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Wed08232017

Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

DVDs/Home Viewing

21 Aug 2017
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Eccentric comedic actor Brett Gelman gets a much-deserved starring vehicle in Lemon as Isaac, a theater teacher going through some troubles with his blind girlfriend (Judy Greer). She starts getting antsy, and his behavior gets weirder and weirder, especially when it comes to student Alex (a very funny Michael Cera). Let’s just say things don’t go well when Alex comes over to hang out … yet that occurrence is one of the more normal ones in Isaac’s life. As his relationship and acting career crumble—he’s the spokesman for Hep C!—he tries to date others. That ends with him escaping a party with his date’s grandmother. (To repeat: Isaac is weird.) The film meanders a bit, and never has a true sense of purpose, yet somehow, it all works just fine. Director Janicza Bravo, who co-wrote the script with Gelman, makes an impressively strange directorial debut, thanks in large part to…
16 Aug 2017
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Ridley Scott’s third Alien movie, Alien: Covenant, is a good one. Sadly, it was not good enough to motivate a lot of domestic viewers to take it in—putting the franchise in jeopardy. A direct sequel to his Alien prequel, Prometheus, Covenant tries to be both a gory monster movie and a philosophical meditation on the creation of man—with mixed results. It’s as if Scott heard all of the bitching by Alien fans who didn’t get enough monster madness in Prometheus, so he upped the ante on the gore and special effects, but did it with a smaller budget and the same kind of crazy plot holes that plagued Prometheus. The movie still represents good Alien fun, with Michael Fassbender doing excellent work as not one, but two androids: Walter, the new, nicer android, and David, the dickhead android from Prometheus. Scott gets a little carried away regarding David’s overall role…
08 Aug 2017
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Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later is the third trip to Camp Firewood after the original film (Wet Hot American Summer) and the Netflix prequel series (Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp), and it’s the least-funny of the three. It’s still one of the funniest things you will find on television. Most of the group is back again for the eight-episode series, by writer-director David Wain and writer Michael Showalter. At the end of the original movie, the camp counselors (including Showalter, Michael Ian Black, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper and Janeane Garofalo) promised to reunite 10 years later to see how things turned out. Here, they do just that, with their reunion threatened by an evil Ronald Reagan (Showalter) and George H.W. Bush (Michael Ian Black, in what has to be the worst and most hilarious George Bush impersonation ever). The two presidents want to nuke the…
01 Aug 2017
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In Wakefield, Bryan Cranston plays Howard Wakefield, a dude who comes home one night, chases a raccoon into a room above his garage, and decides to stay there for a while … a long while. After a rough stretch with his wife (Jennifer Garner) and a dissatisfying time at work, Howard is feeling a little underappreciated. The room over his garage seems like a good sanctuary for a few hours, a place where he can take inventory of things before returning to his routine. He can see his family having dinner through the window. Then he sees his wife throw his dinner in the garbage can. Something breaks inside of him. Cut to a bearded, disheveled Howard many months later; he’s rummaging through garbage cans for food and peeing in bottles, Howard Hughes-style. He’s taken up residence in the apartment above the garage like Fonzie in Happy Days, and nobody…
24 Jul 2017
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In Killing Ground, writer-director Damien Power manages to tell a nightmarish, horrific story in a way that eschews exploitation and gratuitous violence—while still being somewhat violent … and really, really scary. A young couple (Harriet Dyer and Ian Meadows) goes on a camping trip in a remote Australian location. They notice other campers nearby while setting up their tent. Power then shows us that other family in a separate timeline, enjoying nature and taking strolls. Then, slowly, the true situation that the young couple has gotten into begins to unfold. We are talking about major levels of dread and terror. Power presents the ultimate in family horror, but he does it in a way that generates genuine sympathy for all involved. The people going through terrible things in this movie are fleshed-out, complete characters. Nothing feels schlocky or like horror porn … it’s a bare-knuckled, nightmare-fuel endeavor. The cast also…
18 Jul 2017
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Writer-director James Gray has made a powerful film about Percy Fawcett, a British explorer who disappeared in 1925 while looking for a lost city in the Amazon. Charlie Hunnam gives an impressive performance in The Lost City of Z as Fawcett, a man so hell-bent on restoring his family’s good name that he leaves his wife and children, for years at a time, to explore the Amazon. After many brushes with death in his travels, he returns to England—only to find himself fighting in World War I. Eventually, Percy’s son, Jack (Tom Holland … yes, Spider-Man!), joins him for one more quest in the Amazon, and it turns out to be Percy’s last. There are many different accounts regarding the fate of Percy and his son, and Gray comes up with a conclusion that is powerful and beautiful. Hunnam is great here, as is Robert Pattinson as Henry Costin, a…
11 Jul 2017
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Writer-director Terrence Malick has shit the bed with his third consecutive film: His latest cinematic effort, Song to Song, is a joke. I am a card-carrying, Malick-worshiping super fan who is in pain watching one of my directing heroes lose his way. After the triumph that was The Tree of Life, Malick shot To the Wonder and Knight of Cups out his film-making butt—and I hoped that would be the worst of it. Alas, Song to Song, which is supposed to be about people having love affairs amidst the Austin music scene, is Malick’s worst … by far. For starters, I just have no idea what the fuck is supposed to be going on in this thing. Rooney Mara plays some kind of groupie who hooks up with a record producer played by Michael Fassbender. Then she starts dating wannabe musician Ryan Gosling. Then Gosling dumps her. Then Natalie Portman…
04 Jul 2017
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Director Joon-ho Bong, the purveyor of spectacularly wacky cinematic things (The Host, Snowpiercer), has delivered to Netflix Okja, perhaps his wackiest film yet: It’s a tale about a future world in which meat is scarce, so huge pigs are biogenetically engineered for slaughter. The title character is a prized, giant animal raised in the mountains by Mija (Seo-Hyun Ahn), a young girl who thinks Okja is her pet. She’s oblivious to the fact that Okja’s days are numbered, so when an envoy for a large corporation (Jake Gyllenhaal, going completely nuts here) shows up and takes Okja away, Mija flies into action—and the bizarre adventure begins. Paul Dano, one of the kings of movie weirdness, chips in as the leader of an animal-rescue corps that includes Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead) and Lily Collins. Following up her collaboration with Bong on Snowpiercer is Tilda Swinton, playing twins (as she did…
26 Jun 2017
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Writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour follows up her notable feature debut, the authentic vampire story A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, with another horror story, The Bad Batch. This time out, she focuses on cannibals. Suki Waterhouse plays Arlen, newly exiled to a desert landscape—where she is quickly captured by cannibals, watching as her arm and leg are cut off and devoured. After escaping, she wanders around a bit, eventually stopping by a safe haven run by The Dream (Keanu Reeves). Some business involving the daughter of Miami Man (Jason Momoa, aka Aquaman), one of her captors, represents the only thing that passes for a conventional subplot in this purposefully rambling, meandering affair. Amirpour’s sophomore effort is a mixed bag, but it looks amazing, boasts a great soundtrack and has a few creepy passages in it. But if a cohesive story is what you seek, you won’t find it here.…
20 Jun 2017
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One of the better films of the 1990s finally gets a sequel as Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) and the boys swing back into action. After being gone two decades following the heist after which he skipped town with all of the money, screwing over his gang mates, Mark finally returns home—and the circumstances are grim. Best friend Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) remains pissed; Spud (Ewen Bremner) is an absolute suicidal mess; and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is fresh out of prison—after an escape—and looking for some payback. Director Danny Boyle also returns, and he’s put together a film that, while not nearly as good as the original, is a sequel worthy of the original. It’s fun to see these characters again, and interesting to see where the years have taken them. (Basically, not very far.) Heroin addiction, a big part of the original, is more of an afterthought in this one,…
05 Jun 2017
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In The Survivalist, Martin McCann plays a character—simply listed as Survivalist in the credits—who is living on a small piece of land in a post-apocalyptic world where food has grown scarce. It’s a lonely existence, but he has a crop to get by, and it’s all for him. That is, until a mysterious woman (Olwen Fouere) and her daughter (Mia Goth) show up looking to barter for food. He refuses their offer of pumpkin seeds, but the Survivalist accepts the offer of sleeping with the daughter … and then things get a little complicated. Writer-director Stephen Fingleton has made a film that is relentlessly dark, and has almost nothing good to say about human beings. (Hey, the human race needs a good smack-down sometimes … am I right?) McCann is highly memorable as a nervous man who yearns for companionship yet trusts no one. Fouere provides the right amount of…
23 May 2017
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Some 26 years ago, ABC did a very, very bad thing: The network cancelled Twin Peaks after just two seasons, without telling David Lynch the season finale would be a series finale. This resulted in the most unholy of cliffhangers. That cliffhanger that would last 26 years. Thanks to Showtime, Twin Peaks fans finally get some relief with the return of Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), the Black Lodge and Deputy Andy (Harry Goaz). As of this writing, I’ve seen the first four hours of what will be 18, all directed and co-written by Lynch. The first two hours play like the latter-day Lynch films (Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway), and have more in common with the dark, horrific Peaks movie Fire Walk With Me than the comparatively bright original TV show. Episodes 3 and 4 take on a funny, goofier tone at times, reminiscent of the odd humor that propelled the…

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