Picks of the week
‘While We’re Young’
(R, 97 minutes, Lionsgate): Noah Baumbach’s comedy of manners is a precise, amusing and deeply felt missive from the most anxious depths of mid-adulthood. Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play Josh and Cornelia, a 44-year-old documentary maker and his wife, who, as the film opens, are helping their best friends welcome home a new baby. They extol the advantages of their freedom but a nameless unease overtakes them. That’s when they meet 25-year-old Jamie and Darby (Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried), who after attending one of Josh’s New School lectures enthusiastically invite him and Cornelia to dinner. The couples enter into a kind of group folie à deux, with Josh flattered by Jamie’s admiration for his work and Cornelia energized by joining Darby in hip-hop dance classes. Baumbach has such an assured touch that what might have been a lazy burlesque becomes instead a thoughtful and resonant depiction of midlife anxiety – including but not limited to regret, compromise, envy and aspiration. Contains profanity. Extras: Behind-the-scenes vignettes on the cast, Baumbach, supporting actor Charles Grodin, hip-hop, “Generation Tech” and “Ayahuasca Ceremony.”
(R, 106 minutes, Universal): Channeling equal parts Tom Jones and Barry Manilow, Al Pacino delivers an impressive performance as the title character in this sweet but shallow movie about a rock star who hasn’t written a song in decades but can still sell out a stadium. Danny looks the part of the aging rocker, and with his 20-something fiancee and a cross pendant full of cocaine, he acts it too. But everything shifts when Danny is given a letter he was supposed to receive in 1971 from John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who urged the young musician to value art over fame. So begins the soul-searching. Danny heads off to suburban New Jersey, where he plans to hang out in a hotel, write new music and maybe even begin a relationship with the adult son he’s never bothered to meet. The supporting players deliver memorable performances, too. Bobby Cannavale is weary and conflicted as Danny’s estranged son while Jennifer Garner, playing the son’s wife, gives the movie a powerful jolt of emotion. And Annette Bening seems to be having fun playing a hotel manager Danny is trying to woo. The two have plenty of chemistry with their steady stream of quick patter. Contains language, drug use and nudity. Extras: A behind-the-scenes featurette and “Album Covers Through the Years” gallery.
(R, 115 minutes, Universal): At first, this well-made, politically aware action thriller makes up for its generic plotting with an outstanding cast and sharp, keenly observed atmospherics. Then it all just goes kerblooey and nobody gets out unscathed. Before it flies off the rails, Sean Penn fuses seamlessly with his character, a sharpshootin’ international aid worker named Jim Terrier, whose macho bona fides and pugnacious idealism play perfectly into Penn’s off-screen persona. Co-stars Mark Rylance, Ray Winstone and a hammy Javier Bardem are underutilized here, but lovely Italian actress Jasmine Trinca injects a welcome note of earthy realism to her otherwise rote role as romantic foil. “The Gunman” looks terrific, hopping the globe from the Congo (played by South Africa) to Gibraltar to Barcelona. Unfortunately, as the plot progresses, the action and Terrier’s over-determined character arc become exponentially more outlandish. Contains violence. No extras.
(R, 100 minutes, Warner): In this scattershot, funny-dumb satire, Will Ferrell plays James, a Los Angeles financier whose arrest for fraud interrupts his life as a one-percenter. He enlists the help of Darnell (Kevin Hart), the guy who washes his car, to help him prepare for prison, assuming that, if one in three black men will end up behind bars, it’s statistically likely that a menial laborer will have done time at some point. In fact, Darnell owns the carwashing company, is a devoted husband and father, and aspires to move his family into a better school district. But in exchange for the down payment on a house, he’s willing, as he explains to his wife, to “be every stereotype (James) thinks I am.” The result is a fish-out-of-water buddy comedy that – when it’s working – also does a smartly scathing job of sending up privilege, entitlement and crony capitalism. As James’ weaselly boss, played by Craig T. Nelson, puts it, starting with nothing: “just me, my computer and an $8 million loan from my father.” Contains pervasive crude and sexual content, profanity, some graphic nudity and drug material. Extras: A gag reel. On Blu-ray: Unrated version; deleted scenes and featurettes including “Just Put Your Lips Together and Blow,” “Line-O-Ramas,” “The Kevin Hart Workout,” a Ferrell/Hart “Face Off,” “Ferrell Fighting,” “A Date With John Mayer” and “Twerking 101.”
“Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter”
“The Decline of Western Civilization Collection”
“I Am Evel Knievel”
“Downtown 81 Collector’s Edition”
“Five Easy Pieces”
“Soldate Jeannette (Soldier Jane)”
“Valerie and Her Week of Wonders”
“My Little Pony - Friendship Is Magic: Cutie Mark Quests”
“Maria Wern: Episodes 8 & 9”
“Annika Bengtzon Crime Reporter: Episodes 7 & 8”