Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Colossal

“Going in Style” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

The best way to tackle writer-director Nacho Vigalondo’s “Colossal,” one of the most inspired and original movies I’ve seen in a long time, is to set up the premise. In it, New York City party girl Gloria (Anne Hathaway) breaks up with her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) and is forced to move back to her old hometown, into her parents’ abandoned house. Shortly after she returns, a monster returns after 25 years of dormancy and attacks the city of Seoul, South Korea. She soon realizes that this is not a coincidence—she and the monster are connected.

For a premise that lends itself to comedy and satire, “Colossal” is surprisingly serious and straightforward. Sure, there are funny moments. That’s to be expected when a funny and charming actress like Hathaway is involved. Jason Sudeikis, known as a comedian, plays Oscar, a former classmate of Gloria’s whom she reconnects with after she moves back. One would expect a certain level of silliness and buffoonery given the casting of Sudeikis in the role, but there is none of that. Sudeikis fleshes out his character in a well-rounded, straightforward way, and turns in one of the best performances I’ve seen from him to date.

Take for example an excellent scene that takes place after hours at the bar that Oscar owns, and where Gloria works as a waitress. They’re there with bar regulars Joel (Austin Stowell) and Garth (Tim Blake Nelson). Oscar is drunk, and stewing over a discovery he made about Gloria earlier that day, which makes him jealous and spiteful. Sudeikis runs the scene like a power mad king on high, as Oscar barks out orders and confronts people with truths that they don’t want to hear. By the end of the scene, he’s lost at least one friend and turns the others against him. It’s a pivotal moment that starts Oscar down a dark path from which he never returns—and only gets worse.

Part of what makes “Colossal” so amazing is this attention to detail in its main characters. In most movies, the fact that a giant monster is attacking a major city would be the main focus. In this movie, the monster attacks are mostly off to the side and seen in news reports and online videos. The attacks, however, directly impact Oscar and Gloria, so while they may be a side story in terms of the drama between the two, the effects of the attacks are very deeply felt by them and everyone around them.

While the creature effects in “Colossal” are not the most visually impressive ever put on screen, that’s fine—it’s not trying to be that kind of movie. My hat is off to Vigalondo for creating something unique and well balanced. The movie holds together quite well, and as out there as the concept is, it all comes together in the end and the conclusion is satisfying. This movie is proof that all is not lost in the entertainment industry, and there are fresh voices with original ideas out there. Buy it on Amazon: Colossal [Blu-ray].

Also New This Week

Going in Style

Criminals though they may be, it’s hard to not empathize with septuagenarian bank robbers Joe (Michael Caine), Willie (Morgan Freeman), and Albert (Alan Arkin). These three friends worked in a factory their whole lives and expected to live their retirement years in comfort and security. But once the factory was sold, their pensions were taken from them. In fear of losing his home, Joe goes to the bank looking for some sympathy—or at least some humanity—about his mortgage. All he gets from the dullard behind the desk (Josh Pais) is indifferent resistance.

Fortuitously for Joe, while at this meeting in the bank—and after hilariously asking if he can speak with someone smarter—it gets robbed by a very well organized group of masked men. Tired of getting financially screwed over by those who he thought he could rely on, Joe concocts gets an idea. Much like the gang he witnessed, he too will convince his friends to plan a heist and get back the retirement money out of which they were so sorely cheated.

Directed by Zach Braff, “Going in Style,” milks this idea for all of the laughs it can. While there aren’t many big ones, the laughs are there and the comedy is fairly consistent. I also appreciate that the movie remembers that it’s a comedy and never gets too dark, even when guns start shooting off.

The funniest moments actually come from two supporting characters. One is played by Christopher Lloyd, a fellow retiree. Some of the more easily offended out there will undoubtedly have an apoplectic melt down over a fictional side character’s senility being played for laughs, but not me. Lloyd steals the show in the few scenes he’s in, and he is darn funny.

As a practice run for robbing the bank, the three friends attempt to steal groceries from the local supermarket. After a pretty funny chase involving an electric-powered shopping cart, city traffic, and a bag of flour, they’re caught and brought before the store manager (Keenan Thompson), who is the other funny supporting character. His dressing down of these three men who are at least double his age is priceless, concluding with asking Willie, “What would your momma say?” Freeman’s matter of fact tone in delivering the answer is priceless.

The only aspect in which “Going in Style” falls apart is in some of the plotting, which is a bit pat and way too easy. Most egregious is Joe’s ex-son in law Murphy (Peter Serafinowicz). Joe had to take over the role of father and caregiver after Murphy left, and all indications are that Murphy wants nothing to do with his family. His rapid change of heart on the matter is a bit contrived. There’s also store clerk Annie (Ann-Margret), who has a crush on Albert. To say that their relationship feels forced is an understatement.

But those are minor flaws in what is effectively a fun, funny, charming movie about three old men who have had enough and want to get what’s rightfully theirs. “Going in Style” sends a not so subtle message to companies with pension plans and the banks who handle them to be aware: Don’t mess with the retirement of old folks. They have time on their hands and not much to lose—they will get even. Rent it.

House on Willow Street

Question, dear reader: Have you ever seen a home invasion movie? Also, have you ever seen a demon possession/exorcism movie? Ever wonder what you would happen if they were combined into one movie? Well, wonder no more because Alastair Orr, the director and co-writer of South African movie “House on Willow Street,” has also seen those types of movies and was kind enough to combine them for us.

The problem with “House on Willow Street” is that the combination was done in the most obvious, bland, and derivative way imaginable. It’s one thing to watch, say, “Don’t Breathe” and “The Evil Dead” back to back, take some notes, and then go out and make your own thing. That is not what this movie does, however. I can guarantee that all of the major scenes and plot developments have been done elsewhere in more original, more successful movies.

The one aspect of “House on Willow Street” that drew me to it was the fact that the story involves a kidnapping, and the kidnappers soon discover that they are in over their heads because the young woman they kidnap (Carlyn Burchell) is demon possessed. That’s a cool idea. It doesn’t even need demon possession. Just having the kidnappers in over their heads because they inadvertently messed with someone stronger/crazier than they are is a fun concept. Unfortunately, “House on Willow Street” is way less fun, and way more ho-hum, than it leads on. Skip it.

More New Releases: “The Circle,” about a woman who lands a dream job at a tech company and uncovers their sinister agenda—really, is there any other kind of agenda for big companies to have in the movies, especially ones that star Emma Watson?; “Sleight,” about a street magician who must use his skills to rescue his kidnapped sister; and “All About the Money,” about two friends who get roped into tracking down a criminal on the run in Colombia, starring Danny Trejo, Casper Van Dien, and Lin Shaye.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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