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DVDs/Home Viewing

28 Apr 2015
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While Black Sea is a submarine movie that’s not quite on par with Crimson Tide, Yellow Submarine and Das Boot, it is a decent thriller—and it’s a helluva lot better than Operation Petticoat and Down Periscope. Jude Law, using a distracting Scottish accent, plays Robinson, a disgraced submarine captain who has just lost his job. A chain of events leads him into commanding a band of men in a broken-down submarine heading for a downed sub that contains millions in gold meant for Hitler during World War II. The men, of course, deal with a lot of trouble along the way, especially when the gold winds up on their boat. Lucky for us, the cast includes Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn, two great character actors. They are each given roles that play to their best acting attributes (McNairy plays a paranoiac; Mendelsohn is a psycho), and they are always fun…
24 Apr 2015
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A mean rich guy (Michael Douglas) pays a young, innocent guide (Jeremy Irvine) to take him hunting for big-horn sheep in the Mojave Desert in Beyond the Reach. Once they get out there, rich guy gets an itchy trigger finger and actually shoots an old guy who just happens to live out in the middle of nowhere. Then, the rich guy gets even meaner. Also, the movie gets dumber and dumber. Douglas is usually fun to watch, even when he is in a bad movie. Well, this one is really bad. When his evil rich guy gets the idea to have the guide take off his clothes and wander around the desert until he dies, it makes absolutely no sense. The rich guy wants to eliminate the evidence that he committed a murder by making the guide die of exposure—but then he just tries to shoot him anyway. Huh? It…
14 Apr 2015
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Ryan Reynolds goes full-on insane for The Voices, a funny, gory and bizarre offering from director Marjane Satrapi, who directed the animated film Persepolis. Let it be said that The Voices is about as far away from Persepolis as cinematically possible—this is what I would call a major departure. Reynolds plays Jerry, a factory worker with a sad past involving his mom and sock puppets. Jerry has voices in his head—well, sort of: He hears them coming out of the mouths of his cat and dog. Jerry, after some time in an institution, is trying to assimilate back into society with the help of a kind therapist (Jacki Weaver). He starts by trying to ask out Fiona (Gemma Arterton), a girl at the office. Things don’t go so well—and Fiona’s body parts wind up in some Tupperware, with her head residing in his refrigerator. That head has frequent conversations with…
10 Apr 2015
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Upon revisiting Interstellar on Blu-ray, I would like to make the following observation: Matt Damon kicks mortal ass in this movie. Yes, I know, most of the hubbub involving this film focuses on the Matthew McConaughey performance, and whether or not the science ideas hold up. For me, the most startling aspect of this flick is when Damon shows up deep in the picture and fucks things up, old-school. I didn’t necessarily buy what director Christopher Nolan and his cronies were trying to postulate about wormholes and space travel. However, I did thoroughly enjoy Interstellar thanks to the work of the special-effects crew, the performances and, yes, Matt Damon playing a total douchebag. I had completely forgotten Damon was in Interstellar when I watched it the first time, so when he showed up as a scientist who was waking up from what he thought would be his final nap, I…
03 Apr 2015
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Of all animal-attack movies—films in which sharks, birds, insects, Mickey Rourke and tigers attack and eat people—bear-attack movies freak me out the most. Granted, Jaws is still the granddaddy of all animal-attack films, but there’s just something so freaky and depressing about bears mauling humans in movies. Well, Backcountry goes into the Bear Attack Hall of Fame with Grizzly (1976), The Edge and the documentary Grizzly Man. Missy Peregrym and Jeff Roop play Jenn and Alex, a troubled couple looking to have a good time while and canoeing lakes. Things take a minorly bad turn when a mysterious stranger (Eric Balfour) has a fairly intimidating fish dinner with them by a campfire. Things take a majorly bad turn when Alex loses his way and gets the couple lost. Things then become absolutely catastrophic when a black bear smells Alex’s bloody socks, finds their tent and decides to have itself some…
24 Mar 2015
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Some might find the supernatural elements of horror/romance film Spring to be a little hard to swallow. For me, the part that’s really hard to swallow is that a short-order cook from the United States could just pick up and go to Italy at a moment’s notice. No way! Not on his salary. The short-order cook is Evan, played by likable actor Lou Taylor Pucci. After the death of his parents and a fight in a bar, he flees to Italy, where he meets the love of his life, Louise (Nadia Hilker). Nadia has it all: looks, intelligence, sly wit—and the tendency to shape-shift into catlike and reptilian monsters. Directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, utilizing a script by Benson, have made a film that is genuinely scary, touching and funny all at once. Pucci and Hilker are good together, especially in the moments after Evan discovers Louise’s primordial secrets.…
19 Mar 2015
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Adam Sandler’s latest film has a fairly interesting premise and gets off to an OK start—but it quickly becomes awkward (even gross) and eventually degenerates into a stupid, predictable thriller. Sandler plays Max, a cobbler in a New York shop once owned by his dad. After his electric stitching machine goes kaput, he uses an old manual one in the basement to fix some shoes. He tries them on—and instantly becomes the person who owns the shoes (played by Method Man). He figures this out, and begins using shoes to become other people, including, most disgustingly, his long-lost father (Dustin Hoffman) for a date with his mother. (Ew!!!) The plot then goes crazy, as Method Man’s character proves to be a street thug, and Max schemes to steal his money so he can buy a tombstone for a family member. Director Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent) is all over the…
17 Mar 2015
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The third time is the charm for the Night at the Museum franchise: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is first good movie in the lot. The previous chapters lacked soul, laughs and a true sense of adventure. This installment allows Ben Stiller to clown around a little more and drop some better jokes. Having him play a second character—a Neanderthal man—is an inspired touch. This time out, Larry (Stiller) discovers that the ancient tablet that gives the museum attractions the ability to come alive is deteriorating. He ultimately treks to London to solve the problem, visiting a museum where Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens) comes to life. Stevens is a nice addition; he’s consistently funny and wicked as the crazed knight. His subplot leads to him running onstage during a musical production of Camelot, which provides a pretty hilarious cameo that I won’t give away. All of the…
10 Mar 2015
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In These Final Hours, writer-director Zak Hilditch has made a movie reminiscent of 1988’s Miracle Mile, that weird indie film that had Anthony Edwards racing to find Mare Winningham before the planet went kablooey in a nuclear holocaust. Hilditch set his film in Australia, where that part of the globe awaits a wall of fire resulting from some sort of asteroid strike. (The true cause is never fully explained.) James (Nathan Phillips), with his wife’s permission, makes the decision to leave her and join his mistress at an apocalypse party. On the way to the mayhem, he rescues Rose, a young girl (Angourie Rice), from a fate worse than death, and begins to attain a sense of responsibility and compassion in the last hours of his life. Phillips puts forth a strong, frantic performance, while Rice provides a nice, serene balance. The party itself is madness personified. Some of the…
03 Mar 2015
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After respectable musical efforts in awful films (Pitch Perfect, Into the Woods), Anna Kendrick takes a nice leap forward in The Last Five Years, a film adaptation of the off-Broadway musical. She plays Cathy, a woman we see singing a mournful post breakup song as the film begins. Her husband, newly famous writer Jamie (Jeremy Jordan), has just left her for superstardom and multiple girlfriends. The film then flashes back to show moments over the last five years of their lives, with almost all of the dialogue being sung. The two stars, especially Kendrick, do much of their singing live. The music itself isn’t all that memorable, but it’s not bad, and it does require Kendrick and Jordan to often use the upper register. They both have impressive pipes. Unfortunately, the Jamie character drags the film down a bit; he’s a bland, reprehensible prick. That could work fine, but he’s…
17 Feb 2015
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Spike Lee partially funded Da Sweet Blood of Jesus through Kickstarter—and the results are a mixed bag. While his film about a wealthy researcher (Stephen Tyrone Williams) becoming addicted to blood (thanks to an ancient artifact) contains some of his most startling imagery in years, the film is a bit long in the tooth. Given the artistic freedom of a crowd-funded project, Lee doesn’t seem to check himself when it comes to pacing—resulting in a film that could benefit from 30 minutes being shaved off. Still, Williams is good as the secluded rich man who, after an associate (Elvis Nolasco) tries to kill him, finds himself resurrected and thirsting for blood. He preys upon prostitutes, and eventually takes a wife (a strong Zaraah Abrahams) who soon joins him in blood lust. This is not a traditional vampire movie, although it is quite bloody, featuring scenes of Williams and Abrahams’ characters…
10 Feb 2015
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Laggies is a so-so movie made watchable because of its stellar cast. The filmmakers should feel lucky that Keira Knightley, Chloë Grace Moretz and a guy named Sam Rockwell got talked into gracing this one with their presence. Directed by Lynn Shelton and written by Andrea Seigel, the film tells the story of Megan (Knightley), a woman in her late 20s who is still spinning signs for her dad’s business. When her boyfriend (Mark Webber) proposes, and she sees her dad (Jeff Garlin) cheating on her mom shortly thereafter, it all proves to be a bit much for her—and she splits. After illegally buying alcohol for young Annika (Moretz), Megan winds up at Annika’s house, where Annika’s dad, Craig (Rockwell), is sulking after his wife left him high and dry. Predictably, Megan becomes a mother figure to Annika while falling in love with Craig. Rockwell could be star in a…