-people laughs. The aforementioned speed-dating sequence, for instance, is cut together with the conventional multiple-talking-heads interspersing, but it’s more purposeful and compassionate than any other scenes using that strategy I’ve ever seen. Similarly, a scene in which Carol, having decided to live a little, asks one of her girlfriends where she keeps her stash of medical marijuana, the ensuing scenes, featuring contemporary golden girls Rhea Perlman, Mary Kay Place, and June Squibb, are genuinely funny and touching, not to mention behaviorally accurate. One shudders to think how such material would play out in the hands of, say, Luke Greenfield or Greg Berlanti, but one doesn’t have to think of such things, as the material is so beautifully handled here. Read more.
“The D Train”
Criticwire Average: C+
Mike D’Angelo, The A.V. Club
Since IFC, which picked up the film following its Sundance premiere in January, has chosen not to reveal that information (which occurs pretty early on and arguably constitutes the premise), spilling it in a review seems unwarranted, though some reviews will surely do so. It’s not terribly hard to guess, really. Making their first feature, the writing-directing duo of Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul have pushed a particular envelope further than it could probably have been pushed even as recently as half a dozen years ago, at least in a movie with stars as big as Black and Marsden. What’s remarkable is how earnestly “The D Train” treats this subject in the context of what is otherwise a typically broad Jack Black comedy. Mogel and Paul set up a potentially hilarious (if familiar) scenario — Oliver, who’s not nearly as successful as Dan assumes, will pose as a CEO for the benefit of Dan’s boss, thereby proving he can really act — and then they toss it aside, along with most of the laughs. “The D Train” metamorphoses into a drama about Dan’s confusion. Read more.