Monday, October 26, 2015

This week's DVD releases

Click on title to see the film’s trailer

The Gift *** Directed by Joel Edgerton. Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are a young married couple whose life is going just as planned until a chance encounter with an acquaintance (Edgerton) from Simon’s high school sends their world into a harrowing tailspin. This film, a psychological roller coaster on a doomed track, is one of the best directorial debuts in ages, hands down.

A Borrowed Identity *** Directed by Eran Riklis. A Palestinian-Israeli boy (Tawfeek Barhom) is sent to a prestigious boarding school in Jerusalem, where he struggles with issues of language, culture, and identity. Commendably avoids polemics in order to provide a textured portrait of a young man going through a set of personal transitions against the background of ongoing cultural flux that reflects a larger, collective identity crisis. Its evocation of the historical period feels carefully honed and resonant.

Southpaw **½ Directed by Antoine Fuqua. Boxer Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) turns to trainer Tick Willis (Forest Whitaker) to help him get his life back on track after losing his wife (Rachel McAdams) in a tragic accident and his daughter (Oona Lawrence) to child protection services. Gyllenhaal’s performance is great, but for reasons unrelated to his physique. He’s thrilling to watch and the only unpredictable thing in a two-hours-plus movie where you can count on one hand the number of moments that aren’t hand-me-downs from better boxing films like Rocky, Raging Bull, and Fat City.

7 Chinese Brothers **½ Directed by Bob Byington. Lazily treading water on the sea of life, sad sack Larry (Jason Schwartzman) drifts from job to job and bottle to bottle. But his apathetic attitude toward his latest place of employment — a Quick Lube station — changes when he starts to fall in love with the boss (Eleanore Pienta). This is no Listen Up Philip, but it’s an amiable enough slacker comedy, boosted by its star.

Sunset Edge ** Directed by Daniel Peddle. As four rudderless teens spend their days skateboarding and scavenging in the dilapidated remnants of a rural North Carolina trailer park, they cross paths with a young stranger who’s come looking for clues about his father’s death. The film uses nonprofessional actors and has a good eye, but more story development and fewer lingering shots of the trash-strewn trailer park would have been an improvement.

Max ** Directed by Boaz Yakin. A dog that helped US Marines in Afghanistan returns to the U.S. and is adopted by his handler’s family after suffering a traumatic experience. A genial if somewhat old-fashioned tale that’s too clunky to transcend its genre(s) but effective enough within its own limited emotional range.

Pixels * Directed by Chris Columbus. After aliens attack Earth using 1980s arcade games as models for their onslaught, President Will Cooper (Kevin James) calls in longtime friend and former gaming ace Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) to take on the extraterrestrial invaders. The "characters" vary from slightly annoying to unbearable — this is a film in which a viewer can be forgiven for rooting for the old video game icons to annihilate humanity. God help us if the best savior we can muster is Sandler.

The Human Centipede III (Final Sequence) no stars Directed by Tom Six. The warden (Dieter Laser) of a notorious and troubled prison looks to create a 500-person human centipede as a solution to his problems. A cynical, and consistently unpleasant film with creators who try very, very hard to push as many of your buttons as they can.

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