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Sat11252017

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

DVDs/Home Viewing

07 May 2013
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I have read some reviews stating that the CGI monster in Mama—out today (Tuesday, May 7) on home video—isn’t effective. I politely disagree; the ghost in this thing is scary as all heck. She truly is a memorable monster. The ghost in question is a strange, protective apparition who looks over a couple of young girls (Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse) after a tragedy in the woods. Jessica Chastain stars as the girlfriend of the girls’ uncle, who finds herself having to take on parenting when she would rather be playing lousy music in her stupid band. The movie isn’t great, but it does pack in a couple of good scares while maintaining a decent eerie quality for part of its running time. Having Chastain on hand elevates it beyond below-average horror. Guillermo del Toro produced this, with Andrés Muschietti directing. My biggest gripe: Why make this a PG-13 film?…
06 May 2013
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Skip Tom Cruise’s latest offering in theaters, the so-so Oblivion, and watch him kick mortal ass as the title character in Jack Reacher, the adaptation of Lee Child’s popular novel One Shot. There was a lot of griping that Cruise didn’t fit the physical mold of the character of Jack Reacher, who is 6 1/2 feet tall in the novels. No problem; Cruise brings a sinister, evil edge to Reacher, a super-intelligent former armed forces cop who finds himself investigating a mass shooting in Pittsburgh. Hey, Cruise might be less than 6 feet tall, but he will most certainly kick your ass if provoked. (Well, he will in the movies, at least.) The ridiculously pretty Rosamund Pike is on hand as the lawyer who joins forces with Reacher in a search for THE TRUTH. She’s good here, as are Richard Jenkins as her district-attorney dad, Robert Duvall as a very…
01 May 2013
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Jennifer Lawrence won the Best Actress Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook, which was released on Blu-Ray and DVD yesterday (April 30), but the best performances in this movie are delivered by Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro. I don’t mean to knock Lawrence by saying this; she’s quite good in the film. It’s just that Cooper and De Niro (who were both Oscar-nominated) are a little better. Cooper plays a man recently released from a mental hospital who is looking to get back with his wife, despite the fact that she has a restraining order against him, and despite her complete lack of interest in his existence. De Niro is on hand as his dad, a superstitious gambler who wants his son to watch football with him, not because he wants genuine father/son time, but because he believes his son provides good luck. Enter Lawrence as a recently widowed woman…
30 Apr 2013
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I really hate Gangster Squad, even though it has some of my favorite actors in it. An all-star cast including Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Sean Penn and Josh Brolin play dress-up in this lame, fictional retelling of the Los Angeles war on organized crime in the late 1940s. Sean Penn plays criminal kingpin Mickey Cohen, who had a pretty crazy life—but you won’t see that life in this dopey movie. Here, Brolin’s cop enlists a group of lawmen to go underground and beat the criminals, and it's basically all made up. I’m OK with some artistic license, but this one goes a little too far. It wants to be new Untouchables, but it isn’t nearly as exciting or fascinating. And it boasts terrible performances from the normally reliable Gosling and Penn. They chew the scenery like it was made of their favorite chocolate, and the voice Gosling employs for his…
24 Apr 2013
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Naomi Watts got nominated for an Oscar for playing Maria in The Impossible (out this week on Blu-ray), based on a real woman who fought for her life in the aftermath of the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. She should’ve taken home the gold. There aren’t too many performances that grab me like Watts’ performance does in this one. She is an acting force, as is Ewan McGregor as her husband, Henry, and Tom Holland as her oldest boy, Lucas. This is one of last year’s better ensembles. While vacationing in Thailand, Maria and Lucas are separated from the rest of the family when disaster hits. The tsunami scene is amazingly well-done; you get a true sense of its awesome, destructive power, and the dangers in those rushing waters. The wave was re-created on a soundstage, but it looks like an actual tsunami. The authenticity of the moment is bolstered…
15 Apr 2013
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In the cult classic Repo Man, Emilio Estevez plays Otto, a punk kid in Los Angeles who is fired from his supermarket job and thrown into the life of repossessing cars by the absolutely strange Bud (Harry Dean Stanton). They pursue a Chevy Malibu with a big bounty on its fender—unaware of the extraterrestrial cargo in the trunk. This is a very funny movie. (I especially love Otto’s response to his girl when asked about their relationship at film’s end.) This is the best thing Estevez has ever done, and Stanton was perfect casting. Director Alex Cox made Sid and Nancy after this one, but has not regained his form since. Still, when you have those two films on your directorial resume, that’s a pretty good career. Special Features: On this Criterion release (hitting stores on Tuesday, April 16) is a commentary with Cox and executive producer Michael Nesmith (!);…
16 Apr 2013
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Django Unchained, out today (Tuesday, April 16) on Blu-Ray, is still my least-favorite Tarantino movie—but it’s growing on me. I liked it the first time I saw it, but I wanted to love it. When watching it on Blu-ray, I was more relaxed, and it went up a notch in my book. This is the first Tarantino film not to be edited by the great Sally Menke, who recently passed away. The first time I watched it, I really felt her absence in the beat of the film. However, on the second go-round, I allowed myself to take in the movie on its own terms. It’s a little clunky in spots, and a little long, but with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson propelling the story, some lags are forgivable. Waltz got an Oscar for his portrayal of the bounty hunter with a…
09 Apr 2013
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Killing Them Softly, now out on Blu-ray, contains one of last year’s most-underrated performances. Brad Pitt is captivating as a hit man hired to make things right after a mob card game goes wrong. Teamed with director Andrew Dominik (his partner in crime for the excellent The AssassinSaveation of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), Pitt delivers a funny, frightening and incredibly controlled performance. The movie tanked at the box office, even with the Pitt/Dominik pedigree. That’s too bad. Perhaps it will find its due on home video, where viewers might have a little more patience with its deliberate pacing. Give it a shot, and see why Pitt remains one of our best and most-underappreciated actors. Special Features: You only get a few deleted scenes and a short making-of doc; you’re buying this one for the movie.
08 Apr 2013
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Director Charles Chaplin had some big balls, no doubt about it. He followed up his silent-film career as a lovable tramp by playing the lovable tramp as a stand-in for Hitler (The Great Dictator). Then he abandoned the Tramp altogether to play a bigamist wife-killer in this deranged film, Monsieur Verdoux, now out on Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection. It’s as if the world’s most-beloved movie star was constantly taunting his audience to not like him. Chaplin plays Henri Verdoux, a likable enough chap who loses his job as a bank clerk—and then starts killing older women for their money. Chaplin, quite controversially, portrays Verdoux as a sympathetic victim, with his murders and attempted murders being darkly humorous. It’s a film that confounded audiences upon its initial release, but has gone on to stand proudly alongside other classic films in Chaplin’s canon. The film was originally set to be directed…
02 Apr 2013
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There were a lot of Oscar snubs that I whined about this year, but no snub was more shocking than excluding Kathryn Bigelow from the director’s race. With Zero Dark Thirty, Bigelow put forth her best film, much better than The Hurt Locker, for which she actually won an Oscar. Bigelow has essentially made two great movies here. One is an All the President’s Men-type investigative film, while the other is a striking action movie as we see Navy SEALS take out Osama bin Laden during their infamous night raid on that bizarre compound. Both portions of the film are top-notch and not to be missed. Bigelow has evolved from one of the coolest action directors around (Point Break, bitches!) to one of the coolest overall directors around. Special Features: You only get a few short featurettes on the making of the film. This Blu-ray package deserved more. 
01 Apr 2013
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In Badlands, you get one of the greatest American feature-directorial debuts in history. That’s a grandiose statement, for sure, but we are talking about Terrence Malick here, and the man is a magician behind the camera. Over the years, I’ve taken a lot of heat for liking all of Malick’s movies. I picked The Tree of Life as the year’s best film a couple of years ago, inspiring many to watch it—and in turn inspiring a lot of hate mail. Malick’s movies are as unorthodox as they come, and are basically poetry in motion. If you hate poetry, and you hate a movie that takes its time, then be careful popping his movies into your player. I would call this movie one of his more commercial offerings. Martin Sheen stars as Kit, a character based on real-life serial-killer Charles Starkweather. Starkweather and his young girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate, went on…
27 Mar 2013
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Twenty-five years after its release, Who Framed Roger Rabbit still looks terrific. Director Robert Zemeckis managed to combine live action with traditional animation, creating the coolest of cools. The novelty of the film doesn’t just come from the cartoon/live-action combo. Seeing Daffy Duck sharing the screen with Donald Duck still provides a major charge for geeks everywhere. Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse? Holy cow! In fact, seeing Warner Bros cartoons on the same screen as Disney favorites is as big of a pairing as De Niro and Pacino. Zemeckis keeps teasing that a sequel will happen someday, but don’t hold your breath. He probably has a sour taste for animation after his failed campaign to make every movie in Hollywood a motion-capture CGI enterprise. (He was behind the ghastly The Polar Express and the much-better Beowulf.) I totally wish his idea to redo The Yellow Submarine in motion capture had…