We’ve got a couple of acclaimed dramas to headline this week’s choices on home video, including J.C. Chandor’s gritty crime drama and a Cannes-winning film starring Marion Cotillard. Then, we’ve got a few interesting selections you may not have had the chance to see in theaters. Read on for details:
Early on, A Most Violent Year was thought to be a contender for a handful of Academy Awards, due in large part to its pedigree, which included Oscar-nominated writer-director J.C. Chandor (Margin Call, All Is Lost) and a pair of fast-rising stars — Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac — who have amassed their own share of critical acclaim. Though the film ultimately didn’t net any nominations, critics still rated it Certified Fresh at 90 percent. The early ’80s-set thriller centers on an immigrant couple (Chastain and Isaac) who run a heating oil company and their attempts to make good on the American dream amid the rampant violent crime of New York City. It’s a heavy, slow burner of a drama full of strong performances — including supporting turns from David Oyelowo, Albert Brooks, and Alessandro Nivola — that probably deserves a watch.
Speaking of impressive casts, director James Gray lined up quite an ensemble for his own immigrant story, aptly titled The Immigrant. All three of his leads boast Academy Award nominations, and the film’s star, Marion Cotillard, earned a nod just this year for her work on Two Days, One Night. Cotillard plays Ewa Cybulski, a Polish immigrant who arrives at Ellis Island in 1921 and faces deportation, only to be saved by a charming schemer (Joaquin Phoenix) who forces her into prostitution. When the man’s magician cousin (Jeremy Renner) comes into her life, Ewa sees hope for the first time. Certified Fresh at 87 percent, The Immigrant won the Palmes d’Or at Cannes and earned praise for Cotillard’s performance, Gray’s sure-handed direction, and its stunning cinematography. If drama is your thing, this is a good week.
Happy Valley (2014) (88 percent), Amier Bar-Lev’s documentary profile of the football culture and recent controversy surrounding Penn State University.
Killers (2014) (86 percent), a Japanese-Indonesian thriller about a serial killer and the journalist thousands of miles away he inspires to become a killer himself.
The Voices (2015) (73 percent), starring Ryan Reynolds and Anna Kendrick in Marjane Satrapi’s (Persepolis) dark comedy about a seemingly normal man who suffers from hallucinations that influence him to kill.