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DVDs/Home Viewing

15 Dec 2015
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It’s not a good thing when Vanilla Ice is the best thing in your movie. His Ice-ness shows up in The Ridiculous 6 as a hip-hop Mark Twain in Adam Sandler’s latest blunder—and Vanilla Ice squeezes a few laughs out of the moment. This Western pile of shit manages a few other giggles, most notably Harvey Keitel’s headless body shooting its own decapitated head, and a rattlesnake nibbling on Will Forte’s ear. Other than that, it’s quite the slog. Make that a two-hour slog. Director Frank Coraci, responsible for other Sandler abominations such as Blended, should’ve streamlined this sucker. The four-or-five-laugher would’ve felt more potent with a solid 30 minutes lopped off. As is, the jokes go on way too long—and too much crap that would’ve been edited out of even the worst Sandler films makes it into the final cut. Sandler plays Tommy, aka White Knife, an orphan boy…
07 Dec 2015
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Just in time for the holidays comes a Blu-ray release of The Beatles 1, a companion piece to the compilation album released 15 years ago. I’m sort of a Beatles fan in reverse: I never disliked them, and they were always in the mix when I was younger. Yet I was not a huge fan; I was more likely to listen to Paul McCartney’s Pipes of Peace back in the day than, say, “The White Album.” That all changed about 10 years ago, when I became somewhat obsessed with them. The Beatles Anthology TV and album series released in the 1990s took me to another level of fandom, and I went all-out nuts after the latest digital re-mastering of their catalogue. I’m convinced now: They are the greatest band that ever existed on this planet. They were much more than musical innovators. This wonderful collection shows how the Fab Four…
01 Dec 2015
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Director Sebastian Schipper and his cameraman pull off an amazing feat with Victoria, a heist story that is shot in one, two-hour-plus take. Laia Costa plays the title character, a Spanish woman living in Berlin who meets a pack of guys while partying. Her loneliness leads to a fast, clingy relationship with Sonne (Frederick Lau), the most outspoken and charismatic member of the group. They wind up hanging out—and Victoria soon finds herself driving a getaway car in a heist, a hastily planned scheme with deadly consequences. Cameraman Sturla Brandth Grøvlen got the movie shot in one long take on the third attempt, as the story goes. A sequence in which Costa loses her way during a driving sequence is fun to watch—because the panic in the voices is very real. (They were deep into filming and almost had to start over.) Schipper’s film isn’t just a technical achievement; the…
27 Nov 2015
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There have been many permutations of The Wall over the years. There was, of course, the fine original album made with Pink Floyd, and the OK 1982 movie that starred Bob Geldof as Pink—a film that achieved cult status but lacked a certain energy. Roger Waters also staged and filmed a production of The Wall at the Berlin Wall in 1990 featuring an all-star cast including Sinead O’Connor, Van Morrison, Cyndi Lauper and the Scorpions. Something never felt right about that particular staging. Diehard Waters fans don’t want to hear and see other singers and actors fronting The Wall. They want to see the man himself—so Waters took a massive production on the road from 2010-2013. The show started in indoor arenas, and that was amazing enough. (I caught the production in Phoenix). Then he expanded it for stadiums—and the thing really blew up. This film covers a stadium show,…
16 Nov 2015
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Adam (Joseph Mawle) moves his family to a house in the Irish countryside as The Hallow begins. He has a nice wife (Bojana Novakovic), a beautiful child and a bunch of demonic creatures living in the backyard that want to kidnap the kid. The creatures are a variety of tortured souls. Some of them are people who were kidnapped and transformed into slimy monsters; all of them are gross and scary. In other words, Adam picked the wrong place to live. Writer-director Corin Hardy does good things with a small budget. When the monsters finally attack, Hardy gives the film a true sense of dread, with Adam’s plight becoming the stuff of nightmares. It’ll make you think twice before purchasing a remote home in the wilderness, and it’ll inspire you to purchase a cannon and many guns if you should opt for such a home location. The second half of…
09 Nov 2015
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Sarah Silverman gives an impressive dramatic performance in I Smile Back, a clumsy effort from director Adam Salky. Silverman is Laney, a troubled housewife married to a successful insurance man, Bruce (Josh Charles, who was supremely awesome in Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp). She seemingly has it all—but some daddy issues have left her an emotional wreck. She guzzles wine, snorts drugs in the bathroom and screws strangers in basements. Things get even worse when she decides to quit taking her lithium. Salky’s directorial style is, at best, flat, which doesn’t serve the sincere effort by Silverman. The comedic actress shows she can easily handle the heavy stuff, but Laney’s story is well-worn and not all that interesting. The film errs by trying to explain her behavior too much; sometimes, things are better left for the audience to figure out. The clichés are bountiful in this…
03 Nov 2015
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Mulholland Dr., the great David Lynch puzzle movie that launched the careers of Naomi Watts and Justin Theroux, has now gotten the Criterion treatment—and it’s a good one. Watts plays Betty, a wannabe actress who comes to Hollywood squeaky-clean—and gets her ass kicked. Theroux plays the director who gives her a role, but also breaks her heart. Or, depending upon your take, it’s all just a very bad dream. Lynch planned this as a TV series for ABC, but the executives over there had no idea what Lynch was trying to do when they watched the dailies. When the pilot was rejected, Lynch did an extensive transcendental meditation session and came up with a way to make his TV series into a movie. Shockingly, it all ties together magically well. I think this is actually Lynch’s best movie, full of terrific strange twists, dark humor and powerhouse acting—especially from Watts.…
27 Oct 2015
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Kurt Russell essentially transplants his character from John Carpenter’s The Thing into the Old West as Sheriff Franklin Hunt, a lawman looking for some kidnap victims, in horror-infused Western Bone Tomahawk. The victims are in the hands of a cannibalistic tribe that’s ready to give Hunt and his cohorts a truly sick time. Those cohorts include Richard Jenkins as his clumsy deputy, Patrick Wilson as a hobbled man looking to rescue his wife, and a never-been-better Matthew Fox, along for the ride and offering swift justice to those who dare to approach their camp. Writer-director S. Craig Zahler makes a very impressive debut, crafting not only an authentic Western, but a truly memorable monster movie. Russell, as he so often does, owns his part and makes Hunt one of his best roles in years. Jenkins seems as if he’s made hundreds of Westerns before; he’s right at home in dirty…
23 Oct 2015
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This business of sending some movies directly to iTunes/ and on-demand services while they show on limited screens across the country is turning out to be really cool. Some great films, including Michael Fassbender’s Slow West, have been released this year using this method. Now another great film has been released in this way: Mississippi Grind. Powerhouse performances are delivered by Ben Mendelsohn as Gerry, a depressed gambler, and Ryan Reynolds as Curtis, his artificially upbeat counterpart. The two meet at a low-stakes poker game, share some bourbon and wind up on a road trip to New Orleans with the intent of getting in on a huge money game. Things don’t quite work out that way, with Gerry recklessly gambling the money Curtis stakes him, while Curtis womanizes and steals bicycles. Still, the two men continue to be drawn to each other—and it all leads up to some big events.…
12 Oct 2015
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Horror fans might get a kick out of The Final Girls, this spoof of ’80s horror movies—although they might decry the lack of blood and guts. Max (Taissa Farmiga) loses her mom (Malin Akerman) in a car accident. Her mom, Nancy, was a struggling horror-film actress best known for a Friday the 13th-type summer-camp slasher movie made in the ’80s. After agreeing to show up for a screening of her late mom’s film, Max and her friends journey inside the movie, where Max winds up hanging out with her mom—who isn’t really her mom, and is actually Amanda, the character she played in the film. The Final Girls is crazy enough to work on a few levels, although it suffers a bit because the movie is rated PG-13—which is strange, since the movie is spoofing films that have hard-R ratings. There are some good laughs, due mainly to a strong…
06 Oct 2015
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Just a couple of weeks after the release of one of his worst movies, writer-director Eli Roth is at it again with Knock Knock— a far-better offering. Keanu Reeves stars as Evan, a loving husband with two children who is left alone for a couple of days while the wife and kids go on a trip. Just as Evan is about to light the old pot pipe, there’s a knock at the door. Two of the most beautiful women in the world, Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and Bel (Ana de Armas), are soaking wet and in need of assistance. Evan innocently lets them in to use the phone, dry their clothes and, as things eventually turn out, have mad sex. Unfortunately for Evan, he winds up being part of a nasty torture game in which he will pay for his infidelities in horrible, gut-churning ways. While Roth never really reveals why…
28 Sep 2015
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Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon is a solidly entertaining documentary about the ups and downs of the National Lampoon magazine and production company. Back in the day, National Lampoon was a humor magazine that was a triple-R alternative to the much-tamer Mad Magazine. (National Lampoon had cartoons and real boobs.) The doc chronicles the early days of the Lampoon’s inception, through its hit movies (Animal House, Vacation), to the eventual demise of the magazine in 1998. Many stars—including Chevy Chase, Judd Apatow and Kevin Bacon—discuss their direct participation in Lampoon projects, and explain the ways in which the magazine and films influenced them. Other stars sitting down for interviews include John Landis (director of Animal House), Beverly D’Angelo (star of Vacation) and Tim Matheson (star of Animal House). Before they went to Saturday Night Live, Chase, John Belushi, Bill Murray and Gilda Radner all took…