This month is big on the blockbusters, with a new chapter in a beloved franchises and the reboot of a childhood classic. In both cases, fans are equal parts excited and wary, hoping the creative teams realize a vision more pure than pandering. DVD and Criterion is decidedly less big budget, with a timely examination of modern womanhood (circa the 1970s) and a classic comedy on the role of appearance and class in political America. With the world spinning rapidly as it is, the combination of flashy escapism and thoughtful commentary seem a perfect mix.
New Theatrical Releases:
Release Date: March 3rd
Director: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen
IMDb Summary: In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hide out on the Mexican border. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant arrives, being pursued by dark forces.
Why I Am So Excited: I am enamoured by the X-Men, both comics and film, though the latter can be hit or miss. This film is the most excited I have been about a movie from the franchise to date. Throw in a semi-post-apocalyptic near future (just believable enough to scare the hell out of audiences), an ailing Professor X, an exhausted Wolverine and a new young mutant with her own X-Men comics in tow and I’m there. Director James Mangold’s previous work is a mix of blockbuster work within the franchise, 2013’s Wolverine, and more soft spoken award winners like Walk the Line and Girl, Interrupted. This means he knows how to work within the franchise already but has the depth and restraint to elevate Logan to an entirely new playing field. For fans of the series and casual viewers alike, I would recommend giving this one a go.
New Theatrical Releases:
Beauty and the Beast
Release Date: March 17th
Director: Bill Condon
Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson
IMDb Summary: An adaptation of the Disney fairy tale about a monstrous-looking prince and a young woman who fall in love.
Why I Am So Excited: The reviews are in, and they’re… actually okay? I’ll be the first to admit, I was less than excited when this one was announced. As an animation fanatic, each time a Disney live-action remake is put forth I can’t help wonder why we can’t just leave well enough alone. But then details began to surface: Emma Watson as Belle, Dan Stevens (currently blowing me away as David Haller in FX’s Legion) as the beast, and Josh Gad as LeFou?!? I mean, come on. Who doesn’t love Josh Gad. The answer is, no one who matters. And then BOOM, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson voicing Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts. It’s a stacked cast if ever there was one. Do I think this will be as good as the original? I think there’s no comparing a childhood classic to a live action remake. But, for the cast alone, it’s worth the price of admission.
New On Blu-Ray:
20th Century Women
Release Date: March 28th
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Director: Mike Mills
Starring: Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig
IMDb Summary: The story of three women who explore love and freedom in Southern California during the late 1970s.
Why It’s Worth Getting: I’ve loved writer/director Mike Mills since 2010’s Beginners, so I went into this film with high expectations. I was not let down. Mills has the makings of an auteur and the brilliant cast brought every detail of his vision beautifully to life. The story of mother Dorothea, played brilliantly by Annette Bening (why she didn’t get an Oscar nod for this, I will never understand) as she navigates her relationship with her preteen son Jamie. Realizing she’s limited in her ability to be there for him, she enlists the help of tenant Abbie (Greta Gerwig bless her talented soul) and Jamie’s friend Julie (Elle Fanning in perhaps her best role to date) to help raise him. Each element is incorporated beautifully, from cinematography and lighting to set design, and it evokes the 1970s, both aesthetically and through writing, in an entirely genuine way. It is an examination of womanhood, feminism and growing up, and a necessary addition to your rental list.
Criterion Release of the Month:
Release Date: March 21st
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Director: Hal Ashby
Starring: Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas
IMDb Summary: A simple, sheltered gardener becomes an unlikely trusted advisor to a powerful businessman and an insider in Washington politics.
Why It’s Worth Getting: What do we value more; knowledge or kindness? Experience or title? These questions are never more relevant than today as we watch with anxiety at the antics of politicians worldwide. Being There shows a simple gardener who has lived in isolation all his life finding himself thrust into the real world and quickly swept up in the realm of politics and money. It’s a delicately hilarious film; hearing the president talking about ‘stimulating growth’, he assumes he is discussing gardening, and remarks that there will be growth in the spring. This is taken as economic advice. It’s not a hard, jarring political examination, but a soft-spoken poke at how people come into power. The United States Library of Congress selected it for preservation in 2015, finding it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. Instead of popping over to the Library of Congress, get this Criterion release, and enjoy a softer side of political commentary.