On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 7, 2015

As you allow A Most Violent Year to slowly sink in the first theme you recognize is truth. Complete honesty is the way Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) chooses to conduct himself and throughout the entire running time of the film it is difficult to decipher whether or not he is a corrupt man who wants to believe he is good or if he genuinely strives to be honorable. With this kind of reciprocal psychology constantly battling within Abel, Isaac's is able to dig in and deliver a performance that continues to prove his excellence while also anchoring the film with the bigger ideas that director J.C. Chandor (Margin Call, All is Lost) is intending to convey. Within Abel Morales Isaac finds a man who we don't get much insight on up to the point that we meet him. He is an oil distributor, he is attempting to acquire a piece of real estate that will do nothing but expand his business and his control on the market, but to reach this point of seeming solidarity in both his business and personal lives he will have to make choices not akin to his way of thinking; choices influenced by the time period Chandor has chosen to place these characters in. In not really knowing the mentality of this character and only having it slowly revealed to us over the course of two hours we are kept in a constant state of suspense with Isaac at the steering wheel taking us only as far as Abel is willing to bend his morality. It is an interesting take on what could have easily been a more Goodfellas or Scarface-inspired film, but rather than make this about the mob or being a gangster as we generally think of them we are given this idea on what it truly takes to get what you want and to earn real respect. There is plenty to like and admire about A Most Violent Year and its methodical sense of storytelling, but it can't help but feel somewhat scattered in getting the sum of its parts to come together and deliver a wholly satisfying conclusion. Chandor clearly knows what he is doing and is somewhat of a master at putting the pieces in place and building the tension, but it is the payoff where things don't necessarily feel as compelling as one might expect. Given the grace and precision with which he puts these pieces in play I expected more from the third act, but in a film as full of atmosphere and subtly great performances as this it is hard to complain at all. Full review here. B-

The Immigrant is one of those films that is completely mediocre in terms of how it makes you feel when it's over and the impression it leaves on you, but is dressed up so fancy in period decoration and costume as well as high-caliber talent that it would like you to gloss over the fact it's completely average in favor of the hat trick it was able to pull in making you think it might actually be something exceptional. There is no reason to think it wouldn't be anything but as it sports a leading Joaquin Phoenix performance, something you only seem to get these days if you have something specifically special for the actor, yet here Phoenix seems to be trying to make something out of nothing and is more than likely doing this as a favor for frequent collaborator James Gray (We Own the Night, Two Lovers) while the rest of the cast that makes up the leading trio is either hardly given anything to do (Jeremy Renner, also trying hard and only coming off more successful because his character is more pleasant) or is Marion Cotillard who typically signals truly sophisticated cinema, but here turns out to be nothing more than a one-note performer that we're agitated by and therefore unable to sympathize with. As I sit here and write about The Immigrant I'm confronted with the fact that I went into this not knowing what to expect in terms of what kind of cinematic experience it would be, but as with most films I based expectations on credentials and this films in particular are golden. Phoenix all but swore off acting after Gray's last film and that was an interesting little drama that played with the tone of the film matching the tone of life as it walked the fine line between lighter, more comedic moments and the inherent drama present in the situation, but while that film felt balanced and purposeful The Immigrant is a complete melodrama that can't even match the interesting aspects of its exaggerated characters for the length of its running time. All of that said, I was never really bored and there is obviously potential with where this story could have gone, but it recesses too often and wastes so much talent that I can't help but see this final product as little more than a disappointment. Full review here. C-

I didn't get a chance to see Marjane Satrapi's (Persepolis) The Voices in its limited theatrical and VOD run, but now that it's in Redbox and likely showing up on Netflix soon I am definitely interested in giving it a look. What looks to be a black comedy starring Ryan Reynolds as a guy who pursues his office crush with the help of his evil talking pets eventually leading to a sinister turn after she stands him up on a date looks strangely promising and though I haven't seen Satrapi's previous work I'm intrigued by what the fuss is all about.

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