Monday, March 24, 2014

This Week’s DVD Releases

The Great Beauty **** Directed by Paolo Sorrentino. Jep Gambardella (Tpmy Servillo) has seduced his way through the lavish nightlife of Rome for decades, but after his 65th birthday and a shock from the past, Jep looks past the nightclubs and parties to find a timeless landscape of absurd, exquisite beauty. Sorrentino collects scenes of superficial extravagance and eccentricity, then finds the deeper yearnings they conceal. An utterly ravishing portrait of listless luxuriance, a fantasy of decadent wealth and beauty. Winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film of 2013.

The Past **** Directed by Asghar Fahardi. An Iranian man (Ali Mosaffa) deserts his French wife (Bérénice Bejo) and her two children to return to his homeland. Meanwhile, his wife starts up a new relationship, a reality her husband confronts upon his wife’s request for a divorce. This is just about as good as a relationship drama is ever going to get. The plot is teased out with deliberate grace, the performances are sublime and the revelations, even the most melodramatic, feel right and true. It’s big canvas stuff painted by a new master.

The Wolf of Wall Street ***½ Directed by Martin Scorsese. Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government. For all of its carnal frivolity, The Wolf of Wall Street lacks passion and purpose, qualities Scorsese, at his best, has in abundance. There’s no question about the efficacy of Scorsese’s filmmaking prowess, only that he never knows — or doesn’t care — to slow down and deepen the material. It does feature, however, DiCaprio’s most charismatic performance ever. With Jonah Hill and Matthew McConaughey.

The Punk Singer ***½ Directed by Sini Anderson. A look at the life of activist, musician, and cultural icon Kathleen Hanna, who formed the punk band Bikini Kill and pioneered the "riot grrrl" movement of the 1990s. The Punk Singer, like the best documentaries, captures more than just its subject, fascinating though she may be. Anderson manages to capture the feel of an era and the excitement surrounding a fresh feminist voice.

Odd Thomas ** Directed by Stephen Sommers. In a California desert town, a short-order cook with clairvoyant abilities encounters a mysterious man with a link to dark, threatening forces. Odd Thomas is a film that’s goes through the motions with too little character, style, or atmosphere to keep it engaging.

Delivery Man ** Directed by Ken Scott. An affable underachiever (Vince Vaughn) learns he’s fathered 533 children through anonymous donations to a fertility clinic 20 years ago. Now he must decide whether to come forward when 142 of them file a lawsuit to reveal his identity. Delivery Man may be a change of pace for Vaughn, but it’s the exact opposite for its creator Scott. Belonging to the Funny Games school of carbon-copy remakes, the film is an identical Hollywood retread of Scott’s 2011 festival favorite Starbuck. Every scene, every joke, nearly every shot of the movie is straight out of the original.

Free Ride ** Directed by Shana Betz. A single mom (Anna Paquin) caught up in the Florida drug trade during the late 1970s tries to make a better life for her two girls. The film is content to merely document certain happenings and hope you find them as interesting as it does.

The Truth About Emanuel ** Directed by Francesca Gregorini. A troubled girl (Kaya Scodelario) becomes preoccupied with her mysterious new neighbor (Jessica Biel), who bears a striking resemblance to her dead mother. The most startling truth about Emanuel is that she’s a rather ordinary teen in a rather ordinary movie.

Walking with Dinosaurs Directed by Barry Cook, Neil Nightingale. Follows the exploits of a little underdog dino who goes on an epic adventure. Like an elaborately decorated wedding cake, the kid-friendly Walking With Dinosaurs may leave you wondering how something so stunning could end up being so bland.

Welcome to the Jungle * Directed by Rob Meltzer. A company retreat on a tropical island goes terribly awry. The story makes 94 minutes seem as long as a season of Lost and as fresh as the seventh viewing Gilligan’s Island rerun. With Jean-Claude van Damme.

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