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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

DVDs/Home Viewing

05 Feb 2019
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Writer-director Dan Gilroy and Jake Gyllenhaal, who previously partnered up on Nightcrawler, take a creative step backward with Velvet Buzzsaw, an art-world satire/horror effort. Gyllenhaal plays Morf Vandewalt, an art critic losing his lust for the profession. His love affair with Josephina (Zawe Ashton), an art-house employee, gets confusing in many ways when she comes across paintings by a dead man in her apartment building. The paintings, which the artist literally put his blood into, have deadly consequences for those who gaze upon them. Gyllenhaal is his usual sharp self, creating something funny without going for obvious laughs. Rene Russo is equally good as a ruthless art dealer—she’s willing to cut down anybody who gets in her way. The supporting cast includes Toni Collette, John Malkovich and Billy Magnussen, which contributes to the feeling that the film should be more than what it is. And what is it? It’s sharp…
28 Jan 2019
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I was a little kid when I first heard the words “Ted Bundy.” My dad was watching a news report about him on TV—something about the college students he murdered in Florida—and Dad simply couldn’t believe the guy escaped from custody and committed those crimes. Even knowing the story of Bundy going into Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, it’s mind-boggling what this jackass got away with during his crime spree, and director Joe Berlinger touches upon much of it with his solid, four-part documentary. The series is anchored by Bundy’s own words, recorded by a crafty journalist as he sat on death row awaiting his fate. This is just part one of Berlinger’s examination of the serial killer; he just wrapped a bio pic on the guy, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, starring Zac Efron as Bundy and slated to be released later this year. The…
23 Jan 2019
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The first Deadpool was a gross hoot. Deadpool 2 was OK—still funny, but a definite step in the wrong direction, as Ryan Reynolds got a little too cute with the whole breaking-the-fourth-wall thing. Once Upon a Deadpool exists because somebody decided to cash in (plus a charity tie-in, at least) with a PG-13-rated Deadpool 2 edit during this past holiday season. (It’s reminiscent of the time Saturday Night Fever got revamped as a PG movie, down from an R, many years ago.) It’s a sad joke of an enterprise, diluting an already-mediocre movie and stripping Deadpool of the very things that make him unique in the Marvel universe—that being his profane mouth and penchant for drawing lots of blood. The movie includes new footage with Fred Savage, kidnapped by Deadpool and taped to a bed within a meticulously recreated Princess Bride set. Savage is actually really funny in his scenes,…
15 Jan 2019
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I missed A Simple Favor during its theatrical release—and it’s a film that provides many pleasant surprises. This is director Paul Feig’s follow-up to his execrable Ghostbusters, and quite a change of pace from his straightforward comedies (Bridesmaids, Spy, The Heat). While this is also classified as a comedy, it’s a dark comedy along the lines of Heathers, with a nice Hitchcockian mystery at its center. The criminally underappreciated Anna Kendrick stars Stephanie, a widow and mom who finds herself essentially nannying for new friend Emily (Blake Lively). Before long, Emily goes missing, and Stephanie slowly but surely starts to replace her as a mother and wife. Emily is believed to be dead … and then things start happening. Kendrick is funny as the confused mom who tries her best to have a career (she has a semi-popular video blog) while harboring some dark secrets. Lively does career-best work as…
10 Jan 2019
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Sandra Bullock lends her supreme talents to a Netflix movie that’s become a media sensation—even though Bird Box features a bunch of overused horror gimmicks mashed into one, messy entity. Malorie (Bullock) is a gloomy painter (they show Bullock only painting the black background to make it look authentic), going through the motions and dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. Her sister, Jessica (Sarah Paulson), takes Malorie to the doctor for a checkup—shortly after seeing a strange report on TV about masses of people killing themselves in Russia. While visiting with the doc (Parminder Nagra), all hell starts to break loose in the hospital and, especially, on the streets. It appears as if people are seeing some sort of entity and deciding it’s far too much for them to handle, so they kill themselves in creative ways (stepping in front of buses, bashing their heads into windows, walking into fires, etc.).…
09 Jan 2019
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Netflix is on fire, with the arrival of the extremely popular (if not that great) Bird Box, and Bandersnatch, this strange little curio from the makers of the anthology series Black Mirror. Some kids of the 1980s might remember an arcade game called Dragon’s Lair, where you made choices for the game’s protagonist, and different scenarios played out. Bandersnatch is similar, but the different plot threads are wildly varying, with most of them being quite well written and entertaining. Fionn Whitehead (Dunkirk) plays Stefan, a video-game creator who pitches an idea for a game, Bandersnatch. He winds up working for a company (or maybe he doesn’t, depending on your choices) making the game, and what happens while he’s working is up to you. Choices appear on the bottom of the screen, and you get to pick the scenarios. There are about five hours of material in all, and the movie…
04 Jan 2019
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The first season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was a huge success, garnering five Primetime Emmy Awards—including Outstanding Comedy Series honors—and giving Amazon Studios its biggest hit to date. Given all the accolades and press, show runners Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino had to be feeling a lot of pressure to deliver with the show’s second season—and deliver, they did, on Dec. 5 with 10 splendid episodes. While the second season doesn’t cover any surprising ground—the plot lines all head pretty much where one would predict them to head—the writing remains sharp and delightful, and the acting is consistently stellar. Season 2 takes us on a comedy tour with Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) and Susie (cast MVP Alex Borstein); to Paris with Midge and parents Rose (Marin Hinkle) and Abe (Tony Shalhoub); and on a summer away in the Hamptons with the entire Masiel and Weissman families. New addition Zachary Levi…
17 Dec 2018
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Matt Dillon is all sorts of horrifying as the titular character, a serial killer in 1970s America, in The House That Jack Built. He’s an architect; he has OCD; and he’s a killer who likens his work to art. He describes his murders to an off-camera inquisitor (Bruno Ganz) as if they were symphonic masterworks. The allegory is a bit heavy-handed, and the satire is a little more than obvious. At times, it plays a lot like the book version of American Psycho. (The book was nastier than the film.) Director Lars von Trier, who is seemingly getting nastier and stranger with every film, has always been quite the provocateur. This marks a slight comeback from his awful Nymphomaniac movies, although it doesn’t compare to his best work (Melancholia, Dancer in the Dark, Antichrist). The main reason to see The House That Jack Built is Dillon, who delivers one of…
12 Dec 2018
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Director Ben Stiller gets serious with Escape at Dannemora, a Showtime series based upon the real 2015 escape of two dangerous convicts from prison in upstate New York. Benicio del Toro and Paul Dano are perfect as Richard Matt and David Sweat, two nutballs who get prison employee Tilly Mitchell (a terrific Patricia Arquette) to help them break out, therefore initiating a mammoth manhunt—the results of which I won’t give away here. Matt, Sweat and Mitchell formed a very unconventional love triangle that goes to some pretty strange places. (As of this writing, four of the seven episodes have aired.) So far, the show is pretty damned good. Stiller can’t resist the temptation to be funny on occasion, but this show is proof he can put together a great drama, too. Del Toro and Dano are equally good, each getting a chance to explore their dark sides. (No surprise: Del…
04 Dec 2018
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Who doesn’t like Christmas? OK, let me rephrase that: Who doesn’t like Christmas as experienced with a steady, carefully, legally (in California) maintained buzz throughout the final weeks of the year? Your mumbled approval is noted. Christmas TV shows and movies are an industry unto themselves; what other holiday has so much content churned out in its name? Until the inevitable establishment of Handsome White Jesus Day under decree of President Pence (so, spring-ish), Christmas is the King of All Media. Here are eight oddities in a holly-jolly ocean of Christmas programming to stream over the next few weeks of jingle hell: Happy! (Season 1 on Syfy.com and Syfy app): Based on the Image comic, Happy! follows ex-cop-turned-alcoholic-assassin Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni) and Happy (voiced by Patton Oswalt), a blue cartoon unicorn who needs his help rescuing a little girl kidnapped by … Santa Claus. Violence, insanity and a gonzo-command…
03 Dec 2018
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Kurt Russell might be the best Santa Claus ever in Netflix’s The Christmas Chronicles, a inconsistent but ultimately enjoyable movie that is sure to make it into a lot of holiday-movie rotations for those of us who like Christmas movies with a little edge. Kate (the adorable Darby Camp) is dealing with the loss of her father, a struggling mom (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) and her jerk brother, Teddy (Judah Lewis), during the holidays. She makes Santa a request video—and then accidentally stumbles upon the big guy himself as he drops by. Russell is a comic gem here, bemoaning the way cola ads portray him as fat (the guy is in great shape) while embodying the joy and eternally happy spirit of the legend. While the movie drifts a bit in the middle—including some unfortunate, cutesy CGI elves—Russell keeps the whole thing movie forward with the power of his unique and totally…
27 Nov 2018
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Netflix is becoming a haven for the very best directors. Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma will debut on the streaming service on Dec. 14 after a very brief theatrical run. Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Paul Greengrass, Guillermo del Toro and Steven Soderbergh all have had, or will have, projects with Netflix. The true stunner is that Joel and Ethan Coen also teamed up with Netflix for their latest, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. The film is a six-part Western anthology that fits snugly in their repertoire, which includes No Country for Old Men, Fargo, Barton Fink and Raising Arizona. The movie’s arrival on Netflix, after a one-week theatrical run, establishes Netflix as a true original-film force. The film opens with a story about the title character (played by Tim Blake Nelson), a singing cowboy who is frighteningly adept with his gun, casually killing many in the segment’s few minutes. The musical ending…