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DVDs/Home Viewing

25 Aug 2015
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Gloria (Lola Dueñas) is one of the craziest characters to hit screens in years. Major applause goes to Dueñas, who steals the film Alleluia by encapsulating pure insanity as a quiet woman who reluctantly goes on an outing with an online date, Michel (Laurent Lucas). The two have a one-night stand. Gloria, who we soon realize isn’t that quiet after all, wants more—even after finding out that she is just one of many conquests for Michel, who fancies himself a regular Don Juan who takes advantage of lonely women for their money. Gloria wants in, so she poses as his sister in his schemes. Problem is, she has a little jealousy problem, and starts murdering the women Michel is attempting to defraud. Director Fabrice Du Welz often makes the movie uncomfortable (this is not a complaint), and dots the film with occasional bizarre moments, such as when Gloria breaks into…
18 Aug 2015
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A bunch of Chris Farley’s friends and family members sit down for introspective interviews regarding the John Belushi heir apparent who died at the very same age—and in a very similar way—to his hero. David Spade, Adam Sandler, Bob Saget, Mike Myers and others share stories about their blessedly crazy friend in this serviceable documentary from Brent Hodge and Derik Murray. A film like this is only as good as its interviews and archival footage—and there’s plenty here for Farley fans. Of the interview subjects, Myers is the best. From impersonating Farley backstage looking for a place in the Sprockets skit, to admitting that he sometimes feared for his physical well-being in Farley’s presence, Myers was amazing; I could’ve watched a whole film with him talking about Farley. There’s plenty of time spent with Spade, Farley’s Bud Abbott to his Lou Costello, his Dan Aykroyd to his Belushi. Spade reveals…
03 Aug 2015
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One of the summer’s best bets isn’t in theaters; it’s on Netflix. David Wain and Michael Showalter have finally birthed their Wet Hot American Summer prequel as an eight-episode Netflix series. However, I see it more as a four-hour movie feast of dick and fart humor. The film takes place in the same year (1981) as the film did, but this time, it’s the first day of camp rather than the last day. Everybody has returned, and there has been no effort to make the likes of Showalter, Janeane Garofalo, Bradley Cooper and Amy Poehler look any younger. Oddly enough, Paul Rudd, A.D. Miles and Michael Ian Black somehow look younger than they did in the 2001 film. New additions to the cast include Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm and Jason Schwartzman, and they make the day at Camp Firewood all the more special. Ken Marino’s character is even more of…
27 Jul 2015
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One night after nostalgia struck me and I watched This Is Spinal Tap on Netflix, I popped in this vampire “mockumentary” in for a spin. As it turns out, What We Do in the Shadows is the hilarious vampire cousin of Spinal Tap. Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords), Taika Waititi, Jonny Brugh and Ben Fransham play New Zealand vampires of various ages living in a house together. Waititi is Viago, the fussy one trying to get everybody to comply with house rules. (One of them hasn’t done the bloody dishes in five years.) Clement plays Vladislav the Poker; Brugh is Deacon (the bad boy), and Fransham plays the 800-year-old, straight-up Nosferatu demon in the basement. A camera crew of humans is inexplicably following them around as they do things like have fights in the hallway or venture into town to go bar-hopping. They eventually indoctrinate a new vampire, Nick…
13 Jul 2015
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Rosamund Pike gets to be her British self in What We Did on Our Holiday, a slightly off-kilter family comedy. She plays Abi, a mother of three who is married to messed-up Doug (David Tennant). They’re heading out with the children to visit Doug’s dying father, Gordie (Billy Connolly), on his birthday. Due to an affair Doug had, they are also on their way to a divorce. Pike and Tennant are funny here, convincingly playing a couple that has just about had it. Connolly is excellent as the ornery grandfather who, despite being ill, sparks up when the grandkids are around. As for the kids, they are the best reason to see the movie. Lottie (Emilia Jones), Mickey (Bobby Smalldridge) and Jess (Harriet Turnbull) have terrific, droll reactions to their parents’ childish behavior, and their solution to a problem on the beach is quite unorthodox. Turnbull is especially funny as…
29 Jun 2015
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As far as “found footage” films go, this is of the better ones. That’s because Mark Duplass (Safety Not Guaranteed, The One I Love) and director/co-star Patrick Brice seem to be acknowledging that this particular way of movie-making is a little ridiculous. Per usual, characters in great peril continue to film the perilous goings-on when it would be much better to just drop the camera and run. Duplass and Brice make this scenario kind of funny, even if they are telling a horror story, of sorts. Brice plays Aaron, a cameraman who answers a personal ad asking for somebody to come film him for a day. When he arrives at the home of Josef (Duplass), he finds out the guy is dying and wants to film a day in his life for his future child, just like Michael Keaton in My Life. Josef takes Aaron on a long hike, where…
23 Jun 2015
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Criterion Collection—the cream of the crop when it comes to home-video releases—has done a bang-up job with Five Easy Pieces, the Jack Nicholson classic from director Bob Rafelson. Nicholson plays Bobby, a former pianist and son of a rich man who has left his family behind to work on an oil rig in Southern California. When he discovers his father is sick, he takes his girlfriend (Karen Black) on a road trip where he finds himself wrestling with his past and confusion about his love life. This is one of the quintessential Nicholson roles, featuring that forever-awesome confrontation with a diner waitress over the preparation of a sandwich. It came out in 1970, kicking off a decade of American filmmaking that remains unparalleled. Five Easy Pieces is an essential film for lovers of classic American cinema. It’s a cliché, but it’s true: They don’t make ’em like this anymore. Special…
15 Jun 2015
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Kingsman: The Secret Service evaded me when it played theaters—and it’s a humdinger of a movie, that’s for sure. In this film based on a comic-book series, Colin Firth plays Harry, a member of a secret order of agents that saves the world from all kinds of bad guys. When a fellow agent dies (the agents are named after the Knights of the Round Table), Harry recruits Lee (Jonno Davies), the young son of a former agent and friend, to be the replacement. Unlike James Bond movies, this one isn’t afraid of bad words and gory violence. One scene in which Harry executes an entire church full of hateful rednecks (set to the tune of “Free Bird”) has more gore than three average R-rated movies combined. Firth is great here, as are Mark Strong and Michael Caine as fellow agents. Mark Hamill shows up briefly in a pivotal role, and…
08 Jun 2015
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We Are Still Here is a haunted-house story that plays like a film made many years ago. That’s due in part to a cast that includes Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator), Larry Fessenden (Session 9) and Monte Markham (The Love Boat). It’s also due in part to the fact that writer-director Ted Geoghegan did an exemplary job of putting a movie together that has a look and feel of something that would have played as a double-feature with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre back in the day. Crampton plays a woman who moves into an old house with her husband (Andrew Sensenig) after the death of their son. Soon, Crampton’s character notices a “presence” that she thinks is the spirit of her boy—but a visit from a mysterious old man (Markham) reveals the house has a violent history. Then things get really, really awful and bloody. The ghosts in this movie are…
18 May 2015
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Michael Fassbender remains on a fantastic roll with Slow West, a gritty, appropriately downbeat Western from writer-director John Maclean. Fassbender plays Silas, a cynical, grouchy rider on the American frontier in the 19th century who comes across Jay (Kodi-Smit McPhee), a Scottish boy who is travelling alone in search of Rose (Caren Pistorius), a girl he loves. She had to flee to America with her father after an accident, and now they have a bounty on their heads. Silas knows about the bounty—but he doesn’t tell Jay. After coming across a group of bandits led by Payne (the ever-reliable Ben Mendelsohn), Silas must decide who he’s going to back—the boy or the bandits. Slow West is a great ride, with a vivid depiction of the old West unlike any I’ve seen before. By the time the action reaches Rose’s farm—a single house out in the middle of nowhere—you get a…
12 May 2015
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Ryan Gosling makes a wacky, strange directorial debut with Lost River, using his own bizarre script. He’s clearly influenced by David Lynch and, most notably, frequent collaborator Nicolas Winding Refn. Unfortunately, his movie has more in common with the awful Only God Forgives than the awesome Drive. The story involves a woman named Billy (Christina Hendricks, a co-star of Gosling’s in Drive) who is trying to protect and raise her family in a fictional city that’s falling apart. Her oldest son, Bones (Iain De Caestecker), scavenges old houses for copper, and finds himself in direct conflict with an area thug. Billy takes a job in a club straight out of a David Lynch film, where the likes of Cat (Eva Mendes, Gosling’s girlfriend) stage bloody murders onstage. The club owner is Dave (Ben Mendelsohn, the best thing in the movie), who has some evil intentions with his new hire. Various…
05 May 2015
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I missed the latest Mark Wahlberg extravaganza—a remake of the 1970s James Caan movie The Gambler (NOT the Kenny Rogers TV movie)—when it ran in theaters early this year. Wahlberg lost a lot of weight to play Jim Bennett, an author-turned-college professor who hates life, for some reason. The film never really delves into why Jim is so miserable, and why he has developed such a nasty gambling problem. His problem is so bad that he can’t resist gambling even when his rich mom (a strong Jessica Lange) takes out a large loan to bail him out with criminal types. He just takes the loan and gambles some more, spiraling further downward. John Goodman has a couple of good scenes as a loan shark who has no tolerance for weakness. Brie Larson gives a strong performance as the student who inevitably pulls Jim into a relationship, and George Kennedy makes…