Monday, June 23, 2014

This Week’s DVD Releases


Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clerq **** Directed by Nancy Buirski. The tragic story of 1950s ballet sensation Tanaquil Le Clercq unfolds through rare performance footage and the star’s own words. While it does profile the work of brilliant dancer, the film also contains two complex and moving love stories as well an account of a physically devastating tragedy followed by an extraordinary tale of struggle and survival.

Anita ***½ Directed by Freida Lee Mock. Tells the story about young, brilliant African American Anita Hill who accuses the Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of unwanted sexual advances during explosive Senate Hearings. As a documented record of Hill’s story and her achievements, this is a serviceable, at times riveting documentary.

Rob the Mob *** Directed by Raymond de Felitta. A Queens couple who specialize in robbing mafia social clubs stumble upon a score bigger than they could ever imagine, becoming targets of both the mob and the FBI in the process. Throughout the film, de Felitta maintains an unfailingly sympathetic stance toward the lovers and the mafiosi alike, while keeping enough distance from all to disapprove of their dirty deeds and deter any viewer identification with them. With Michael Pitt, Nina Arianda, Ray Romano, Andy Garcia.

Enemy *** Directed by Denis Villeneuve. A man (Jake Gyllenhaal) seeks out his exact look-alike after spotting him in a movie. More than a thriller, this adaptation of Jose Saramago’s novel The Double is an absurdist-existential mood piece — and a very dark mood it is.

Some Velvet Morning **½ Directed by Neil LaBute. Pretty young Velvet (Alice Eve) is amazed when her ex-lover Fred (Stanley Tucci) shows up unannounced at her New York home with his suitcases, eager to rekindle their romance. If you’re patience doesn’t wear out, the movie culminates in a clever shock ending that not only explains everything but gives what you’ve just seen a rewarding jolt.

Pandora’s Promise **½ Directed by Robert Stone. A feature-length documentary about the history and future of nuclear power. Less an exploration of the subject than a well-constructed sales pitch.

300: Rise of an Empire **½ Directed by Noam Murro. Greek general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) leads the charge against invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and Artemisia (Eva Green), vengeful commander of the Persian navy. Other than for the pleasure of watching Green try to conquer ancient Greece dressed as a distant forebearer of Catwoman, more is less and a little late in this long-aborning sequel.

Blood Ties **½ Directed by Guillaume Canet. Two brothers (Clive Owen, Billy Crudup), on either side of the law, face off over organized crime in Brooklyn during the 1970s. What Lumet or Cassavetes often showed with a look, an image, a movement, Canet chooses to tell, and often at length, with the most heavy-handed dialogue imaginable. With Marion Cotillard, Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana, Matthias Schoenaerts, James Caan.

Wolf Creek 2 ** Directed by Greg Mclean. Backpackers Rutger (Philippe Klaus) and Katarina (Shannon Ashlyn) escape the city for an adventurous vacation in the Australian outback, but their dream trip turns into a nightmare when they run into a bloodthirsty serial killer (John Jarratt) with a penchant for sadistic games. Alas, this Creek has run dry.

Winter’s Tale Directed by Akiva Goldsman. A thief (Colin Farrell) breaks into an ill girl’s home and then falls for her. It is sincerely, painstakingly and astonishingly awful. With Jessica Brown Findlay, Russell Crowe.

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