This week on home video, we’ve got a surprisingly solid list of new films to check out, including no less than five Certified Fresh movies. Considering the glut of bad movies plaguing most cineplexes these days, the offerings below make a strong case for staying in. Read on for details:



Nightcrawler

95%

Jake Gyllenhaal’s really been on a tear in recent years. Beginning with 2011’s Source Code, he’s starred in five straight Certified Fresh films, and his most recent effort even drew some awards attention. Nightcrawler stars Gyllenhaal as a petty thief who spies a future in amateur video journalism and, after selling some footage to a news director (Rene Russo), begins a dark downward spiral into his most sociopathic impulses. The feature directing debut of screenwriter Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler earned high marks from critics who cited Gyllenhaal’s creepy performance as a highlight and made comparisons to Taxi Driver. Certified Fresh at 95 percent, this is a dark thriller that operates equally well as a thought-provoking satire of sensationalist news media.



Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

61%

Live action family films — decent ones, anyway — seem to be rarer in supply these days, so it’s always a nice surprise when one comes along that’s pleasant and suitably entertaining. Based on the popular 1972 children’s book of the same name, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is about exactly what its title indicates: on the day before his 12th birthday, a young boy named Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) stumbles through an extremely unfortunate series of events. Spoiler alert: everything turns out okay. Most critics found Alexander a perfectly fine diversion for parents to share with their kids, even if the film fails to make a strong, lasting impression, and awarded it a respectable 62 percent on the Tomatometer. It’s not the best kids’ movie around, but it’s pretty harmless and good-natured.



Rosewater

76%

During the Summer of 2013, Jon Stewart took a short break from Comedy Central’s The Daily Show to focus on his feature directorial debut, a drama based on a true story that, at least peripherally, involved him. Rosewater depicts the plight of Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari (played by Gael García Bernal), who was detained by Iran in 2009 after he sent video footage of post-election riots to the BBC. Held in prison for almost four months, Bahari was tortured and interrogated about, among other things, his appearance on Stewart’s satirical show, before finally being released. Based on the best-selling memoir that Bahari wrote about the experience, Rosewater earned mostly strong reviews from critics, who rewarded the film with a Certified Fresh 74 percent for its timely subject matter, Bernal’s performance, and Stewart’s prowess in his first stint behind the camera.



Predestination

84%

It’s unusual for a genre flick released during the first half of January to earn high marks from critics, especially one that, save for the involvement of star Ethan Hawke, reads more like something you might find in the direct-to-dvd listings, but Predestination managed to beat the odds. In it, Hawke plays an unnamed “Temporal Agent,” tasked with time-traveling to the past to stop crime. Given one last job before retirement, the Agent travels to the 1970s to meet with a man whose unusual life story leads to a twisty, decade-hopping pursuit of the truth. Certified Fresh at 81 percent, Predestination impressed critics with its surprisingly smart storytelling — as well as a remarkable performance from costar Sarah Snook — and helped offer a mindbending alternative to the usual January dreck.

Also available this week:

  • The Cannes Festival-winning Force Majeure (93 percent), a Swedish drama about a small family vacationing in the alps whose bonds are tested when its patriarch leaves them in the lurch during an avalanche scare.
  • Taiwanese import Stray Dogs (88 percent), a drama about a destitute man living on the streets and his two children, who encounter a mysterious woman that may change their lives.
  • Kill the Messenger (77 percent), a Certified Fresh thriller starring Jeremy Renner as Gary Webb, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who publicized his findings on the birth of the crack epidemic and the shady dealings of the CIA.
  • Felony (74 percent), starring Joel Edgerton and Tom Wilkinson in a crime thriller about three detectives at odds with each other after an accident that nearly kills a child.
  • Lynn Shelton’s Laggies (69 percent), starring Keira Knightley and Chloe Grace Moretz in a dramedy about a 28-year-old slacker who befriends a teen and falls for her father.
  • Addicted (8 percent), a drama about a married woman who embarks down a dark road of temptation.
  • HBO’s miniseries Olive Kitteridge (95 percent), starring Frances McDormand and Bill Murray in a four-part adaptation of the Elizabeth Strout novel of the same name.
  • Season six of Showtime’s dark dramedy Nurse Jackie (67 percent), starring Edie Falco as a drug-addicted nurse.
  • And finally, two choices from the Criterion Collection: Nicolas Roeg’s classic thriller Don’t Look Now (96 percent), starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, and Jean Renoir’s A Day in the Country (100 percent), a shorter feature about a family’s idyllic vacation in the French countryside.
This week at the movies, we’ve got an animal rescue drama (Dolphin Tale 2, starring Harry Connick Jr. and Morgan Freeman) and a home invasion thriller (No Good Deed, starring Taraji P. Henson and Idris Elba). What do the critics have to say?



Dolphin Tale 2

66%

At a time when so much children’s entertainment can feel hyperactive and shrill, Dolphin Tale 2 seems decidedly old fashioned. The critics say that’s mostly a good thing — this gentle, thoughtful family drama isn’t particularly exciting, but it looks great and delivers positive messages with a minimum of schlock. Since being rescued and rehabilitated in the first film, Winter is doing just fine, but her companion has recently died. Thus, our heroes — a team comprised of marine biologists and animal rescue staffers — need to find Winter a new companion or she will be removed from the aquarium as required by law. The pundits say that while Dolphin Tale 2 is narratively thin and slackly paced, its heartfelt, inspirational story is likely to resonate with families. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which count down Morgan Freeman’s best-reviewed films, and watch our video interviews with Freeman and co-stars Harry Connick Jr. and Ashley Judd.)



No Good Deed

12%

It looks like the people behind No Good Deed were afraid it would be punished by the critics, since it wasn’t screened prior to its release in theaters. It’s the story of an ex-district attorney (Taraji P. Henson) who tries to help a stranger (Idris Elba) who claims to have car trouble. However, once she invites him into her home, his real motives prove to be much more sinister. It’s time to guess the Tomatometer!

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Born To Fly, a documentary about the acrobatic group Extreme Action Company, is at 100 percent.
  • Stray Dogs, a drama about a man who works as a human billboard to support his children on the streets of Taipei, is at 93 percent.
  • The Skeleton Twins, starring Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader in a dramedy about estranged twins who reunite as both are in the midst of personal problems, is Certified Fresh at 88 percent.
  • Honeymoon, starring Harry Treadaway and Rose Leslie in a horror film about a woman who begins to act strangely while in a remote getaway with her new husband, is at 79 percent.
  • I Am Eleven, a documentary featuring interviews with 11-year-olds throughout the world, is at 79 percent.
  • The Drop, starring Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini in a crime drama about a late-night robbery that stirs up trouble within the neighborhood demimonde, is at 78 percent.
  • The Green Prince, a documentary about the collaboration between a member of Hamas and an Israeli secret service agent, is at 73 percent.
  • The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, starring Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy in a drama that explores a couple’s relationship from both sides, is at 71 percent.
  • My Old Lady, starring Kevin Kline and Maggie Smith in a dramedy about a man who inherits an apartment in Paris only to find an elderly woman squatting there, is at 63 percent.
  • Bird People, starring Josh Charles in a drama about a businessman who decides to leave his life behind and hole up in an airport hotel, is at 60 percent.
  • Take Me to the River, a documentary about Memphis’ influential homegrown R&B sound, is at 50 percent.
  • Swearnet: The Movie, a comedy in which the Trailer Park Boys start an internet channel that features outrageous content, is at 29 percent.
  • At The Devil’s Door, a horror film about a real estate agent who discovers the house she’s trying to sell has a sinister secret, is at 14 percent.

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