We’ve been spoiled the last couple of months with studios trotting out the good stuff with at least one eye on the Oscars. But, as usual, the good stuff is in limited supply.
Now we’re heading into the winter doldrums, the mostly dead zone of January and February, the traditional Hollywood dumping ground for projects that didn’t quite live up to expectations. It’s not entirely guaranteed, anymore, that anything you see in a theater anytime soon will be a loser, but it’s still a risky proposition. So here are some quick recommendations for stay-at-home options available on DVD or video on demand. Plus a few cautious suggestions for upcoming multiplex fare — for the bold at heart or cabin-fever afflicted.
“Groundhog Day” — What better way to compensate for winter than by watching Harold Ramis’ classic existential comedy, with obnoxious weatherman Bill Murray reliving the same day over and over until he gets it right?
“Venus” — You could honor the memory of the recently departed Peter O’Toole by checking out any number of his finer performances, from “Lawrence of Arabia” to “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” to “My Favorite Year,” but my personal choice would be this touching, 2006 drama about an aging actor taking a young woman under his wing.
“Blood Simple”— If “Inside Llewyn Davis” was a bit too somber and circumspect for you, try going all the way back to the Coen brothers very first effort — an ultra-stylish and truly harrowing murder saga that pumped new blood into film noir. Nothing circumspect about it.
“The Guild: Complete Megaset” — It might not be truly mega (even though you get six seasons), since each episode is only a few minutes long, but creator/star Felicia Day’s online sitcom about a “guild” of online gamers is definitely smart and funny. And a nice example of what can be accomplished these days with a very low budget. It’s also available online, of course.
“The Rutles: Anthology” — If you’re looking for something a little more vintage, Monty Python expat Eric Idle’s 1978 Beatles parody (a.k.a. “All You Need is Cash”) is always good for an idolatrous laugh. And this anthology package also includes the 2002 “Rutles 2: Can’t Buy Me Lunch.”
“The Hunt” — Or, if you’re in the mood for something with no laughs at all (Seasonal Affective Disorder, anyone?), try this devastating Danish drama about a man (Mads Mikkelsen of TV’s “Hannibal” won Best Actor at Cannes) who’s suddenly spurned by an entire community when he’s unjustly accused of molesting a child.
“The Monuments Men” (Feb. 7) — Written and directed by star George Clooney, this World War II action drama about a platoon of art historians and museum curators tracking down stolen masterpieces behind German lines was originally scheduled for a Christmas release before being squeezed out of the trough. It’s your safest bet for the next two months.
“Labor Day” (Jan. 31) — The next-safest option? Consider this drama about single mom (Kate Winslet) and her teenage son, who become involved with a wounded escaped convict (Josh Brolin). Why? Because it was written and directed by Jason Reitman (“Juno,” “Thank You for Smoking” and “Young Adult”).
“I, Frankenstein” (Jan. 24) — There’s no telling how writer/director Stuart Beattie’s action-fantasy update of the horror classic will turn out, but Beattie wrote the spiffy Tom Cruise thriller “Collateral.” And it gets extra points for not being about zombies. Well, more or less.