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I Want My DVD: Tuesday, January 21, 2014

by Ethan Alter January 21, 2014 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tom Hanks regrets his choice of career in a big way in Captain Phillips.

Captain Phillips
Recovering from the rare stumble that was Green Zone, Paul Greengrass takes to the high seas with this high-stakes, you-are-there account of modern piracy. Based on a true story (which, according to some, has been significantly altered for the screen), the film depicts the takeover of an American freighter piloted by the titular captain (played by Tom Hanks, in a lauded performance that turned out to be one of the Oscar's more high-profile snubs) by a small band of Somali pirates (led by newcomer Barkhad Abdi, who did get an Oscar nod in the Supporting Actor category.) Screenwriter Billy Ray's moment-by-moment dramatization of the incident complements Greengrass's propulsive visual style and while the second half of the movie -- when the setting moves from the freighter to a confined lifeboat -- is a bit repetitive. But it culminates in a ten-minute coda that's a remarkable bit of acting by Hanks, as well as a sobering departure from the typical triumphal finale that tends to cap off one of these survival stories. Make sure to rent the excellent Danish film A Hijacking along with Captain Phillips for a piracy-themed double bill.
Extras: A Greengrass-anchored commentary track and a three-part making of documentary.
Click here to read our original review
Click here to see Tom Hanks's Least Likable Heroes

Blue Jasmine
Woody Allen does Tennessee Williams in this extended riff on A Streetcar Named Desire with Cate Blanchett acting up a storm as a Bay Area Blanche DuBois (a role she played to great acclaim on stage.) Obviously, the details of the play have been updated and tailored to the modern day; for example, Blanchett's Jasmine is the wife of a financial baron, whose downfall costs her her friends, her lavish lifestyle… and her sanity. Moving into her sister Ginger's (Sally Hawkins, who scored an Oscar nod along with Blanchett) small San Francisco apartment, Jasmine contemplates a fresh start, but instead finds herself falling into old patterns of behavior. Allen admirably has little to no sympathy for his lead character, piling humiliation on top of humiliation, which Blanchett suffers through with aplomb. But her performance -- which is all but certain to win the Best Actress statue when the Oscars are handed out in early March -- is surprisingly static; she starts out so close to the edge of insanity that she has no place to go. (Funnily enough, the most nuanced performance in the entire film may be given by Andrew Dice Clay as Hawkins's resentful ex-husband.) Jasmine is a decent facsimile of Streetcar, but there's no substitute for the real thing.
Extras: Interviews from the movie's premiere and a press conference.
Click here to read our original review
Click here to read a Q&A with Blanchett and the rest of the film's cast

Machete Kills
Time of Death for Robert Rodriguez's Career: October 11, 2013. That's the day that the unasked-for sequel Machete Kills landed in theaters with a resounding thud, belaboring a one-joke premise that ran its course after the original two-minute trailer that kicked off Grindhouse. Danny Trejo returns as the stone-faced Mexican assassin, who this time is dispatched on a south of the border mission by President Charlie Sheen to capture and/or kill a drug czar (Demián Bichir, the only actor who seems to be having any fun in the movie.) Halfway through the movie, though, Rodriguez casually abandons that storyline in favor of a James Bond send-up that has Machete matching "wits" with a billionaire crook (Mel Gibson) with an elaborate plan to destroy the planet… but not before he leaves Earth for the stars, a plot development that sets up the third movie in the franchise (please god, no) Machete Kills Again… In Space. The teaser for that film is the best part of this one, which indicates that Rodriguez should abandon feature filmmaking and dedicate the rest of his career towards churning out awesome trailers for terrible movies we don’t have to sit through.
Click here to read our original review

Freezer
Here's a high-concept premise for you: Dylan McDermott gets trapped in a walk-in freezer! That's seriously the set-up of this slender, one-set thriller, which has been conceived in the vein of contained chamber chillers like Cube and the first Saw. How does McDermott end up in that walk-in freezer, you might ask? Well, his swaggering mechanic is dumped there by Russian mobsters, who believe he's relieved them of a substantial sum of money. It goes without saying that things aren't what they seem; in order to pad this thin concept, the filmmakers have several plot twists up their sleeves, each more unlikely and downright random than the last. Through it all, McDermott attempts to act like the… uh, coolest guy in the room, but instead comes across as a giant asshole. Frankly, if we had to spend 80 minutes locked in a freezer with someone, we'd rather it was Dermot Mulroney.
Extras: Cast interviews and a making-of featurette.

Cat People
In the Heat of the Night
Up until The Canyons, Cat People was probably the strangest film on Paul Schrader's resume. A remake of the 1942 low-budget horror hit -- famous for its use of suggestion over overt scares -- Schrader's 1982 update put an eccentric erotic spin on the material. This one casts model Natassia Kinski as a werecat who shifts forms between a black panther and a stunning young woman, and Malcolm McDowell as her brother and would-be lover. And things only get weirder from there, as John Heard enters the frame as a sexually-frustrated zoologist who falls for Kinski and allows his obsession to dictate the direction of her life. It's hard to describe Cat People as "good," but it certainly is unique. On the other hand, Norman Jewison's 1967 Best Picture winner In the Head of the Night -- now out on a new Blu-ray edition -- isn't just good… it's great. Exploding the racial gap that had existed in Hollywood up to that time, this crime drama puts East Coast detective Sidney Poitier on equal footing with Southern small-town cop Rod Steiger as they reluctantly team up to investigate a murder. Besides its groundbreaking depiction of race relations, Heat still holds up because it tells a great story, rich in detail and surprise. And that famous scene where Poitier slaps a bigoted white plantation owner across the face still packs a punch.
Extras: Cat People features fresh interviews with Schrader and the cast as well as a photo gallery. In the Heat of the Night includes a commentary track with Jewison and Steiger and three featurettes.

Also on DVD:
Lake Bell wrote, directed and stars in the sweet, but slight In a World, a fairly routine romantic comedy that mainly benefits from its star-studded cast (including Ken Marino, Rob Corddry and Nick Offerman) and unique setting (the subculture of L.A. voiceover performers.) Lots of people have been piling on Shia LaBeouf of late, but you know, if you had just starred in a movie as bad as the incoherent thriller Charlie Countryman, you'd probably go a little crazy too. Thanks to carefully targeted marketing, the Spanish-language comedy Instructions Not Included, about a single father raising his precocious daughter, became one of America's highest-grossing foreign releases ever, earning almost $50 million. Spoof-meisters Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer set their sights on The Hunger Games franchise (plus lots of other already-dated pop culture) with predictably terrible results in The Starving Games. Three old dudes play fictional versions of themselves as they try to decide what comes after retirement in the mocku-dramedy Old Goats. In contrast to his Marvel universe counterpart, the Norse-influenced action picture Vikingdom presents Thor as the heavy who a human king, Eirick (Dominic Purcell) has to prevent from asserting control over mankind. Needless to say, the Chris Hemsworth version is way cooler. The 2010 documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy explores the origins and enduring history of Wes Craven's dreamy serial killer. There's no way to stop the remake from coming out, but at least you can remind yourself of the greatness of Paul Verhoeven's original RoboCop via this 4K remastered high-def edition. Not since Armageddon has a movie seemed less like to receive the Criterion treatment than the goofy all-star 1963 globetrotting comedy, It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Watch it with your kids, though, and you'll remember how much fun it is… if far too long at over three hours. In other plus-sized family entertainment, 1968's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang packs Dick Van Dyke into a flying car for an adventure filled with laughs, music and the defeat of a tyrannical dictator.

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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