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November's 10 Best DVD and Streaming Releases

By Dustin Rowles | Trade News | November 27, 2012 | Comments ()


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10. Step Up: Revolution -- I sneaked Step Up: Revolution -- which, as all the Step Up movies do, had fantastic dance sequences and the plot of a bad porn movie -- into the number ten spot just to prove a point about how bad two of the bigger films released on DVD this month were: MIB III and Expendables 2. Step Up: Revolution is more enjoyable to watch, as I wrote in my review: "There's just enough plot development to provide an excuse for the flash mobs, which begin as disruptive performance art, morph into hypnotizing protest art, and culminate in a energetic, frenetic crowd-pleasing performance piece designed to win over the masses. That the storyline falls almost illogically into place, that the dialogue is laughable, and that the decisions made by the characters are beyond stupid doesn't even matter: It's about the dance sequences, and they are a thrilling, mind-blowing marvel."

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9. Pearl Jam Twenty -- I think it's been a full year since I first saw Cameron Crowe's documentary on PBS, so it's strange it's just coming out on DVD. It's a great film for a certain age bracket, if you're aching for some nostalgia. "As music documentaries go, this Twenty might do a number on you if you came of age in a certain period of time, and it does a masterful job of framing that nostalgia, constructing context around it, and feeding it back to us through the lens of older band members capable of providing a wizened perspective.It doesn't have the sensationalized fervor of the rise and fall of Motley Crue, nor can it document a revolving door of band-member changes or bouts and drug and alcohol dependency, as the Foo Fighters doc did earlier this year; it is, instead, a heartfelt and entertaining chronicling of the lone surviving band of the grunge era."

8. Brave -- Cute story. I took my five year old to see Brave, and he was clearly too young for it. The bear scenes terrified him, and upon noticing a theater full of people, upon leaving my son turned to me and said, "Daddy, why are there so many people here? You were really bad at your job." Agent Bedhead was likewise unimpressed with Brave: "Pixar has long since claimed the unmatchable ability to blend technical prowess with storytelling and end up with a product superior to any other in its medium. Until last summer, the studio consistently managed to offer up a commercialized product that not only pleased crowds but delved into deep themes within its family-friendly subject matter. With the studio's assumed return to superiority in both subject matter and quality, however, Brave falters. It's a film that you'd expect from Disney but not Pixar. It's yet another princess story, and while this one presumably contains a twist, it's not an innovative one. That's the main problem -- Brave lacks the Pixar brand of innovation, choosing instead to explore old, well-worn tropes, which almost defeats the purpose of being the first Pixar film to feature a female protagonist."

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7. The Amazing Spider-Man -- My opinion on the Amazing Spider-Man is that, if it'd come before the Sam Raimi films, it'd have been the best of the four. As it is, it feels like a marginally improved rerun, although I will echo Dan's sentiments that Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are the best actors the franchise has seen in the lead roles: "That's the issue plaguing the entire film: It feels not quite finished, not quite whole. It's more like a very well-made fan project than a movie with the heft and weight you'd want from something trying to sell you a new version of a story you just watched a couple years ago. The whole thing would wreck if it weren't for the sizable charisma of Garfield and Stone, who feel more human than Raimi's heroes ever did. Garfield's sarcastic, edged portrayal of Spider-Man is often wonderful: his banter with bad guys actually feels like taunting from a kid grown bigger than he'd ever dreamed of being. Stone is great, too, and she's more restrained here than usual. She and Garfield are endearingly sweet together, and their relationship is consistently the best part of the film. Ifans holds his own in a thankless role in which almost every word out of his mouth is a recap of what we've just seen or another explanation of his evil plans."

6. The Campaign -- A far more amusing political comedy than it had any right to be, thanks to the goofy, off-the-wall splattering absurdity of Galifianakis and Ferrell: "The Campaign is brimming with hilarious moments, Ferrell and Galafianakis make a great comedy duo, and Jason Sudeikis -- who plays Brady's campaign manager -- adds an extra few jolts of waggish hilarity. Still, it's not quite the success of Anchorman or even The Other Guys. The Campaign doesn't really hold together as a movie inasmuch as a skillfully pieced together a series of dumb jokes, but they are dumb jokes that work most of the time. It might have been more felicitous during a political year if The Campaign had made a more subtle attempt to skewer modern politics, but if it had, it wouldn't have produced as many pants-shittingly funny moments. The Campaign doesn't aspire to much more than deliciously raunchy juvenilia, but in that at least, it's a huge success."

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5. Your Sister's Sister -- It was another big year for the under appreciated Mark Duplass, who starred in this film, "The League," the number one film on this list, and next month's Zero Dark Thirty, as well as directing Jeff, Who Lives at Home, and Your Sister's Sister -- like most mumblecore films -- lives and dies by its cast, and this one had a great one with Duplass, Emily Blunt, and the radiant Rosemarie Deweitt. As I wrote in my review, "Your Sister's Sister is a small, low-key reminder of why so many of us love the movies: Aside from the spectacle, and aside from the countless origins stories we apparently can't get enough of, and aside from the millions of iterations on the same stories we've been watching since Bambi, it's the characters that populate those stories, and our ability to see ourselves within them, that ultimately matter the most. Emily Blunt, Mark Duplass, and Rosemarie Dewitt have brought these wonderful characters to life, and make Your Sister's Sister soar with humor, sweetness, and poignancy.

4. Lawless -- Lawless kind of came and went without much notice, despite a terrific cast top lined by Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, and Shia LaBeouf and Jessica Chastain. It was too good to be ignored the way it was, and gave us another phenomenal score from Nick Cave (The Assassination of Jesse James). Dan was a huge fan, as well: "It's not just an exercise, or a bored genre riff. Lawless is a moving, insidious crime drama that shows the real cost of the lifestyle, as well as the emotional toll of throwing off the shackles of society and telling yourself that the best way to enforce the law is to beat someone to death with it. It's an accessible, smart movie that plays to solid character moments and even makes room for (admittedly dark) humor from time to time. Forrest is all brute strength and no introspection, and Hardy's probably the only actor who could bring so much emotion to such a monosyllabic role. LaBeouf's surprisingly strong, too, precisely because he's not afraid to be so weak. Jack's a hothead, but he's also a lot smaller than his brothers, and he spends most of the movie getting his ass handed squarely to him. When he has his first run-in with Rakes, he isn't sarcastic or even quietly defiant. Rather, he suffers the beating as best he can, eventually crying "No more," dripping tears and blood onto the grass. There's no honor here, just a raw exposed wound on the soul of the world, and Hillcoat isn't afraid to look at it."

Did I mention Jessica Chastain is in this?

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3. Natural Selection -- I haven't yet seen Natural Selection, but it's placement here is so high because TK effused about it, calling it the best movie to come out of SXSW a couple of years ago: "Natural Selection was, cinematically speaking, the best split-second decision I've ever made. It (rightfully so) won SXSW's Best Narrative Feature Award, and it's not hard to figure out why. It's simultaneously hilarious, tragic, and exhilarating, with richly rendered characters that, despite its ludicrous-sounding story, is ultimately one of the more engrossing and entertaining films I've seen in a long time."

2. Ruby Sparks -- Likewise, I haven't gotten to Ruby Sparks yet (but I will). However, TK was also an immense fan of this movie, despite it being the kind of film he would typically despite: "Ruby Sparks is so much smarter than it looks from the surface. It's not the conventional tale one suspects, and it's as much a critical shot at the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and inherent authorial laziness of the creation as it is a clever and charming love story -- that has some deep, treacherous pitfalls along the way. As adorable as it is scathing, the film creates an immersive, enjoyable experience that successfully blends reality and fantasy while laying bare the risks of confusing the two."

1. Safety Not Guaranteed -- One of my favorite films of the year, and a huge hit with anyone who has seen it. It was so good, in fact, it put its freshman director, Colin Trevorrow, on a list of people rumored to be considered to take over the Star Wars franchise. Dan was likewise impressed: "Safety Not Guaranteed isn't what you'd expect it to be. It's a bittersweet comedy that flirts with time travel, but it's not straight science-fiction or rom-com. It resolutely refuses to tie up a couple of its plot lines, yet the story is still satisfying and full. Most rewardingly, it's a dramatic comedy built on relationships that feel earned, nuanced, occasionally uncomfortable, and completely relatable. Director Colin Trevorrow, in his first feature, mines a series of relationships for small-scale humor and poignancy, and the script from Derek Connolly (also his first feature) has some wonderful moments that reflect the awkwardness of young adulthood and the way we all eventually have to reckon with the choices that we make. The film is light and often breezy, but it's anything but insubstantial."

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Frank Booth

    I happened to watch "Seeking a friend for the end of the world" on a whim and ended up really liking it, maybe because of the total lack of expectations.

    It can be a bummer for some however.

  • BlackRabbit

    Slight irritation: yes, but was Jessica Chastain's acting any good? Or didn't you care?

  • Ignatz

    I loved Brave, I loved Safety Not Guaranteed, but do you know why nobody went to see Lawless? Shia LaBeouf. If that dipstick is in a movie, I am so not going to see it, and I think a lot of the movie going public agrees with me. Had I known LaTurd has his ass handed to him repeatedly in the film, I might've gone... but, no.

  • Boromir of Borg

    I've got to say, Brave is easily in my top 5 Pixar films. For the bears being too scary, every one is slightly different. My two year old screamed in terror at the opening of Madagascar 2, but loves brave. (Of course bears have always been his favorite animal).

    Story-wise, Merida is my favorite heroine in any animated film. She's a teenager. She makes a stupid mistake and is pigheaded. But she isn't willing to just mouth love, she puts it to action. She fights her terminator of a dad in a scene that gets me every other time. Show me one other princess willing to not only draw swords on her dad, but actually take a chunk out of his leg instead of just waiting around for her prince.

    Pixar movies have always revolved around the story-tellers passion for a subject. Here it's one of the best treatments of a mother-daughter relationship I've seen in movies, period.

  • MULANNNNNNNNNNNN

    Okay so she didn't take a chunk out of her Dad's leg and she's not exactly a princess. But she pretty much single-handedly saved China. I love Mulan

  • Pookie

    Hey Rowles listen, I think our relationship is at its peak and I believe it couldn’t be better in my opinion. I know we’ve had our differences and whatnot. But I feel comfortable in asking you to do a weekly review of all the new stuff that comes out on Netflix every Tuesday or whatever day Netflix starts showing their new stuff. I’m not looking for nothing fancy, maybe a line or two, and that way I can be relieved of this very annoying task of trying to find out this information myself. It shouldn’t be a problem with trying to find a space for this new column, just remove one of your writers that don’t generate much traffic, like Murray or Enlow. Oh by the way how was your Thanksgiving, great great, gotta go, bye for now.

  • protoformX

    Psst, I'm not sure if Pearl Jam Twenty technically should be eligible for this list. What came out this week is the Special Edition re-release. I have owned an original copy for several months, and just received the new expanded version yesterday. But if taking it out of this list meant plugging MIB 3 or Expendables 2 into the hole... then yes, by all means Pearl Jam Twenty should absolutely be on this list.

  • Ages (by which I do mean a least a year or two) ago, someone posted a trailer for a movie called Exit. I don't remember who posted it or even how long ago, but it looked absolutely fantastic (ok, it catered to something that has been an obsession of mine for almost my entire life). I've followed it all this time and only just discovered earlier this month that it's been released on iTunes and Amazon Instant. And after payday, I'm absolutely sitting down and watching it finally.
    Since there seems to be a decent chance that I'm the only one around here who remembered it and really, desperately wants to see it, and also that no one around here has seen it yet, it probably doesn't deserve a spot on this list. But on the off-chance that someone else remembers and was curious, I thought I'd share.

  • TK

    I just IMDB'd that, and it does look interesting, and I was pretty sure I'd never even heard of it. I'm curious now. So then I searched for the Pajiba post on the trailer and... apparently I wrote it. So that's awkward.

    But unrelated: Go watch Natural Selection, people. It's fucking fantastic.

  • I thought it might've been you, but I've been following Comforting Skin, too, which I knew you posted, so I wasn't sure if I was confusing it or if you just happen to post trailers to movies I really want to see.

    I'm put in mind of a filk circle I once attended. A musician who had suffered from some sort of long-term illness who had taken him out of fandom for a long time was there, and someone asked if he would please, please, please sing this one song. He said he'd try, but he wasn't sure he remembered it, and the person who requested it told him not to worry, she totally had the lyrics and chords right there. So it was set up on the floor in front of him and he started singing, and about halfway through he interrupted himself to exclaim, "Oh my god, I wrote this!"

  • BWeaves

    Haha! TK, That's the most adorable post I've read today.

  • Brave is such a nice little movie, and Merida is badass and awesome and her hair is incredible. How it ranks below Amazing Spider-Man is beyond me.

  • James

    I don't get the Brave hate. Is it simply Pixar making great movies that when they produce a pretty darn good one it is horrible?

  • Yes! I fucking LOVED Safety Not Guaranteed. It was sweet and funny and draped with autumnal melancholy, and Jake Johnson! Mark Duplass' sad eyes looked mad and convincing and endearing and dangerous all at once.
    It's often used derisively, but Safety Not Guaranteed was exactly what I personally mean by a 'mood piece.' Soaked in the atmosphere and characters, all the other bullshit almost becomes incidental. Loved it, loved it. Good choice, Dustin.

  • PDamian

    I would upvote you a million times if I could. FANTASTIC film.

  • BWeaves

    Brave: I just watched this and I liked it. However, I do confess that I was mesmerized by her hair.

    Safety Not Guaranteed: I just watched this, too, and I didn't like it. I thought it was kind of stupid. The characters do things that don't really make any sense.

    POSSIBLE SPOILERS, SO QUIT READING IF YOU DON'T WANT HINTS.

    If time travel guy (I can't be bothered to remember his name) has "done this once before," then why did he need to steal lasers and stuff for the second trip? They're not like batteries. They don't run down. Also, the government agents who SLOOOOOOOOOOWLY chase time travel guy, are not menacing at all, and serve absolutely no purpose in the plot. I was also disappointed in the ending. I thought that they shouldn't have shown that. I would have liked it better if certain characters had just disappeared and you didn't know if they time traveled or not. It would have been fun if the two journalist guys went back to the office and a much older female journalist was waiting for them with the story. However, that's not how it ended.

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