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DVDs/Home Viewing

10 Oct 2016
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The Greasy Strangler is a totally bonkers film that plays out like something that would result when David Lynch meets John Waters. Grouchy old man Big Ronnie (Michael St. Michaels, who once played a security guard on Diff’rent Strokes) and his weird son (Sky Elobar) conduct disco tours in which they lie to tourists about where the Bee Gees wrote their music. In the evenings, however, the grouchy old man just might be the Greasy Strangler, a dude covered in grease (in part due to the food he eats) who strangles people. Things become complicated when Big Ronnie takes a liking to his son’s girlfriend, resulting in a lot of full frontal nudity from all members of the cast. First-time director Jim Hosking traffics in a sort of absurdist humor that won’t be appreciated by everyone. But for those who like their movies weird, he’s serving up a smorgasbord. It’s…
06 Oct 2016
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Holy hell, is this film a boring mess. In Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Tim Burton directs a leaden Asa Butterfield in an adaptation of Ransom Riggs’ novel. The movie is sloppy, as if the effects weren’t completed. The story is convoluted, as if the filmmakers thought hiring a big-time art director and costuming department were a fair swap for a good script. The narrative involves some nonsense regarding mutant children in a house in the 1940s that is stuck in a time loop. The house is led by Miss Peregrine (Eva Green, the only good thing about the movie), and visited by young Jake (Butterfield), who heard about the place from his late grandfather (Terence Stamp). The kids all have “peculiarities” but no personality; they are X-Men with no sense of purpose. Butterfield, a normally reliable young actor, decimates nearly every line he utters in this film. It’s…
03 Oct 2016
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In Netflix documentary Amanda Knox, directors Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn investigate the horror show that was the Meredith Kercher murder and the many injustices that rained down upon American exchange student Knox and her boyfriend of one week, Raffaele Sollecito, in Perugia, Italy. Both were convicted by an Italian court, as was a third suspect, of stabbing Knox’s roommate Kercher to death, and both served time as their cases went through a series of appeals. The two, now free, sit down for interviews and speak of the confusion that was their interrogation, their whereabouts on the night of the murder, and the hell they endured in prison. The film mostly skips over the trials, concentrating more on Knox and Sollecito’s recollections about the night of the murder and the aftermath. The subject probably requires an entire series, and not one 90-minute documentary, but the story is covered pretty well,…
26 Sep 2016
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Writer-director Hong-jin Na has put together The Wailing, an epic, rather-long South Korean horror film that keeps messing with one’s head—to the point where it becomes hard to take. A strange old man (Jun Kunimura) shows up in visions, and then is discovered in the flesh, in a small village where Jong-Goo, a hapless cop (Do Won Kwak), lives with his young daughter. Village residents start killing each other off and occasionally acting like zombies while covered with strange boils. Then, Jong-Goo’s daughter starts exhibiting symptoms of possession—setting Jon-Goo on a crazed mission to find the root of the evil pestilence destroying his town and his family. Na makes things frightening without resorting to jolt scares or quick edits. The movie unfolds, sometimes slowly, in a way that maintains a high level of tension and creepiness. He mixes in some humor, even during some of the more grisly scenes. The…
19 Sep 2016
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Ron Howard directs The Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years, the first major Beatles documentary since The Beatles Anthology in the 1990s. While the Anthology is still the most definitive account of the greatest band to ever walk the Earth—it’s damn near perfect—Howard does a nice job of culling footage snippets of the band during the short-lived touring days, screaming fans included (one of them being Sigourney Weaver, who is seen both in vintage footage and in a present-day interview). The surviving Beatles—Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr—participate with interviews, while John Lennon and George Harrison have a strong presence in archived interviews. As with Anthology, there’s no narrator, just the voices of the Fab Four either recounting those crazy touring days or commenting on them as they were happening. That stretch ended right before Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, when The Beatles became a studio band and eschewed…
12 Sep 2016
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Adam Nimoy directs For the Love of Spock, a sweet documentary about his dad, Leonard, and the everlasting legacy of his most universally treasured creation, Spock. The film offers a terrific look at the origins of the character, and his transitions through time, straight through to the recent Spock incarnation played by Zachary Quinto. More importantly, the film stands as a blessed tribute to the man behind the character, as it examines his entire career and his family life. Adam Nimoy unearths some great footage, including Leonard reading the original Variety review for Trek in front of a large crowd, and, of course, “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins,” Leonard’s most infamous single from his musical career. (If you haven’t seen the video, it’s one of the greatest things ever made.) Adam had a rocky relationship with his dad, but thankfully, that was remedied in recent years, something the film touchingly…
29 Aug 2016
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Mel Gibson is an asshole, but he can act with the best of them—something he proves yet again in Blood Father. As Link—an ex-con with a tattoo parlor in his trailer and a missing daughter (Erin Moriarty)—Gibson is a stunning, grizzly marvel, elevating mediocre material into something quite watchable. When the missing daughter gets herself into major trouble, she returns to the grid by giving Link a call. Having never really known his daughter, Link is determined to be the dad he never was (thanks to a seven-year prison stint)—and he goes into super-protective mode. The two wind up on the run from a drug cartel, and that leads to Gibson, on a motorcycle, blowing people away with a shotgun. Blood Father is a tour de force for Gibson, whose ranting inside Link’s trailer as it is getting shot up might be the best piece of acting he’s ever put…
22 Aug 2016
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In his latest comedy special, Making America Great Again! on Netflix, David Cross takes a little more than 10 minutes to really get going. When he gets going … holy shit! This guy isn’t afraid of anything. He takes on Donald Trump, the pope and the Catholic Church, terrorists, etc., with a fearlessness that is actually kind of scary. I seriously worry about him getting his ass kicked in the parking lot. Cross has long been one of my favorite standup comedians. I’d call this one of his weaker sets, but that’s just because his previous ones are so great. Cross on a mediocre night is much better than most standups on their best night, so be prepared to laugh. Also, be prepared to moan and cringe, because this guy goes to some pretty unthinkable places with his bits. His theory on why God allows children to die is, shall…
15 Aug 2016
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The Duffer brothers are definitely tipping their figurative hats with numerous homages in with their enjoyable Netflix series, Stranger Things: These boys definitely like their late ’70s-early ’80s Spielberg, Stephen King and John Carpenter. Yeah, Spielberg has gotten his share of tributes before (most notably from J.J. Abrams and his mediocre Super 8, and Jeff Nichols with his awesome Midnight Special). Here, Matt and Ross Duffer have managed to pay homage to a lot of people and films without making their enterprise feel like a ripoff. Yep, that’s Winona Ryder front and center as Joyce, a mom freaking out after her son disappears and starts talking to her through lamps and walls (shades of Poltergeist). Neighborhood kids band together and hop on their bicycles to find their friend (shades of E.T.) while the local sheriff tries to put the puzzle together (and he’s got Indy’s fedora). There’s some sort of…
08 Aug 2016
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After sitting on the shelf for quite some time, Mark Osborne’s unorthodox animated adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s classic The Little Prince has finally gotten a release—a release streaming on Netflix, that is. It’s a good-enough movie, but it is by no means a straight retelling of The Little Prince. There’s a modern story about a young girl (the voice of Mackenzie Foy) who befriends an old aviator (Jeff Bridges)—the one we know from The Little Prince. He recounts part of that story to the little girl, which we see in stop-motion animation. (The modern portion of the story is mostly told via CGI.) There’s an interesting mix of animation techniques to go with some twists in the story. While things feel a little uneven and perhaps slow at times, it’s an enjoyable film. Other voice performers include Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, Marion Cotillard, James Franco, Benicio Del Toro and…
25 Jul 2016
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There’s a truly weird story behind the real picture of Elvis Presley shaking Richard Nixon’s hand in the Oval Office—and director Liza Johnson does a funny job of telling it. One morning in December 1970, Elvis (Michael Shannon) showed up, uninvited, on the White House lawn seeking a meeting with the president. Elvis was determined to become some sort of undercover narcotics agent—prepared to bust fellow rock stars for drugs and make the entertainment world a safer place. Nixon (Kevin Spacey) begrudgingly let him in, because his kid wanted an autograph. It’s impossible to say how much of this movie is really factual, but Spacey is awesome as Nixon, while Shannon makes for a nutty, soft-spoken Elvis. The two are great in their scenes together, and the movie works as a biography for both figures. They give the icons some nice dimension within the movie’s 86-minute running time. Special Features:…
18 Jul 2016
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Writer-director John Carney, who made Once and Begin Again, has turned in another fine movie about music and relationships with Sing Street, an ’80s period piece featuring high school students forming a band. The movie is set in Dublin, where Cosmo (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) has just transferred schools and is trying to fit in. Soon thereafter, he meets the beautiful Raphina (Lucy Boynton) and promptly asks her to be in his band’s music video. One problem: He doesn’t actually have a band. He’s forced to form one, and creates a musical unit consisting of other misfits—who join together to make some decent music. Walsh-Peelo does his own playing and singing in the film, and he’s actually pretty good. He also has a slight resemblance to Paul McCartney. The romance between Cosmo and Raphina is sweet, and the musical elements of the film feel authentic. I wouldn’t be surprised if the formation…