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Last updateMon, 23 Mar 2020 12pm

DVDs/Home Viewing

04 Jan 2019
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The first season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was a huge success, garnering five Primetime Emmy Awards—including Outstanding Comedy Series honors—and giving Amazon Studios its biggest hit to date. Given all the accolades and press, show runners Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino had to be feeling a lot of pressure to deliver with the show’s second season—and deliver, they did, on Dec. 5 with 10 splendid episodes. While the second season doesn’t cover any surprising ground—the plot lines all head pretty much where one would predict them to head—the writing remains sharp and delightful, and the acting is consistently stellar. Season 2 takes us on a comedy tour with Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) and Susie (cast MVP Alex Borstein); to Paris with Midge and parents Rose (Marin Hinkle) and Abe (Tony Shalhoub); and on a summer away in the Hamptons with the entire Masiel and Weissman families. New addition Zachary Levi…
17 Dec 2018
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Matt Dillon is all sorts of horrifying as the titular character, a serial killer in 1970s America, in The House That Jack Built. He’s an architect; he has OCD; and he’s a killer who likens his work to art. He describes his murders to an off-camera inquisitor (Bruno Ganz) as if they were symphonic masterworks. The allegory is a bit heavy-handed, and the satire is a little more than obvious. At times, it plays a lot like the book version of American Psycho. (The book was nastier than the film.) Director Lars von Trier, who is seemingly getting nastier and stranger with every film, has always been quite the provocateur. This marks a slight comeback from his awful Nymphomaniac movies, although it doesn’t compare to his best work (Melancholia, Dancer in the Dark, Antichrist). The main reason to see The House That Jack Built is Dillon, who delivers one of…
12 Dec 2018
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Director Ben Stiller gets serious with Escape at Dannemora, a Showtime series based upon the real 2015 escape of two dangerous convicts from prison in upstate New York. Benicio del Toro and Paul Dano are perfect as Richard Matt and David Sweat, two nutballs who get prison employee Tilly Mitchell (a terrific Patricia Arquette) to help them break out, therefore initiating a mammoth manhunt—the results of which I won’t give away here. Matt, Sweat and Mitchell formed a very unconventional love triangle that goes to some pretty strange places. (As of this writing, four of the seven episodes have aired.) So far, the show is pretty damned good. Stiller can’t resist the temptation to be funny on occasion, but this show is proof he can put together a great drama, too. Del Toro and Dano are equally good, each getting a chance to explore their dark sides. (No surprise: Del…
04 Dec 2018
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Who doesn’t like Christmas? OK, let me rephrase that: Who doesn’t like Christmas as experienced with a steady, carefully, legally (in California) maintained buzz throughout the final weeks of the year? Your mumbled approval is noted. Christmas TV shows and movies are an industry unto themselves; what other holiday has so much content churned out in its name? Until the inevitable establishment of Handsome White Jesus Day under decree of President Pence (so, spring-ish), Christmas is the King of All Media. Here are eight oddities in a holly-jolly ocean of Christmas programming to stream over the next few weeks of jingle hell: Happy! (Season 1 on Syfy.com and Syfy app): Based on the Image comic, Happy! follows ex-cop-turned-alcoholic-assassin Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni) and Happy (voiced by Patton Oswalt), a blue cartoon unicorn who needs his help rescuing a little girl kidnapped by … Santa Claus. Violence, insanity and a gonzo-command…
03 Dec 2018
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Kurt Russell might be the best Santa Claus ever in Netflix’s The Christmas Chronicles, a inconsistent but ultimately enjoyable movie that is sure to make it into a lot of holiday-movie rotations for those of us who like Christmas movies with a little edge. Kate (the adorable Darby Camp) is dealing with the loss of her father, a struggling mom (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) and her jerk brother, Teddy (Judah Lewis), during the holidays. She makes Santa a request video—and then accidentally stumbles upon the big guy himself as he drops by. Russell is a comic gem here, bemoaning the way cola ads portray him as fat (the guy is in great shape) while embodying the joy and eternally happy spirit of the legend. While the movie drifts a bit in the middle—including some unfortunate, cutesy CGI elves—Russell keeps the whole thing movie forward with the power of his unique and totally…
27 Nov 2018
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Netflix is becoming a haven for the very best directors. Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma will debut on the streaming service on Dec. 14 after a very brief theatrical run. Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Paul Greengrass, Guillermo del Toro and Steven Soderbergh all have had, or will have, projects with Netflix. The true stunner is that Joel and Ethan Coen also teamed up with Netflix for their latest, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. The film is a six-part Western anthology that fits snugly in their repertoire, which includes No Country for Old Men, Fargo, Barton Fink and Raising Arizona. The movie’s arrival on Netflix, after a one-week theatrical run, establishes Netflix as a true original-film force. The film opens with a story about the title character (played by Tim Blake Nelson), a singing cowboy who is frighteningly adept with his gun, casually killing many in the segment’s few minutes. The musical ending…
13 Nov 2018
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Collin (Daveed Diggs), a man on his last few days of probation, faces a challenge when he not only witnesses a cop shooting a suspect in the back; he also winds up being in the presence of another person shooting off a firearm, multiple acts of violence, and more things that would get him thrown back in jail. Did I mention that Blindspotting is a comedy? Diggs, along with buddy Rafael Casal, wrote the script for what turns out to be one of the year’s better directorial debuts, by Carlos López Estrada. The two also share the screen together, with Casal turning in a breakout performance as Collin’s best friend and co-worker, an outspoken troublemaker who courts mischief with every word. The final act includes some daring choices, and they pay off. Diggs and Casal have the potential to be a great writing/acting duo, and I am curious to see…
06 Nov 2018
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The title of this film, Juliet, Naked, is a nod to The Beatles’ release of Let It Be … Naked, a stripped-down version of that album. In this movie, Juliet, Naked is a demo version of an album recorded by a fictional indie-rock star, Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke). I can’t think of a more appropriate role for Hawke at this point in his career. Over the last couple of decades, he’s grown into one of the best actors on the planet. He had promise in the first act of his career, but he was a little annoying, self-important and boring … like the younger version of Tucker Crowe. But he’s older now, and so is his character in this movie, a reclusive star who retreated into obscurity after a bad breakup. That part isn’t autobiographical—Hawke has been pretty active throughout—but there are fun parallels between Hawke and Tucker Crowe. Rose…
23 Oct 2018
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I binge watched the 10-episode, 10-hour series The Haunting of Hill House in a day on Netflix—and I wanted more. So, yeah, it’s good. Based, very loosely, on the Shirley Jackson novel, it tells the story of a family living in a creepy house while the parents (Carla Gugino and Henry Thomas) renovate it for the purpose of flipping it for profit. Things begin to go badly in a haunting kind of way, and events occur that have ramifications throughout the years. The show covers two time periods, one in which Thomas (who is beyond excellent) plays the young dad, and Timothy Hutton (also excellent) plays him two decades later. The cast is stellar across the board, with the likes of Victoria Pedretti, Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Elizabeth Reaser playing the adult versions of the siblings, and Paxton Singleton, Lulu Wilson and Violet McGraw playing them as children. There are lots…
16 Oct 2018
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The Kindergarten Teacher stars Maggie Gyllenhaal as, well, a kindergarten teacher who discovers one of her students (Parker Sevak) is quite the poet. She covets the boy’s talent to a point that becomes … well, unhealthy. The movie, a remake of a French film, gives the talented Gyllenhaal yet another terrific showcase; her teacher is a most complicated character who is guilty of numerous crimes … yet you can’t help but feel for her. Tired of her life, she becomes obsessed with the boy, utilizes his poetry in a bad way, and gets herself in a whole world of trouble. Gyllenhaal pulls off a marvel of a performance, making a despicable person undeniably sympathetic. This is yet another great offering from Netflix; The Kindergarten Teacher is a theater-caliber movie getting released on the streaming platform with only a limited theatrical release. This is the sort of movie that used to…
09 Oct 2018
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Whitney is a bummer of a documentary to watch, as well it should be. Thanks to the participation of Whitney Houston’s family members, including her former husband Bobby Brown, this stands as the definitive look at her career and her downfall. It’s a devastating film. The movie starts with the vibrant Houston singing “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” and gives a special nod to her first national TV appearance on the The Merv Griffin Show. Her mother, Cissy Houston, and brothers (among other family and friends) sit down for interviews, and the subject seems happy for a good chunk of the film. Then Bobby Brown—it’s shocking that he sat down for an interview—entered her life, bringing turmoil, including increased drug usage and his infidelity. It was all downhill from there. It all works up to the ending we know is coming, but it’s still shocking to see this joyful person…
01 Oct 2018
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After Zeptember comes Rocktober—not, repeat, not, Trucktober or any other “-tober” extrapolation. Those are consumer market mind-control operations perpetuated by the Deep State government, aka the alien lizard people who run the planet. If you listened to my short-wave radio show, you’d know this already. Anyway: The scripted rock ’n’ roll TV series has been attempted many a time, but few ever crack the two-season mark. This makes sense, because rock that goes on and on for an interminable amount time just devolves into “progressive” or “jam” (both also evil creations of the lizard people), and no one needs that. Here are 11 rock ’n’ roll series to stream in honor of Rocktober: Metalocalypse (Seasons 1-4 on Amazon and iTunes) One of the rare exceptions to the two-season rule, Brendon Small’s Metalocalypse thrashed on Adult Swim from 2006 to 2013, chronicling the exploits of death-metal superstars Dethklok. The band members…