Monday, May 19, 2014

This Week’s DVD Releases

About Last Night *** Directed by Steve Pink. After a couple’s flirtation quickly moves from the bar to the bedroom, they test if their physical chemistry is enough to carry a real relationship. It’s playful, stable and sexy, thanks to a cast that knows how to find the sweet spots. With Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, Joy Bryant.

Grand Piano *** Directed by Eugenio Mira. A pianist (Elijah Wood) returning to the stage five years after a public meltdown learns that a sniper will shoot him and his wife (Kerry Bishé) if he plays just one wrong note. To its credit and sometimes detriment, Grand Piano keeps a frothing-at-the-mouth level of insane melodrama going for 75 minutes, aided by Wood’s sweaty, terrified performance, a screenplay rich in ridiculous contrivances, and a swooping camera that never stands still. With John Cusack.

Raze *** Directed by Josh C. Waller. After a secret society abducts her, Sabrina (Zoe Bell) becomes one of dozens of women forced to engage in a mysterious and gruesome tournament in which the participants brutally battle each other for their lives in order to entertain a hidden audience. The film leaves the background particulars about this competition oblique, partly because it adds a layer of ominous mystery, but primarily because it doesn’t matter; witnessing women-on-women violence is the thing here, regardless of any narrative context.

Pompeii **½ Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. In the days leading up to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, a slave on a ship headed for Naples is determined to get back home to save the woman he loves, as well as his best friend, who is a gladiator trapped in the city’s coliseum. A generic saga with a cast of forgettable one-dimensional characters. With Kit Arington, Carrie Anne Moss, Emily Browning, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jessica Lucas, Jared Harris, Keifer Sutherland.

In Secret **½ Directed by Charlie Stratton. Set in the lower echelons of 1860s Paris, Therese Raquin (Elizabeth Olsen), a sexually repressed beautiful young woman, is trapped into a loveless marriage to her sickly cousin, Camille (Tom Felton), by her domineering aunt, Madame Raquin (Jessica Lange), until she seeks solace in the arms of the attentive Laurent LeClaire (Oscar Isaac). Olsen and the more persuasive Isaac may generate heat, but their performances and the filmmaking lack the frenzy that might explain how these two crazy kids turned into murderous fiends.

The Monuments Men **½ Directed by George Clooney. An unlikely World War II platoon is tasked to rescue art masterpieces from Nazi thieves and return them to their owners. Clooney takes a wild, stranger-than-fiction true story and turns it into a dull, prestigious slog. With Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, Cate Blanchett.

3 Days to Kill ** Directed by McG. A dying CIA agent (Kevin Costner) trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter is offered an experimental drug that could save his life in exchange for one last assignment. The end result is not a very good film, but it is one that boasts some enjoyable moments — but only if you find yourself with two hours to kill. With Amber Heard, Hailee Steinfeld.

Vampire Academy ** Directed by Mark Waters. At St. Vladimir’s Academy, Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch) learns to navigate life as a dhampir, a half-human vampire. It’s not a complete disaster, but even the appearance of Gabriel Byrne fails to make much of a dent in the slapdash proceedings.

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