Picks of the week
March 3: (R, 134 minutes, Sony): A bleak, midwintery gloom suffuses this dramatized version of the lurid real-life murder of champion wrestler Dave Schultz at the hands of the late John du Pont in 1996. As refracted through the chilly, superbly controlled lens of director Bennett Miller (“Capote,” “Moneyball”), the otherwise tawdry tale of ambition, self-deception and mental illness becomes an unsettling allegory of violence and love at their most ritualized and repressed.
“Foxcatcher” exerts a mesmerizing pull, not only because it affords the chance to witness three fine actors working at the height of their powers, but also because it so steadfastly resists the urge to clutter up empty space with the filigree of gratuitous imagery and chatter. Oscar-nominated Steve Carell’s haunting performance as the disturbed du Pont represents a breakthrough for someone more associated with comedy and winsome drama. But what makes the film so spellbinding is its ensemble, anchored by Mark Ruffalo, as Dave Schultz, and Channing Tatum, as his conflicted brother Mark. Tatum’s acting combines graceful, full-body physical performance with swirling interior dynamics of fine-tuned sensitivity.
Contains some drug use and a scene of violence. Extras: deleted scenes and a “The Story of Foxcatcher” featurette.
March 3: (R, 112 minutes, Lionsgate): Though it was screened at the Cannes and Toronto film festivals, this Canadian film is a woefully and wildly misconceived kidnap thriller from Atom Egoyan and co-written with David Fraser. The film stars Ryan Reynolds and Mireille Enos as parents searching for their daughter, who mysteriously vanished without a trace.
Extras: commentary with Egoyan, a “Captive Thoughts” featurette, alternate ending and deleted scenes.
‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I’
March 6: (PG-13, 123 minutes, Lionsgate): As the first part of the last installment of the juggernaut adaptation of the wildly popular young-adult novel, this dutiful, glumly atmospheric placeholder feels like a long, extended inhale. But “Mockingjay,” directed by Francis Lawrence from a script by Peter Craig and Danny Strong, gains steam as it goes.
Its retro-futuristic aesthetic lacks the flamboyance of past installments, but possesses its own grim integrity, and even contains one authentically shocking reversal that bears more than a whiff of a “Manchurian Candidate”-like menace. Jennifer Lawrence, as heroine Katniss Everdeen, is not only the best thing about “Mockingjay,” but also probably the one thing that makes an otherwise dreary dystopian franchise worth watching. Even trudging through the post-industrial carnage and underground bunkers of the film’s blighted universe, she radiates unaffected humanity and light.
Contains intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and mature thematic material. Extras: commentary with Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson and deleted scenes. On Blu-ray: an eight-part, feature-length making-of documentary, a tribute to co-star Philip Seymour Hoffman featurette, pop singer Lorde looks at curating the soundtrack and is featured in a “Yellow Flicker Beat” music video.