Sometimes it’s a dilemma: what DVD should you rent or what movie should you stream or order-on-demand? Do you want a date flick, an action caper, or a goofy comedy? Weekly Surge is here to help with our reviews of recent at-home movie releases, which we’ve watched from the comfort of that favorite recliner.
“The Book Thief”
Kids read some crazy shit. This film was based on Markus Zusak’s novel about a 10-year-old girl in Nazi Germany who loves books so much she’s willing to steal from Nazi officers to get them. Young Canadian Sophie Nélisse plays the title thief. And the supporting cast is a strong one, with scene-stealers Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson. The twist of the film and the book is to make the narrator Death, aka The Grim Reaper. It works well in the book, but in the film, it feels a little too cutesy. The acting works well enough. The film’s plot is strong if you’re unaware of what got pilfered in the adaptation. The real star of the film is composer John Williams’ soundtrack. It lifts the whole film and earned an Oscar nomination. The end results are this: if you read the book – pass; If you passed on the book, it’s worth a watch, in a pinch.
Since his debut film “Spanking the Monkey” in ’94, director David O. Russell has gathered strength as a filmmaker, but he caught a special gust in the last few years with “The Fighter” and “Silver Linings Playbook.” Those two films earned him 15 Oscar nominations and three wins. They also pretty much gave him the principal cast for this film – Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence – all of whom were nominated for Oscars for their efforts. Russell even brought back Paul Herman and Robert De Niro from previous films for lesser roles. Jeremy Renner gives the cast a new, fresh dynamic. The story is loosely-based on the Abscam scandal of the ‘70s, and the plot may be the weakest part of the film because stellar performances from phenomenal actors and the chemistry they whip up are what make this movie worth the hustle of the script – worth a watch.
This is the one of the last films Paul Walker did before his shocking death last year. This is also a rare serious drama from Walker, playing a grieving first-time father whose wife just died in child birth. To make matters worse, it’s 2005, he’s in New Orleans, and Hurricane Katrina is making landfall. Walker shares most of the screen time with an infant and an empty hospital, and he carries this film pretty well. There are times when another actor with advanced skills would’ve crushed this scene or that moment, but Walker holds his own for the most part. The sparse and tense script is surprising coming from writer/director Eric Heisserer. His previous resume consists of penning the horror flicks, “Final Destination 5” and the reboots of “The Thing” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” There are no flipping cars or Vin Diesel or tits and ass to sell this film. But despite all that, Heisserer and Walker did manage to make a small film that’s not great but it tries its heart out – worth a watch.
Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge