Monday, March 14, 2016

This week's DVD releases

Click on title to see the film’s trailer

Carol **** Directed by Todd Haynes. Living in a 1950s society that considers lesbian romance taboo, two women from disparate backgrounds — young store clerk Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) and wealthy socialite Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) — develop an attachment to each other that ultimately turns passionate. Made of crystal and suppressed tears, shot eternally through windows and mirrors and half-closed doors, Haynes’ film is a love story that starts at a trickle, swells gradually to a torrent, and finally bursts the banks of your heart. A beautiful film in every way, immaculately made, and featuring two pristine actresses glowing across rooms and tousled bedclothes at each other like beacons of tentative, unspoken hope. It is a creamily sensuous, richly observed piece of work, handsomely detailed and furnished: the clothes, the hair, the automobiles, the train carriages, the record players, the lipstick and the cigarettes are all superbly presented. The combination of all this is intoxicating in itself. This was my choice as the best film of 2015.

Brooklyn ***½ Directed by John Crowley. After emigrating from Ireland, Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) readily adapts to the vastly different New York City, where she falls for a young Italian. But when tragedy pulls her back to her hometown, she finds her loyalties divided between two nations and two men. Endows its characters with desires and aspirations, but not with foresight, and it examines the past with open-minded curiosity rather than with sentimentality or easy judgment. It grabs us, holds us and moves us on its own. Emotionally it’s a killer.

The Big Short ***½ Directed by Adam McKay. Four denizens in the world of high-finance predict the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s, and decide to take on the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight. Using gallows humor, likable protagonists, and a variety of nonstandard filmmaking techniques (like having characters address the audience directly), McKay maintains a high level of energy for more than two hours and dares us to become bored.

Censored Voices *** Directed by Mor Loushy. In 1967, author Amos Oz and editor Avraham Shapira tape-recorded the sentiments of Israeli soldiers returning from the Six-Day War. This documentary combines that long-censored audio with archival clips to provide a personal picture of war. Loushy is resourceful, particularly as an editor, and the talking heads, even those not as internationally famous as the compassionate, articulate, and still-distressed Oz, are spectacularly compelling.

Steve Jobs: Man in the Machine *** Directed by Alex Gibney. Focusing on the harsher side of Apple’s mercurial CEO Steve Jobs, this documentary examines the demanding work environment he created for the company’s employees and his cultlike influence on technology culture. While the filmmaker’s trademark mixture of talking heads, archival footage and investigative ethos is familiar, Gibney is certainly good at what he does, and his documentary is at its best in providing a brisk summation of the man’s life. Or, more accurately, lives, for Jobs seemed to have been more people than one would have thought possible.

What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy *** Directed by David Evans. A human-rights lawyer conducts conversations with two men whose fathers were indicted as war criminals for their roles in World War 2. While these men aren’t accountable for the actions of their fathers, they are obligated to recognize the truth of what happened. To see one of them deny that truth is difficult to watch, and just as hard to look away from.

Sisters **½ Directed by Jason Moore. Two sisters (Amy Poehler, Tina Fey) decide to throw one last house party before their parents sell their family home. Even the stray gross-out moments of register as humane and heartfelt; Fey and Pohler’s comedy comes from a place of warmth and intelligence, and so does the movie.

Band of Robbers **½ Directed by Aaron and Adam Nee. Fresh from prison, skeptical Huck Finn (Kyle Gallner) joins Tom Sawyer (Adam Nee) in searching for a buried treasure that Tom is convinced still exists. This comic take on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is infused with a gleefully absurdist sense of humor while retaining a childlike sense of wonder.

Love ** Directed by Gaspar Noe. An American (Karl Glusman) living in Paris enters into a highly sexually and emotionally charged relationship with an unstable woman (Aomi Muyock). Plays out like the fragmented outline for a more engaging movie. But the one found here lacks substance both on the level of story and graphic reveals.

The Green InfernoDirected by Eli Roth. Determined to save an Amazon tribe being squeezed by logging, a group of students finds nothing but trouble when their plane crashes in the jungle. Unfortunately, the unbridled shock value isn’t matched by a similar investment in other ingredients that might have made this low rent B-movie worthwhile.

CaptiveDirected by Jerry Jameson. A single mother (Kate Mara) struggling with drug addiction is taken hostage in her own apartment by a man on the run (David Oyelowo) who has broken out of jail and murdered the judge assigned to his case. Largely inert and undramatic, what you’re left with is a tedious sentiment: "by the grace of god" this horrible crisis ended without violence, explosives, or spark. Congratulations?

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip * Directed by Walt Becker. Alvin (Justin Long) and his chipmunk posse head for New York City, mistakenly believing that their pal Dave (Jason Lee) is about to propose to his girlfriend. A mostly harmless yet plenty rough assemblage of musical numbers and rote chases that barely add up to a movie.

The 11th Hour * Directed by Anders Morgenthaler. A successful businesswoman (Kim Basinger) has achieved everything except what she wants the most — a baby of her own. She decides to deal with the matter by herself and seeks out prostitutes, hoping to find a mother-to-be willing to sell her child. This Ill-conceived fertility thriller is overwrought, underwritten and pure cynicism.

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