As the year winds down, each week in home video gets slimmer and slimmer until the new year can ring in a whole host of new releases. But nevertheless, there are some new releases this week — including a critically-acclaimed action flick, a Richard Gere character drama, and a crass sequel involving a certain teddy bear — and some classics including a documentary about a legendary writer, a Hitchcock box set, and a Warren Beaty film.
Let’s start with “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” the fifth installment in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise starring Tom Cruise. After the IMF has been disbanded and absorbed into the CIA, ex-IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is on the run to prove to the CIA that an international criminal consortium The Syndicate exists. Of course, the exact nature of the plot is largely irrelevant as the film’s main draw is its dazzling set pieces, which feature Cruise, one of Hollywood’s few remaining movie stars, in one of his most furious, dedicated performances. There’s the crackling supporting cast, including the indelible Simon Pegg as Benji, the preposterous action sequences, and the kinetic energy that comes with such a long-running, relatively self-effacing franchise.
Other new releases include the Richard Gere vehicle “Time Out of Mind,” which, depending on whom you ask, is a delicate depiction of the urban homeless with a committed performance by Gere or is a tedious, unmemorable film starring a good-looking movie star who can’t make believe he’s living on the street. There’s “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials,” the sequel to the 2014 film “The Maze Runner,” and yet another installment in Hollywood’s attempt to board the “Hunger Games” train to Money Town. Then, there’s “Ted 2,” which is, yep, you guessed it, the sequel to “Ted,” featuring more tedious, stilted antics from the anthropomorphic teddy bear Ted and his human friend John (Mark Wahlberg) that will most likely make you laugh at least once (given Seth MacFarlane’s comedy track record). Rounding things up, there’s the atrocious new “Fantastic Four” movie, the artless, visually inert documentary “He Named Me Malala,” and the small indie comedy “Slow Learners.”
On the classic side, Criterion has Howard Brookner’s 1983 one-of-a-kind documentary on William Burroughs entitled “Burroughs: The Movie,” which was digitally restored after Brookner’s discovered a print of it in 2011. Criterion also has two box sets on Blu-ray: The first is a Classic Hitchcock box set, which includes “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” “The 39 Steps,” “The Lady Vanishes,” and “Foreign Correspondent”; the second is the Rock Box, which includes Richard Lester’s “A Hard Day’s Night,” D.A. Pennebaker’s “Monterey Pop,” the Maysles Brothers’ “Gimme Shelter,” and Franc Roddam’s “Quadrophenia.” Other Blu-rays this week include Disney’s release of Warren Beatty’s “Dick Tracy,” based on the 1930’s comic of the same name, and a few horror/thriller releases: Jesus Franco’s “Count Dracula,” starring the late Christopher Lee, out on Severin Films, and “Zombie High” and “The Car” from Shout Factory.
More thoughts from the Criticwire Network:
“Mission: Impossible— Rogue Nation”
Criticwire Average: B+
Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
Sleek and bloated, specific and generic, “Rogue Nation” is pretty much like most of the “Impossible” movies in that it’s an immense machine that Mr. McQuarrie, after tinkering and oiling, has cranked up again and set humming with twists and turns, global trotting and gadgets, a crack supporting cast and a hard-working star. Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg (with his valuable comic timing) are all back, joined by the series newcomer Rebecca Ferguson. She plays a super-vixen, the amusingly named Ilsa Faust, who enters with the camera peeking up her skirt and rises like a half-shell Venus, à la the original Bond Girl, Ursula Andress. Even so, Ms. Ferguson has more going for her than man-throttling thighs (and an ace stunt double, Lucy Cork); she holds her own both on the ground and in midair. Read more.
“Time Out of Mind”
Criticwire Average: B
Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York
Working from a near-plotless scenario co-conceived with Jeffrey Caine, director Oren Moverman captures Gere in the shallow mid-distance as real people swarm past him without comment. (Much of the movie was shot guerrilla-style, with no one apparently the wiser.) That’s the point of “Time Out of Mind,” which sometimes feels like a documentary experiment in celebrity negation. The movie’s title comes from a 1997 Bob Dylan album, and though many of the singer’s lyrics — “like a complete unknown” — would have fit the mood, Moverman decides to avoid offscreen music completely, except for the city’s signature tune of public chatter and car honks. Gere uses the opportunity to strip himself entirely of artifice, and it’s a marvel of anti-technique. As we come to learn (very little) about George, as he’s called, we fixate on only what can be seen and heard: some scary-looking head wounds, a tendency to quietly mumble to himself, restless sleep patterns, a shapeless stumble. He eventually comes into contact with another street person (Tony-winner Ben Vereen), as talkative as George is reserved. Thrown together, they share some misadventures in Kips Bay’s noisy bed-for-a-night homeless shelter Bellevue, where bureaucracy and racial unease fill in the nightmarish picture. Read more.
“Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials”
Criticwire Average: C
Bilge Ebiri, Vulture (New York Magazine)
Essentially, “The Scorch Trials” makes up for the humdrum YApocalypse of its first half by going a little bonkers in its second. We get underground, rat-eating, mutant root zombies. We get Barry Pepper with a Gatling gun. We get a demented rave that would make “Saturday Night Live’s” Stefon proud. (“This one’s got green aphrodisiacs, zombies on chains, and Alan Tudyk in velvet.”) As our heroes discover others out there in the Scorch, the story loosens up and starts to have fun, with admirable assists from a series of terrific character actors. So besides the aforementioned Tudyk and Pepper, Giancarlo Esposito shows up as a wasteland pirate, and Lili Taylor as a resistance leader. Character actors collecting paychecks in YA adaptations are nothing new; a friend once called the “Harry Potter” series “a retirement plan for the Royal Shakespeare Company.” But they’re especially welcome in this case, because they make up for the film’s thin script and the younger actors’ mostly anonymous performances by letting their own personas fill the void. Read more.
Criticwire Average: C+
A.A. Dowd, The A.V. Club
Either way, “Ted 2” strikes a sometimes-awkward balance between sincerity and cheap provocation. It also forgets that the real draw of the first film wasn’t Ted himself, but Wahlberg, whose sweet-lug routine scored a lot of belly laughs. The actor has less to do this time around. His character is now divorced, and it’s a genuine bummer to see MacFarlane treat his ex — wonderfully played by Mila Kunis in the original, nowhere to be seen in the sequel — like a wet blanket who brought him down, instead of the catalyst for a positive life change. The love interest slot has been filled by Amanda Seyfried, cast here as Ted’s wide-eyed pothead lawyer. She’s a down-for-whatever dream girl straight out of the Farrelly brothers’ wheelhouse — though given her pop-culture illiteracy, probably not really MacFarlane’s type. (He sets an entire sequence at the New York Comic Con, the ideal backdrop for a writer whose work often hinges on colliding one reference with another.) Read more.
Criticwire Average: C-
Tim Grierson, Screen International
After battling months of bad buzz about a troubled production and the need for reshoots, “Fantastic Four” emerges as a wounded animal of a superhero movie, only rarely showing flashes of the darker, more emotional breed of Marvel film it’s trying to be. Certainly, Fox’s rebooting of the franchise blessedly lacks the dopey irreverence of the 2005 version and its sequel, both directed by Tim Story, but “Chronicle” filmmaker Josh Trank struggles to balance an origin story, mediocre comic-book action, and a strained metaphor about dysfunctional families. A good cast led by Miles Teller gets swallowed up in a narrative that grows progressively more muddled and tedious. Read more.