Monday, August 10, 2015

This week's DVD releases

Click on title to see the film’s trailer

I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story *** Directed by Dave LaMattina, Chad N. Walker. For more than four decades, Caroll Spinney has been the man inside the Sesame Street characters Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. Spinney shares the highlights of his unique career in this documentary. This film reminds us that even the most omnipresent cultural phenomena were created by someone, usually through a combination of hard work and happenstance.

Welcome to New York *** Directed by Abel Ferrara. Modeled on the scandal involving French statesman Dominique Strauss-Kahn, this cautionary drama of politics and lust tracks the fate of a powerful public figure (Gerard Depardieu) whose reputation begins to crumble after he’s accused of raping a hotel maid. With Depardieu’s intensely physical performance at its core, Welcome to New York achieves a level of intimacy that’s rare for films about public figures — and, in this case, exposes Strauss-Kahn for all to see.

I Am Chris Farley **½ Directed by Brent Hodge, Derik Murray. A documentary on the life of the comedian. The movie is never able to get to the bottom of why the man so loved by his friends was unable to be comfortable out of the spotlight. But it is a warm, nostalgic reminder of a talent who died before his time.

Match **½ Directed by Stephen Belber. As a Juilliard professor (Patrick Stewart) is interviewed by a woman (Carla Gugino) and her husband (Matthew Lillard) for her dissertation on the history of dance in 1960s New York, it becomes increasingly clear that there are ulterior motives to the couple’s visit. While it offers some provocative moral quandries, it serves mostly as a showcase for Stewart.

Unfriended **½ Directed by Levan Gabriadze. A group of online chat room friends find themselves haunted by a mysterious, supernatural force using the account of their dead friend. Even though it begins to cheat, springing loud noises and gory cutaways that can’t be explained, there’s a rigor to its dopey, blood-simple conception that you might smile at.

Soaked in Bleach ** Directed by Benjamin Statler. Tom Grant, a private investigator once hired by Courtney Love, reveals his take on the death of Kurt Cobain. It’s easy to accuse this of many things, being a typical conspiracy documentary that makes many leaps in credibility in order to support its narrative being one of them, but lack of focus is not among its faults.

Hunting Elephants ** Directed by Reshef Levi. To avenge his son’s death and keep the family afloat, shady retirement home resident Eliyahu (Sasson Gabai) plans a daring bank heist with his socially awkward 12-year-old grandson, his former partner-in-crime and their penniless actor pal (Patrick Stewart). Though it contains some nice twists, the story is largely predictable and old-fashioned in ways both good (the characters’ unlikely come-what-may camaraderie) and bad (misogyny and machismo abound).

Preggoland ** Directed by Jacob Tierney. Ruth, 35, (Sonja Bennett) fakes being pregnant to fit in with her friends. The movie’s flaw is that it mixes tones. Ruth, her relatives and her fellow workers are realistically played, but her gal-pal buddies are caricatures.

Police Story: LockdownDirected by Sheng Ding. A man looking for the release of a long-time prisoner takes a police officer, his daughter, and a group of strangers hostage. Mostly a humorless bore until the obligatory bloopers and outtakes in the end credits — and even those are drawing from a flat vein, since there’s so little play in the movie.

Hot Pursuit * Directed by Anne Fletcher. An uptight and by-the-book cop (Reese Witherspoon) tries to protect the outgoing widow (Sofia Vergara) of a drug boss as they race through Texas pursued by crooked cops and murderous gunmen. A relentlessly unfunny comedy, it wastes the talents of Witherspoon and Vergara as egregiously as one could possibly imagine, resorting to lame jokes, cliches and incompetent storytelling to pass the time.

Patch Town * Directed by Craig Goodwill. Once a beloved toy, humanoid Jon (Rob Ramsay) now spends his days at a factory that produces babies from cabbages and turns them into dolls for sale. This dark fantasy manages to be grindingly dull despite its many quirks.

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