Newspaper comedy graces Criterion
While journalism is not the most exciting career (trust me, I know), Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday sure does a bang-up job of making it glamorous, dangerous and fun.
His Girl Friday
Not rated, 92 minutes.
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray through the Criterion Collection.
The 1940 screwball comedy classic focuses on one newspaper’s managing editor (Cary Grant) and an investigative reporter (Rosalind Russell) as they desperately try to break their story about a murderer (John Qualen) facing execution first.
The film’s plot is admittedly a heightened reality of what really happens inside a news publication. However, what is accurate are the lengths reporters go to get exclusives — including kidnapping an old lady, writing an article during a shootout and storing a criminal inside a desk for the latest scoop.
His Girl Friday is recognized as one of the funniest movies ever made and the best version of 1931’s The Front Page. For a 1940’s black-and-white movie, Hawks’ film remains sharply written and clever enough to break the toughest, gruffest person into gales of laughter.
Extras: The must-own Criterion Collection release also includes a 4K digital restoration of The Front Page, an all-new interview with film scholar David Bordwell, radio adaptations from 1937 and 1946, archival interviews and featurettes, and a booklet featuring essays on the both films.
The Accountant (3.5 stars) Ben Affleck plays Christian Wolff, a gifted accountant with autism who takes care of the finances of some of the most unsavory people on the planet. But he doesn’t drift into the danger zone himself until he starts cooking the books of a robotics company controlled by bigwig Lamar Black (John Lithgow) and his sister Rita (Jean Smart). Millions of dollars are unaccounted for, thanks to a suspicious in-house accounting clerk (Anna Kendrick) whose discovery makes her a target for elimination. Christian is also being chased by Treasury Director Raymond King (a lovable J.K. Simmons), who wants to catch the accountant before he turns in his badge and gun for retirement.
The Accountant is a lot of movies and ideas rolled into one. It has the DNA of the Bourne movies, Good Will Hunting, and oddly Batman (without the cape and cowl). While the film may not add up to an even number by the end, it’s the kind of Hollywood movie we want at the multiplex: big-scale action, funny comedic beats, and a fresh-minded thriller with movie stars and characters to sink our teeth into.
Rated R, 128 minutes.
Extras: “Inside the Man” (a look into the secrets behind the film’s central character), “Behavioral Science” (a glimpse at Wolff’s condition and how it affects his behavior), and “The Accountant in Action” (an exploration of the film’s action and stunt work).
xXx (3 stars) Not to be confused with any adult film, xXx is turning 15 and releasing a special anniversary edition to celebrate. The 2002 Vin Diesel-starring vehicle centers on an extreme sports athlete (skydiving, snowboarding, motorcycle racing — you name it) who is recruited by the government to carry out an impossible mission Ethan Hunt style.
xXx is all kinds of cheddar melted onto one platter. Like a Miller Lite version of Fast & Furious (minus the whole “family” aspect), this movie takes itself even less serious and breaks even more laws of physics for your entertainment. So if you can suspend your disbelief and roll with it, this is a goofy thrill-ride to purchase (again).
Rated PG-13, 124 minutes.
Extras: A never-before-seen special feature (“Origins of a Renegade”) and a slew of archival content (deleted scenes, 10 featurettes, audio commentary and music videos).
The Birth of a Nation (4 stars) Based on the incredible story of the real-life freedom fighter, the film is a biopic of Nat Turner (Nate Parker), a Virginia-born slave and Baptist preacher who led the bloodiest slave rebellion in U.S. history. The 1831 revolt left nearly 65 slave owners and family members slaughtered, and the resulting retaliation led to the death of at least 100, possibly 200 slaves.
The Birth of a Nation doesn’t quite leave the same emotional scars as Steve McQueen’s masterful 12 Years a Slave, but Parker’s expertise is wise beyond his years, as he crafts a triumph that should be celebrated for its cinematic impact regardless of what one thinks of the filmmaker’s personal character.
Rated R, 120 minutes.
Extras: A documentary feature on the legacy of Nat Turner, an audio commentary by Parker, deleted scenes, a making-of, a short film (“#AmeriCAN”), “Free God Spoken Word,” gallery and “Celebration of Independent Voice — Nate Parker.”
Deepwater Horizon (3.5 stars) Director Peter Berg’s latest docudrama (Lone Survivor, upcoming Patriot’s Day) tells the story of the crew members of the titular rig in April 2010, when the largest oil spill in U.S. history happened.
Starring Mark Wahlberg and Kurt Russell, Deepwater Horizon may get overly dramatic at times (especially at the film’s start and finish), but it stands as an emotionally-riveting tribute to those who lost their lives and the families that were affected by this tragedy.
Rated PG-13, 107 minutes.
Extras: “Beyond the Horizon” (an hour-long five-part series, where the film’s cast meets the real-life heroes), “Captain of the Rig” (key cast members discuss their director’s vision), and a three featurettes (explosive stunts, raw footage, and eight stories of real American workers).
Also available on DVD and streaming: Archer: Season 7, Broad City: Season 3, Homeland: Season 5, Kevin Hart: What Now?, Max Steel and Mr. Robot: Season 2.