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DVDs/Home Viewing

11 Dec 2019
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Adam Driver busts out a spontaneous piano-bar rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s “Being Alive” in Marriage Story. That alone justifies taking the time to watch the film, now streaming on Netflix. Fortunately, there are other reasons besides Driver’s surprisingly amazing voice to see the movie … actually, a lot more. Driver and Scarlett Johansson are incredible in writer/director Noah Baumbach’s best movie yet—an alternately searing, touching and hilarious look at a marriage’s end times. Nicole and Charlie Barber work together in a theater company; she’s a performer, while he’s the director. The movie starts with them deciding to go through a divorce; they promise each other things will remain amicable, and lawyers won’t get involved. Nicole will go to Los Angeles and pursue film acting, while Charlie stays in New York to work on his latest play getting to Broadway. They are determined to share custody of their young son. This…
02 Dec 2019
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One man puts it all on the line to expose the CIA’s torture tactics post-Sept. 11 in The Report, a film—based on real life—from writer-director Scott Z. Burns. Adam Driver acts his heart out as Daniel Jones, a U.S. Senate staffer tasked by, among others, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (a droll Annette Bening) to get to the truth about the CIA’s use of extreme interrogation tactics, mainly waterboarding, on suspected terrorist prisoners. Jones (a real guy) basically proved the U.S. was breaking international law, and the film shows how high members of the government and the CIA tried to prevent him from exposing this fact. While the movie is a decent history lesson, and Driver is good, the film is a bit drab and unintentionally funny at times. Burns doesn’t quite have a grasp on the material here, and the resulting movie should be far more shocking and disarming than it…
26 Nov 2019
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The Peanut Butter Falcon is one of this year’s better directorial debuts. Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz deliver a real winner with a terrific cast. It’s a strange and funny Southern odyssey with a whole lot of peanut butter, moonshine, epiphanies and—last but not least—wrestling. Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a young man with Down syndrome, is basically a prisoner in a retirement home, abandoned by his family. Zak has aspirations to be a wrestler—and he breaks out one night on his quest, wearing nothing but underwear. He comes across Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), a troubled but goodhearted fisherman who creates a situation for himself after which he must hit the road. The two form a bond and start heading south toward Florida, where Zak’s wrestling school awaits. LaBeouf, who continues to shine after his career hit a bump, is at his best here opposite Gottsagen, an actor who actually has Down syndrome—and…
18 Nov 2019
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While Disney is cooling off on big-screen Star Wars plans after the upcoming Rise of Skywalker, the mega-company’s new streaming service is bringing the Star Wars goodness with a promised multitude of TV shows—the first of which is The Mandalorian. Ewan McGregor will reprise his Obi-Wan role for an upcoming series—but we have to wait a little longer for that. In the meantime, we get this gem about a bounty hunter (Pedro Pascal) in Boba Fett-type armor, set a few decades after the events of Return of the Jedi. Creator and showrunner Jon Favreau knows what Star Wars geeks want to see. The first two episodes bring lots of sand-planet goodness, with references to everything from Salacious Crumb to … well, I don’t want to give anything else away. Let this review also stand as a ringing endorsement for the streaming service itself. It’s a treasure trove for lovers of…
14 Nov 2019
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Bill Skarsgård gets perhaps his best showcase yet—outside of his Pennywise makeup, that is—in Villains as Mickey, a small-time crook who robs grocery stores with Jules (Maika Monroe). When his car runs out of gas minutes after a heist, they wind up in the house of George and Gloria (Jeffrey Donovan and Kyra Sedgwick), who seem stuck in the 1950s, judging by their TV set. They also seem to be psychos, thanks to a secret in their basement. Mickey and Jules try to work their way out of the predicament, one that eventually involves Mickey strapped to a bed while Gloria does an erotic dance for him. The film is strange, mostly in a good way; it’s oddly directed and written by the team of Dan Berk and Robert Olsen. Monroe, who is quickly becoming one of the more reliable cult-film actresses in the business, is great as Jules, who…
12 Nov 2019
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The Disney+ streaming service, launching today (Nov. 12), includes a brand-new version of Lady and the Tramp—a sweet little live-action redo of the classic 1955 animated feature. This film works, primarily due to the casting of both the actual dogs and their voices. Justin Theroux, a well-known dog-lover, is perfect for Tramp, a schnauzer mutt living the street life. The dog he provides the voice for is a perfect match—and is the spitting image of his animated counterpart. Tessa Thompson provides vocals for Lady, a cute-as-all-heck cocker spaniel. The live-action animal-talking is well done, and the film is more engaging than the recent remake of The Lion King. The plot remains simple: Rich dog meets stray dog; rich dog becomes stray dog; dogs fall in love. There are some major changes (there’s no Siamese-cats song, for starters), but fans of the original will find a lot to remind them of…
04 Nov 2019
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Partially inspired by real events, and partially inspired by the plays of William Shakespeare, Netflix film The King features Timothée Chalamet as Hal, King Henry V of England—and it’s a barnburner of an acting turn. Chalamet has made a name for himself by playing complicated, quiet characters, but this role gives him a chance to rage on occasion—and he’s more than up to the task. Joel Edgerton (who co-wrote the screenplay) is on hand as Falstaff, Hal’s complicated right-hand man, and Robert Pattinson once again shows that he just might be the finest actor of his generation with a brave and crazy performance as The Dauphin of France. Simply put: Pattinson’s accent is one of the greatest things I’ve witnessed in a movie this year, as is his final stunt in full armor. Director David Michod stages some fine action scenes, and Lily-Rose Depp makes a nice late-film appearance as…
28 Oct 2019
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Netflix’s The Laundromat, from normally reliable director Steven Soderbergh, is a mess of a movie despite being filled with Oscar-caliber talent—because it lacks a focused purpose. The film deals with a real scandal that included insurance fraud in the aftermath of a terrible boating accident in Lake George, N.Y. A cast including Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas is squandered as the movie goes through one discordant tonal shift after another. Soderbergh starts off well—the boating accident is chillingly filmed—but then he makes some odd choices, including Oldman and Banderas playing a couple of lawyers who break the fourth wall and narrate the film. The movie strives to be clever, but ultimately lacks a focus on its subject matter. The result is confusing rather than compelling. Props to Streep, who is excellent as a passenger on the ill-fated boat trying to receive insurance compensation. Streep has more than one…
21 Oct 2019
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In Living With Yourself, a brand-new Netflix series, Miles (Paul Rudd), a bored-out-of-his-mind advertising executive, takes a cue from a chirpy co-worker and stops at some sort of rejuvenation clinic. That night when he returns home, he’s much peppier with a sunny outlook. The only problem: The peppy, sunnier Miles is a clone, and the original version of Miles is still running around. Creator Timothy Greenberg and directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris deliver a fun, twisted, eight-show season that feels like a long movie. Rudd gets a chance to show off both his dramatic and comedic chops; the chance to take a character and play two versions of him at the same time is a challenge the actor is more than up to. The results are thoroughly entertaining. Also terrific is Aisling Bea as wife Kate, who has herself a real dilemma on her hands when she finds out…
17 Oct 2019
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Breaking Bad, one of the greatest TV series of all time, ended six years ago. Since then, creator Vince Gilligan has been serving up Better Call Saul, a nice extension of the Breaking Bad universe that will go into its fifth season next year. However, Better Call Saul is a prequel, meaning the Breaking Bad timeline came to a stop six years ago. (Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched Breaking Bad, but intend to, you may want to stop reading, as spoilers follow.) So, what happened to Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) after Walter White (Bryan Cranston) liberated him from captivity at that American Nazi compound? When last we saw Jesse, he was speeding off into the night, laugh-crying hysterically. Knowing full well that the fan base is itching for more, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie has made its way to Netflix (and a select few big screens). The film…
14 Oct 2019
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Little Monsters starts off as a very funny movie about a loser musician (Alexander England) in Australia—but it falls apart after a zombie attack tries to turn it into a horror film. England is very funny as Dave, who is having relationship problems and winds up living with his sister, Tess (Kat Stewart), and nephew, Felix (Diesel La Torraca). The rapport between these three characters is really good, but then Felix and Dave go on a field trip that is quickly besieged by zombies. Lupita Nyong’o is on hand as a music teacher chaperoning the kids as they face the zombie apocalypse, and she does all she can to make the proceedings interesting. Josh Gad co-stars as a children’s-show host who is taping an episode on the field trip; his character is an annoying waste of time. Writer-director Abe Forsythe proves adept at filming straight comedy, but he’s completely lost…
07 Oct 2019
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There have been plenty of looks into the making of Ridley Scott’s Alien—most notably the director’s-cut Alien DVDs, followed by the special-feature-saturated Blu-rays. Memory: The Origins of Alien, a new documentary from director Alexandre O. Philippe, is one of the best, although it lacks new interviews with the likes of Sigourney Weaver and Ridley Scott. (The film does include a handful of archived interview moments.) Instead, it talks to folks like Roger Corman, who almost made Dan O’Bannon’s original Alien script on a shoestring budget, and gets the likes of Tom Skerritt to sit down for some original insights on the filming. Veronica Cartwright is also interviewed, once again recounting the great story of witnessing the chest-burster scene live. The movie goes beyond typical behind-the-scenes looks, tracing the origins of Alien back to some old-timey comics depicting Navy sailors accidentally eating alien eggs. For fans of the movie and moviemaking…

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