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DVDs/Home Viewing

26 Mar 2013
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After watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at home, I determined that director Peter Jackson managed to stretch The Hobbit into three movies by getting all performers to speak slowly … oh, so slowly. Everybody in this movie speaks and moves as if they were drunk on Hobbit Amber Ale. Most of the dialogue is spoken at a snail’s pace with those not-quite-British, not-quite-American affected accents that make everything they say sound SO DAMN IMPORTANT. I just can’t stand much of this movie. It has its highpoints for sure, especially the wonderful Gollum scene. Gollum alone almost makes the movie worth watching, and Martin Freeman does have great potential as everybody’s favorite Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. Freeman injects life into the proceedings, often bringing scenes back from the dead. But on top of the encumbered speech patterns, I despise the scenes of dwarves eating and singing. They are dopey, long, Three…
30 Mar 2013
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A cavalcade of stars shows up for this pretty, if meandering, adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s semi-autobiographical novel, On the Road. Sam Riley (who was so damn good in Control) provides a decent center as Sal (essentially Kerouac). He finds himself on a long road trip that involves hand jobs from Kristen Stewart and him watching sex acts performed on Steve Buscemi. (Yikes!) In short, this movie is a bit crazy, and its unpredictability keeps it interesting. Garrett Hedlund is solid as a character loosely based on Neal Cassady, and Stewart sheds her Bella image for a good, carefree performance. Others in the cast include Amy Adams, Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst. The movie is OK, but I was looking for a little more meat on the bone, considering the subject matter. On the Road is now available On Demand.
20 Mar 2013
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Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd reprise their awesome married couple from Knocked Up in This Is 40, director Judd Apatow’s latest, which will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray this Friday, March 22. The duo prove their characters are worthy of full attention. Apatow loves to make long movies, and this one is no exception, clocking in at 134 minutes. Most of those minutes are entertaining, although I would concur that this is a bit long for a comedy. Doesn’t somebody have to be getting shot or tortured for a movie to go longer than two hours? While the main characters from Knocked Up (played by Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl) are not back for the almost-sequel, other characters, including those played by Jason Segel and Charlyne Yi, do make it. That’s kind of cute. The film has fun with the whole midlife-crisis thing, adding Albert Brooks and John Lithgow…
22 Mar 2013
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Time will tell us that Les Misérables—being released on DVD and Blu-Ray today, Friday, March 22—was a far more deserving movie than Argo for Best Picture. As far as movie musicals go, I can’t think of one that has ever amazed me more—and I’m a big movie-musical fan. I rank this one alongside My Fair Lady, West Side Story and Grease as one of cinema’s all-time-best musicals. I personally put it at No. 1, even with Russell Crowe’s painful singing. Director Tom Hooper, criminally snubbed for a Best Director Oscar nomination, had his stars sing live on set. They wore earpieces and microphones, which were later removed in post-production, with a music track playing along as they sang their hearts out. The results are absolutely amazing. Anne Hathaway got her much-deserved Oscar after doing “I Dreamed a Dream” in a long, uninterrupted take. Whenever I watch her doing this, my…
18 Mar 2013
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The Jeffrey Dahmer Files is of the stranger films you will see. Real-life interviews and archival footage are combined with odd yet effective re-enactments to tell the story of modern history’s most-notorious cannibal. Most notable among the Dahmer witnesses is Pamela Bass, a neighbor who claims to have eaten a sandwich given to her by Jeffrey, a meal she most definitely regrets. It’s totally creepy to hear somebody talk about their relatively normal neighbor—a neighbor who was keeping bodies in tanks and heads in the refrigerator. Also in the interview mix is Pat Kennedy, the detective who interviewed Dahmer the night they brought him in, and, golly, did he get some disgusting surprises. Andrew Swant stars as Dahmer in the re-enactment stuff, and he isn’t bad (although he is no Jeremy Renner, who did a decent job playing the killer in the underrated biopic Dahmer). Credit director Chris James Thompson…
15 Mar 2013
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Wreck-It Ralph left me a little cold. A lot of folks predicted it would win the big Oscar prize for animation, but I correctly predicted that Brave (a better movie) would be the victor. There’s a lot of potential in this arcade throwback about a giant video-game character (voiced by John C. Reilly) who yearns for a better life as a “good guy,” and abandons his “bad guy” game post. There are some cool retro-game sight gags (but not nearly enough!) and some clever twists, but this one falls substantially short of greatness. I did enjoy Sarah Silverman giving voice to a little-girl character who wants to be a racecar driver, and Reilly voices his character with charm. I just the film a little tiresome as it wore on, and I grew tired of it in the repetitive second half. There were some major laughs in the group-therapy sessions (I…
12 Mar 2013
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Ben Affleck wasn’t nominated as best director for the movie that eventually went on to win the Best Picture award at the Oscars. We all know this by now. However, surprisingly few people have made a big stink about Affleck’s failure to receive a nomination for best actor in Argo. He is the one who spends the most time, by far, onscreen, so wouldn’t it stand to reason that he should’ve been nominated for his performance? That performance was the driving force behind the best picture, right? I don’t think Argo should’ve been nominated in any of the major categories, including picture, director and actor. It’s a fine film, and Affleck continues to make very good movies, but this wasn’t the year’s best picture. Heck, it didn’t even make my personal Top 20. The movie has a nice retro feel, and features great work from Affleck, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston…
06 Mar 2013
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Twenty-six directors each get a death-related word corresponding to a letter in the alphabet, and they go to town—often in disgusting fashion, and the result is The ABCs of Death. Some of the shorts are truly classic, while others are bizarre beyond comprehension, and others are just bad. Standouts include “D” for “Dogfight,” in which some dog-fighting gamblers get their comeuppance. I also liked “F” for “Fart,” and I’m not even going to try to explain what happens in this segment. Many of the segments go way, way overboard with the violence and will surely turn off viewers of all kinds. Consider yourself warned that the movie goes beyond an R-rating (it is actually unrated) when it comes to the yucky stuff; for example, you will see a knife shooting out of a large penis. Some of the directors include Ti West (The Innkeepers) and Angela Bettis (star of the…
05 Mar 2013
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Marlon Brando took home the first of his two Oscars for playing washed-up palooka and longshoreman Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront, his third pairing with director Elia Kazan after A Streetcar Named Desire and Viva Zapata! Funny eye makeup aside, it’s easy to see why Brando got the Oscar (which was also somewhat of a consolation prize after getting nominated but not winning for Streetcar and Zapata!). He’s brilliant here, making Terry a highly sympathetic character, even if Malloy does lure fellow employees to their deaths on occasion. The “Coulda been a contender!” speech will always be a classic, perhaps the most-iconic moment of Brando’s career. Karl Malden is dynamite as a priest who will punch you in the face if you mess with him, and Eva Marie Saint is terrific in her debut big-screen role. The film was based on real-life situations involving extortion on New York’s waterfront,…
27 Feb 2013
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I was certain that How to Survive a Plague was going to take home the big documentary Oscar prize this year. Alas, Searching for Sugar Man (a very good movie) took home the award. There were other great documentaries last year, including West of Memphis, about the West Memphis Three, and Paul Williams Still Alive (the title says it all). However, this one packed the biggest wallop. It chronicles the struggles AIDS activists went through to get the condition into the public conversation, and push for medications to keep themselves alive. Viewing this movie promotes a parade of emotions, from pure heartbreak, to anger, and ultimately to jubilation. It starts in the ’80s, with a band of activists including Peter Staley, Larry Kramer, Mark Harrington, Ray Navarro and Bob Rafsky. Rafsky famously challenged Bill Clinton during a campaign speech, resulting in Clinton’s “I feel your pain!” retort. Bill … I…
19 Feb 2013
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I count director Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood and Magnolia as two of my all-time-favorite films. The Daniel Day-Lewis performance in Blood currently stands as my favorite performance by anybody, in any movie, ever. What I’m saying is that Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the greatest directors to ever set foot on the planet. I suppose as a critic, I’m supposed to avoid such grandiose remarks, but screw it: I feel confident my declaration will stand until my dying days. That said, The Master—out Feb. 26 on DVD and Blu-ray—is my least-favorite of his movies. However, on a grading scale, I’d still give it a “B,” which is a good grade, and lord knows I’m a tough grader. The pre-release scuttlebutt about the film declared that it was Anderson’s take on the advent of Scientology—but it isn’t. Instead, it’s about a stressed-out World War II Navy sailor…
13 Feb 2013
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Dave Grohl directs Sound City, a tribute to the infamous Los Angeles recording studio that gave birth to Nirvana’s Nevermind, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, Tom Petty’s Damn the Torpedoes … and the list goes on. Much of the movie deals with the studio’s history leading up to its recent shutdown. Grohl actually purchased the legendary soundboard and put it in his own studio, where he recorded a forthcoming album featuring Paul McCartney, his surviving Nirvana band mates, Stevie Nicks, Rick Springfield and others. The film features footage of that album’s recording, most notably with McCartney, who puts forth a scorching, "Helter Skelter"-like number with Grohl and the remaining Nirvana members. This is a great, solid piece of rock-history filmmaking. Grohl’s love for the subject permeates the entire undertaking. It’s currently available online (via iTunes, soundcitymovie.com, Hulu and all sorts of other sources), and on demand via cable (including Time Warner). It’s…