This week on home video, we’ve got a well-received adaptation of a classic children’s book character, P.T. Anderson’s latest film, and a handful of films with big stars that earned mediocre reviews. Luckily, there are also a couple of smaller films that are worth your while. Read on for details:


Paddington (2014) 98%

If you’re going to adapt a beloved children’s book character for film, you’d better do it right. Thankfully, almost everyone who saw Paddington approved. For the unfamiliar, Paddington Bear was created by British author Michael Bond in 1958, ultimately spawning dozens of books, three television series, merchandise, and more. Think Winnie the Pooh, but with a penchant for marmalade instead of honey. The film remains quite faithful to the character’s origin story, in which a talking bear from Peru with nowhere to go is adopted by a kind family who grows to accept him as one of their own. Conflict comes in the form of a taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) who wants to capture and stuff Paddington for her museum collection. Critics called Paddington an utterly charming family film and awarded it a Certified Fresh 98 percent on the Tomatometer, calling it a welcome update on the character that both respects the source material and provides some fresh laughs.


Inherent Vice (2014) 72%

If you’ve met anyone who’s seen Inherent Vice and asked them to describe it, chances are you got a muddled mess of a story with lots of stops and starts and “Wait; lemme back up”s. This is because Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest ensemble drama-comedy, based on the eponymous novel by Thomas Pynchon, is a near indecipherable shaggy dog story full of dead ends, red herrings, and plain old wackiness. Joaquin Phoenix plays stoner P.I. Doc Sportello, who can’t refuse when his ex-girlfriend (Katherine Waterston) asks him to look into a possible abduction plot involving her new boyfriend’s wife and her lover. From there, Doc discovers what may be a much larger conspiracy that may or may not involve the LAPD, a missing musician, and a heroin-smuggling cult, among other things. Bolstered by a typically outstanding cast that includes Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Benicio del Toro, Reese Witherspoon, and more, Inherent Vice will satisfy fans of P.T. Anderson and the source novel, even if those expecting a more traditional, coherent narrative will probably find themselves scratching their heads.


 

ALSO AVAILABLE THIS WEEK:

Last Days in Vietnam (2014) (95 percent), a documentary covering the final days of the Vietnam War and the joint efforts of the South Vietnamese and American soldiers to save as many lives as possible.
Mommy (2015) (91 percent), Xavier Dolan’s drama about a single mother trying to raise her ADHD teen son with the help of a new neighbor.
The Gambler (2015) (46 percent), starring Mark Wahlberg and Jessica Lange in a remake of the 1974 James Caan film, about a lit professor with a gambling problem who owes the wrong people a lot of money.
The Wedding Ringer (2015) (28 percent), starring Kevin Hart and Josh Gad in a comedy about an awkward groom-to-be who hires the services of a professional Best Man.
The Boy Next Door, starring Jennifer Lopez and Ryan Guzman in a thriller about a high school teacher who has a one-night stand with a younger man who becomes obsessed with her.

This week at the movies, we’ve got a fallen soldier (American Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller), a marmalade-loving bear (Paddington, starring Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins), an ex-con hacker (Blackhat, starring Chris Hemsworth and Viola Davis), and a best man for hire (The Wedding Ringer, starring Kevin Hart and Josh Gad). What do the critics have to say?

American Sniper

72%

As a director, Clint Eastwood is one of cinema’s greatest chroniclers of troubled tough guys. Critics say American Sniper is a tense, kinetic drama that has much to say about the emotional toll of war — even if it fudges some of the facts about its real-life subject. Bradley Cooper stars as Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL sniper who achieved near-legendary status for his fearlessness and shooting accuracy. But when he left the service, Kyle’s place in the world became less certain. The pundits say American Sniper avoids some of the more controversial aspects of Kyle’s life, but it’s still a bracing, tense, powerfully acted portrait of a supremely talented soldier at war with himself.

Paddington

97%

The bear from darkest Peru is one of the brightest lights of the young movie year. Critics say Paddington is the best kind of family film — it’s funny, thoughtful, deeply heartfelt, and filled with strong characters. After stowing away on a boat, the titular bear arrives in London and is discovered by the Brown family, who bring him into their home. Paddington is a stranger in a strange land, but he does his best to adjust to city life; unfortunately, he also draws the attention of a devious taxidermist. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Paddington maintains the cheer and whimsy of Michael Bond’s books, while teaching children a gentle lesson in tolerance. (Check out star Hugh Bonneville’s Five Favorite Films, as well as our interviews with the cast and crew.)

Blackhat

33%

It’s tough to make computing look cool on the big screen. Critics say even a talented director like Michael Mann can only add so much to something like Blackhat, a cyberthriller that’s long on visual razzle-dazzle but short on tension and believability. Chris Hemsworth stars as Nick Hathaway, a brilliant hacker who’s serving prison time. However, when U.S. intelligence agents team up with the Chinese government to investigate a devastating act of cyberterrorism, they spring Hathaway from the joint to help solve the case. The pundits say Blackhat squanders its timely premise on a silly plotting and dialogue, though it does have a sense of visual panache.

The Wedding Ringer

29%

Kevin Hart is one of the funniest men on the planet, but critics say his comic exuberance can’t save The Wedding Ringer, a thoroughly so-so bromance with a few good gags but a whole lot of dead spots. Hart stars as Jimmy, who provides an unusual service: he serves as the best man for socially awkward, soon-to-be-wedded guys. While giving Doug (Josh Gad) instructions on how to act cool, Jimmy stars to actually like the big galoot. The pundits say Hart tries his best, but the pace is slack and too many of the jokes are of the gross-out variety. (Check out our interviews with Kevin Hart, Josh Gad, and Kaley Cuoco.)

What’s Hot On TV:

Critics say Togetherness (Certified Fresh at 94 percent) is a delightful surprise that interweaves day-to-day life with moving, dramatic characters who have an affinity for deprecating, squirmy humor.

The critics say Man Seeking Woman (92 percent) is easy to fall for, taking a ridiculously funny approach to a common theme with amusingly surreality and enjoyable oddness.

The pundits say Girls (Certified Fresh at 86 percent) is familiar after four seasons, but its convoluted-yet-comical depiction of young women dealing with the real world still manages to impress.

Also opening this week in limited release:

In The Wedding Ringer, Kevin Hart gets paid to pretend to be besties with Josh Gad and give glowing speeches at all of his wedding events. Could this possibly be a real thing? To prove or disprove the theory, Kevin Hart, Josh Gad, and Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting give speeches for Grae Drake, who they have never met and are not friends with.

Also, The Wedding Ringer features a spectacular dance sequence with Josh Gad and Kevin Hart…but what happens on the dance floor when the actors go to a real wedding?


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