Here's what I didn't expect would happen when I saw Brave this summer: that I would bawl like a damn baby. This is not to say that Pixar movies haven't made me cry before — I saw Up and Finding Nemo, and the look on Sully's face at the very end of Monsters, Inc. might set me off just remembering it ... yep, there I go. But I thought I'd be impervious to Brave. Between How to Train Your Dragon and the continuing existence of Gerard Butler, I thought that Scottish stuff was all played out.
If I'm being perfectly honest, the Scottish stuff is a bit played out. Kilts, bare bums, haggis, Braveheart face-painting references ... we get it. But I didn't worry about that stuff too much because I was so engrossed by the mother-daughter stuff played out by Queen Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson) and Princess Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald). I just didn't expect Nicole Holofcener-level psychological realism in a CG-animated kids' movie, but it's very effective and very true — and will, I hope, go completely over the heads of its juvenile target audience! (Speaking of kids: I advised a lot of my friends with young children not to see the film in theaters due to bear-related scariness. Now that it's on home video, so that it can be watched in full daylight and paused, if need be, for reassurance, it might be OK.)
New and Notable
Oliver Stone is a weird choice to direct a film about a pot-dealing throuple in ... the present day. But Salma Hayek's chilling performance as a lady drug lord puts it over. As a corrupt DEA agent, John Travolta is pretty great too.
Ben Stiller heads up a neighborhood watch group that finds its limited powers challenged by the arrival of actual space aliens in a movie producers hope doesn't remind you of George Zimmerman.
Red Hook Summer
An Atlanta kid experiences culture shock when he's sent to spend the summer with his preacher grandfather — played by the great Clarke Peters — in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
The Queen of Versailles
Timeshare millionaire David Siegel and his much-younger wife were partway through the construction of the biggest house in America when the housing market crashed and things turned into a "riches-to-rags story," per David. This promises to be a classic of the "schadenfreude documentary" genre.
After the death of her husband ends her sexless marriage, Rachael Harris finds out he had a son, who's now an adult and a screw-up. She tries to have a relationship with him anyway.
Krysten Ritter, Alicia Silverstone, Justin Kirk, Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens, Sigourney Weaver, and Richard Lewis all probably signed on for this vampire comedy due to the reputation of its director, Clueless's Amy Heckerling. Unfortunately, it looks just terrible.
Trade of Innocents
In case you forgot how gross sex trafficking is, this movie wants to remind you.
The Day I Saw Your Heart
Inglorious Basterds star Mélanie Laurent is thrown when her father's much younger wife gets pregnant.
Bringing Up Bobby
Mother-son con artists are up to no good in this L'il Archie version of The Grifters.
Nitro Circus: The Movie
The even poorer man's Jackass is now a movie.
Adam McKay produced this raunchy comedy about a couple of single moms and the trifling men who cross their paths. Mrs. Jeremy Piven directed.
This grind house-y contemporary Western/crime drama stars poor Amber Benson from Buffy, who deserves better.
Attractive young Indian singletons enjoy sexy goof-arounds in this London-set Bollywood movie that has nothing to do with the Tom Cruise film of the same name.
A Good Funeral
Present-day Kelly Lynch recalls a crazy road trip she took with her dad (Gary Cole) in 1979 in this Little Miss Sunshine-aspiring dramedy.
A Beer Tale
Running a family brewery may not be as much fun as you think, according to this movie.
A pair of adoptive parents get stalked by the child's biological father in the latest pop-cultural product guaranteed to outrage adoptive parents' advocacy groups.
Resident Evil: Damnation
If you want a movie version of the Resident Evil games but find the live-action versions of the characters too unsettlingly real, good news! They make CG-animated movie brand extensions, too.
Opportunistic Backlist Revival Themes of the Week:
Option 1: Tough Princesses
Jumping off from Brave comes a passel of movies featuring very modern princesses, including Tangled, Anastasia, Enchanted, The Princess Diaries and its sequel, several installments of the Shrek franchise, and what is in my opinion an underrated Disney film: Mulan. (Apologies for the poor quality of the trailer; the movie predates YouTube.)
Option 2: Spike Lee
Pegged to Red Hook Summer is this collection of films directed by Spike Lee, including Inside Man, Malcolm X, Clockers, He Got Game, The 25th Hour, and my favorite, Do The Right Thing.
"In Theaters" VOD Picks
In Their Skin
In the tradition of Straw Dogs, Funny Games, and The Strangers comes this thriller about a family that makes the mistake of buying a remote house to get terrorized by psychos in.
After a car crash kills his wife and son, Cary Elwes gets trapped between Earth and ... I guess Hell? Also present is William Hurt, for some reason.
Weird Indie Of The Week
Maybe the first puppet horror movie since Meet The Feebles? It's about murderous turkeys, apparently.
The Color Wheel
Some jerk is a jerk to his sister and everyone else around him in what appears to be a poorly acted student film.