This week's releases include an excellent drama starring Richard Gere; a competition that melts; a disturbing portrait of a family and their killer-to-hire; and a high intensity chase on two wheels.
Arbitrage (DVD & Blu-ray combo pack)
On the eve of his 60th birthday, New York hedge‐fund magnate Robert Miller (Richard Gere) appears the very portrait of success in American business and family life. But behind the gilded walls of his mansion, Miller is in over his head, desperately trying to complete the sale of his trading empire to a major bank before the depths of his fraud are revealed. Struggling to conceal his duplicity from loyal wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon) and brilliant daughter and heir‐apparent Brooke (Brit Marling), Miller's also balancing an affair with French art‐dealer Julie Côte (Laetitia Casta). Just as he's about to unload his troubled empire, an unexpected bloody error forces him to juggle family, business, and crime with the aid of Jimmy Grant (Nate Parker), a face from Miller's past. One wrong turn ignites the suspicions of NYPD Detective Michael Bryer (Tim Roth), who will stop at nothing in his pursuits. Running on borrowed time, Miller is forced to confront the limits of even his own moral duplicity.
Money is everything to Robert. Even his daughter does not know what they'd do together outside of the office. His family accepts that he's a workaholic, but they never realized how much it had skewed his sense of right and wrong. Gere is outstanding. He's always looked good in a suit and had the ability to promise the world with one look, but these talents don't compare to his talent to portray a self-centered jerk. He speaks about an opportunity "to basically print money" like it was a religious experience, which will stay with audiences long after the credits. This is Gere at his best. Sarandon isn't the most suitable socialite wife as she’s so often portrayed as a woman who is down-to-earth. But there is a great scene at the end of the picture during which she lays into Robert for everything he’s done to their family; it’s in this moment that she shines.
Special features include: commentary with writer/director Nicholas Jarecki; deleted scenes with optional director commentary; “Who is Robert Miller” featurette; and “A glimpse into Arbitrage” featurette. (VVS Films)
In Iowa, butter carving is as cut-throat as a Presidential election, plagued with scandal, greed, blackmail, and sex—except with butter. When long-reigning champion butter sculptor, Bob Pickler (Ty Burrell), is forced to step down, his zealous wife, Laura (Jennifer Garner) enters the competition herself, to fight for their status as butter royalty. A win seems virtually guaranteed for the poised and studied candidate when a formidable contender emerges: the fresh-faced, effortlessly charismatic 10-year-old Destiny (Yara Shahidi), an African-American foster child of local couple, Jill and Ethan (Alicia Silverstone and Rob Corddry). Suddenly, it’s anybody’s game and Laura will do anything to win—even if it means resorting to sabotage and seducing her foolish ex-boyfriend Boyd (Hugh Jackman) as a co-conspirator.
There are a lot of competitions that appear tame to the outsider; but stepping behind the curtain reveals cutthroat competitors willing to do anything to win. Destiny's talent and motivation are pure, as is defending champion Bob's. His wife Laura, on the other hand, seeks the status of a winner, creating butter sculptures without any heart. The periphery characters, including Destiny's foster parents, a stripper who moonlights as a hooker (Olivia Wilde) and an easily persuaded car salesman, provide odd angles to the core plot. This is a quirky comedy with a few interesting performances and impressive sculptures, though the multiple stories is a bit more than what was required.
Special features include: deleted and extended scenes; and gag reel. (Alliance Films)
Killer Joe (DVD & Blu-ray combo pack)
When 22‐year‐old Chris (Emile Hirsch) finds himself in debt to a drug lord, he hires a hit man to dispatch his mother, whose $50,000 life insurance policy benefits his sister Dottie (Juno Temple). Chris finds Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a creepy, crazy Dallas cop who moonlights as a contract killer. When Chris can't pay Joe upfront, Joe sets his sight on Dottie as collateral for the job. But the contract killer and his hostage develop an unusual bond.
There's weird and then there's good weird. This film falls into the latter category. Very deliberate and expertly delivered, the film grabs your attention in the first minute and holds it for the next 90, not letting go for a second. This family is beyond dysfunctional. Their treatment of each other ranges from caring to outright hostile, and can flip from one extreme to the other in a single conversation. The acting is outstanding. Church’s role is small, but he dominates the scenes in which he features with few words and a straight face. Hirsch does not disappoint, delivering a stellar performance. It's clear the dialogue is straight from the script because it's so precise, but he still makes each line his own. Temple's whimsical Dottie is flawless. She finds the perfect balance between sweet and pure, and disturbing. This is a very different role for McConaughey. Joe is hard and seemingly heartless. This may be one of the most difficult roles the actor has played, especially in recent memory, but he is excellent.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; and cast and crew interviews. (VVS Films)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Premium Rush (DVD)
Dodging speeding cars, crazed cabbies and eight million cranky pedestrians is all in a day’s work for Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the best of New York’s agile and aggressive bicycle messengers. It takes a special breed to ride the fixie – super lightweight, single-gear bikes with no brakes – and riders who are equal part skilled cyclists and nutcases who risk becoming a smear on the pavement every time they head into traffic. But a guy who’s used to putting his life on the line is about to get more than even he is used to when his last envelope of the day – a routine “premium rush” run – turns into a life or death chase through the streets of Manhattan.
The whole movie is delivered in a pretty fast pace. The characters are introduced quickly, establishing their relationships, rivalries and personalities. Time is somewhat fluid, jumping from past to present to fill in the missing pieces. But in the end, the simplest and most accurate description of this movie is that it's a car chase film on bicycles. These bike couriers could help or damage riders' reputations, depending how you look at it. They're fast, but their street manoeuvres are often dangerous. Gordon-Levitt's calculating character has the ability to assess his options and consequences immediately, picking the best possible route through busy traffic. The action is thrilling and well shot to capture the intensity of the scene, though the plot is typically ridiculous.
Special features include: “Action and Stunts” featurette; “Behind the Wheels”; “The Starting Line”; and cast and crew interviews. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)