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DVDs/Home Viewing

24 Mar 2015
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Some might find the supernatural elements of horror/romance film Spring to be a little hard to swallow. For me, the part that’s really hard to swallow is that a short-order cook from the United States could just pick up and go to Italy at a moment’s notice. No way! Not on his salary. The short-order cook is Evan, played by likable actor Lou Taylor Pucci. After the death of his parents and a fight in a bar, he flees to Italy, where he meets the love of his life, Louise (Nadia Hilker). Nadia has it all: looks, intelligence, sly wit—and the tendency to shape-shift into catlike and reptilian monsters. Directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, utilizing a script by Benson, have made a film that is genuinely scary, touching and funny all at once. Pucci and Hilker are good together, especially in the moments after Evan discovers Louise’s primordial secrets.…
19 Mar 2015
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Adam Sandler’s latest film has a fairly interesting premise and gets off to an OK start—but it quickly becomes awkward (even gross) and eventually degenerates into a stupid, predictable thriller. Sandler plays Max, a cobbler in a New York shop once owned by his dad. After his electric stitching machine goes kaput, he uses an old manual one in the basement to fix some shoes. He tries them on—and instantly becomes the person who owns the shoes (played by Method Man). He figures this out, and begins using shoes to become other people, including, most disgustingly, his long-lost father (Dustin Hoffman) for a date with his mother. (Ew!!!) The plot then goes crazy, as Method Man’s character proves to be a street thug, and Max schemes to steal his money so he can buy a tombstone for a family member. Director Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent) is all over the…
17 Mar 2015
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The third time is the charm for the Night at the Museum franchise: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is first good movie in the lot. The previous chapters lacked soul, laughs and a true sense of adventure. This installment allows Ben Stiller to clown around a little more and drop some better jokes. Having him play a second character—a Neanderthal man—is an inspired touch. This time out, Larry (Stiller) discovers that the ancient tablet that gives the museum attractions the ability to come alive is deteriorating. He ultimately treks to London to solve the problem, visiting a museum where Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens) comes to life. Stevens is a nice addition; he’s consistently funny and wicked as the crazed knight. His subplot leads to him running onstage during a musical production of Camelot, which provides a pretty hilarious cameo that I won’t give away. All of the…
10 Mar 2015
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In These Final Hours, writer-director Zak Hilditch has made a movie reminiscent of 1988’s Miracle Mile, that weird indie film that had Anthony Edwards racing to find Mare Winningham before the planet went kablooey in a nuclear holocaust. Hilditch set his film in Australia, where that part of the globe awaits a wall of fire resulting from some sort of asteroid strike. (The true cause is never fully explained.) James (Nathan Phillips), with his wife’s permission, makes the decision to leave her and join his mistress at an apocalypse party. On the way to the mayhem, he rescues Rose, a young girl (Angourie Rice), from a fate worse than death, and begins to attain a sense of responsibility and compassion in the last hours of his life. Phillips puts forth a strong, frantic performance, while Rice provides a nice, serene balance. The party itself is madness personified. Some of the…
03 Mar 2015
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After respectable musical efforts in awful films (Pitch Perfect, Into the Woods), Anna Kendrick takes a nice leap forward in The Last Five Years, a film adaptation of the off-Broadway musical. She plays Cathy, a woman we see singing a mournful post breakup song as the film begins. Her husband, newly famous writer Jamie (Jeremy Jordan), has just left her for superstardom and multiple girlfriends. The film then flashes back to show moments over the last five years of their lives, with almost all of the dialogue being sung. The two stars, especially Kendrick, do much of their singing live. The music itself isn’t all that memorable, but it’s not bad, and it does require Kendrick and Jordan to often use the upper register. They both have impressive pipes. Unfortunately, the Jamie character drags the film down a bit; he’s a bland, reprehensible prick. That could work fine, but he’s…
17 Feb 2015
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Spike Lee partially funded Da Sweet Blood of Jesus through Kickstarter—and the results are a mixed bag. While his film about a wealthy researcher (Stephen Tyrone Williams) becoming addicted to blood (thanks to an ancient artifact) contains some of his most startling imagery in years, the film is a bit long in the tooth. Given the artistic freedom of a crowd-funded project, Lee doesn’t seem to check himself when it comes to pacing—resulting in a film that could benefit from 30 minutes being shaved off. Still, Williams is good as the secluded rich man who, after an associate (Elvis Nolasco) tries to kill him, finds himself resurrected and thirsting for blood. He preys upon prostitutes, and eventually takes a wife (a strong Zaraah Abrahams) who soon joins him in blood lust. This is not a traditional vampire movie, although it is quite bloody, featuring scenes of Williams and Abrahams’ characters…
10 Feb 2015
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Laggies is a so-so movie made watchable because of its stellar cast. The filmmakers should feel lucky that Keira Knightley, Chloë Grace Moretz and a guy named Sam Rockwell got talked into gracing this one with their presence. Directed by Lynn Shelton and written by Andrea Seigel, the film tells the story of Megan (Knightley), a woman in her late 20s who is still spinning signs for her dad’s business. When her boyfriend (Mark Webber) proposes, and she sees her dad (Jeff Garlin) cheating on her mom shortly thereafter, it all proves to be a bit much for her—and she splits. After illegally buying alcohol for young Annika (Moretz), Megan winds up at Annika’s house, where Annika’s dad, Craig (Rockwell), is sulking after his wife left him high and dry. Predictably, Megan becomes a mother figure to Annika while falling in love with Craig. Rockwell could be star in a…
03 Feb 2015
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In Match, Tobi (Patrick Stewart), a dance professor at Julliard, agrees to do an interview with a married couple (Carla Gugino and Matthew Lillard) about 1960s dance culture. After a few questions and answers, it becomes apparent that the two are up to something beyond a simple Q&A. It only takes a few minutes to figure out where the film is going; writer-director Stephen Belber’s play-turned-movie offers few surprises. The film suffers from that staginess that often plagues plays being adapted for the big screen, and at first, Stewart seems like he is acting for an audience rather than a camera; he overdoes it at times. Despite these flaws, the movie progresses into something that is mildly entertaining. Stewart’s character calms down a bit as the film plays out, and Lillard provides some truly moving work in the film’s final act. Gugino is decent in what is essentially a three-person…
27 Jan 2015
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Just when you think you’ve seen it all, along comes R100, an oddball creation from director and co-writer Hitoshi Matsumoto. Seemingly mild-mannered Takafumi (Nao Ômori) has a humdrum life as a furniture salesman. His wife is in a coma; her dad is living with him and his son. He needs to feel alive again—so he joins an elite S&M club that specializes in public humiliation. Things start innocently enough, with bondage girls kicking him in the head at restaurants and throwing him down large staircases near public fountains. But the club starts following him to work and, eventually, to his home, where he is tortured by the Queen of Saliva. (If you haven’t guessed, she spits on him while dancing to disco music.) There’s also the Queen of Gobbling, who eats Takafumi’s family members. Yes, the action goes well beyond your standard S&M. I’m not exactly sure what Matsumoto is…
21 Jan 2015
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The Boxtrolls, nominated for a Best Animated Feature Film Oscar, is another weird film from the studio that also made Coraline and ParaNorman. As far as appearances go, this is the best film in this Oscar category, which also includes Big Hero 6 and How to Train Your Dragon 2. Most of the work is traditional stop-motion animation, with some fine digital animation included as well. The story follows a young boy named Eggs (the voice of Isaac Hempstead Wright), who is being raised by strange creatures who live below the streets of London. The creatures wear boxes for clothing, and Eggs gets his name because, quite simply, his box says “Eggs” on it. An evil exterminator looking for a higher station in society (Ben Kingsley) contracts to kill all of the boxtrolls, putting Eggs and his buddies in danger. The voice cast also features Elle Fanning, Jared Harris, Nick…
13 Jan 2015
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There’s already a pretty awesome movie on the boards in 2015: Predestination is an ingenious time-travel thriller that’s guaranteed to totally mess with your head. Ethan Hawke plays The Barkeep, a time-traveling law officer in search of a serial bomber who is destined to cause a lot of damage in 1975. Sarah Snook plays a character called The Unmarried Mother; to discuss her role any further would spoil a lot of the fun. I will say that both Hawke (who just gets better with age) and Snook are outstanding in this film. Snook, at times, is unrecognizable. She’s a relative newcomer, and this film could be the start of some great things for her—if people manage to see this film, that is. There have been a lot of good movies that have played with time travel and paradoxes in the last few years, but this one goes to inconceivable extremes.…
23 Dec 2014
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Here’s my list of some of the better DVD/Blu-Ray gift options for 2014. A warning: If you give one of these as a gift, and the person who gets it has actually read this article, he or she will know you cheated and aren’t at all original in your gift giving. But that’s OK … we all have our shortcomings. The prices listed here are from Amazon.com as of the time of this writing (and for some reason, Amazon.com prices change ALL THE TIME, so consider yourself warned). BLOCKBUSTER GOODNESS Guardians of the Galaxy (Blu-ray) $19.99: One of the year’s better blockbusters is out on Blu-ray just in time for stocking-stuffing. Giving this one also provides a nice excuse for you to make somebody a mix tape. Godzilla (Blu-ray) $14.99: At the beginning of the year, I said this was the film I most anxiously anticipated, and that if it…