This is what happens when Jackasses procreate.
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Having gotten a bit too long in the tooth to subject himself to Jackass's regimen of extreme bodily harm, Johnny Knoxville finally acts (more than) his age. With the help of longtime collaborators, director Jeff Tremaine and producer Spike Jonze (who originally appeared in the film alongside Catherine Keener, but their scenes were excised) and his Oscar-nominated make-up team (we're not kidding -- the Jackass franchise actually has been nominated for an Academy Award), the 42-year-old good ol' boy becomes 86-year-old Irving Zisman, a horny, accident-prone widower who is unexpectedly saddled with his young grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll, who more than keeps up with his more experienced co-star) after the boy's mom re-enters rehab. That relationship forms the loose narrative spine of the movie, which otherwise plays out like one of Sacha Baron Cohen's comedies, with Knoxville and Nicoll interacting with real-world people in character, luring them into participating in a variety of pranks. Although, unlike Cohen, Knoxville rarely allows these gags to venture beyond a mass audience's comfort zone, cutting away when things are on the verge of getting too embarrassing and/or dangerous. Bad Grandpa is profoundly -- and even proudly -- dumb, but it frequently makes you laugh in spite of your better judgment. Knoxville's fake grumpy old man is certainly funnier than any of the actual grumpy old men who headline Last Vegas, an ensemble comedy in the key of The Hangover that sends a quartet of veteran Oscar winners (Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgna Freeman and Kevin Kline) off to Vegas for a bachelor party weekend. Once there, the four men engage in various sitcom-level shenanigans ranging from Douglas and De Niro competing for the same woman (Mary Steenburgen, who gives the film's most appealing performance) to recent stroke victim Freeman trying to prove he's not too infirm to have a good time. These actors are too good at their jobs (when they're trying that is) to not make the most out of weak material, but their appeal only elevates Last Vegas so far. When it comes to geriatric entertainment, take the bad grandpa rather than any of these buffoonish grandpas.
Extras: Bad Grandpa comes with deleted scenes, alternate takes and behind-the-scenes featurettes. Last Vegas offers a director-anchored commentary track and three featurettes.
Click here to see our guide to Spike Jonze's weird, wonderful world on film
Click here to read our original review
An early casualty in the awards season race, Ron Howard's Formula 1 racing drama Rush launched to strong reviews and decent box office back in September, but it was quickly lapped by more sturdily-built awards bait like Gravity, 12 Yeas a Slave and American Hustle. And, truth be told, Rush is a bit on the pokey side when it comes to enlivening the traditional sports biopic formula. Pitting art (in the form of Chris Hemsworth's freewheeling racer James Hunt) against science (Daniel Brühl's logic-minded Niki Lauda), the film strives to show how the rivalry between the two racers brought out the best in each of them and the sport itself. Peter Morgan's script has an unfortunate habit of repeating this theme over and over again, and it's a shame that the various women who pass through the men's lives are so flatly written (especially since they're played by good actresses, ranging from Olivia Wilde to Natalie Dormer.) But Hemsworth and Brühl anchor the film with strong, charismatic performances and, after a series of middling race sequences, Howard brings his A-game in the climactic head-to-head match-up, which doesn't play out as you'd expect. (Unless, of course, you know the real-life story behind the film, in which case it happens exactly as you'd expect.) If you'd rather see this bit of sports history documented rather than dramatized, the non-fiction feature 1 covers much of the same ground and ventures outside of the Hunt/Lauda rivalry for a wider look at Formula 1's past and present. Michael Fassbender provides the narration and many real-life racers (including Lauda) provide color commentary over vintage footage of classic races. And as exciting as some of the recreated races in Rush are, there's no substitute for the real thing.
Extras: Rush offers deleted scenes and three featurettes. 1 is a bare-bones release.
Click here to see Ron Howard's slowest movies
Click here to read our original review of Rush
The Fifth Estate
If Rush ran out of steam as an Oscar hopeful, Bill Condon's Wikipedia-ready recap of the Wikileaks saga, The Fifth Estate, never even got out of the gate. This isn't a case where voters missed the boat, though; Estate is a bore through-and-through, a movie that takes an interesting piece of recent history and proceeds to dramatize it as flatly as possible. Rush's Daniel Brühl plays Daniel Berg, an early Wikileaks booster who provided crucial assistance to the site's founder, Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch), as he endeavored to turn his creation into a safe haven for whistleblowers looking to leak government and corporate secrets… at least until his paranoia and megalomania gets the better of him. Like the Internet itself, the film too often prizes speed over sense, with Condon leaping from incident to incident without much time establishing the connective tissue between them. (He also clutters up the screen with computer text, out of the mistaken impression that that visual gimmick makes the more cutting-edge in its depiction of its wired-in main characters.) The real Assange has been vocal in his dislike of the movie, but really he should be flattered: because he's being played by ridiculously charismatic Internet pin-up boy, Cumberbatch, he emerges from this mess of a movie looking like a Brad Pitt-level big screen hero.
Extras: Three behind-the-scenes featurettes and a modest collection of trailers.
Click here to read our original review
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Having successfully expanded the slender children's picture book into an animated feature that surprised everyone with its clever wit, the minds behind the burgeoning Cloudy franchise took the series in a Lost World direction with the sequel. Cloudy 2 finds inventor Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) journeying back to the island home he and his family and friends were forced to abandon for giant food-related reasons in the previous movie and discovering that his invention has been busy spitting out animal/food hybrids -- called Foodimals, natch -- in his absence. Thus Flamangos romp downstream from Tacodiles and Shrimpanzees swing through the trees alongside Cheespiders, while Flint and his pals try to save them from being claimed as the property of Apple-like tech corporation, Live Corp. Imaginatively designed and lovingly animated, these Foodimals are Cloudy 2's breakout stars and help the movie stave off the slight air of sequel fatigue otherwise present in the script. Provided those critters stick around, we'd be up for another serving.
Extras: A commentary track with the directors, deleted scenes, seven making-of featurettes and four new mini-movies starring some of the franchise's most popular supporting characters.
Also on DVD:
Ken Marino experiences the joys and terrors of being the parent of an ass demon in the well-cast, but never-as-funny-as-you'd-hoped horror comedy Bad Milo!. Heavy metal rockers Metallica crank the volume (and weird factor) to 11 in Metallica: Through the Never, which inter-cuts great concert footage with a so-so surrealistic storyline. The Italian horror master Dario Argento continues his steep decline with the bafflingly bad Argento's Dracula. Keeping in the horror vein, Antisocial pits five university students against a deadly virus. Finally, a storm chaser confronts the threat of uber-tornados in the low-budget disaster movie, Stonados. Yeah, but how would he fare against sharknados?
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