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DVDs/Home Viewing

17 Sep 2013
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I missed Sharknado during its initial cable run. I found that a lot of people loved that it existed, but they didn’t necessarily sit down to watch the thing. Not only did I sit down to watch this … I paid for this! Am I glad I did it? I sure am. Let me make something perfectly clear: There isn’t a lot of actual sharknado action—i.e., action consisting of tornadoes full of sharks. The movie is more about standard shark attacks on the beach, shark attacks in your backyard, and shark attacks in the living room. You know, everyday shark-attack sort of stuff. It isn’t until near the finale that you get full-on sharknado action, with big twisters full of hammerheads and great whites that eat people as soon as they hit the ground. Whoever made this movie should’ve thrown a lot more money at it, because tornadoes full of…
13 Sep 2013
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Michael Cera stars in Crystal Fairy as Jamie, an American in Chile who is obsessed with the notion of drinking the juice of a hallucinogenic cactus. Along the way, he meets the strange title character (Gaby Hoffman), who joins Jamie and his group (which includes writer-director Sebastián Silva and his brothers). Cera is very good here, playing a selfish, misguided man whose streak of humor sometimes ranges toward the cruel. Former child star Hoffman literally lets it all hang out as a star-child type who is hiding some decidedly less-esoteric traits from the group. The movie is spacey, funny and a nice vehicle for Cera, who wound up having a great summer with this and his turns in This Is the End and the rebooted Arrested Development. The film gets him out of his comfort zone while playing up his fun quirks as an actor. As for Hoffman—so good in…
10 Sep 2013
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At the beginning of his feature-directing career, David Gordon Green acted like he wanted to be Terrence Malick’s heir apparent. Films like George Washington and All the Real Girls had a distinctive, deliberate Malick-like pacing, along with graceful, poetic dialogue. After two more dramatic offerings (Undertow and Snow Angels), Green began a prolonged foray into comedy, with the stoner classic Pineapple Express, the stoner disaster Your Highness, and the OK Jonah Hill vehicle The Sitter. He also piloted some damned-funny episodes of HBO’s Eastbound and Down. His latest, Prince Avalanche, is set in nature (Malick style!), and it’s definitely a minimalist offering. It’s basically two guys (Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch) dealing with their personal issues back in 1988 while painting lines on a lonely, fire-ravaged road through the wilderness. It has the poetic energy of Green’s earlier offerings, along with a nice touch of his comedic sensibilities. The result…
06 Sep 2013
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The Frozen Ground is based on the true story of Robert Hansen, an Alaskan serial killer currently spending life behind bars for murdering at least 17 women near Anchorage. Cusack—continuing his recent streak of hideous characters—plays Hansen, the bakery owner who hunted young women and buried their bodies throughout the Alaskan wilderness, undetected by authorities for many years. Nicolas Cage is on hand in “serious” Cage mode as State Trooper Jack Halcombe, who is determined to catch Hansen after Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens), an exotic dancer, allegedly escapes his clutches. The movie gets caught in an unfortunate loop regarding Paulson’s willingness to cooperate, and her decisions to avoid authorities. It feels like every other scene focuses on Hudgens sneaking away from Cage and retreating to some seedy area. It gets a little monotonous. It’s a shame, because Cusack is great as Hansen, as he was in last year’s terrible The…
03 Sep 2013
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Sometimes, all a movie really needs is Sam Rockwell. Rockwell stars in A Single Shot as John Moon, a reclusive poacher living in a trailer deep in the woods. One morning while out hunting a deer, he accidentally shoots a woman. Then, he finds a whole lot of money (echoes of A Simple Plan) and decides to keep it in an effort to make things better with his estranged wife (Kelly Reilly). Of course, the money actually belongs to bad people—and those bad people will be coming after John Moon. They most certainly will. A Single Shot doesn’t feel original; in fact, it feels a bit hackneyed at times. But the performances are often riveting, and Rockwell keeps it watchable. There’s also an unrecognizable Jason Isaacs as an unsavory sort, with the underrated Joe Anderson also playing a bad guy. William H. Macy brings a slight taste of comedy to…
03 Sep 2013
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Michael Shannon is his usual terrific self as Richard Kuklinski, aka The Iceman, one of the most notorious killers in American history. During his run, Kuklinski killed as many as 250 people as a solo assassin and mob hitman. The Iceman director and co-writer Ariel Vromen has made an impressive-looking movie, and he stocked it with good people, including Winona Ryder as Kuklinski’s wife, who allegedly didn’t know about her husband’s deadly ways until the day of his arrest. Chris Evans (Captain America!) is great as Mr. Freezy, a murderous accomplice who shows Kuklinski how to murder with cyanide. Ray Liotta reminds viewers that he is one of cinema’s great bad-asses as real-life crime figure Roy Demeo, who initiated Kuklinski into his gang by having him murder a random, innocent man. Yes, that’s David Schwimmer of Friends fame playing a long-haired, mustachioed Demeo henchman. The film looks great; the subject…
27 Aug 2013
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It was a little worrisome when Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel had its release postponed last year. As it turns out, turning the film into a summer blockbuster rather than an awards-season contender was a great move, because this one felt right at home during the summer movie season. Shot in glorious 3-D, this is a rollicking Roaring ’20s movie that shouldn’t be missed. Leonardo DiCaprio is a marvel in the title role, giving us a vulnerable and sometimes slightly crazy Gatsby who relentlessly pursues his love, Daisy (Carey Mulligan). His visual intro in this film is one for the ages. Tobey Maguire is excellent as narrator and Gatsby admirer Nick Carraway, while Joel Edgerton steals scenes as Tom Buchanan. Those who like Luhrmann’s opulent, sometimes-frantic style will find plenty to like. He also manages to effectively use music by Jay-Z and Lana Del Rey—in a…
20 Aug 2013
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In The Look of Love, Steve Coogan reunites with his frequent director Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People) to tell the true story of Paul Raymond, Britain’s version of Hugh Hefner, who became one of Britain’s richest men before his death in 2008. I knew nothing of this man before watching the film—which seems strange, considering he was so huge in England. He opened England’s first strip club, and followed that with soft-porn magazines and real-estate properties until he amassed a huge fortune. Coogan plays Raymond as a likable-enough sort—even though he had a wandering eye and a lack of commitment when it came to relationships. Anna Friel (Land of the Lost) plays Jean, Raymond’s long-suffering wife, who had no problem with his dalliances—until he actually picks up and leaves. Imogen Poots is memorable as Debbie, Raymond’s daughter and the reason he became reclusive after her death from a drug…
14 Aug 2013
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Hell Baby is yet another horror-movie spoof, this one starring the great Rob Corddry (TV’s Childrens Hospital) and Leslie Bibb as a couple moving into a creepy house in New Orleans. She’s pregnant; the place might be haunted; and there’s a guy (the funny Keegan Michael Key) apparently living in their crawl space. On top of that, Mrs. Nussbaum, an old naked lady from the mental institution down the block, is running around the house and doing lewd things to Corddry … really lewd things. Can the couple get the old house renovated in time for the baby’s arrival, while keeping the wife’s womb un-possessed? Unfotrunately, you won’t care. There are a couple of running gags that work, including a repeated bit involving po’ boy sandwiches, but most of the jokes fall flat. This was written by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon of Reno 911!, with the two playing…
13 Aug 2013
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If you are not familiar with the case of the West Memphis Three, Amy Berg’s thorough documentary, West of Memphis (produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh), will get you up to speed. Three young boys, Stevie Branch, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers, were found dead in a ditch in West Memphis, Ark., in May 1993. The circumstances of their deaths seemed to suggest some sort of satanic ritual—or so authorities thought. They arrested three teenagers, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., and eventually put them behind bars for more than 18 years. The film presents much of the information shared in the three prior Paradise Lost documentaries, with a new emphasis on another stepfather and his possible involvement in the murders. If I have a bone to pick with these documentaries, it’s that they point fingers at other suspects, yet present little to no evidence to back…
07 Aug 2013
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Derek Cianfrance follows up his brilliant Blue Valentine with The Place Beyond the Pines, a film bigger in scope that also stars Ryan Gosling. Gosling plays Luke, a motorcycle stunt guy who finds out he has a kid. Problem is, the kid is the product of a one-night stand, and the mom (Eva Mendes) has moved on. Luke resorts to robbing banks, which culminates in a meeting with a rookie cop, Avery, played by Bradley Cooper. The film then focuses on Cooper’s character for a segment before dealing with the kids of Luke and Avery (played by Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen) when they are teens. The two young actors match their adult counterparts with strong performances. The movie is long but never boring, and it crackles most when Gosling is onscreen. This is all about the sins of the fathers, and Cianfrance presents the story in a way that…
06 Aug 2013
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It’s official: Jeff Nichols, who gave us the brilliant Take Shelter, is a writer/director who stands among the best of the current crop. Matthew McConaughey plays the title character in this amazing film, Mud. He’s a chipped-toothed, wild-haired drifter living in a boat in a tree along the Mississippi. Two kids, Ellis and Neckbone (Tye Sheridan, of The Tree of Life, and Jacob Lofland) stumble upon him and become a part of his strange and dangerous world. McConaughey is catching wave after wave of success lately, and this role is his best one yet. He makes Mud a little scary, yet charming and cunning. Sheridan and Lofland are terrific as the young friends who should probably stay away from guys living in boats in trees. The cast also boasts Reese Witherspoon, Michael Shannon and Sam Shepard. All of them are equally great. A lot of us wrote off McConaughey a…