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DVDs/Home Viewing

11 Jun 2018
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The Bluths are back together again—with more simultaneous screen time than in Season 4—in the latest Arrested Development reunion on Netflix. The plotting of this season involves a little too much crazy stuff regarding Lucille 2 (Liza Minnelli) and the shared girlfriend (Isla Fisher) of Michael (Jason Bateman) and George Michael (Michael Cera), making things a bit haphazard. That doesn’t stop it from being very funny. There’s a lot of weirdness at play. Buster (Tony Hale) does jail time (during which he touches a mouse!), while Tobias (David Cross) obsesses with impersonating everybody in the family. Cross remains the funniest guy on this show; he goes full-blown insane this season. Gob (Will Arnett) is dealing with feelings for fellow magician Tony Wonder (Ben Stiller), so he makes a visit to a Closet Conversion facility (which is not what he thinks). Maeby (Alia Shawkat), for reasons I won’t explain, winds up…
04 Jun 2018
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Howard Stern, sporting a silly gray beard in order to give his pal David Letterman a hard time, sits for a terrific interview in the latest installment of Netflix’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. Stern, who got his big television break on Letterman’s show many years ago, is shown in footage from their first meeting together on TV—sporting a terrible mustache and somehow looking older than he does now. The action then skips to present-day, with Letterman sporting that crazy beard and Howard with shades—but without upper-lip hair. The two talk about broadcasting in general, Howard’s upbringing, and the hazards of celebrity. Stern is his usual self-conscious self, complaining about his looks and worrying he’s ruining Dave’s show. He looks fine, and he’s a great guest. Of course, they touch upon Donald Trump and his many visits to each of their shows, including Trump’s gross bragging about his own…
30 May 2018
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Two comic legends come together for Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life, a variety special that has its shining moments … but gets by on the general good feeling of seeing the two sharing a stage. It’s not remarkably funny. Actually, it really isn’t that funny at all; a lot of the attempts at humor fall flat. It does have a couple of gigglers, including Short’s nasty talk-show-host Jiminy Glick transformed into a puppet that Martin works; the two also enjoy making fun of each other. But a musical number by Short that winds up with him in a very low-grade naked suit is lame. The show really shines when Martin simply sits down and plays his banjo. Honestly, I could’ve watched an hour of Martin playing his banjo by himself on the stage. I didn’t even need the moment…
22 May 2018
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I’ve had it up to here with zombies (I stopped watching The Walking Dead after Season 2)—but Cargo, set in the Australian Outback, is actually pretty good. Martin Freeman stars as a man who is surviving a zombie apocalypse on a houseboat with his wife and baby daughter. Things go very badly not long after the movie starts—and he must battle on land to ensure a future for his family. Directors Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke (Ramke also wrote the screenplay) keep the origins of the apocalypse shrouded in secrecy, and that’s a good move. There are cool elements, like government-provided survival (and disposal) packs for those who become infected, and the fact that Freeman has a baby strapped to his back during a rather harrowing medical emergency. The film relies more upon a sense of dread and impending doom rather than straight-up zombie violence. The humans who aren’t sick…
14 May 2018
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Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz is dynamite as Jen, mistress to Richard (Kevin Janssens), a rich man with a fancy house in the middle of the desert, in the film Revenge. Jen and Richard are enjoying a romantic getaway when Richard’s hunting buddies (Vincent Colombe and Guillaume Bouchède) show up early—and immediately commence ogling Jen. After a night of partying and some seductive dancing by all, Jen passes out in the bedroom. Richard goes away to take care of some business for a couple of hours, and that’s all the time a friend needs to assault Jen. Upon Richard’s return, rather than helping Jen, he escalates the situation—until Jen winds up impaled on a tree at the bottom of a cliff. Where the story goes from here is where the movie gets its name; director Coralie Fargeat isn’t interested in Jen simply getting away. She patches herself up and gets herself…
09 May 2018
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Nearly 30 years after last donning the headband in Karate Kid Part III, Ralph Macchio returns to the role of Daniel LaRusso, and old nemesis Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) is along for the ride. As a 10-part series on YouTube Red, YouTube’s premium service, Cobra Kai gives us a chance to see how things turned out for Daniel—he’s a rich owner of a car dealership. While that’s fun, the real charm of the series is learning more about Johnny, who isn’t doing so well three decades later. Prone to drinking, estranged from his son, Robby (Tanner Buchanan), and constantly beating up on himself, Johnny hasn’t adjusted well after taking that kick to the face in the karate tournament. Yes, it looked like Johnny learned his lesson and tried to be a good sport in the aftermath, but the defeat ate away at him over the years. Now, while pounding beers…
01 May 2018
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After a strong, sweet and funny start, Adam Sandler’s latest Netflix effort, The Week Of, falls apart in its second half. Sandler plays Kenny, a dad whose daughter (Allison Strong) is getting married in a week. He sees it as his last chance to do something for her, so he tries his best to put together an impressive spread for the two families. Chris Rock plays the father of the groom, a wealthy heart surgeon who isn’t impressed with the hotel Kenny has picked. Others on hand include Rachel Dratch (It’s good to see her!) as Kenny’s wife, and Steve Buscemi as a sleazy family member with amazing climbing abilities. Directed by Robert Smigel, the film goes on long enough for the jokes to start dying from old age. A joke involving a legless uncle starts funny, gets funnier, almost gets really funny … then goes stale. As a Howard…
25 Apr 2018
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A dying photographer (Ed Harris) coaxes his estranged son (Jason Sudeikis) into going on a road trip with him and his nurse (Elizabeth Olsen) to get some Kodachrome film developed before the world stops developing the brand in Netflix’s Kodachrome. Yes, it’s yet another road movie, and yes, it has the “somebody’s dying” gimmick to go with it—but don’t write this one off based on the synopsis. The three stars are pretty good here, with Harris especially good as a miserable man trying, in a very strange and peculiar way, to make nice with his son before checking out. Sudeikis is one of the more underrated actors out there, and he does a lot with a fairly stereotypical role. Olsen, one of my favorite actresses, puts the whole thing over the top as a nurse who’s more than just an extra passenger calling shotgun. The movie falls into some of…
10 Apr 2018
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Al Pacino does haunting work in HBO’s Paterno as Joe Paterno, the former Penn State football coach who was a cowardly liar when it came to the case of Jerry Sandusky, one of Paterno’s assistants—and now a convicted pedophile. The film, directed by Barry Levinson, starts with Paterno on top of the world, about to win a record-setting football game. But behind the scenes, a story is brewing—one that will derail Paterno and others who led at a university that chose to cover up Sandusky’s acts in order to protect a legendary football program. That, of course, was disgusting, and Levinson’s film drives that point home in what amounts to a horror show. Jim Johnson, who plays Sandusky in a few chilling scenes, looks a lot like the real guy—so much so that your stomach turns when he’s onscreen. Sorry, Mr. Johnson. Pacino portrays Paterno as he appeared during his…
22 May 2018
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Transgender actress Daniela Vega delivers a great performance in an OK film from Chilean director Sebastian Lelio. In A Fantastic Woman, she plays Marina, a club singer at night and waitress by day who has a boyfriend twice her age in Orlando (Francisco Reyes). After celebrating her birthday, Orlando falls ill and dies, leaving Marina to deal with his family and authorities. Marina is persecuted by Orlando’s family, questioned by detectives about the circumstances of Orlando’s death, and restricted from attending his wake and funeral. The story never really takes hold. The plotting is routine and unimaginative, but some fantasy sequences and a couple of musical numbers give Vega a nice opportunity to shine. She keeps the movie moving forward when the story lags. Lelio has a few stylistic flourishes in the film, and it’s worth seeing in the end. (It won Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars.) See…
03 Apr 2018
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After watching Star Wars: The Last Jedi again, I can say that it I liked it even less than I did the first time. To be clear (or, maybe more confusing): I like the movie just fine. I just have major reservations about some choices made by director Rian Johnson. For example, a few months haven’t lessened my annoyance with a frozen Princess Leia flying through space to save her own ass; Kylo Ren with his shirt off; and just about everything Johnson did with Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac). Too much of this feels decidedly non-Star Wars to me. However, the stuff with Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is so good that it saves the movie. Their bickering on that island as Luke basically goes through a bit of a wuss phase is great moviemaking, and feels right at home in the Star Wars…
27 Mar 2018
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Wow! Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet was a show that was just OK in its first season—but not only does it hit its stride in the second; it becomes one of the funniest shows on TV (or streaming, or whatever). Why? Mainly because Timothy Olyphant’s performance as mildly agitated Joe—husband to recently undead cannibal Sheila (Drew Barrymore)—has gone from slightly off to totally on. In the first episode alone, he has a solid 10 moments that are worth a laugh. He not only gets the laughs; he gets them with pitch-perfect timing. Barrymore is no slouch, either, although she’s simply continuing her great work from Season 1. The writing on this show is done by a group of people (including Victor Fresco) who have just said, “Who gives a fuck anymore?” All the proverbial stops have been taken out. There are lines in this show that are as nasty/funny as anything…

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