THE BIG YEAR [1/31]
* * * (B)
Directed by David Frankel
Starring Owen Wilson, Jack Black, Steve Martin, Jim Parsons, Rashida Jones, Anjelica Huston, Dianne Wiest, JoBeth Williams, Brian Dennehy, Rosamund Pike, Tim Blake Nelson
Fox//Rated PG//Comedy//100 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
Author Mark Obmascik became interested in the Big Year, a 365-day bird-watching marathon, because it sends birders crisscrossing North America to sight the highest possible number of avian species. Each birder spends a small fortune, and is often pegged as looney by impatient spouses, friends and bosses. The winner receives no money, endorsements, trophy, nor media attention beyond a listing atop the "Big Year" list, published in "Bird Watcher's Digest." Birders are known for sharing their information, however in 1998 the gentlemanly aspect of this avocation was changed by three birders locked in a tight race to win the Big Year. New Jersey roofing contractor Kenn Bostick (Owen Wilson), was determined to protect his previous record -- sighting 730 species -- regardless of personal or monetary cost. His competition consisted of newly retired CEO, Stu Preissler (Steve Martin), pursuing a lifelong dream, and of chubby Brad Harris (Jack Black), a 36-year-old software engineer still living with his parents. Due to Obmascik's diligence in recording the competitor's stories, several well-known birding bloggers note that the film gets their "sport," and its spirit of competition, right. The presence of three comedians in the leads, may perplex those expecting a raucous comedy, but "The Big Year" wows us with unexpected events and with the strength of its characters' drive. One character's loved one admonishes, "Sight something rare for me," precisely what viewers of this film are bound to do. DVD features: Extended Feature Film, Theatrical trailer. Blu-ray features same plus: The Big Migration, Deleted Scenes, Roger Tory Peterson, Bird Behavior, Stu Late for Boat, Bird Puns with Brad & Ellie, Stu Gets Bostick's Autograph, Longer Boat End, Dock, Pretzels & Skippy Nozzle Theft and Other Newscasters, Longer Cars to HI, Cereal Rat with Talk, Lanky Birder Makes Time with Ellie, Stu's Summer Montage with Fire Island Fauna, Bostick Returns Home, Long Pelagic, Bostick Goes to China, Gag Reel.
* * * * (A)
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Oscar Isaac, Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks, Kaden Leos
Sony//Rated R//Action//100 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
Despite limited dialog, the 100-minute "Drive" navigates a broad range of emotions and delivers characters we understand fully. Ryan Gosling plays "Driver," bachelor by choice because the lifestyle allows him to live by a strict code. Expert in both driving and tweaking cars, by day he works as a mechanic and Hollywood stunt driver, by night, he works as a getaway driver where he makes all the rules. His getaways depend little on speed, rather relying on his knowledge and timing. The robbers adhere to his schedule -- period. The opening getaway sequence tells us most of what we need to know about Driver -- his capabilities and what he is and isn't willing to do -- and it's riveting. Yet, Driver doesn't operate in a vacuum. His legit jobs funnel through Shannon (Bryan Cranston), a big-dreaming garage-owner hoping to regain his former racing glory, through Driver. Shannon puts everything on the line when he strikes a bargain with crime lords Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) and Bernie's partner Nino (Ron Perlman), to purchase a race car Driver will pilot. Meanwhile, Driver has moved to a new apartment where he meets Irene (Carey Mulligan), and her young son Benicio. Over the course of two weeks, Driver develops strong feelings for the mother and son -- changing everything. The film, accompanied by a score that enhances its mood, is an emotional journey to a mysterious destination. The viewer teeters in thrilling limbo, reveling in every moment of wonder, sweating every moment of dread. Adapted from a book by James Sallis, the tone and mood of Driver recalls other great movies that pit an isolated, imperfect protagonist, against dark forces. It engages us intellectually, yet draws most of its power from hooking into our fondly held hopes and deepest fears. DVD or Blu-ray features: 4 featurettes: I Drive: the Driver, Driver and Irene: the relationship, Under the hood: story, Cut to the chase: stunts, Drive without a driver: interview with Nicholas Winding Refn documentary, Blu-ray features same plus: Nicolas Winding Refn documentary.
DREAM HOUSE [1/31]
* * (C)