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DVDs/Home Viewing

16 Jul 2019
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Teen Spirit is Max Minghella’s directorial debut—he also wrote the script—and the film is a bit on the hackneyed side as it tells the story of a young girl’s rise to fame as a singer via a televised talent show. What makes it all rather watchable is Elle Fanning as that girl, giving the talented actress a nice opportunity to show off an impressive singing voice. Fanning belts out songs by Tegan and Sara, Annie Lennox and Sigrid with refined assurance, making one believe she might actually win a TV talent show if she chose to compete. The story around those singing moments is a little weird as Violet (Fanning), a Polish girl living in England, enlists the help of a former Russian opera star (Zlatko Buric) to be her manager. She makes it through the ranks despite little confidence in herself. It all has a Flashdance feel, although Violet…
08 Jul 2019
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The third season is the best yet for Netflix’s Stranger Things, the Duffer Brothers’ 1980s throwback series. Much of the action, including a showdown with the Mind Flayer monster from the Upside Down, takes place in the Starcourt Mall, a mighty authentic wonder of art direction. (Sam Goody and Ground Round make notable appearances.) Of course, the Russians now play a prominent part as Hopper (David Harbour) tries to protect his adopted daughter, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), from the Reds, demons—and, most notoriously, her new boyfriend, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), who likes to kiss way too much. Steve (Joe Keery) has his best season yet, working in an ice cream store with new cast member and major standout Maya Hawke (daughter of Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman) as his co-scooper. The special effects this time around are top-notch, with more nice nods to John Carpenter, Stephen King and The Blob. Harbour…
01 Jul 2019
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Bob Dylan peaked, in my opinion, during that strange time in the mid-1970s when he hit the road with a traveling circus of his music/poetry friends, covered his face with white makeup and delivered some of the rawest, most-straightforward rocking performances of his career. Thankfully, that’s the focus of Rolling Thunder Revue on Netflix. Martin Scorsese, for the second time, has made a documentary focusing on the musical icon, combining archive concert footage with interviews (most notably a new chat with Dylan himself) to tell the story of the most-interesting tour of the man’s career. Dylan had just finished touring stadiums with The Band, and wanted to play more-intimate venues. So he did, and he brought the likes of Joni Mitchell, Allen Ginsberg and Joan Baez along with him. The concert footage shows Dylan focused, driving and sometimes very funny as he delivers new music along with his already-classic songbook.…
26 Jun 2019
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I’m a big fan of anthology horror movies and TV shows. Creepshow stands as one of my all-time-favorite horror movies, so when I see another anthology horror film getting good buzz, I get excited. Word had it that Nightmare Cinema was a blast … but alas, it totally blows. Mickey Rourke plays the Projectionist, a purposeless dude screening horror films in an old, mystical theater. The premise for the short films in this movie has something to do with the main characters walking into the theater, sitting down and seeing their story. Each one of those stories—including a demon-possession tale, a crazy-mother story, a cabin-in-the-woods scenario and a kid who sees dead people—is lame, lame, lame. There isn’t an original moment to be had. It should just be called Mickey Rourke Actually Gets a Job, because that’s the only shocking thing about it. Standard gore effects, terrible writing and lousy…
17 Jun 2019
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Robert Pattinson, the man who will be Batman, continues establishing himself as one of his generation’s finest actors with High Life, a dark, scarily effective sci-fi thriller. Directed and co-written by Claire Denis, the film stars Pattinson as Monte, a death-row inmate sent into space with a crew of prisoners, including a murderous doctor played by Juliette Binoche. The prisoners dedicate their lives to scientific experiments rather than rotting in cells back on Earth. It’s established early that Monte and his toddler daughter are the only survivors of the flight after things went terribly wrong. The deterioration of the mission is told in flashback. Mia Goth and Andre Benjamin play two other members of the ill-fated crew. Everybody is terrific in this movie, which turns out to be one of the darker, more-effective sci-fi offerings in years. The mission’s ultimate goal is to pass through a black hole and see…
03 Jun 2019
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I was 18 years old in 1986 when the whole Chernobyl thing went down. If you think the anti-Russian sentiment in the United States is at a fever pitch today, it’s nothing compared to what it was in the mid-1980s—especially when the nightmare occurred. I confess that my teenage self—worried about my first year in college and the fact that I had to drive a Volkswagen Rabbit through the Adirondacks—didn’t pay enough attention to what was going on in Russia. I knew that there was an accident, and that some radiation escaped. It wasn’t until years later that I started to understand what really happened: The planet was almost irreparably altered. HBO’s excellent five-episode series about the Chernobyl disaster, which concludes tonight, does a heart-wrenching job of showing the human toll and sacrifice it took to keep Russia and the planet safe. Jared Harris is superb as a scientist sent…
30 May 2019
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Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein deliver star-making performances in Booksmart as Amy and Molly, two super-smart high school students looking to get crazy on graduation eve after years of hitting the books and missing all of the fun. Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is smart and funny; this is a film that feels like a relative of Superbad, which makes sense, considering Feldstein is Jonah Hill’s little sister. (They both have those those wide eyes while dryly delivering wise-ass asides.) Besides this dynamic duo, the film is blessed with the presence of Skyler Gisondo (of Santa Clarita Diet) as Jared, the super-sweet and dorky rich kid; Jason Sudeikis (Wilde’s longtime partner) as the school principal; and Lisa Kudrow and Will Forte as Amy’s parents. However, the best member of the supporting cast would be Billie Lourd, daughter of Carrie Fisher, as the oddball student who keeps magically showing up at every…
27 May 2019
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Well … this oddity came out of nowhere. Andy Samberg and his Lonely Island cronies recently dropped The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience on Netflix. This nutty 27-minute “musical poem” chronicles the late ’80s insanity that was the Bash Brothers—the steroid-enriched combo of Oakland Athletics baseball players Jose Canseco (Samberg) and Mark McGwire (Akiva Schaffer). The short film chronicles their rise and fall, taking a hilariously esoteric deep dive into psyches that were apparently a lot more complicated than their athletic exteriors revealed. The Lonely Island guys grew up in the Bay Area, so this is something that is close to home for them. It’s also an inspired and unexpected choice upon which to base a half-hour music video. Musical group Haim shows up with Maya Rudolph to do an ass-shaking routine that reminds of Janet Jackson’s “Nasty,” while Sterling K. Brown makes an appearance as, yes, Sia. This is actually…
20 May 2019
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Mary Harron, director of American Psycho, helms Charlie Says, a film about real-life psycho Charles Manson (Matt Smith) and three female members of his “family”: Leslie Van Houten (Hannah Murray), Susan Atkins (Marianne Rendón) and Patricia Krenwinkel (Sosie Bacon). Harron and longtime screenwriting partner Guinevere Turner try to take an insightful look at the three women during the early portion of their prison sentences, while utilizing flashbacks to show the buildup to the crimes that got them there. Unfortunately, the film makes the mistake of trying to portray the three women as brainwashed victims, with every line delivery accompanied by that patented Manson Family smile. The film works fairly well when showing life on the ranch with Manson, and the ways in which he manipulated those around him; the brief depiction of the murders is chilling. As for the prison scenes, during which the three women are going through a…
16 May 2019
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Writer, director and certified nutball Gaspar Noé (Enter the Void, Irreversible) makes another technically impressive movie with Climax—but this one comes up short in the narrative category. The film chronicles a crazed night for a dance troupe that winds up drinking a bowl full of sangria spiked with LSD. Rather than exploring the comedic aspects of a dance troupe freaking out, Noe goes for straight-up violent horror, and the movie doesn’t come together in the end. The audience has no emotional investment in any of these characters, so when they go from vivid (and impressive) dancing to nasty behavior, it feels hollow. Noé is interested in impressive technical feats, with numerous scenes strung together in one shot. The camera trickery is awesome, for sure, but here, it’s at the service of a generally flat, unimaginative story. Only the numerous dance scenes really pop. The setup could have elicited prime Noé…
06 May 2019
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Director Joe Berlinger is no stranger to dark subjects. He directed the documentary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, a movie that arguably helped release three innocent men from prison. Earlier this year, he directed Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, a four-part documentary series on the infamous serial killer. Now comes this, a narrative film about Bundy’s life, focusing on the years in which he was killing women while having a relationship with Liz Kendall (Lily Collins), a single parent he met in a bar. Zac Efron steps into the role of Bundy in a way that is downright frightening. If you mess with Efron’s hair a bit, he’s a dead-ringer for Bundy, but his work here goes well beyond physical resemblance. There was plenty of footage of Bundy for Efron to study (his murder trial was televised, a first in American history), and…
29 Apr 2019
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After his plane has crashed, Overgard (Mads Mikkelsen) must fend for himself in the Arctic—with little chance of survival. Writer-director Joe Penna makes a nice feature debut with Arctic, this man-against-nature story. This could’ve been just another plane-crash aftermath movie, but Mikkelsen makes it all work with a mostly silent performance. Overgard has a nice array of expressions, like the one he makes when he catches a giant fish, or the one he makes when he crunches on some dried oatmeal—something other than fish for the first time in many days. The plot brings in another person (Maria Thelma Smaradottir) later in the movie, but she doesn’t offer much to the goings-on. This is Mikkelsen’s movie—and that face will stick with you long after the film is over. Arctic is available on DVD and Blu-ray as of April 30; it’s also available via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

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