Monday, August 11, 2014

This Week’s DVD Releases

Locke **** Directed by Steven Knight. Over the space of 90 minutes, Ivan Locke’s (Tom Hardy) life spins out of control via a series of phone calls made while he drives down the highway to London. A masterclass in how the most local, most hemmed-in stories can reverberate with the power of big, universal themes. If you are asking a viewer to listen to one man talking for an hour and a half, you had better make sure he is worth listening to, and minute-by-minute, Hardy has you spellbound.

Muppets Most Wanted *** Directed by James Bobin. In the middle of their global tour, the Muppets inadvertently get mixed up in a perilous drama involving a gang of international jewel thieves. Story aside, this is about the gags, songs and then more gags. On the upside, the jokes are great: the usual jolly mix of character humour, situation comedy, farce, satire and wordplay. With Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey.

Breathe In *** Directed by Drake Doremus. Music teacher Keith (Guy Pearce) has his mind focused on the past when he and his wife (Amy Ryan) agree to welcome a foreign exchange student (Felicity Jones) into their household. For all the obviousness on the surface, and despite some forced last-act havoc, Breathe In works like a piece of chamber music. It goes up to the edge of emotion, circles it, then backs away. But the notes not hit seem as powerful as the ones that are.

Hateship Loveship *** Directed by Liza Johnson. A wild teenage girl (Hailee Steinfeld) orchestrates a romance between her nanny (Kristen Wiig) and her father (Guy Pearce), who is a recovering addict. Wiig is so enjoyable to watch that it rescues Johnson’s film. She’s the best reason to see it. With Nick Nolte.

The Railway Man *** Directed by Jonathan Teplitzky. Former British Army officer Eric Lomax (Colin Firth), who was tormented as a prisoner of war at a Japanese labor camp during World War II, discovers that the man responsible for much of his treatment is still alive and sets out to confront him. It’s heartening to have a tony war film about Post Traumatic Stress Disease and forgiveness; it would be grander still to have one that dedicated itself more fully to examining the courage it would take to offer that forgiveness, rather than dash its energies upon the dreary cowardice of the crime itself. With Nicole Kidman, Jeremy Irvine, Stellan Skarsgard.

Proxy *** Directed by Zack Parker. A support group offers much-needed comfort and friendship for a shattered woman (Alexia Rasmussen) who was assaulted late in her pregnancy. Employing scaled-down sets and low-budget audacity, Parker, an intelligent and boundary-testing filmmaker, proves less concerned with logic than with how far he can push his characters.

Filth *** Directed by Jon S. Baird. A corrupt cop (James McAvoy) manipulates and hallucinates his way through a bid to secure a promotion and win back his wife and daughter. Taking the bad-cop genre to the extreme, Filth lives up to its title and then some, but a no-holds performance by McAvoy is reason enough to watch.

Frankie & Alice **½ Directed by Geoffrey Sax. A woman (Halle Berry) battles to vanquish the racist alter ego that’s taken root inside her unsettled consciousness. Berry does a decent job with the role, and the film treats its subject matter respectfully, but the overall package doesn’t rise above ordinariness. With Stellan Skarsgard, Phylicia Rashad.

Rage Directed by Paco Cabezas. When the daughter of a reformed criminal (Nicolas Cage) is kidnapped, he rounds up his old crew and seeks his own brand of justice. Proficiently made but fatally unpersuasive in its portrayal of internecine gang warfare, this thuggish melodrama piles on the foreign accents and paint-by-numbers brutality, all served up with a grim, operatic self-seriousness that gives Cage’s antihero little room to maneuver.

A Haunted House 2 * Directed by Michael Tiddes. Malcolm Marlon Wayans) tries to move on after his girlfriend’s untimely tragic death, but he has reason to believe she is back when strange things start happening in his new home. If this is a step up from the previous go-round, it’s either because a slightly more talented crew of comic actors are being asked to waste their time or because the year has offered a better crop of horror films to be lazily parodied.

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