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DVDs/Home Viewing

01 Dec 2013
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Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon make for a decent pairing in Sunlight Jr., about down-on-their-luck people simply trying to survive. They are quite convincing as a couple living below the poverty level, and trying hard to make ends meet. Watts is Melissa, a convenience-store worker who lives with Richie (Dillon), a strong-spirited, heavy-drinking man paralyzed from the waist down. When Melissa gets pregnant, things start happening that test their abilities to stay together and start a family. A sinister and appropriately annoying Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead) co-stars as Melissa’s ex, a true dog of a man who tries to get in Richie’s way. Tess Harper is on hand as Melissa’s mother, a good woman who, like Richie, can’t help but drink lots of alcohol. Watts and Dillon are great—even when the movie feels a bit routine and stereotypical. They are performers capable of rising above a script. Writer-director Laurie…
30 Nov 2013
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Writer-director Maggie Carey has put together a shockingly naughty sex comedy set in the early ’90s and featuring female protagonists. In The To Do List, Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation, Safety Not Guaranteed) continues her cinematic wonder streak as Brandy, a class valedictorian and super-virgin. After some discussions with her best buds (Alia Shawkat and Sarah Steele), she decides she needs to make a sex “to-do” list to ready her for the rigors of college life. This results in a lot of awkward sex acts among high school grads, with some of them performed by best bud and secret admirer, Cameron (Johnny Simmons). Brandy gets a summer job as a lifeguard, where she pines for Rusty Waters (Scott Porter) and works for a deadbeat boss (the hilarious Bill Hader; he’s Carey’s real-life husband). Plaza proves that she is game for anything, including a fantastically crude play on the Caddyshack “doodie”…
22 Nov 2013
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There was no movie that I was anticipating more this year than this cinematic rebirth of Superman. I was so excited that I buried in my mind the fact that director Zack Snyder’s most-recent effort, Sucker Punch, was a pungent mess. Man of Steel could do no wrong. Right? Wrong. Snyder went and turned Supes (Henry Cavill) into a whiner with mommy issues. The director was going for something akin to Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, rather than the Richard Donner flicks that inspired Bryan Singer’s unjustly maligned Superman Returns. General Zod, as played by Michael Shannon, is close to perfect. Conversely, Amy Adams is a total miss as Lois Lane, and Laurence Fishburne is awful as her boss, Perry White. Passing grades go to Kevin Costner as Superman’s earthly dad, and Russell Crowe as the Kryptonian papa. Diane Lane is also good as his Earth mommy. This movie is absent…
19 Nov 2013
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The great Ken Marino (The State) stars in Bad Milo! as Duncan, a mild mannered accountant who finds out the stomach issues he’s been having aren’t related to stress. Instead, an alien-like creature that is the manifestation of all his bad thoughts is living up his ass. When those bad thoughts become overwhelming, the alien creature shoots out and starts killing people. Yes, I am telling you the truth: This movie is about some sort of dreaded ass monster that looks like a demented E.T. and sounds like Gizmo from Gremlins. The film is much better than anything with this subject matter deserves to be, thanks to a fully (and I do mean fully) committed performance from Marino, who manages to make a movie about an alien escaping from his anus both funny and, at times, oddly moving. The film has its share of gore, with one sequence involving the…
21 Nov 2013
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Emile Hirsch and Stephen Dorff play solemn brothers, quite convincingly, in The Motel Life, a solid adaptation of the critically praised novel by Willy Vlautin. Fans of the novel will notice some distinct changes, but the book’s themes of brotherly companionship and bad luck in life remain strongly intact. Frank Lee (Hirsch) is sleeping off his latest hangover in a seedy Reno hotel room when his half-naked brother, Jerry (Dorff), enters the room shivering and bawling: On a cold winter’s night, Jerry has accidentally run over and killed a boy, and he’s begging to get out of town. Frank hears the story, vomits and then agrees to take a drive. A string of bad decisions and actions follow, and a lesser film might’ve been too dark and depressing to take. Thankfully, directing brothers Alan and Gabe Polsky combine beautifully shot images with stellar performances to keep things rolling in a…
06 Nov 2013
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If you’re familiar with the Los Angeles music scene of the ‘80s, or you’ve ever watched an episode of Celebrity Rehab on VH1, you know who Bob Forrest is. The Thelonious Monster frontman is the subject of Bob and the Monster, a documentary just released on home video which details Forrest’s years as a drug-user, his recovery, and his transition to becoming a drug counselor. The documentary features interviews with an A-list of musicians including Gwen Stefani of No Doubt, Keith Morris of Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, Angelo Moore of Fishbone, Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction, and the members of Thelonious Monster, as well as a chat with Forrest’s Celebrity Rehab partner, Dr. Drew Pinsky. They all help tell the story of someone who has been to hell and back. The documentary starts off by examining Forrest’s childhood in Palm…
09 Nov 2013
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Birth of the Living Dead isn’t a typical horror documentary: It has George A. Romero as its subject, with his enthusiastic participation, and it examines the significance of his landmark zombie film, Night of the Living Dead. The movie focuses on the tumultuous period in which the film was made, its almost-accidental emergence as a civil rights film, the business people in Pittsburgh who put the movie together—and more. Romero offers so many new revelations about the movie that you’ll want to go back and watch Dead again for the hundredth time. Many of the actors in the movie, including the doomed brother at the film’s beginning, were also major parts of the film crew. I never knew the bug-eating zombie at film’s end was played by the same actress who also played the mother killed by her zombie daughter. After the credits, there’s a wonderful little 2007 interview with…
06 Nov 2013
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This week, we’re taking a look at the 2013 works of Mr. Ethan “Consistency Is Not My Forte” Hawke. Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) return for Before Midnight, their third movie after Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, and they remain as interesting as ever. After going to Celine’s apartment nine years ago in Paris, the two hooked up for good, with Jesse’s marriage ending. This third film in the series starts with an amazing scene between Jesse and his son (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) in an airport. It builds momentum until an emotionally exhausting ending (in a good way). The movie features Jesse and Celine talking a lot because, well, that’s what they do best. It also has Jesse and Celine going at each other in a hotel-room argument that’s so vicious, it’s scarier, by far, than anything in Hawke’s recent horror flick, The Purge. Director Richard Linklater gave us two…
02 Nov 2013
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Peter Landesman writes and directs Parkland, a film depicting a pastiche of events following the Kennedy assassination. Lee Harvey Oswald’s family, the doctors in the trauma unit, the Secret Service guys and Abraham Zapruder all get screen time in this sometimes-interesting but somewhat scattered drama. Paul Giamatti is the film’s best asset as Zapruder, a Kennedy enthusiast who is super-excited about the presidential visit and his chance to catch the event on his new film camera. Not nearly as interesting is Zac Efron as the doctor who worked on the dying Kennedy, and Marcia Gay Harden as a nurse. Billy Bob Thornton scowls a lot as a confused security agent, while Jacki Weaver is irritating as Oswald’s mom. Oswald, played by Jeremy Strong, is reduced to little more than a cameo. Had Landesman chosen to focus on fewer characters, this might’ve worked. As it stands, there’s too much going on.…
01 Nov 2013
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More John Carpenter Blu-rays! Hooray! On the heels of the Halloween reissue and the Prince of Darkness Blu-ray debut, we get In the Mouth of Madness, perhaps the most insane film the horror maestro has ever made. Sam Neill stars as John Trent, an insurance investigator who we first see restrained in a straitjacket and held captive in an insane asylum. The story then goes backward to show that John used to be quite sane and well-mannered before he found himself on a search for a missing horror novelist, Sutter Cane (Jürgen Prochnow). The search takes him to the land of Hobbs End, a fictional setting from Cane’s novels. Or is Hobbs End real? Once there, he encounters Cane, discovers that he might only be a fictional character in Cane’s world, and rapidly loses his marbles. This film didn’t get a fair shake in its original release. Carpenter did the…
23 Oct 2013
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The latest film from director Guillermo del Toro is a bit dopey and soapy in spots, but it definitely delivers the thrills when big robots clash with big monsters. In the near future, huge beasts have started coming out of the ocean, making it hard to get a morning latte at the corner shop. The world comes up with a giant robot plan that works for a while—but then multiple monsters start attacking. Things start going wrong, and bad dialogue ensues. Yes, the script is a bit weak, but the action is stellar—and one of the scenes, in which a woman recalls a monster attack from her youth, is one of the year’s best individual sequences. The film tanked domestically, but did OK internationally—raising hopes that more robot/monster action could follow. Del Toro has confirmed that work has begun on a part two, but the project hasn’t been officially given…
22 Oct 2013
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This dark, dark 1973 Western was Clint Eastwood’s second directorial effort (after Play Misty for Me)—and man, oh man, does it contain some nasty stuff. The film works as an ode to Eastwood’s Sergio Leone spaghetti Westerns by taking the Man With No Name from those films, changing him into “The Stranger,” and giving his surroundings a more Americanized look. (Eastwood shot most of the film on a set constructed on the shores of Northern California’s Mono Lake.) Within minutes of rolling into the old Western town of Lago, The Stranger kills a bunch of men while getting a shave; he rapes a woman soon thereafter. In other words, he’s not trying to win any popularity contests. Eastwood ambiguously suggests that The Stranger could be the ghost of a man the townsfolk killed—or the devil personified. The Stranger, after displaying his powers with a gun, is coaxed into protecting the…