With the holiday season officially behind us, the home video releases are starting to pick up again. Not a whole lot, mind you, considering the best-reviewed stuff this week is, again, mostly limited to TV and the smaller theatrical releases, but it won’t be long before the awards contenders start showing up in this column. Speaking of which, we want to note that we previously wrote about The Act of Killing back in the beginning of December, when it was originally scheduled to hit shelves, and it turns out it was actually pushed back to this week; we apologize for the mistake. With all that said, here are this week’s selections:

Closed Circuit


This thriller opened back in late August but failed to make much noise at the box office; critics weren’t particularly enthused about it either. Directed by John Crowley (whose well-received 2007 film Boy A was Andrew Garfield’s big screen debut), Closed Circuit stars Rebecca Hall and Eric Bana as ex-lovers who are reunited when they’re separately hired to defend a suspected terrorist in a high-profile trial. As classified details are uncovered, however, the pair begin to unravel a conspiracy that could endanger their lives. The film boasts an accomplished cast that includes Jim Broadbent, Ciaran Hinds, and Julia Stiles in supporting roles, but most critics found the conspiracy angle a bit predictable and the overall narrative a bit lacking in believability. At 40% on the Tomatometer, Closed Circuit is a mediocre legal thriller that never quite accomplishes what it’s going for.

Runner Runner


As long as we’re talking about subpar thrillers populated by otherwise impressive actors, we might as well mention Runner Runner, director Brad Furman’s disappointing follow-up to surprise hit The Lincoln Lawyer. Justin Timberlake plays Richie Furst, a Princeton student with a penchant for online gambling who loses big and travels to Costa Rica to confront Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), the gambling mogul he believes has fleeced him. Instead, Ivan takes Richie under his wing, which draws the attention of an FBI agent who wants to put Ivan away for good. Critics largely conceded Runner Runner had the seed of a decent plot, but they also overwhelmingly agreed the film wasted its potential on a lifeless, poorly crafted script. At a mere 9% on the Tomatometer, this is one you can probably skip unless you’re really bored.

Thanks for Sharing


If Steve McQueen’s Shame was too serious for you, maybe Thanks for Sharing is more your bag. It wasn’t for about half the critics who saw it, but hey, everybody’s different. The film follows three couples dealing in different ways with sexual addiction and stars folks like Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins, Gwyneth Paltrow, Patrick Fugit, Josh Gad, Joely Richardson, and, in a role that impressed quite a few folks, Alecia Moore, better known as pop artist Pink. Critics generally liked the performances here; they also felt that the material was treated a bit too superficially and that it couldn’t quite decide on a balanced tone. Thanks for Sharing sits at 49% on the Tomatometer, so it’s not entirely terrible; a little underwhelming might be more accurate.

Archer – Season 4

Those who remember the early days of Adult Swim and Home Movies are already well familiar with the voice of H. Jon Benjamin. These days, he pulls double duty as both the voice of frumpy patriarch Bob Belcher on Bob’s Burgers and that of cocksure super-agent Sterling Archer on FX’s Archer. This week, the fourth season of Archer goes on sale, complete with the first episode that finds Archer, having lost his memory, flipping patties at Bob’s Burgers while his wife and three kids mill about the restaurant. Over the past few years, the show has found its footing and a dedicated fanbase, and the fourth season currently rates a 93% on the Tomatometer, so it’s a pretty solid buy for anyone who’s a fan.

Top of the Lake

Jane Campion has focused primarily on film over the past couple of decades, but she’s had success on television as well, most recently with her 2013 miniseries Top of the Lake. A joint production of BBC Worldwide and the Sundance Channel, the six-part series is set in New Zealand and stars Elisabeth Moss as a detective charged with investigating the disappearance of a pregnant 12-year-old girl. With a supporting cast that includes David Wenham, Holly Hunter, and Peter Mullan, to name a few, Top of the Lake received near universal acclaim from critics, who praised the acting and strong, atmospheric storytelling. Certified Fresh at 93%, it’s a relatively short but riveting trip worth taking.

Also available this week:

  • Birth of the Living Dead (95%), a documentary about George Romero and the societal impact of his debut, Night of the Living Dead.
  • Inequality for All (92%), a Certified Fresh documentary exploring the widening income gap in America that’s equal parts witty and informative.
  • We Are What We Are (87%), a Certified Fresh mystery/thriller about the dark secrets behind a strict, small-town patriarchal family.
  • Big Ass Spider! (78%), a sci-fi comedy about two Los Angelenos who attempt to stop a giant rampaging spider.
  • Tiger Eyes (66%), the big screen adaptation of the Judy Blume novel of the same name about a girl coming of age in a new town after the sudden death of her father.
  • Linsanity (65%), a documentary chronicling Asian-American NBA star Jeremy Lin’s path to success, beginning with his early life.
  • Season 2 of Copper (100%), the BBC America television series about an Irish detective working the Five Points neighborhood in 1860s New York.
  • The first season of The Following (65%), starring Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy in a series about FBI agents tracking down a serial killer and his cultish followers.
  • Season 3 of the North American remake of Being Human, a TV series about three Boston roommates who happen to be a ghost, a werewolf, and a vampire.

This week at the movies, we’ve got a popular boy band (the concert documentary One Direction: This Is Us), a desperate ex-racecar driver (Getaway, starring Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez), and attorneys under surveillance (Closed Circuit, starring Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall). What do the critics have to say?

One Direction: This Is Us


If you’re a diehard fan of English/Irish pop sensations One Direction, no movie reviewer is likely to dissuade you from seeing One Direction: This Is Us. If, however, you’re a parent or significant other who gets dragged to the theater, critics say there’s a decent chance you’ll find this slick, well-shot, admittedly skin-deep concert documentary to be reasonably entertaining. Directed by Morgan Spurlock (of Super Size Me fame), the film follows the group from its X-Factor beginnings to the big time, capturing the lads on stage in full 3D splendor. The pundits say that while One Direction: This Is Us is hardly muckraking (or even revelatory), it’s a well-assembled and visually striking look at one of pop’s hottest contemporary acts. (Take a look at this week’s 24 Frames for a gallery of music documentaries.)



Rarely does a film’s title serve as an inadvertent warning, but critics say that’s pretty much the deal with Getaway –audiences should get away from this borderline incompetent chase thriller at all costs. Ethan Hawke stars as an ex racecar driver whose wife has been abducted; to save her, he must follow the orders of the kidnapper (Jon Voight) and drive around Sofia, Bulgaria with a would-be carjacker (Selena Gomez) in tow. The pundits say Getaway is an implausible, suspense-free mess, and its chase sequences are ineptly staged and photographed. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Voight’s best-reviewed movies.)

Closed Circuit


The time would seem ripe for a smart thriller about government surveillance; unfortunately, critics say Closed Circuit, while well-acted, is smart without being particularly thrilling. Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall star as attorneys and former sweethearts who find their loyalties tried and their lives in danger when they join the defense team of an accused terrorist; as they investigate the case, they find themselves under constant scrutiny. The pundits say Closed Circuit raises some interesting issues, but its plot is alternately predictable and far-fetched. (Watch our video interviews with Bana, and director John Crowley.)

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Our Nixon, a documentary utilizing footage shot by staffers during Nixon’s administration, is at 91 percent.
  • I Declare War, an action comedy about a group of 13-year-olds participate in a militaristic daily game of capture the flag, is at 79 percent.
  • Brian DePalma‘s Passion, starring Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace in a thriller about the fraught relationship between a advertising executive and her ambitious assistant, is at 40 percent.
  • American Made Movie, a documentary about the state of domestic manufacturing, is at 40 percent.
  • Afternoon Delight, starring Juno Temple and Jane Lynch in a dramedy about an affluent mom who hires a stripper as a nanny, is at 35 percent.
  • The Lifeguard, starring Kristen Bell and Mamie Gummer in a dramedy about a thirtysomething woman whose professional and romantic failings lead her to try to relive her teenage years, is at 12 percent.

In this thriller from John Crowley, Rebecca Hall and Eric Bana play former lovers who must keep their relationship a secret in order to properly try their high-profile terrorism case in UK courts.

Grae Drake discusses the abundant Closed Circuit TV cameras in London, as well as whether or not their research has allowed them to commit crimes without punishment.

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