On this Super Bowl weekend, it's only right to make your VOD choices appropriately thematic. Without a football-related offering available, you could do worse than this seven-layer dip of a movie about making a movie about writing a screenplay about making a movie. Colin Farrell is our writer, Sam Rockwell his deranged friend who kidnaps the dogs of rich people to collect ransom, batty Christopher Walken is his partner in crime with a past of his own, and Woody Harrelson is the One Rich Dog Owner He Shouldn't Have Messed With.
Director Martin McDonagh's follow-up to In Bruges doesn't share its predecessor's undercurrent of semi-sweetness. The layers-upon-layers stuff can get exhausting (and, honestly, a little predictable), and poor Abbie Cornish is left to play a two-dimensional "nagging girlfriend" role. But don't worry! The movie is self-aware enough to know she's a stock character! All better! Still, it's exciting and clever, and Walken and Rockwell are both quite good.
New and Notable
Paranormal Activity 4
Once more into the surveillance-camera breach, my friends. I honestly can't remember if I've only seen one of the previous Paranormal Activity films or all three. They're super-fun while they last, but the details fade pretty quickly. This one seems to involve the baby from an earlier installment growing up to be a creepo toddler. Also: Get ready for social media to finally get into the PA game!
Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, and a cast of dozens (Fran Drescher!) in the animated feature that missed an Oscar nomination but did get a Golden Globe nomination. Extrapolate from that what you will.
The Cold Light of Day
Superman-to-be Henry Cavill's family gets kidnapped, at which point he learns that his father, Bruce Willis, is secret CIA. Sigourney Weaver continues her run of Shadowy Bad Guy figureheads.
Brit badass Tim Roth takes innocent Jack O'Connell (Skins) under his wing for a dark comedy in the Guy Ritchie vein.
Brit remake of Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn's Danish action series about a drug pusher in over his head. Hey, remember when Agyness Deyn was a thing? She's in this.
"From the stunt choreographer who brought you Tomb Raider 2 and Ong-Bak "
Oh, misty-gray Edwardian boarding schools, you do tend to get haunted, don't you?
Dominic West, Rebecca Hall, and Imelda Staunton are on the case, and since everybody has already seen The Others, the twist better not be that they're all already dead.
Opportunistic Backlist Revival Theme of the Week: Black History Valentine's Day Month
We've got a twofer this week, theme-wise, as February marks the start of the Valentine's Day marketing surge, so get ready for a very pared-down version of on-screen romance, from Notting Hill to (500) Days of Summer to Katherine Heigl's least-terrible rom-com, 27 Dresses.
Meanwhile, February is also Black History Month, and there is no better way to celebrate diversity than by recognizing that a film like Do the Right Thing can be lumped into the same thematic end-case display as Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married.
"In Theaters" VOD Picks
Foo Fighter extraordinaire Dave Grohl directs this documentary about the famed Los Angeles recording studio that was home to Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, Nirvana — pretty much everyone. Anti–Auto-Tune "these kids today" ranting is basically guaranteed.
As Luck Would Have It
Salma Hayek in a Spanish-language drama about the intersection of crime and the media.
Rob Lowe, Eric McCormack (in the same movie?!?!), Carrie-Anne Moss, Julie Bowen, and more (Richard Schiff! Toby and Sam ride again!) star in this movie about a political spin-master and his wacky life. How in the world this did not end up as a USA series called Popular Votes is a question we'll all have to wrestle with.
Weird Indie of the Week
Dead in France
A self-conscious parody of French noir starring Brits. It's in black-and-white, there are characters who wave their hands at the air and say "les femmes," and there are arty shots of insects on handguns. But it's all Brits taking the piss out of the French! Hope you're caught up on your Jean Reno tropes.
Early VOD Premiere of the Week
ABCs of Death
Twenty-six directors take on an anthology of horror shorts, one for every letter of the alphabet. The trailer promises some Claymation and some dog-fights-man action, while the titles of the segments include "T is for Toilet," "I is for Ingrown," and "V is for Vagitus." Dig in!
Day of the Falcon
This is either Antonio Banderas's Lawrence of Arabia or Antonio Banderas's There Will Be Blood. One way or the other, Banderas plays a sultan at war over oil riches. Freida Pinto, Mark Strong, and Tahar Rahim co-star.
A Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia
This geographically confused title (which is available on VOD the same day it debuts in theaters) will have you know that Chad Michael Murray and little blonde Fanning-type girls are the ideal milieu for a ghost story about the Underground Railroad.
Joe Reid (@joereid) is a writer living in Hell's Kitchen, New York, which is nothing like the movie Sleepers, thank GOD.