Kelly Reichardt’s account of the Western frontier is an unromantic vision, full of dehydration, in-fights, and one, really wrong turn; it’s also one of the best films to be released so far this year. Three families (Michelle Williams and Will Patton, Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano, and Shirley Henderson and Neal Huff) take a shortcut on their way to California based on the advice of Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood), a rugged frontiersman who may or may not have their best interests in mind. Along the way, they encounter “the Indian” (Rod Rondeaux), who may or may not be leading them into a trap. Questions abound, and Jonathan Raymond’s screenplay refuses to give answers. Instead, the film explores the dynamics of people under duress and how hope and destruction can live hand-in-hand. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Here’s a movie that at least understands the gods always outshine the humans in mythology, even if Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his compatriots are really more super-powered aliens than gods. Thor is yet another in the long line of comic-book hero movies that insists on giving us an origin tale, but it gives us a slightly refreshing take. See, Thor is no hero in the beginning; he’s an arrogant, war-hungry man, bent on conquering others to teach them the right way. After losing his powers and being banished to Earth, he learns how to be a legitimate hero. My review is here. Available on DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D.
The title is certainly correct; Conan O’Brien cannot stop performing. Immediately after leaving the prime late-night gig of hosting “The Tonight Show” (after a very public break-up with the network), O’Brien went on tour with a live show for his fans, of which there are many, loyal ones. Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop documents the behind-the scenes of the tour, and the legal issues involved with his separation from NBC were and apparently are in full force. The juicy gossip is left out and so, for that matter, is most of the actual show. My review is here. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Julie Taymor is nothing if not wildly imaginative, and her version of The Tempest is a visually striking one. It’s also all over the place, and not in that rich way Shakespeare conceived this comedy (It might not seem that way, but it all turns out for the best). She’s hunting for meaning. Prospero is now Prospera (Helen Mirren), and the rest of the cast is either strong or oddly misplaced. What sticks in my mind are Mirren’s regal, powerful, and despairing performance and the innovative makeup to create Caliban (Djimon Hounsou) as a “salvage” creature with pieces of varying physical traits scattered on his body. My review is here. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) hates the world and all its inhabitants, so of course he should be the hero of Hesher. It’s the story of the titular heavy-metal rebel’s infiltration of a family suffering from grief. A boy (Devin Brouch) lets the guy into his home (after he threatens the kid), and Hesher teaches him and his dad (Rainn Wilson) how, apparently, to stop and start caring. It’s unpleasant. My review is here. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
This is mandatory for any film buff worth his/her salt. Citizen Kane, Orson Welles’ first feature film, is a bona fide masterpiece, and the Blu-ray upgrade is supposed to be fantastic. It’s available on its own or, exclusively through Amazon, with a DVD of Welles’ infamously incomplete second film The Magnificent Ambersons.