Friday, May 9, 2014

Next Week’s DVD Releases


Her **** Directed by Spike Jonze. A lonely writer (Joaquin Phoenix) develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system (Scarlett Johansson) that’s designed to meet his every need. It’s a tale of lonely souls and literalized online dating, and you assume Jonze will characteristically mix high-concept absurdism with heartfelt notions. Unexpectedly, the latter dominates, thanks in no small part to Phoenix’s nuanced, open-book performance. With Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde.

Stranger By the Lake **** Directed by Alain Guiraudie. Young Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) notices the middle-aged Henri (Patrick D’Assumçao) sitting on a beach by himself and starts a conversation. Their dialogue continues over several days, in between Franck’s repeated trysts with a seductive killer named Michel (Christoph Paou). A psychosexually intriguing blend of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and William Friedkin’s Cruising — one in which sex gets intertwined with murder, fear battles desire, and the police discover that voyeurs don’t necessarily make good witnesses if no one ever exchanges names or phone numbers.

Stalingrad **½ Directed by Fedor Bondarchuk. A band of Russian soldiers fight to hold a strategic building in their devastated city against a ruthless German army, and in the process become deeply connected to two Russian women who have been living there. Viewed strictly as cinema, it’s an unstable and almost surrealist combination of Soviet-style war propaganda film, Zack Snyder-style action flick and sentimental fairy tale.

Special ID ** Directed by Clarence Fok Yiu-leung. A cop goes undercover in a ruthless underworld organization to stop a gang leader, only to put himself in great danger after being exposed by his former protégé and best friend. Maddeningly muddled and frustratingly counterintuitive, the story shuttles between Hong Kong and mainland China without a noticeable gain in logic or reduction in decibels.

That Awkward Moment Directed by Tom Gormican. When Jason’s (Zac Efron) relationship crumbles, his three best friends decide to show their solidarity by staying single until he’s ready to get back in the game. But the pact is put to the test when fate presents all three with their ideal ladies. There is something of a manufactured air to the proceedings, one that is acutely aware of the techniques and traits of other similar better film, but without the strength in writing to back it up. With Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan.

I, Frankenstein * Directed by Stuart Beattie. Frankenstein’s creature finds himself caught in an all-out, centuries old war between two immortal clans. Utterly witless, listless, sparkless and senseless, this supernatural action picture makes one long for the comparative sophistication of the conceptually identical "Underworld" franchise (with which it shares producers and a writer). With Aaron Eckhart.

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