DVD/Blu-ray Releases — 6/26/2012

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The Artist, writer/director Michel Hazanavicius’ loving and direct homage to the silent era, might seem like it exists solely as an exercise in style, but he populates the film with characters who know what they want and must grow to get it.  Here’s a film that is a blatant escape into nostalgia–literally stuck in the past in form and technique–that is about people adapting to survive.  A fantastic Jean Dujardin plays the matinee idol George Valentin.  He’s on top of the world until the studio he works for decides to venture into talking pictures.  Stubborn and unwilling to change with the times, he puts his fortune into making his own movie while a starlet (Bérénice Bejo) with whom Valentin has a connection begins her own career.  It’s a gimmick, but Hazanavicius’ attention to character makes certain that the film acts as more.  My review is here.  Available on DVD and Blu-ray. Continue reading

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DVD/Blu-ray Releases — 6/19/2012

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By any definition, Jeff (Jason Segel) is a slacker.  He’s unemployed.  He lives with his mother (Susan Sarandon).  He smokes pot regularly.  It’s a chore even for him to leave the house to get supplies to fix a closet door for his mother’s birthday.  He’s the hero of Jeff, Who Lives at Home, a rare film that is perhaps too short for its own good.  The writing-directing team of Jay and Mark Duplass entrench us in the lives of four fully formed human beings in a series of events that are natural yet delightfully whimsical.  Jeff’s brother is Pat (Ed Helms), who wants to prove he’s more successful than he actually is and has put his wife (Judy Greer) to the side for too long.  The two brothers, led by Pat’s jealousy and Jeff’s belief in fateful signs, begin following the wife around.  My review is here.  Available on DVD and Blu-ray. Continue reading

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DVD/Blu-ray Releases — 6/12/2012

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The introduction of Sherlock Holmes’ (Robert Downey Jr.) archnemesis Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) is the best thing about Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  Just as the exuberant first film turned Holmes into an action hero (And we’re more likely to forgive it because he’s named Sherlock Holmes), the Moriarty of the sequel has been taken to the logical end of extremity: He’s a megalomaniac set on starting a world war.  When the movie observes the dueling minds of Holmes and Moriarty, its focus is laser-like.  The rest roams around to and fro, and even the bantering between Holmes and his faithful companion Watson (Jude Law) is drowned in incident and exposition.  My review is here.  Available on DVD, Blu-ray, and DVD/Blu-ray Combo. Continue reading

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DVD/Blu-ray Releases — 6/5/2012

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Edgar Rice Burrough’s 1912 tale of a Civil War veteran who travels to Mars is, according to just about every analysis, the template for practically every pulpy science-fiction yarn to come afterward.  As such, John Carter, based on the first installment in Burrough’s series A Princess of Mars, feels all-too familiar.  John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) leaves his nephew (Daryl Sabara playing a young Burroughs) his estate, including a journal recounting his adventures on Mars, known to the locals as Barsoom.  There’s an enemy leader (Dominic West), a mysterious god of sorts (Mark Strong), a warrior princess (Lynn Collins), and a group of big, green men led by Tars Tarkas (voice of Willem Dafoe).  The movie is technically accomplished and offers the feeling of a Saturday matinee serial, but it’s also too caught up in its strange lexicon and a multitude of undercooked subplots.  My review is here.  Available on DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D. Continue reading

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DVD/Blu-ray Releases — 5/29/2012

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We Need to Talk About Kevin details the lifelong battle between a mother and her son.  From before he was born, Eva (Tilda Swinton) has resented her son Kevin (played by three actors, including Ezra Miller, who is frightful as Kevin as a teenager and young adult).  The film is told in flashback, and that is perhaps key to why the kid comes across as a horror from the start.  Is he really (He certainly turns out that way), or is it only how Eva sees him through a prism of spite?  The film doesn’t condemn Kevin (Don’t mistake that; it doesn’t condone him, either); it instead explores what forces have come together to bring him to commit a horrifying act.  My review is here.  Available on DVD and Blu-ray. Continue reading

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DVD/Blu-ray Releases — 5/22/2012

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A lovingly rendered adaptation of Mary Norton’s children’s book The Borrowers, The Secret World of Arrietty has a fantastic understanding of its miniscule heroes.  Director Hiromasa Yonebayashi and the artists of Studio Ghibli see the two worlds of the film from the perspective of the Borrowers–as opposed to the “Beans” (short for the little folks’ malapropism for human beings).  It brings together the two species’ sense of isolation.  The story itself is delightfully simple, with a young Borrower befriending a sick Bean boy.  It doesn’t need grander thematic designs, because the construction and execution of the tale are enough.  My review is here.  Available on DVD and Blu-ray. Continue reading

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DVD/Blu-ray Releases — 5/15/2012

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Just before the man vs. nature conflict begins in earnest, there’s a scene in The Grey that sets a tone of inevitability.  In it, Ottway (Liam Neeson), the survivalist with a mysterious past, helps guide a man through the process of dying after a plane crash.  It’s a bold, blunt scene and also an intensely intimate one.  The story, which follows a group of generic types in the frozen wilderness as they are picked off one by one by wolves, is obvious, but director Joe Carnahan creates an atmosphere of mortal dread that pervades the entire film.  My review is here.  Available on DVD and Blu-ray. Continue reading

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