Monday, June 1, 2015

This Week's DVD Releases

Faults *** Directed by Riley Stearns. Desperate to free their daughter Claire (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) from a cult, her parents hire deprogramming expert Ansel Roth (Leland Orser), despite his checkered reputation. Stearns directs with a slow-burning intensity that becomes more unsettling the deeper Ansel goes into his task, and the more it becomes apparent he doesn’t have an easy way out.

The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water **½ Directed by Paul Tibbit. When Bikini Bottom’s livelihood is threatened after a pirate steals the secret Krabby Patty recipe, SpongeBob and his pals head to shore to get it back. The gags, puns mostly, skew quite young. And those things Spongebob does that drive his onscreen castmates nuts — the shrieks and giggles and songs — are pitched to be a lot more irritating to adults than to small fry.

McFarland, USA **½ Directed by Niki Caro. A cross country coach (Kevin Costner) in a small California town transforms a team of athletes into championship contenders. Aims to be rousing rather than revelatory, and it mostly succeeds.

Focus **½ Directed by Glenn Ficarra, John Requa. Starring Will Smith, Margot Robbie. After falling for his pretty young protégé, expert con man Nicky Spurgeon ends their romance when he realizes it will only complicate matters. This is the kind of movie where we’re not supposed to know at any time who is playing whom, but since the characterizations are glossy and paper-thin, it’s difficult to get worked up about who gets fleeced.

Camp X-Ray ** Directed by Peter Sattler. Starring Kristen Stewart, Payman Maddi. A soldier assigned to Guantanamo Bay befriends a man who has been imprisoned there. First-time writer-director Sattler keeps things glum and unsentimental, then tosses it all up in the air with a syrupy ending that derails everything. On another movie, the high-corn finale might have worked; here, it just feels patently false.

Jupiter Ascending Directed by The Wachowskis. Starring Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne. A young woman discovers her destiny as an heiress of intergalactic nobility and must fight to protect the inhabitants of Earth from an ancient and destructive industry. Like too much filmed space opera, this is wonderfully imaginative when it comes to costume, art direction, special effects, spaceships and incidental alien creatures but stuck with old-hat character types and a resolutely unspecial storyline. It’s frequently entertaining, but as much for its terrible moments as its inspired touches.

The Lazurus Effect * Directed by David Gelb. Starring Mark Duplass, Oliver Wilde. A group of medical students discover a way to bring dead patients back to life. Sort of a Flatliners for the sensitive indie-actor set, The Lazarus Effect is a grimy, dopey, confused thriller that wastes a very likable cast.

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