Reviews Archive for November, 2012

The DVD Gift Guide

Now that we’ve put Black Friday and Cyber Monday in our rear-view mirrors, it’s time to consider the gift that keeps on giving: entertainment. The DVD/Blu-ray economy is such that the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas no longer is reserved for the release of special and collector’s editions, boxed sets and videos with toys attached to them. Neither did one need to wait until Black Friday for the best deals. Here are few titles that have arrived recently or didn’t arrive for the normal consideration. If the recipient of your generosity doesn’t yet own a Blu-ray player, however, I recommend starting there.

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Wilmington on DVDs: ParaNorman; Lawless; The Apparition

    PARANORMAN (Also 3 or 2 Disc Blu-ray/DVD and/or 3D Combo) (Three Stars) U. S.: Chris Butler/Sam Fell, 2012 (Focus) ParaNorman, a.k.a. Norman Babcock, mini-hero of the entertainingly creepy new 3D stop-motion animated feature that bears his name, not only has three dimensions but a sixth sense to boot.  He sees the dead —…

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Wilmington on DVDs: Umberto D.

Italy. The early ‘50s. The Post-war era. On a crowded Roman street, a group of old men who live on pensions from the Italian government, try to demonstrate for a raise in their meager incomes. Police break up the march, and the old men scatter, including the neatly-dressed, white-haired man whom we will follow for 88 minutes in the story that has just begun. He is an elderly ex-government worker named Umberto Domenico Ferrari, or “Umberto D.“ for short. Umberto has a threadbare dark suit and sad, watchful eyes and he takes with him, almost everywhere, his little white-and-brown-haired dog, Flike. Like most of the other old men, his situation has become desperate.

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The DVD Wrapup: MiB3, Lawless, Beijing Punk… More

Seven years ago, director John Hillcoat collaborated with writer-composer Nick Cave and actor Guy Pearce on the excellent Outback Western, “The Proposition.” They combined their talents again on “Lawless,” a slick hillbilly gangster flick set during America’s Prohibition experiment. Like “The Proposition,” “Lawless” is a smart and exciting genre that isn’t afraid to ratchet up the violence when things get too contemplative and self-consciously hip. Even more so than Hillcoat’s revisionist Western, though, his moonshine drama probably would be a better fit at a drive-in theater than an arthouse.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Men in Black 3

  PICK OF THE WEEK: NEW MEN IN BLACK III (Three Stars) U.S.: Barry Sonnenfeld, 2012 (Sony) Movie Sequels don’t always work, and the bad ones tend to diminish our fonder memories of the originals. But a good sequel can increase our pleasure. Men in Black III is the third in the series that started…

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Wilmington on Movies: Silver Linings Playbook

Chemistry isn’t lacking here. Cooper plays Pat Jr. with a mix of obstinacy and nervous intensity, plus a phony bravado and a disguised vulnerability that belies the qualities he put into the unshakably self-confident stud he played in The Hangover. As for Jennifer Lawrence, she adds naturalistic comedy to her resume to go along with the mastery of naturalistic drama she showed in Winter‘s Bone and the heroic young womanhood she put into The Hunger Games. And she does it with a panache that justifies at least some of the critical mash notes she’s received for this movie.

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Wilmington on Movies: Red Dawn

Red Dawn, a thoroughly idiotic movie, is an amazingly daffy remake of John Milius’ Cold War bang-bang fantasy of the same title. That 1984 jaw-dropper was an action teen movie about high school guys and footballers turned anti-Red guerillas: a band of letterman brothers led by Patrick Swayze and C. Thomas Howell, battling a Soviet invasion in Colorado. 1984, in the height of the Reagan era, was probably a good time for the original movie. I doubt a good time exists for its feckless, dopey, off-the-wall cinematic progeny.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Sparkle; Greed in the Sun, Abraham Lincoln

I think we’re wrong when we say the story doesn’t matter in shows like this, because the audience just comes for the music. (People say the same kind of thing about action and horror movies, and they‘re wrong there, too.) The story does matter, always, and when we start getting more great musicals again — and I hope we will — it’ll be because all of the movie will click and not just a part of it. The high notes as well as the low. The words as well as the music. The dirt as well as the Sparkle.

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The DVD Wrapup: Nicholas Ray, Rolling Stones, Dust Bowl, Speechless… More

Whenever the roll of movie mavericks is read up yonder, no one has to wait very long before Nicholas Ray’s name is called. Like Sam Fuller, he stuck out like a sore thumb in Hollywood, if only because he’d already lived a hugely eventful life before committing to film and understood the power of the medium to separate the truth from fantasy. In what some of his peers probably considered a fatal flaw, Ray had very little interest in compromising his artistic vision for the sake of commercial and personal gain. Even so, he made movies for mass consumption, not strictly for the arthouse crowd familiar with his past connections to architect Frank Lloyd Wright, folk-music archivist Alan Lomax, Dust Bowl balladeer Woody Guthrie, producer John Houseman, director Elia Kazan and other key players in the progressive New York theater scene in the 1930s. If he somehow managed to avoid being rounded up in Red Scare dragnet, his sentiments remained clearly on the side of outcasts, the downtrodden and rebellious youth.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2

Some movies become mass cultural lollapaloozas and pop ultra-phenomena — and they assume an importance they may not quite deserve. So it is with the cinematic Twilight Saga, a series that zillions adore, but to which some critics (including me) remain unhappily immune.

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Wilmington on Movies: Holy Motors

As far as I could glean or remember, M. Oscar impersonates, with Celine’s help — and thanks to a well-stocked supply of makeup and costumes in the back of the limo — a financier, an old beggar-woman, a motion capture lover/dancer in a black unitard, a wild sewer-dwelling hooligan named M. Merde, a dying father, a charismatic accordionist, a hired killer and his victim/double, and the lover of a heart-breaking chanteuse played and sung (to the hilt) by Kylie Minogue.

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Wilmington on DVDs: The Queen of Versailles

Of all the amusing, depressing and jaw-dropping things in The Queen of Versailles — Lauren Greenfield’s documentary about the construction and deconstruction of the largest one-family dwelling in the United States, a domicile modeled on both the French Palace of Versailles and the Las Vegas Paris Hotel and built by time-share resort hotel czar David Siegel — one of the things that bothered me most was the seeming fact that in this entire massive, outlandishly ornate yet fundamentally cheesy edifice, intended as a glorious Got-rocks celebration by Siegel and his family (including wife Jackie, seven children, one niece and 19 servants), I did not spot a single book.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Savages; The Watch; The Game; Private Hell 36

These three lead a sort of idyllic hippie-outlaw-rich-druggie existence (like young, successful moviemakers maybe), with lots of money to spend, lots of ganja to smoke, and lots of sheets to muss up — in paradisiacal surroundings on Laguna Beach, drenched in the blazing colors and the lush foliage of beachside life on the Pacific, as shot by cinematographer Dan Mindel. Then their dream world begins to crumble.

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The DVD Wrapup: Brave, Dark Horse, Weekend, Pasolini … More

No one makes movies quite like Todd Solondz and that’s probably a good thing. It takes a special talent to find the humanity in characters most of us would consider to be despicable, while also exploring how they’ve managed to fit into mainstream society as long as they have.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Lawrence of Arabia 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition

Few adventure films ever have boasted such astonishing physical beauty. As shot by cinematographer Freddie Young (and his second unit photographer Nicolas Roeg), there’s a scintillating clarity in the city and village scenes (done mostly in Seville, Spain, and Morocco) and even more the vast Saudi Arabian landscapes: movielands as haunting as John Ford’s Monument Valley: a Xanadu of boys’ adventure, dune after dune sliding off toward the blinding sky.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Brave

Brave has been criticized for being too much like classic Disney, which is true, and what of it? Even so, the movie deliberately subverts and plays with the very traditions it celebrates. Brave’s heroine, Merida, may be a princess, but she isn’t waiting around for the someday her prince will come.

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Wilmington on Movies: Skyfall

Did I like it? Sure. Has it lost some or all of its Ian-Flemingish savoir faire and pizzazz, it’s sense of fun and immaculate violence? Not yet, Any movie with Javier Bardem as a villain (or as a non-villain for that matter), has my vote. And Skyfall is not only a classy production on every level — well-acted, well-written, well-shot –but a good rip-roaring action movie too.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection

I’m not a Bond-olator, by any means, but this set seems a beauty: a real pop movie treasure trove. It’s an essential Blu-ray box set — even if a number of the movies are disappointing. (Has anyone ever cared to mount a defense of the 1985 A View to a Kill?)

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The DVD Wrapup: Sister’s Sister, Even the Rain, Kerouac, [REC]3, Arthur Christmas … More

Just when it seemed as if Lynn Shelton’s “Your Sister’s Sister” was going to turn into a really long version of a dopey Gen Y sitcom, it switched into a higher gear and became something far more unexpected, sophisticated and interesting.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Planes, Trains and Automobiles; Eating Raoul… More

I’ve always thought that this nightmarishly building, wackily compassionate road comedy — with straight, wired-tight Steve Martin being driven progressively crazy by his unwelcome road partner, blowhard John Candy — was John Hughes’ best movie (just ahead of Ferris Bueller‘s Day Off), and one of the best American film comedies of the ‘80s.

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Reviews

Gary Dretzka on: The DVD Wrapup: Eighth Grade, No. 1 Fan, Jeannette, Moe Berg, 12th Man, La Familia, Molly, Sarno, Making a Killing, All Styles … More

David Pearce on: The DVD Wrapup: Eighth Grade, No. 1 Fan, Jeannette, Moe Berg, 12th Man, La Familia, Molly, Sarno, Making a Killing, All Styles … More

Trevor T. Trujillo on: The DVD Wrapup: Hereditary, Ghost Stories, Found Footage 3D, Beast, Venus, This Is Our Land, The Big Take, Brothers, Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji, Sid Caesar, Good Karma Hospital … More

Steven DeGennaro on: The DVD Wrapup: Hereditary, Ghost Stories, Found Footage 3D, Beast, Venus, This Is Our Land, The Big Take, Brothers, Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji, Sid Caesar, Good Karma Hospital … More

Gary J Dretzka on: The DVD Wrapup: Hereditary, Ghost Stories, Found Footage 3D, Beast, Venus, This Is Our Land, The Big Take, Brothers, Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji, Sid Caesar, Good Karma Hospital … More

Steven DeGennaro on: The DVD Wrapup: Hereditary, Ghost Stories, Found Footage 3D, Beast, Venus, This Is Our Land, The Big Take, Brothers, Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji, Sid Caesar, Good Karma Hospital … More

Gary Dretzka on: The DVD Wrapup: Hereditary, Ghost Stories, Found Footage 3D, Beast, Venus, This Is Our Land, The Big Take, Brothers, Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji, Sid Caesar, Good Karma Hospital … More

Andre on: The DVD Wrapup: Hereditary, Ghost Stories, Found Footage 3D, Beast, Venus, This Is Our Land, The Big Take, Brothers, Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji, Sid Caesar, Good Karma Hospital … More

Steven DeGennaro on: The DVD Wrapup: Hereditary, Ghost Stories, Found Footage 3D, Beast, Venus, This Is Our Land, The Big Take, Brothers, Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji, Sid Caesar, Good Karma Hospital … More

Roy Atkinson on: DVD Wrapup: Commuter, Oscar, A Taxi Driver, Humor Me, Prince, Doris Day, Shakespeare Wallah, Pomegranates and more

The DVD Wrapup: Incredibles 2, Superman, Midaq Alley, La Boyita, 7th Day, Longing, Breaking Brooklyn, Mara, Capra Goes to War, Sleepwalkers, The Circus, Native America … More

The DVD Wrapup: Spy Who Dumped Me, Elena Ferrante, Sun at Midnight, Elephant’s Journey, Retro Afrika, Never Goin’ Back, Believer, Dragnet, Valley Girl, Black Sails … More

The DVD Gift Guide I: Uni Monsters, Body Snatchers, Twilight 4K, Evil Dead, Trauma, Creepshow, Haunted Hill, Dude 4K, Saved by Bell, 3 Stooges … More

The DVD Wrap: Ant-Man/Wasp, Whitney, Boundaries, BuyBust, Down a Dark Hall, Reprisal, Gen Wealth, 8 Hours Don’t Make a Day … More

The DVD Wrapup: Prayer Before Dawn, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far, Angels Wear White, Rodin, Schiele, Witch Files, 3rd Night, Official Story, Iron Mask … More

The DVD Wrapup: Eighth Grade, No. 1 Fan, Jeannette, Moe Berg, 12th Man, La Familia, Molly, Sarno, Making a Killing, All Styles … More

The DVD Wrapup: Solo, Izzy, Mountain, Uncle Drew, Gotti, The Row, Sumer Nights, Seagull, Mountain, American Psycho, Day of Jackal, The Baby, Freaky Friday, Human Body … More

The DVD Wrapup: Damsel, Hired Hand, Siberia, Toybox, Guardians, Cold Water, Lost Child, Rock HofF, Pyjama Girl, Miniaturist … More

The DVD Wrapup: Goldstone, Westwood, That Summer, Irish Surf, Wyeth, Barbershop, Jess Franco, Mambo Cool, Watcher, Rolling Stone at 50 … More

The DVD Wrapup: Hereditary, Ghost Stories, Found Footage 3D, Beast, Venus, This Is Our Land, The Big Take, Brothers, Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji, Sid Caesar, Good Karma Hospital … More

Quote Unquotesee all »

“We’re all going to die so it makes it very easy. I haven’t always thought that way but I’ve realized it’s the truth. I think age gets you there, questioning your mortality… When you realize that, it’s so liberating, it’s so free, you can fly! There’s no need to hold on to anything. Like, think of the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you; it’s probably happened to 500 million people as well. Who gives a shit!”
~ Steve McQueen

“Let’s lay it right on the line. Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed super-villains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them—to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are. The bigot is an unreasoning hater—one who hates blindly, fanatically, indiscriminately. If his hang-up is black men, he hates ALL black men. If a redhead once offended him, he hates ALL redheads. If some foreigner beat him to a job, he’s down on ALL foreigners. He hates people he’s never seen—people he’s never known—with equal intensity—with equal venom. Now, we’re not trying to say it’s unreasonable for one human being to bug another. But, although anyone has the right to dislike another individual, it’s totally irrational, patently insane to condemn an entire race—to despise an entire nation—to vilify an entire religion. Sooner or later, we must learn to judge each other on our own merits. Sooner or later, if man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill out hearts with tolerance. For then, and only then, will we be truly worthy of the concept that man was created in the image of God–a God who calls us ALL—His children.”
~ Stan Lee, 1965