This week in home video is filled with new releases, including a film about a celebrated late novelist, the newest Pixar release, a Peter Bogdanovich film, and a slasher comedy. On the classic side, a drama featuring Tippi Hedren, Noel Marshall, and over 100 lions, plus a western directed by Peter Fonda that has a cameo appearance by his father, Henry Fonda.
Let’s start with James Ponsoldt’s “The End of the Tour,” about Rolling Stone writer Dave Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) and his interview with late novelist David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) on the last leg of his book tour for magnum opus “Infinite Jest.” Mostly a two-hander, “The End of the Tour” at its best captures the loose feel of a conversation between two writers that contains the sharp edge of divergent professional and personal agendas. But whenever the film tries to manufacture conflict or goose the story, just in case watching two people talk gets boring, “The End of the Tour” falters hard. On top of that, screenwriter David Margulies flattens Wallace’s enormous, multifaceted personality into a conveniently superficial one, rendering him an everyman instead of the genius he was (not to mention the fact that Wallace estate does not support or endorse the film). Nevertheless, “The End of the Tour” has been acclaimed by many critics who praise Ponsoldt’s direction as well as the performances by Eisenberg and Segel.
Other new releases this week include Pixar’s “Inside Out,” a film set in the mind of a young girl as five emotions guide her through the emotional turbulence of early puberty, depression, and drastic personal changes. After that, there’s “Vacation,” the new installment of “National Lampoon’s Vacation” series, with a new generation of Griswolds trying to make their way to Walley World. Then, Peter Bogdanovich’s new screwball farce “She’s Funny That Way” about a theater director (Owen Wilson) who casts an escort-turned-actress (Imogen Poots) to star in his upcoming play, his personal and professional lives get tangled up in zany ways. Next, Sony has meta-slasher comedy “The Final Girls” on Blu-ray, a film praised by critics for its sharp satire and its fun nature. Finally, there’s “Best of Enemies,” a documentary about the televised debates between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley, and “Before We Go,” the directorial debut by Chris Evans about two strangers who meet in New York and go on an unexpected adventure.
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On the classic side, Olive Films has “Roar” on Blu-ray, the thriller directed by Noel Marshall starring his wife Tippi Hedren and featuring hundreds of real-life jungle animals. The film is known for its ten-year long production and the numerous injuries sustained by the cast and crew because of the animals on set. Then, Eclipse has a Julien Duvivier box set featuring four of his films from the ’30s: “David Golder,” “Poil De Carotte,” “La Tête d’un Homme,” and “Un Carnet de Bal.” Then, Kino Lorber has Peter Fonda’s “Wanda Nevada” on Blu-ray about a two-bit gambler (Fonda) who wins a poor, orphaned girl in a poker game (Brooke Shields) and the two form an unlikely alliance as they try to find a fortune in gold. Finally, Hen’s Tooth Video has the film “Croupier” on Blu-ray, about an aspiring writer who gets sucked into the casino world and launched Clive Owen’s career.
More thoughts from the Criticwire Network:
“The End of the Tour”
Criticwire Average: A-
A.A. Dowd, The A.V. Club
Expanding upon the intimacy of his charming teen melodrama “The Spectacular Now,” director James Ponsoldt nourishes his long, languid dialogue scenes, like a late-night discussion on the accessible sexiness of Alanis Morissette. There’s a Linklater-like confidence to his filmmaking; though supporting characters drift into the orbit of these uneasy travel mates, “The End Of The Tour” largely remains a two-man show, expertly approximating the vagaries of actual conversation — the starts and stops that occur when two strangers are getting to know each other, one sentence at a time. Read more.
Criticwire Average: A-
A.O. Scott, The New York Times
“Inside Out” is an absolute delight — funny and charming, fast-moving and full of surprises. It is also a defense of sorrow, an argument for the necessity of melancholy dressed in the bright colors of entertainment. The youngest viewers will have a blast, while those older than Riley are likely to find themselves in tears. Not of grief, but of gratitude and recognition. Sadness, it turns out, is not Joy’s rival but her partner. Our ability to feel sad is what stirs compassion in others and empathy in ourselves. There is no growth without loss, and no art without longing. Read more.
Criticwire Average: C-
Bilge Ebiri, Vulture
“Vacation” is lazy, idiotic, and gross — and I laughed my ass off at it. A totally unnecessary sequel to a long-dormant, totally unnecessary series, this latest entry in the Griswold Saga — which kicked off back in 1983 with “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo — doesn’t even try to distinguish itself. It starts off with a version of the series’ signature tune, Lindsey Buckingham’s “Holiday Road” (have any horror films featured a serial killer who plays this song over and over again?), and demonstrates all the previous films’ (in)attention to production values, craft, storytelling, and visual elegance. Read more.
“She’s Funny That Way”
Criticwire Average: C
Guy Lodge, Variety
Screwball comedy was already a retro affair when Peter Bogdanovich mastered it in 1972 with “What’s Up, Doc?” Forty-two years later, that ageless throwback is the standard to which the director aspires in “She’s Funny That Way,” an enthusiastic but low-fizz romantic farce that gets by principally on the charms of a cast speckled with gifted funnymen (and, more particularly, funnywomen). At once invoking genre forebears like Ernst Lubitsch and contemporaries like Woody Allen, this busy tale of a Brooklyn callgirl wreaking havoc among the romantically frustrated cast and crew of a dud Broadway play accumulates the necessary narrative chaos without ever building a full head of comic steam. Read more.
“The Final Girls”
Criticwire Average: B
Kenji Fujishima, Slant Magazine
“The Final Girls” isn’t a postmodern breakthrough, though some of the gags that arise from Max and company entering “Camp Bloodbath’s” world are inventive, such as the jail cell-like visualization of the characters stuck in a transition into a flashback. But compared to the pointedly self-aware horror comedy of “Scream” and “Shaun of the Dead,” it both aims for a to-the-rafters broadness that edges perilously close to condescension and too often uncritically relies on borrowed moves from the classics of the horror canon: The hornier camp counselors are oversexed cartoons, while composer Gregory James Jenkins doesn’t even try to hide his affinity for Harry Manfredini’s “Friday the 13th” scores. (Though “Friday the 13th” is certainly the prime inspiration behind “Camp Bloodbath,” “The Final Girls” itself shares more of a tonal kinship with the jokey “Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives” than with the original.) Read more.