It’s another very busy week on This Week in Home Video with a host of popular new releases and some intriguing classics on Blu-ray as well. There’s a stripper sequel that outmatches its predecessor, a controversial Sundance indie, a Scientology doc, potentially the last Studio Ghibli release, and much, much more.
Let’s get started with Warner Bros. release of “Magic Mike XXL,” the sequel to Steven Soderbergh’s 2012 film “Magic Mike.” Directed by Gregory Jacobs, producer of many of Soderbergh’s projects, “Magic Mike XXL” picks up three years after the first film with Mike (Channing Tatum) running his own furniture business after quitting the stripper life. When he hears that his old boss has moved the show away from Tampa, the rest of the Kings of Tamp decide that they want to end their careers on a high note by attending a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach. “Magic Mike XXL” plays like a loose road film with the gang stopping off at various locations to lend their services to a diverse array of women, focusing exclusively on how to please them and provide them with a joyful, happy experience. Though some critics dismissed “Magic Mike XXL” as a silly, overstuffed sequel, there were plenty of critics who appreciated and relished that “Magic Mike XXL” redirected that cinematic gaze on male bodies and was interested primarily in respecting female sexuality. Plus, Channing Tatum dances to “Pony” by Ginuwine again, and that’s always a blast.
Other new releases this week includes the winner of the Grand Jury prize and the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” the controversial teen film about a sarcastic high school cinephile and his friendship with a girl dying of leukemia. Though it had its supports, many critics lambasted the film for its unflinching narcissism, its disinterest in anything outside its protagonist’s head, and for its casual racism. Then, there’s the effectively scary “Insidious: Chapter 3,” the third installment in the “Insidious” serious and a prequel to the first two films. After that, there’s Alex Gibney’s Scientology documentary “Going Clear,” based on the Lawrence Wright expose of the same name, which presents a condensed history of the Church of Scientology and the various ways it has affected and destroyed its members lives. There’s David Gordon Green’s “Manglehorn,” starring Al Pacino as a Texas key-maker who searches for his cat and laments his lost love. Finally, there’s the last announced Studio Ghibli film “When Marnie Was There,” about an asthmatic orphan’s friendship with a mysterious girl who brings her out of her shell.
On the classic front, Criterion has Gus Van Sant’s fantastic third film “My Own Private Idaho,” starring River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves as two young street hustlers searching for their own comforts and desires on the edges of society. Next, Sony Pictures has a Limited Edition Blu-ray release of Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” which features among many things, some gorgeous cinematography, well-employed practical effects, and a terrible Keanu Reeves performance (a nice balance to his genuinely good performance in “My Own Private Idaho.”) Then, Universal Pictures has a new Blu-ray of Stanley Kubrick’s awe-inspiring epic “Spartacus” from a brand new 4K digital restoration. After that, Warner Bros. Archives has Nicholas Ray’s “Wind Across The Everglades” on DVD: since Ray was fired before the film’s production was completed, “Wind Across The Everglades” is a must-see for auteurists and Ray acolytes alike. Finally, Kino Lorber has Bent Hamer’s “1001 Grams” about a Norwegian scientist’s life-altering journey to a seminar in Paris after her father has fallen ill.
More thoughts from the Criticwire Network:
“Magic Mike XXL”
Criticwire Average: B-
Sean Burns, Spliced Personalities
“Magic Mike XXL” isn’t as good of a movie as it’s predecessor, but it’s a way better party. Correctly sensing that a complete story has already been told, returning screenwriter Reid Carolin scraps all those downer economic observations and gives audiences the ebullient, banana-hammock romp they were probably expecting back in 2012. It’s a virtually plotless, Altman-esque ramble from one exuberant dance sequence to another, bursting at the seams with positivity and good feeling. I had a blast…It might look like “Magic Mike XXL” doesn’t have a thought in it’s charming little head – but as Tatum’s seemingly effortless execution of the intricate choreography proves, appearances can be deceiving. The movie’s sunny generosity of spirit serves as a sneak-attack on conventional movie masculinity, ripping machismo away from toxic Wahlberg-ian Bro culture and offering a more evolved, inclusive concept of manhood. Read more.
“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”
Criticwire Average: B+
Scott Tobias, The Dissolve
“Me And Earl And The Dying Girl” can’t survive the irony of teaching Greg to think of someone other than himself while advancing a narrative that contradicts that message entirely. And though there are some touching moments in the film — Shannon’s mix of positivity and encroaching grief is especially heartbreaking — vast swaths of it don’t work: The restless camerawork is unmotivated and showy (Gomez-Rejon was once Martin Scorsese’s personal assistant), the lunchroom cliques in Greg’s high school are ancient teen-movie anthropology, and the short films are the sort of one-joke gimmick that Wes Anderson would compress into a single montage. The overall tone of the film is cutesy and slight, with chapter headings that knowingly reference the dramatic turns it’s about to take. Curiously, “The Part Where A Girl Dies So I Can Become A Better Person” is not one of them. Read more.
“Insidious: Chapter 3”
Criticwire Average: B-
Christy Lemire, RogerEbert.com
But making you happy is not the first priority of “Insidious: Chapter 3.” It wants to scare the hell out of you, and it does that quite effectively with several serious jumps. About a half-dozen times, I’d say, [Director Leigh] Whannell creates moments that are legitimately surprising and frightening because he uses silence so well in contrast. I leapt out of my seat and grabbed the arm of the critic sitting next to me so often (and he did the same, although he shall remain nameless) that you’d think we’d never seen a horror movie before. Whannell’s imagery is that solidly creepy and his pacing is that precise. He indulges in a few artsy camera angles and movements, but mostly directs in able and understated fashion. Read more.
“Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief”
Criticwire Average: A-
Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York
Scientology, the religion founded by L. Ron Hubbard in 1952, has taken plenty of heat over the years — much of it merited — from serious news sources as well as “South Park.” But even though there’s little in Alex Gibney’s well-organized documentary that qualifies as breaking news, it feels essential for collecting all of these reported malfeasances in one place: a contained, gripping viewing experience that should be mandatory for anyone flirting with signing up. Consider it a supplementary piece of background to be taken in along with the group’s already keenly honed package of media outreach. Read more.
Criticwire Average: B-
Sam Fragoso, Film School Rejects
What is initially a minor mess quickly spirals into a colossal bore – a movie so listlessly written and constructed that it nearly redefines tedium. Pacino and Hunter do what they can with the material they’re given, but even Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell couldn’t make this work. More troubling is that there’s no ambiguity as to what Green was going for here. When you preface a screening of your film by calling it a, “naturalistic fairy tale,” it ironically leaves little to the imagination. Read more.
“When Marnie Was There”
Criticwire Average: B+
Jeanette Catsoulis, The New York Times
The result is a movie that’s neither eventful enough for little ones nor ripe enough for teenagers. The conclusion is rushed and poorly staged, yet the damp caul of loneliness that envelops the film’s early scenes feels moving and true. We don’t have to read the book to suspect that its author — who was born in 1910 and lived through two world wars — had, like Anna, more than a theoretical acquaintance with the aftermath of abandonment. Read more.