Monday, July 15, 2013

This week’s DVD releases (from best to worst)

Evil Dead **½ Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore. Directed by Fede Alvarez. Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods. Is this movie any good? Yes and no. It several genuinely hair-raising moments and presents, for your edification and enjoyment, some of the most graphic horror violence ever presented on the screen. I did learn a total of two things from it: No camping kit is complete without duct tape, and sometimes end credits are worth sitting through for a movie’s best gag.

Solomon Kane **½ James Purefoy, Max Von Sydow, Pete Postlethwaite, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Alice Krige, Mackenzie Crook, Patrick Hurd-Wood, Jason Flemyng. Directed by Michael J. Bassett. A ruthless mercenary renounces violence after learning his soul is bound for hell. When a young girl is kidnapped and her family slain by a sorcerer’s murderous cult, he is forced to fight and seek his redemption. A brutal fusion of angst and action, this mini-epic gives the sword-and-sorcery genre a bleak, brusque new life. Watch it for some terrific limb-chopping and a mighty turn by Purefoy.

42 **½ Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Christopher Meloni, Andre Holland, Lucas Black, Hamish Linklater, Ryan Merriman, Alan Tudyk, John C. McGinley. Directed by Brian Helgeland. The life story of Jackie Robinson and his history-making signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers under the guidance of team executive Branch Rickey. Helgeland’s epic about Robinson’s first year in Major League Baseball is uneven — often exciting, and just as often shallow and ham-handed — but if there’s one thing to which it remains true, it’s that the almighty American greenback and the all-American athlete are the great destroyers of bigotry. It is blunt, simple and sentimental, using time-tested methods to teach a clear and rousing lesson.

The End of Love **½ Mark Webber, Isasac Love, Shannyn Sossamon, Michael Cera, Amanda Seyfried. Written and directed by Webber. When the mother of his infant son unexpectedly passes away, struggling actor Mark grapples with fatherhood and his inability to grow up. When he meets a single mother, he learns how his choices have real-life consequences. It’s a kind of self-portrait made out of quotidian meals, naps and scattershot car-seat conversations, and though the loss that underlies Mark’s emotional state feels like a scripted conceit, the movie excels at conveying the moment-to-moment frustrations and exhilarations of being a dad.

Bullet to the Head **½ Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Sarah Shahi, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christian Slater, Jason Mamoa. Directed by Walter Hill. After watching their respective partners die, a New Orleans hitman and a Washington D.C. detective form an alliance in order to bring down their common enemy. It’s good enough for a brainless night of fun in front of the TV set, though your enjoyment might hinge on your nostalgia for old-fashioned dude movies, complete with a soundtrack of wailing electric-guitar solos and a wealth of random topless babes. Unfortunately, it could have been a lot better if someone had taken out a hit on the script.

Erased * Aaron Eckhart, Liana Liberato. Directed by Philipp Stölzl. An ex-CIA agent and his estranged daughter are forced on the run when his employers erase all records of his existence, and mark them both for termination as part of a wide-reaching international conspiracy. Viewed solely as a string of action sequences, this film delivers the kind of dryly efficient, wearyingly familiar entertainment that already clogs too many of our TV screens. It is eminently forgettable.

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