Monday, October 12, 2015

This week's DVD releases


Click on title to see the film’s trailer.

Dope *** Directed by Rick Famuyiwa. In the tough neighborhood of the Bottoms, high school senior Malcolm (Shameik Moore) sports his own funky style while working hard to gain admission to a top college. But his clean-cut perspective take an unexpected turn when a local drug dealer befriends him. Thanks to a witty, fast-moving script (also by Famuyiwa) and a sensitive performance from the newcomer Moore, Dope helps us see how a young black man coming of age in America faces complications unforeseen by the smugly entitled high schooler played by Tom Cruise all those years ago in Risky Business.

Above and Beyond *** Directed by Roberta Grossman. A documentary that looks at a diverse group of veteran World War II pilots who defied the U.S. Neutrality Act and volunteered to fly for Israel at a critical moment in its battle for independence. Pays well-deserved homage to these men who helped create the Israeli Air Force and ensured the survival of the burgeoning nation. It’s a wonder that it took nearly seven decades for the story to be recounted in feature documentary form.

Call Me Lucky **½ Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. A documentary about flame-throwing comic and social critic Barry Crimmins who shocked and delighted audiences for decades with his caustic view of America and its leaders. Over time, his rage would give way to a calmer but committed life as a peace activist. Goldthwait’s hand too nervously tempers Crimmins’s outré tactics as kooky showmanship bred from unimaginable trauma.

Tomorrowland **½ Directed by Brad Bird. Bound by a shared destiny, a teen (Britt Robertson) bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor (George Clooney) embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory. Tentpoles are rarely guilty of overreaching, but Tomorrowland has a tendency to feel out of control, a film that is finally more ambitious than accomplished.

The Little Death ** Directed by Josh Lawson. The secret lives of five suburban couples living in Sydney reveal both the fetishes and the repercussions that come with sharing them. The actors are all game and well paired, but flashes of chemistry and an appreciable level of production finesse (courtesy of director of photography Simon Chapman and composer Michael Yezerski) aren’t enough to bring the requisite charge to this flimsy, pseudo-provocative material.

San AndreasDirected by Brad Peyton. In the aftermath of a massive earthquake in California, a rescue-chopper pilot (Dwayne Johnson) makes a dangerous journey with his ex-wife (Carla Gugino) across the state in order to rescue his daughter (Alexandra Daddario). Even by the non-Olympian standards of the disaster genre, San Andreas is chock-full of cliché characters, staggering coincidences and wild improbabilities.

After WordsDirected by Juan Feldman. A librarian (Marcia Gay Harden) facing a mid-life crisis travels to Costa Rica. The good news about After Words is that it offers Harden a rare film lead. The bad news: Harden’s role in this groan-worthy dramedy is so dreary and ill-conceived that even her formidable talents can’t bring it to life.

The Gallows * Directed by Chris Lofing, Travis Cluff. To observe the 20th anniversary of a pupil’s tragic accidental death during a high school play, the current crop of students decides to restage the failed production with more disastrous consequences. The movie isn’t without a certain amount of atmosphere, it simply feels borrowed wholesale. That would matter less with a better script, but the four main characters are paper-thin even by genre norms.

Faith of Our Fathers ½* Directed by Carey Scott. Two men (David A.R. White, Kevin Downes) embark on a trip to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial guided by the letters their fathers wrote while serving in the war. A clumsily told story of friendship and wartime remembrance that has a tough time serving up a halfway believable moment, let alone a moving and powerful testimony about Jesus.

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