Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

DVDs/Home Viewing

07 Jan 2016
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Spike Lee presents what is easily his most-ambitious film in more than a decade with Chi-Raq, a wild adaptation of the Greek play Lysistrata set in modern-day Chicago. Lee casts old pal Samuel L. Jackson as the narrator (of course) and utilizes a rhyming script and stellar cast to postulate what would happen with gang violence in Chicago if all the women withheld sex. The play was crazy—and the movie is crazy. While the tone is all over the place, the setup gives Lee a chance to do some of his funniest screen work since the humorous interludes in Do the Right Thing. There’s a scene in which Dave Chappelle (Yes, that Dave Chappelle!) plays a strip club owner that might be the funniest thing Lee has ever done. Chappelle needs to do some more acting, because he smokes his one scene. Teyonah Parris shines as Lysistrata, leader of the…
01 Jan 2016
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It was Christmas night, and my dog, Noomi, had eaten some table scraps earlier in the day. Mind you, it was only some turkey and ham given to her by our host, but us Boston terrier owners know that table scraps usually mean nighttime farts. I had just gotten to sleep when Noomi let out a sonic blast that woke me from a dead slumber. After trying to get back to sleep, I gave up and got on iTunes. I discovered that the touted Taylor Swift concert was now streaming for free. Thinking it might lull me to sleep, I started watching it. God dammit … Taylor Swift hooked me for the whole two hours. I admit: I’m a bit of a fan. I’m not that into the country stuff, but her foray into pop with 1989 was impressive. She writes melodies on par with ABBA and lighter-fare Paul McCartney.…
21 Dec 2015
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There’s a good premise here with He Never Died, but writer-director Jason Krawczyk can’t save this one from the junk heap. Henry Rollins plays Jack, a grumpy loner who hangs around in diners and plays bingo for a living. Jack has a big trunk in his apartment containing a bunch of money that keeps him from having to work. When his long lost-daughter (Jordan Todosey) comes knocking at the door, he’s required to socialize a little more than he cares to. That socializing includes talking to Cara (Kate Greenhouse), the sweet, caring waitress from the diner where he gets his hot tea. For whatever reason, Jack’s daughter is kidnapped, and he must swing into action. That swinging into action includes eating human flesh for reasons never fully explained. It turns out Jack is very old—Bible old—and I guess he needs to eat people to stay alive or something. Krawczyk’s script…
18 Dec 2015
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Director Anton Corbijn’s Control, about the final days of Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis, was one of the best biopics I’ve ever seen. Now Corbijn has turned his attentions to the great James Dean (Dane DeHaan) in Life, a sometimes-engaging account of the actor’s interactions with Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson), photographer for Life magazine, shortly before Dean’s death. DeHaan plays a stripped-down, decidedly unglamorous version of the icon, with a performance that is perhaps a little too stifled and mumbling at times. Corbijn and company are shooting for a low-key portrayal here, and they succeed. The idea behind the film is good—a quiet look inside the back-story of James Dean. It’s fun to see some of Stock’s more famous stills of Dean come to life. The film suffers a bit due to DeHaan’s sometimes-frustrating line deliveries, although he does look like Dean at some angles. Much of the film…
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…