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I Want My DVD: Tuesday, October 22, 2013

by Ethan Alter October 22, 2013 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, October 22, 2013

James Wan's The Conjuring will provide the fear factor for your pre-Halloween viewing pleasure.

The Conjuring
James Wan's mid-summer horror hit is also his best movie to date (and an overdue apology for unleashing the Saw franchise on the world), a solidly-constructed, genuinely-scary haunted house picture that's the best Amityville Horror movie not to have the words Amityville Horror in its name. Loosely based on a "true story" (depending on how much you believe supernatural stories to be "true"), the film follows husband-and-wife paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) -- who, coincidentally enough, would later go on to be part of Amityville lore -- as they investigate a haunting at a rural farmhouse occupied by the Perron clan and the pesky poltergeist who won't leave them alone. Distinguished by a judicious (but not languid) pace, strong performances (particularly by Lili Taylor, who plays Mama Perron and gets the film's biggest "Holy shit!" moment… which is sadly spoiled on the DVD cover) and a smart attention to the space and geography of the setting (the house becomes a real character in the film), The Conjuring is great studio-level horror fare. It's almost a shame that Wan is leaving the genre behind -- he's currently in the process of helming the seventh Fast and the Furious installment -- just when he's started to get really good at it.
Extras: Three featurettes, including a look at the Warrens' lives and work.
Click here to read our original review

Before Midnight
The dynamic trio of Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy drop in one more time on those idealistic screen lovers and endless talkers Jesse and Celine, now in a committed relationship with two young kids to show for it. Set over the course of one long day and night in an exceptionally picturesque part of Greece, the latest Before trades the storybook romance of the previous two installments for a harder-edged romanticism that takes into account the wear and tear any couple goes through when they're together long-term. It's still remarkable how naturally Hawke and Delpy continue to slip back into these roles at decade intervals, almost effortlessly continuing a dialogue with audiences that began way back in 1995. Their deft work together in Midnight's first scene subtly establishes the fault lines that run underneath their seemingly ideal relationship, laying the groundwork for the movie's triumphant third act in which Celine and Jesse open fire on each other with all guns blazing. It's a bruising battle of words that's all the more painful because it feels so honest and true to life. (Married couples out there may want to book some post-screening counseling time to recover.) Lest I make this movie out to be some kind of downer, let me quickly reiterate that Midnight is ultimately as funny, romantic and all-around excellent as its predecessors. It's an honest-to-god adult drama featuring two characters who were previously the poster children for youthful romance and have now, at last, entered grown up life.
Extras: A commentary track with the creative team, plus a bonus video Q&A and a making-of featurette.
Click here to read our original review

The Way Way Back
Using the power afforded by their recent Oscar win for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Descendants, Jim "Community" Rash and Nat "Ben & Kate" Faxon make their directorial debut with a summertime coming-of-age story that's got one performance you haven't seen before and a bunch of other stuff you mostly have. That standout turn is delivered Steve Carell, doing terrific, nuanced work as an asshole alpha male trying -- and abjectly failing -- to connect with the emotionally constipated teenage son (Liam James) of his new girlfriend (Toni Collette). Dragging mother and son out to his beach house for a warm weather getaway, Carell's Trent quickly frightens away James's Duncan, who seeks refuge at a nearby water park run by the friendlier, cooler father figure, Owen (Sam Rockwell, doing an extended Bill Murray impression) and learns all the familiar life lessons necessary (like how to hit on girls) for his personal growth. Charming though the cast of misfits at the water park might be, those scenes are pure hokum and function as a sitcom-ready distraction to what should be the central focus of the movie, the relationship between Carell, Collette and James. The Way Way Back isn't a bad movie, but considering the talent involved in front of and behind the camera, you kind of expect it to be sharper and funnier.
Extras: Deleted scenes, a making-of featurette and a video tour of the real water park the movie used as its fictional setting.
Click here to read our original review
Click here to read our Q&A with Nat Faxon and Jim Rash

Only God Forgives
Banish any thoughts of Drive from your mind, because Nicolas Winding Refn's second collaboration with Ryan Gosling goes out of its way to anger and/or annoy everyone who adored that sleek, neon-colored crime picture. Set in Bangkok's red-light district (which explains why the screen is frequently bathed in vivid reds), God stars Gosling as an underground fighting manager whose scumbag brother dies and he's prompted by his nightmare of a mother (Kristin Scott Thomas, the only one in the movie having any visible fun) to go after the men responsible, head up by a seemingly immortal police officer (Vithaya Pansringarm) who can only be a relative of No Country for Old Men's death-dealer Anton Chigurh. There's clearly a strain of dark humor underlining the movie, but it doesn't offset the profound boredom of much of what's onscreen. On the other hand, with its gorgeous cinematography and Kubrickian formal qualities, Only God Forgives handily wins the "Best-Looking Bad Movie" of the year award, so Refn's got that going for him.
Extras: A Refn-helmed commentary track plus additional director interviews, a behind-the-scenes featurette and another mini-doc about composer Cliff Martinez.
Click here to read our original review

The Internship
I Give It a Year
Only eight short years ago, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn seduced moviegoers with Wedding Crashers, one of the highest-grossing R-rated comedies in history. But few of those viewers turned out for the duo's reunion, The Internship -- in which they play late-in-life interns for that digital media monolith known as Google -- leading the film to vanish without a trace this past summer having only banked a meager $44 million, thus making it the least successful Google-affiliated product since Google+. At least Vaughn and Wilson still play well together, wringing whatever comedy they can out of what's basically just a two-hour commercial for a search engine/online empire. Next stop for these two? We're betting on a Showtime sitcom, since their respective feature film careers are pretty much drying up. If big laughs are what you're after, they're also in short supply in the British rom-com, I Give It a Year, which awkwardly tries to mix Judd Apatow relationship comedy with broad Borat gross-out moments. Rafe Spall and Rose Byrne play a newlywed couple who discover mere months into wedded bliss that their marriage almost certainly isn't built to last, particularly when a pair of more appropriate partners (Anna Faris and Simon Baker respectively) appears on the scene. Despite a likable cast, it's difficult to give this movie 30 minutes, let alone a year.
Extras: The Internship offers deleted scenes, a making-of featurettes and a commentary track anchored by director Shawn Levy. I Give It a Year is accompanied by cast and crew interviews, two featurettes, deleted scenes, a gag reel and outtakes.
Click here to read our original review of The Internship

Also on DVD:
Just in time for Halloween, Criterion Collection dusts off the 1944 ghost story, The Uninvited, but the label's biggest release is the Blu-ray version of their exceptional (and long out of print) box set, John Cassavetes: Five Films, which collects five of the groundbreaking director's most influential films, including Shadows and A Woman Under the Influence. Emerging from the Warner Archive vaults this week are The World of Suzie Wong, a lush romantic drama set against the exotic backdrop of 1960s era Hong Kong, and The Carpetbaggers, a sordid behind-the-scenes of Hollywood tale that helped put a stake in the heart of the dying Production Code upon its release in 1963.

Think you've got game? Prove it! Check out Games Without Pity, our new area featuring trivia, puzzle, card, strategy, action and word games -- all free to play and guaranteed to help pass the time until your next show starts.

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