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DVDs/Home Viewing

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…
16 Dec 2014
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Why Don’t You Play in Hell? will easily go down as one of 2014’s most insane movies. Shion Sono writes and directs this outrageous movie about a crazed film crew that finds itself filming real-life events in pursuit of a masterpiece. Those events mostly center around crime-boss Muto (Jun Kunimura) and his war with Ikegami (Shin’ichi Tsutsumi). When Ikegami attacks Muto in the film’s opening moments, Muto’s wife, Junko (Megumi Kagurazaka), goes crazy with a knife, leaving the floor of her home flooded with blood. (It’s a surprisingly vivid—and beautiful—visual.) Muto’s young daughter, Mitsuko, a star of TV commercials, witnesses the aftermath, and grows up to be a rebellious actress (Fumi Nikaido), as we see 10 years later. The film-crew members get tired of making hackneyed Bruce Lee rip-offs over the decade and eventually find themselves in the thick of things, filming massacres as they are occurring; they’re delighted with…
02 Dec 2014
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Pulp—one of the most-underappreciated bands ever to grace any stage—called it quits back in 2002. It sucks not having them around. That all changed for a year when, in 2011, the band embarked on a reunion tour that took it to places like Coachella, and a final concert in the band’s hometown of Sheffield, England. I damn myself constantly for missing the Coachella concert, and damn myself for never having seen them. Seeing Pulp: A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets fills the void a bit. Jarvis Cocker has always been one of the funnier, stranger guys in the entertainment business. I still consider him a hero for jumping up onstage and doing a strange, interpretive dance during a Michael Jackson awards-show performance in 1996. He’s terrific in this movie, sitting down for candid, droll interviews, and allowing himself to be filmed as he tries to change a tire on…
26 Nov 2014
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Horror-film lovers have been eating up a little franchise called V/H/S these last couple of years. V/H/S: Viral, the third offering in this anthology series featuring up-and-coming horror directors each helming segments, is now available. V/H/S (2012) and V/H/S/2 (2013) were “found footage” films that proved to be the exception to the rule: I usually hate the whole “found footage” novelty, yet it’s worked rather well within this franchise. When these directors were given a chance to experiment with the played-out gimmick, they managed to take the enterprise to terrifying levels. V/H/S: Viral jettisons the whole idea of viewing deranged videotapes found in a strange place in favor of a confounding, interconnecting plot involving a kidnapped girl, an ice-cream truck and some sort of Internet craze. I confess that the wraparound segments in this movie not only bored me, but confused me. It’s some sort of pointless, poorly written effort…
18 Nov 2014
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Hiccup (the voice of Jay Baruchel) and Toothless the lovable dragon return for another round of computer-animated magic—this time with a slightly darker tone. How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a great-looking, fun movie, and after watching it at home, I regret missing it on the big screen in 3-D. The film picks up five years after the initial film, with dragons and Vikings now living together in peace. That peace is threatened when Hiccup and Toothless stumble upon ruthless dragon-trappers who want Toothless as a prize for their villainous leader, Drago (the voice of Djimon Hounsou). Along the way, Hiccup is reunited with his long-lost mother, voiced by Cate Blanchett. The movie has some nasty moments involving Toothless that might freak your kids out—and might freak you out. Director and co-writer Dean DeBlois was apparently going for an Empire Strikes Back vibe, and he succeeds, in that the…
11 Nov 2014
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Philip Seymour Hoffman, in what turned out to be his last leading role, is typically brilliant in A Most Wanted Man, a thriller based on the novel by John le Carré. Directed by Anton Corbijn, the movie’s mystery remains intact until the final minutes of the film—or so was the case with me. I didn’t see the end coming. Hoffman plays Günther Bachmann, an anti-terrorism agent based in Germany who has had a spotty recent record. When a mysterious Chechen Muslim (Grigoriy Dobrygin) comes to Germany, a scenario plays out that involves a well-meaning lawyer (Rachel McAdams), a confused banker (Willem Dafoe) and a mysterious businessman (Homayoun Ershadi). It’s hard to discern good and evil in this film, and Corbijn keeps things tense until the very end. Hoffman is so good it hurts—especially because we know we won’t see this sort of thing from him ever again. McAdams delivers what…
04 Nov 2014
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Man … Terry Gilliam looks awfully frightening in drag these days. I mean, he was frightening in a dress back in the late 1960s when Monty Python’s Flying Circus debuted, but he’s at an all-new level of scary in this show. You have to applaud the guy, and cohorts John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. They are all older than 70 now, but that didn’t stop them from doing one last round of shows at the O2 in London in July as a final gift to their fans; Monty Python Live (Mostly)—One Down and Five to Go is now available for home-viewing. The title of the show refers to the fact they have lost one member of their troupe to death, Graham Chapman, who makes some appearances via film in this fun stage production. Age has slowed some of them a bit; a few lines get flubbed,…
28 Oct 2014
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The second installment of the bizarre horror-anthology series ABCs of Death is a big improvement over the first. Twenty-six directors are each given a letter in the alphabet and a corresponding word. (For example, “X” is for “Xylophone.”) Each director then gets to make a short film involving that word or phrase. The film, like the first installment, is not rated—and this would be due to some heavy violence. Lots of necks get torn out; heads get chopped off; bodies are torn in half by mutated badgers. My favorite episode would be the one for “M,” and that’s all I am going to say about that. Most of the segments are in live-action color, but one is shot in a ’50s-style black and white; others are animated. The changes in format keep things from getting tedious. There were a lot of clunkers in the first one. It had some bigger-name…
21 Oct 2014
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Harry Potter goes over to the dark side in Horns, a nasty little movie from director Alexandre Aja, maker of Piranha 3D and the decent remake effort The Hills Have Eyes. Danielle Radcliffe plays Ig, who is accused of killing his girlfriend, Merrin (Juno Temple), after an ugly breakup. Not too long afterward, Ig starts sprouting horns out of his head, much to his chagrin. When people see these horns, they behave rather badly—and they have a hard time lying. Ig uses the horns to not only bring out the worst in people, but to start solving the mystery of his lover’s death. Radcliffe is great here, utilizing a strong American accent and taking advantage of a nice chance to let his nasty side come out. Temple is adorable as Merrin; her story is told in flashbacks, and she leaves no mystery as to why Ig is so messed up…
14 Oct 2014
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Lorne Michaels has a tendency to fire some great women after only one season of Saturday Night Live. He fired the promising Noël Wells after last season, and the funny Michaela Watkins and Casey Wilson in recent years. Thankfully, both Watkins and Wilson have gone on to decent post-SNL careers. Of all of the female firings in recent years, none was more of an injustice than the letting-go of Jenny Slate. Slate, in her debut episode, dropped an F-bomb. It appears she was never really forgiven for the mistake, although she did make it through the season. Now Slate has come roaring back with Obvious Child, a funny and strikingly honest film about a woman seeking an abortion. Slate plays standup comic Donna Stern, a woman who will say anything onstage for a laugh. After a breakup, she meets the charming Max (Jake Lacy), and they have a one-night stand.…
30 Sep 2014
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It’s a sad state of cinematic affairs when the brilliant Edge of Tomorrow bombs domestically at the box office, while the latest Transformers debacle brings in the big bucks. Tom Cruise might be a kook, but he usually participates in good movies, and this twisted sci-fi experiment is easily one of his best. Edge of Tomorrow is the sort of spectacle best-suited for the big screen, but it looks like it will have to find fame via home viewing. I have a feeling it will—it’s that good. Cruise plays a military man handling public relations during an alien invasion. After a rather intense meeting with a commanding officer (Brendan Gleeson), he finds himself sent off to combat—and he quickly dies. However, he wakes up and finds himself living the same experience again—and again, and again. Yes, the movie has similarities to Groundhog Day, and it does use a sort of…