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Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

DVDs/Home Viewing

09 Nov 2015
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Sarah Silverman gives an impressive dramatic performance in I Smile Back, a clumsy effort from director Adam Salky. Silverman is Laney, a troubled housewife married to a successful insurance man, Bruce (Josh Charles, who was supremely awesome in Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp). She seemingly has it all—but some daddy issues have left her an emotional wreck. She guzzles wine, snorts drugs in the bathroom and screws strangers in basements. Things get even worse when she decides to quit taking her lithium. Salky’s directorial style is, at best, flat, which doesn’t serve the sincere effort by Silverman. The comedic actress shows she can easily handle the heavy stuff, but Laney’s story is well-worn and not all that interesting. The film errs by trying to explain her behavior too much; sometimes, things are better left for the audience to figure out. The clichés are bountiful in this…
03 Nov 2015
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Mulholland Dr., the great David Lynch puzzle movie that launched the careers of Naomi Watts and Justin Theroux, has now gotten the Criterion treatment—and it’s a good one. Watts plays Betty, a wannabe actress who comes to Hollywood squeaky-clean—and gets her ass kicked. Theroux plays the director who gives her a role, but also breaks her heart. Or, depending upon your take, it’s all just a very bad dream. Lynch planned this as a TV series for ABC, but the executives over there had no idea what Lynch was trying to do when they watched the dailies. When the pilot was rejected, Lynch did an extensive transcendental meditation session and came up with a way to make his TV series into a movie. Shockingly, it all ties together magically well. I think this is actually Lynch’s best movie, full of terrific strange twists, dark humor and powerhouse acting—especially from Watts.…
27 Oct 2015
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Kurt Russell essentially transplants his character from John Carpenter’s The Thing into the Old West as Sheriff Franklin Hunt, a lawman looking for some kidnap victims, in horror-infused Western Bone Tomahawk. The victims are in the hands of a cannibalistic tribe that’s ready to give Hunt and his cohorts a truly sick time. Those cohorts include Richard Jenkins as his clumsy deputy, Patrick Wilson as a hobbled man looking to rescue his wife, and a never-been-better Matthew Fox, along for the ride and offering swift justice to those who dare to approach their camp. Writer-director S. Craig Zahler makes a very impressive debut, crafting not only an authentic Western, but a truly memorable monster movie. Russell, as he so often does, owns his part and makes Hunt one of his best roles in years. Jenkins seems as if he’s made hundreds of Westerns before; he’s right at home in dirty…
23 Oct 2015
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This business of sending some movies directly to iTunes/Amazon.com and on-demand services while they show on limited screens across the country is turning out to be really cool. Some great films, including Michael Fassbender’s Slow West, have been released this year using this method. Now another great film has been released in this way: Mississippi Grind. Powerhouse performances are delivered by Ben Mendelsohn as Gerry, a depressed gambler, and Ryan Reynolds as Curtis, his artificially upbeat counterpart. The two meet at a low-stakes poker game, share some bourbon and wind up on a road trip to New Orleans with the intent of getting in on a huge money game. Things don’t quite work out that way, with Gerry recklessly gambling the money Curtis stakes him, while Curtis womanizes and steals bicycles. Still, the two men continue to be drawn to each other—and it all leads up to some big events.…
12 Oct 2015
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Horror fans might get a kick out of The Final Girls, this spoof of ’80s horror movies—although they might decry the lack of blood and guts. Max (Taissa Farmiga) loses her mom (Malin Akerman) in a car accident. Her mom, Nancy, was a struggling horror-film actress best known for a Friday the 13th-type summer-camp slasher movie made in the ’80s. After agreeing to show up for a screening of her late mom’s film, Max and her friends journey inside the movie, where Max winds up hanging out with her mom—who isn’t really her mom, and is actually Amanda, the character she played in the film. The Final Girls is crazy enough to work on a few levels, although it suffers a bit because the movie is rated PG-13—which is strange, since the movie is spoofing films that have hard-R ratings. There are some good laughs, due mainly to a strong…
06 Oct 2015
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Just a couple of weeks after the release of one of his worst movies, writer-director Eli Roth is at it again with Knock Knock— a far-better offering. Keanu Reeves stars as Evan, a loving husband with two children who is left alone for a couple of days while the wife and kids go on a trip. Just as Evan is about to light the old pot pipe, there’s a knock at the door. Two of the most beautiful women in the world, Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and Bel (Ana de Armas), are soaking wet and in need of assistance. Evan innocently lets them in to use the phone, dry their clothes and, as things eventually turn out, have mad sex. Unfortunately for Evan, he winds up being part of a nasty torture game in which he will pay for his infidelities in horrible, gut-churning ways. While Roth never really reveals why…
28 Sep 2015
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Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon is a solidly entertaining documentary about the ups and downs of the National Lampoon magazine and production company. Back in the day, National Lampoon was a humor magazine that was a triple-R alternative to the much-tamer Mad Magazine. (National Lampoon had cartoons and real boobs.) The doc chronicles the early days of the Lampoon’s inception, through its hit movies (Animal House, Vacation), to the eventual demise of the magazine in 1998. Many stars—including Chevy Chase, Judd Apatow and Kevin Bacon—discuss their direct participation in Lampoon projects, and explain the ways in which the magazine and films influenced them. Other stars sitting down for interviews include John Landis (director of Animal House), Beverly D’Angelo (star of Vacation) and Tim Matheson (star of Animal House). Before they went to Saturday Night Live, Chase, John Belushi, Bill Murray and Gilda Radner all took…
22 Sep 2015
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I missed this one when it was in theaters. I wish I’d missed it on Blu-ray, too. I used to watch the TV show regularly. There was a stretch when I enjoyed Jeremy Piven’s outbursts as super agent Ari Gold, and Kevin Dillon’s dumbass brother/wannabe actor character. However, I never did like pretty boy Adrian Grenier as Vince, the “movie star” at the center of all the action. His agent Eric, played by suspiciously top-billed Kevin Connolly, never really engaged me, either, especially when he was whining about his girlfriend, Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui). Of course, the movie adaptation of the TV show mostly deals with bullshit in the lives of Vince and Eric. Vince has put himself in the hot seat by going over-budget on his directorial debut. Sloane is pregnant, but doesn’t want to be with Eric, so he’s fucking anything that moves. Enthralling stuff. Really. Ari shows up…
14 Sep 2015
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In Cooties, Clint (Elijah Wood) gets a substitute-teaching gig in his hometown. The job offers him a chance to take a break from writing his novel about a dumb boat, make some money, and see Lucy (Alison Pill), a girl on whom he used to have a crush. During his first class, one of the little girls takes a bite out of the school bully’s face. It turns out she ate a bad chicken nugget, and now she has cooties—which spreads through the school like wildfire. This version of cooties is less about tagging others and making them “It,” and more about ripping out intestines. Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion direct this old-school horror film with a new zombie twist, and it’s a good time. The cast includes Rainn Wilson as a gym teacher, Nasim Pedrad as the staff snoot, and Jorge Garcia as a mushroom-taking crossing guard. The carnage…
08 Sep 2015
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The last performance by Robin Williams in a live-action role has him playing a closeted older man dealing with issues in a very somber, slow-paced, mundane way. The faults of Boulevard lie within the script and the sloppy direction. Williams is decent as Nolan, a bank employee on the verge of a promotion; he’s been married for a long time to Joy (Kathy Baker). One night, when feeling a bit anxious, he goes cruising on the boulevard and picks up Leo (Roberto Aguire), a street hustler. They go to a hotel a couple of times. The first time, they just chat. The second time, they chat while Leo sits on the bed naked. It’s clear Nolan is gay—and doesn’t really know what to do about it. Nolan gets a little obsessive as he waits for texts and phone calls from Leo—and he puts his career and marriage on the line…
01 Sep 2015
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Three people and a couple of dogs try to figure things out in a post-apocalyptic world during Z for Zachariah, a strong acting exercise featuring Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine. Ann (Robbie) has been living a solitary life ever since a nuclear war wiped out the world’s population. She still lives on her father’s land, a place mysteriously immune from radiation clouds. With her trusty dogs by her side, she tills the land, hunts for game and longs for company. That company comes in the form of Loomis (Ejiofor), whom she rescues after he takes a dip in a radioactive pond. After scrubbing him down and nursing him back to health, the two form a bond with romantic inclinations. Is their budding relationship something that would’ve happened under normal circumstances, or is it just a product of them apparently being the only two people left in America? Robbie…
25 Aug 2015
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Gloria (Lola Dueñas) is one of the craziest characters to hit screens in years. Major applause goes to Dueñas, who steals the film Alleluia by encapsulating pure insanity as a quiet woman who reluctantly goes on an outing with an online date, Michel (Laurent Lucas). The two have a one-night stand. Gloria, who we soon realize isn’t that quiet after all, wants more—even after finding out that she is just one of many conquests for Michel, who fancies himself a regular Don Juan who takes advantage of lonely women for their money. Gloria wants in, so she poses as his sister in his schemes. Problem is, she has a little jealousy problem, and starts murdering the women Michel is attempting to defraud. Director Fabrice Du Welz often makes the movie uncomfortable (this is not a complaint), and dots the film with occasional bizarre moments, such as when Gloria breaks into…