Monday, January 20, 2014

This Week’s DVD Releases

In a World ****½ Lake Bell. Directed by Lake Bell. An underachieving voice coach finds herself competing in the movie trailer voice-over profession against her arrogant father and his protégé. While the film is hysterical, its real strength lies in the way it is able to deal with an issue like sexism in the industry and work it out in a funny, honest and very real way.

Captain Phillips **** Tom Hanks. Directed by Paul Greengrass. The true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the U.S.-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in 200 years. Greengrass pulls off the same remarkable feat he accomplished with United 93: He takes a true story in which the outcome is already known and transforms it into a gripping, wrenching, devastating thriller. Hanks, in yet another in a long line of diverse character studies, does a beautiful job as the voice of reason and logic, trying to inspire bravery and maintain order amid the noise and panic. In the big emotional scenes, as well as the small, nerve-jangling scenes, he is an artist at the top of his skill.

Blue Jasmine **½ Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard, Louis C.K., Bobby Cannavale, Andrew Dice Clay, Michael Stuhlbarg. Directed by Woody Allen. A New York socialite, deeply troubled and in denial, arrives in San Francisco to impose upon her sister. One of Allen’s strongest and most pointed films in over a decade despite mildly falling victim to his recent propensity for clunky narrative development, cynicism, and stereotypical characterizations. The main reason to rent this film is to see Blanchett’s cagey, broken performance.

Sunlight Jr. **½ Naomi Watts, Matt Dillon. Directed by Laurie Collyer. A Florida couple deals with an unexpected pregnancy while holding minimum wage jobs. The actors are so good that you wish Collyer offered them a richer arc to play, rather than just a topic.

Machete Kills **½ Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Sofia Vergara, Amber Heard. Directed by Robert Rodriguez.The U.S. government recruits Machete to battle his way through Mexico in order to take down an arms dealer who looks to launch a weapon into space. This sequel dulls more than anything. It’s not that Rodriguez’s film lacks any of the camp or exploitative violence of the 2010 original. The mayhem has just become boring.

Charlie Countryman ½* Shia LaBeouf, Evan Rachel Wood, Mads Mikkelsen, Rupert Grint, Vincent D’Onofrio, Melissa Leo. Directed by Fredrik Bond. Led to Romania by haunting visions, young American Charlie Countryman falls hard for an alluring cellist whose father has recently died and whose violent past could bring about his own demise. Pulpy dross of surpassing dumbness, this movie takes the blender approach to mixing dark adventure, doofus comedy and pie-eyed romance, but forgets to put the lid on when pulsed.

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