5 August Streaming and DVD Choices to Seek Out, and 3 To Avoid
What to See
Think Like a Man — It’s not a movie that you think would appeal to you, but trust me here: It’s a lot better than it looks. As I wrote in my review: “I liked Think Like a Man, although there’s a buzzkill curmudgeon nagging at me from somewhere in the back part of my brain telling me that this is an intellectually poor opinion and something I should perhaps feels ashamed about. I don’t care. I laughed. A lot. I enjoyed myself. Taraji P. Henson made me a little weak in the knees, and I was swept up by Michael Ealy’s soulfulness. There was something even refreshingly anti-Tyler Perry about it: The women in the film held all the power in the relationships; there were no men wearing women’s clothing for comedic effect; Jesus was not used to justify domestic abuse; and no one died of AIDS (there was even a nice dig at Tyler Perry’s oeuvre). I could’ve done without the lousy gender stereotypes that formed the basis of the film, but as the guy on staff who watches most of the bad movies that get major releases, I can tell you that this one didn’t belong in that category.
Headhunters — Headhunter stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau from Game of Thrones, and if that’s not a big enough selling point, Prisco’s review was glowing: Headhunters is a stunning and throat-clenching thriller, audacious and twisty in all the right ways. It’s a rollercoaster of a film that suddenly crashes through the side of a cliff and ends up whirling through the hallucinatory landscape of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland before skidding to a halt with several passengers gruesomely dead. And I mean that as a compliment. Thanks to the funemployment nature of my profession, I’ve read a shitton of murder-mysteries and seen pretty much every episode of “Law and Order” in all its various incarnations. So it’s hard to trick me, but I was fooled several times over.
Bernie — Don’t let Jack Black dissuade you from watching this film because, as Prisco writes, it’s more Christopher Guest than Richard Linklater: “Based on a true story, Bernie is about a fussy little mortician in a small Texas town who befriends the town harridan. He accidentally kills her, and then attempts to hide the body while tending to her finances. It’s actually kind of an old story - wealthy widow wooed and wasted by younger man - and in other hands it would be more comedy of errors than comedy of manners. Linklater knows small-town Texas, and so he creates an extremely competent fictionalized true crime documentary, something you’d see on Unsolved Mysteries or America’s Most Wanted. It’s brutally funny and very sad, and it feels honest. For people sick of the rig-a-dig-doo manic-bulldog Jack Black or the alright-alright surf-slack McConaughey, you will be pleasantly surprised with their performances. Bernie is yet further proof that Richard Linklater is willing to take wild chances and take adventurous paths with his films.
The Raid Redemption — For those of you who were deprived on The Raid Redemption in your small and mid-sized towns, one of the best action movies of the year has finally arrived on DVD, and deserves to be seen. Seth writes that it belongs in a category with the best action films of all-time. “The Raid is simply a stunning action film. While there are character beats and a story that offers some twists and turns that are generally obvious well before they hit, it is first and foremost an action film. The action is the star and the action offers a breakout performance.”
Hunger Games — I’m certain no one needs to be coaxed into seeing The Hunger Games, but let me just say for those parents who are wary because it’s a movie about kids killing kids: It’s not like that. I mean, it is. But it’s not. As I wrote in my review, The Hunger Games also does a nice job of balancing the needs of the new viewers and the book readers: “Half the people coming into The Hunger Games are seeking a new experience, and the other half simply wants to re-live an experience in a new medium. Director Gary Ross does an outstanding job of balancing the two constituencies. He doesn’t make the mistake of removing large sections of the story to fit it within a film’s standard running time: He abridges and he compresses: prior readers’ experience will be enriched by the context and the intensity of emotion they already have for the characters, while those who are unfamiliar with the story are not bogged down by exposition dumps and half-formed arcs that are often added to adaptations solely to satisfy the readership base. Ross, who also wrote the screenplay along with Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray (State of Play), is more interested in making a great movie than pleasing a certain audience, and he succeeds in both endeavors.”
What Not To See
The Dictator — Sacha Baron Cohen’s attempt to move to less mean scripted comedy backfires. “It’s removed all of the teeth and spontaneity of Cohen’s comedy, leaving a movie that is neither funny nor mean. The Dictator is an Adam Sandler parody. In fact, the character played by Cohen, Aladeen — the Dictator of Wadiya, a fake North African country — mugs and acts very much like one of Sandler’s ethnic characters. He’s the North African Zohan.
Battleship — It’s not as though you need warning, but Prisco serves Battleship up brilliantly: “If you loved Transformers, congratulations, you’ll probably fucking enjoy this too, because it’s basically Bathtub Transformers. Only it’s seventeen hours long and takes too fucking long between giant explosions. Director Peter Berg doesn’t overcomplicate things so much as use too many words to just say BOOM. You don’t have to say you want “two all-beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun.” Just say Big Mac. We understand.”
The Lucky One — Even in my overly heightened, overly-sensitive state of late, I couldn’t be moved by this terrible Nicholas Spark’s movie, which asks the question: Why would anyone want to watch these movies: “No offense to the Nicholas Sparks’ audience, but really, what the fuck? Are you so starved for tragedy in your actual life that you need the escapism of manipulation porn? Do you somehow get off on the unexpected passing of others? Do you like being hosed by an amateur? If you’ve seen one Nicholas Sparks’ movie, you know exactly what you’re getting in to, and my question is: Why would you get into it? I don’t mean to get all meathead on you or anything, but shit, man: There’s never even any blood. There’s no zombies. There’s no dismemberments or caterwauling blood geysers. Where’s the joy? Torture porn is perverse, but at least there’s some confetti with your death party. Nicholas Sparks’ manipulation porn is like a birthday party in an empty room with only a cake and someone kicked over the cake? Why would you want to eat smushed, dirt cake? The five-second rule doesn’t apply, you know? Because one-second dead or five-seconds dead, there’s no making out with the corpse. I mean, goddamn: Ask me who I want to hang out with on a Saturday afternoon, an Eli Roth fan or a Nicholas Sparks fan, and I’ll go with Roth every time. At least they’re transparent about their depravity. Nicholas Sparks fans? They’re just sick in the head, and their cats are mean.”