Archive for the 'Recent DVDs' Category
Horrific Family Drama
A hit on the festival circuit last year, We Need to Talk About Kevin is finally getting a wide release. It’s general knowledge that the movie revolves around a Columbine-like act of violence at a high school and the relationship between the perpetrator and his mother, but it comes as something of a surprise that the movie turns out to be more of a horror movie than just a family drama.
From the Judd Apatow school of comedy comes Wanderlust, a comedy about a city couple that finds themselves living in a rural “intentional community.” Like most of the films produced by Apatow, this one features a lot of what you might call “awkward comedy” and a whole lot of scenes that are obviously improvised. Unfortunately, the comedy tends more towards awkward than it does humorous, and you have got to wade through a lot of unfunny improvisation to get to the very few gems.
Try This One
You know the drill. Frank Connor has just been released from prison, and has nowhere to go. In the absence of other ideas, he drifts back into the neighborhood and friendships that landed him in jail in the first place. Before long, he’s being pressured into doing “one last job” to clear the “debt” he owes to the goon he “let down” by getting caught. What’s Frank gonna do? There are so few options that only one is really plausible… and we can see the train wreck coming some sixty or seventy minutes away. Still, Pappy executes the story with style and grace. You probably won’t get emotionally involved in Frank’s tale, but you probably will enjoy the slow-burn ride.
Denzel Goes Rogue
It was fitting that the recent promotional screening of Safe House was preceded by a trailer for The Bourne Legacy as the style of this movie is in much the same vein as that franchise. In fact, pretty much everything about Safe House will remind audiences of other, better movies. The lack of originality is balanced out, however, by the likeability of the movie’s star.
Think You’ve Had a Bad Day?
When Jake arises to his shared-apartment corporate-drone world on his birthday, he’s expecting great things. Why? Because his horoscope has told him to. I won’t spoil things for you by going into detail, but let’s just say that Jake does a less than stellar job of interpreting the Delphic oracle that horoscopes tend to be. And when things go spectacularly awry, Jake jets out of town on a mission to debunk astrology. Pro-astro reviewers have noted that 5 Star Day really isn’t about the ways in which the stars influence our lives, or about defending or attacking a particular system of belief. And they’re right. So if you’re looking for a good savage critique of astrology (and I’m not really sure why anyone would be) this isn’t your film.
What is the story of Nutcracker? Well, gosh. That’s kind of a hard question to answer for a ballet, unless you’ve “read the book.” Here, apparently, young Clara has some weird hangup about her eccentric inventor godfather, and the night before Christmas she lapses into a fevered dream. Her godfather, Herr Drosselmeier, crafts a magical toy-soldier nutcracker for her as a gift, and in the dream sequence it morphs into a handsome prince… with whom, it seems, Drosselmeier vies for Clara’s romantic intentions. Or maybe I’m reading that all wrong. I don’t know. But the voiceover narration is a sure sign that Ballard isn’t exactly comfortable that his presentation of the ballet is telling a coherent story, either.
Gentle and Loving
I’ve never forgotten this little gem of a gentle movie, which the unsung Jesse Birdsall carries admirably—and which, under the direction of Randal Kleiser (yes, that Randal Kleiser), features a supporting cast of highly memorable proportions: Lynn Redgrave, Helena Bonham Carter, Sir John Gielgud, Jane Horrocks, Peter Cook. In a story that prefigures The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Birdsall stars as Gavin Lamb, a 30-year-old dresser of blue-hairs (and little-to-no-hairs) who still lives at home and is admittedly scared of talking to most people—women in particular. He’s anal-retentive in a non-fussy way, very focused on not making mistakes as he wanders his art-appreciative way through life.
A Questionable but Fun Thriller
What if no one saw him? That was the first question that came to mind as I settled in to watch the new thriller Man on a Ledge. It was only seconds after the man walked out onto the ledge high above the New York City streets that a woman down below looked up and screamed, alerting the entire block of his presence. It’s something the man was counting on, as he wants to leverage his possible suicide into proving his innocence and his plan relies a lot on timing. But what if that lady didn’t look up? Would he just sit there all day until somebody looked up? Would he whistle or yell to get their attention? These are exactly the kind of questions that can distract an audience from a movie like this, but if you are willing to let these things alone and just go with it, you are sure to be thoroughly entertained for a good hour and a half.
Liam vs. Wild
If I have learned anything from the movies in recent years, it is that you don’t mess with Liam Neeson. He’s filled the shoes that fifteen years ago belonged to Harrison Ford in movies like Air Force One. It seems there is one species that hasn’t gotten the message about the actor’s toughness, however, as the wolves of the Alaskan wilderness that make up the villains of The Grey don’t seem intimidated one bit.
This true story about one woman who misbehaved in a major way and took down a despicable boys-will-be-a-holes network of sex traffickers masquerading as U.N. peacekeepers in Bosnia isn’t some anti-male screed put together by a bunch of activist misanthropists. Instead, it’s a proactively positive (if infuriatingly heartbreaking) story about the evils of sex-trafficking which enlists the help of other A-list stars like David Strathairn and Benedict Cumberbatch, while getting co-production help from a bunch of German men. But still, the lead story is: this is story about a strong woman, starring a strong woman, made by strong women. And it’s a strong film. Take my recommendation and see it.
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