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DVDs/Home Viewing

06 Oct 2013
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Hey, it’s fall, so that means it’s time for yet another Blu-ray packaging of the John Carpenter classic Halloween. This umpteenth package commemorates the film’s 35th anniversary (a fact which will surely make a lot of us feel very old). After 3 1/2 decades, Michael Myers is still quintessential slasher villain. Yes, he’s had to endure some terrible sequels and some semi-crappy Rob Zombie remakes, but a viewing of the film that started it all shows that he was, and still is, cinema’s best psycho creeper. The film has aged well … for the most part. Oh, sure, P.J. Soles saying “Totally!” way too much grates on the nerves, and some of Jamie Lee Curtis’ dialogue sputters. (I always hated her line: “Well, kiddo … I thought you outgrew superstition.”) Still, Carpenter nailed the scares in this one. The shot in which Curtis’ Laurie Strode is sitting in the hallway…
23 Sep 2013
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J.J. Abrams continues the great thing he started with his 2009 reboot of this beloved franchise. In Star Trek Into Darkness, he gives us more familiar characters from Trek history—but thanks to that ingeniously created alternate timeline, the people aren’t quite the same. Benedict Cumberbatch is scary as a renegade Starfleet officer looking to kill as many commanders as possible while Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) chase him all over the universe. Peter Weller enters the fray as a power-hungry admiral, and Alice Eve is a welcome addition as his daughter, an Enterprise stowaway. There are moments when Abrams goes a little overboard with his homage (I hate that tribble!) but it’s not enough to damage another worthy chapter in the franchise. In a year when the summer movie blockbusters were pretty weak, this, alongside Iron Man 3, was king. For those of you who still don’t know…
24 Sep 2013
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In Drinking Buddies, Olivia Wilde plays Kate, a microbrewery employee in a relationship with an OK but perhaps mismatched guy (Ron Livingston). Luke (Jake Johnson) is her co-worker—and he’s the perfect guy for her, but he is in a relationship with a nice girl (Anna Kendrick) who also doesn’t seem to be a perfect match. Writer-director Joe Swanberg takes this well-worn premise and does something altogether wonderful, funny and original with it. Wilde is a revelation in the main role. She’s had a lot of showy Hollywood roles (TRON: Legacy, In Time), and this is by far her best movie effort to date. She’s sweet, funny and just a little messed up. Johnson, so good in Safety Not Guaranteed, is equally good here, making Luke a more complex character than he at first seems to be. Kendrick and Livingston are good in the less-showy but equally important supporting roles. This…
17 Sep 2013
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I missed Sharknado during its initial cable run. I found that a lot of people loved that it existed, but they didn’t necessarily sit down to watch the thing. Not only did I sit down to watch this … I paid for this! Am I glad I did it? I sure am. Let me make something perfectly clear: There isn’t a lot of actual sharknado action—i.e., action consisting of tornadoes full of sharks. The movie is more about standard shark attacks on the beach, shark attacks in your backyard, and shark attacks in the living room. You know, everyday shark-attack sort of stuff. It isn’t until near the finale that you get full-on sharknado action, with big twisters full of hammerheads and great whites that eat people as soon as they hit the ground. Whoever made this movie should’ve thrown a lot more money at it, because tornadoes full of…
13 Sep 2013
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Michael Cera stars in Crystal Fairy as Jamie, an American in Chile who is obsessed with the notion of drinking the juice of a hallucinogenic cactus. Along the way, he meets the strange title character (Gaby Hoffman), who joins Jamie and his group (which includes writer-director Sebastián Silva and his brothers). Cera is very good here, playing a selfish, misguided man whose streak of humor sometimes ranges toward the cruel. Former child star Hoffman literally lets it all hang out as a star-child type who is hiding some decidedly less-esoteric traits from the group. The movie is spacey, funny and a nice vehicle for Cera, who wound up having a great summer with this and his turns in This Is the End and the rebooted Arrested Development. The film gets him out of his comfort zone while playing up his fun quirks as an actor. As for Hoffman—so good in…
10 Sep 2013
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At the beginning of his feature-directing career, David Gordon Green acted like he wanted to be Terrence Malick’s heir apparent. Films like George Washington and All the Real Girls had a distinctive, deliberate Malick-like pacing, along with graceful, poetic dialogue. After two more dramatic offerings (Undertow and Snow Angels), Green began a prolonged foray into comedy, with the stoner classic Pineapple Express, the stoner disaster Your Highness, and the OK Jonah Hill vehicle The Sitter. He also piloted some damned-funny episodes of HBO’s Eastbound and Down. His latest, Prince Avalanche, is set in nature (Malick style!), and it’s definitely a minimalist offering. It’s basically two guys (Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch) dealing with their personal issues back in 1988 while painting lines on a lonely, fire-ravaged road through the wilderness. It has the poetic energy of Green’s earlier offerings, along with a nice touch of his comedic sensibilities. The result…
06 Sep 2013
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The Frozen Ground is based on the true story of Robert Hansen, an Alaskan serial killer currently spending life behind bars for murdering at least 17 women near Anchorage. Cusack—continuing his recent streak of hideous characters—plays Hansen, the bakery owner who hunted young women and buried their bodies throughout the Alaskan wilderness, undetected by authorities for many years. Nicolas Cage is on hand in “serious” Cage mode as State Trooper Jack Halcombe, who is determined to catch Hansen after Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens), an exotic dancer, allegedly escapes his clutches. The movie gets caught in an unfortunate loop regarding Paulson’s willingness to cooperate, and her decisions to avoid authorities. It feels like every other scene focuses on Hudgens sneaking away from Cage and retreating to some seedy area. It gets a little monotonous. It’s a shame, because Cusack is great as Hansen, as he was in last year’s terrible The…
03 Sep 2013
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Sometimes, all a movie really needs is Sam Rockwell. Rockwell stars in A Single Shot as John Moon, a reclusive poacher living in a trailer deep in the woods. One morning while out hunting a deer, he accidentally shoots a woman. Then, he finds a whole lot of money (echoes of A Simple Plan) and decides to keep it in an effort to make things better with his estranged wife (Kelly Reilly). Of course, the money actually belongs to bad people—and those bad people will be coming after John Moon. They most certainly will. A Single Shot doesn’t feel original; in fact, it feels a bit hackneyed at times. But the performances are often riveting, and Rockwell keeps it watchable. There’s also an unrecognizable Jason Isaacs as an unsavory sort, with the underrated Joe Anderson also playing a bad guy. William H. Macy brings a slight taste of comedy to…
03 Sep 2013
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Michael Shannon is his usual terrific self as Richard Kuklinski, aka The Iceman, one of the most notorious killers in American history. During his run, Kuklinski killed as many as 250 people as a solo assassin and mob hitman. The Iceman director and co-writer Ariel Vromen has made an impressive-looking movie, and he stocked it with good people, including Winona Ryder as Kuklinski’s wife, who allegedly didn’t know about her husband’s deadly ways until the day of his arrest. Chris Evans (Captain America!) is great as Mr. Freezy, a murderous accomplice who shows Kuklinski how to murder with cyanide. Ray Liotta reminds viewers that he is one of cinema’s great bad-asses as real-life crime figure Roy Demeo, who initiated Kuklinski into his gang by having him murder a random, innocent man. Yes, that’s David Schwimmer of Friends fame playing a long-haired, mustachioed Demeo henchman. The film looks great; the subject…
27 Aug 2013
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It was a little worrisome when Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel had its release postponed last year. As it turns out, turning the film into a summer blockbuster rather than an awards-season contender was a great move, because this one felt right at home during the summer movie season. Shot in glorious 3-D, this is a rollicking Roaring ’20s movie that shouldn’t be missed. Leonardo DiCaprio is a marvel in the title role, giving us a vulnerable and sometimes slightly crazy Gatsby who relentlessly pursues his love, Daisy (Carey Mulligan). His visual intro in this film is one for the ages. Tobey Maguire is excellent as narrator and Gatsby admirer Nick Carraway, while Joel Edgerton steals scenes as Tom Buchanan. Those who like Luhrmann’s opulent, sometimes-frantic style will find plenty to like. He also manages to effectively use music by Jay-Z and Lana Del Rey—in a…
20 Aug 2013
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In The Look of Love, Steve Coogan reunites with his frequent director Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People) to tell the true story of Paul Raymond, Britain’s version of Hugh Hefner, who became one of Britain’s richest men before his death in 2008. I knew nothing of this man before watching the film—which seems strange, considering he was so huge in England. He opened England’s first strip club, and followed that with soft-porn magazines and real-estate properties until he amassed a huge fortune. Coogan plays Raymond as a likable-enough sort—even though he had a wandering eye and a lack of commitment when it came to relationships. Anna Friel (Land of the Lost) plays Jean, Raymond’s long-suffering wife, who had no problem with his dalliances—until he actually picks up and leaves. Imogen Poots is memorable as Debbie, Raymond’s daughter and the reason he became reclusive after her death from a drug…
14 Aug 2013
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Hell Baby is yet another horror-movie spoof, this one starring the great Rob Corddry (TV’s Childrens Hospital) and Leslie Bibb as a couple moving into a creepy house in New Orleans. She’s pregnant; the place might be haunted; and there’s a guy (the funny Keegan Michael Key) apparently living in their crawl space. On top of that, Mrs. Nussbaum, an old naked lady from the mental institution down the block, is running around the house and doing lewd things to Corddry … really lewd things. Can the couple get the old house renovated in time for the baby’s arrival, while keeping the wife’s womb un-possessed? Unfotrunately, you won’t care. There are a couple of running gags that work, including a repeated bit involving po’ boy sandwiches, but most of the jokes fall flat. This was written by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon of Reno 911!, with the two playing…