Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

New On DVD And Blu-Ray: January 22, 2013

Pick Of The Week: New

The Imposter (Indomina)
In 1994, a San Antonio teenager stormed out of his home, and efforts to track him down failed. Two years later, his family received a call from a Spanish juvenile center claiming that the boy had been found. But the boy was in fact Frédéric Bourdin, an older French con artist whose appearance (and accent) bore little resemblance to missing teenager. Incredibly, the family brought Bourdin into their home, apparently deluding themselves into believing that this disturbing character was their kin. The entire true story is recounted masterfully in The Imposter, an Errol Morris-style yarn that unfolds like a classic piece of art-noir. The disc has no special features, but the feature is special enough.


Pick Of The Week: Retro

Trust (Olive Films)
In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, there was no indie auteur hotter than Hal Hartley, whose deadpan comedies were treated by young cinephiles with the breathless enthusiasm of early Coen Brothers movies. But the DVD-era has been unkind to Hartley’s work: not only has he seemingly fallen out of favor, but many of his films have not been released on DVD period. Olive Films has taken a big step toward rectifying that with their new Blu-ray version of Hartley’s 1990 film Trust, an insightful relationship film, full of sidewinding charm and comic absurdities, but also disarmingly earnest in a way that Hartley’s detached style would seem to forbid. The late Adrienne Shelly is at her best as a high-school dropout who falls for an older repairman (Martin Donovan) against her family’s wishes. The Blu-ray comes with a 19-minute making-of feature, composed of interviews conducted in 2005, including one with Shelly.

Don’t Break The Seal

The Paperboy (Millennium)
Though largely (and properly) considered a fiasco when it premiered at Cannes in May 2012, The Paperboy, Lee Daniel’s laughable follow-up to the equally silly Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire, was defended by some as lurid, grimy, irresistible camp. These defenses cited Nicole Kidman’s vampy performance as a femme fatale who falls for a dangerous prisoner (John Cusack) and scenes like the one where Kidman pees on Zac Efron to salve a jellyfish sting. But The Paperboy is truly inept, a badly acted and incoherent noir/social drama that’s about as boring as any film featuring Kidman urinating on Efron could possibly be.


What Else?

End Of Watch (Universal)
Since his script for Training Day in 2001, David Ayer has specialized in gritty, at times hyperbolic tales of LAPD excess—Dark Blue, Harsh Times, and Street Kings followed—but he shakes up the formula a bit with End Of Watch, an episodic look at cop life that unfolds like a first-person/found-footage horror film. The plot, such as it is, doesn’t kick in until about 70 minutes into it. Ayer’s “edginess” strains, but his experimental instinct pays off more often than not.


The Men Who Built America (A&E)
The History Channel billed The Men Who Built America as a successor to their hit miniseries Hatfields & McCoys, but the story of key post-Civil War industrialists—namely, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford, and Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt—falls well short of that standard.

Searching For Sugar Man (Sony)
The gifted Detroit singer-songwriter Sixto Diaz Rodriguez, known professionally as “Rodriguez,” released two gorgeous, moody, downbeat folk albums to deafening silence in the United States in the early 1970s, then disappeared from public view. The inspiring documentary Searching For Sugar Man tracks him down. The A.V. Club’s Nathan Rabin says the film “ultimately earns its happy ending and buzzy, crowd-pleasing populist appeal.”


The Quiet Man (Olive Films)
John Ford and John Wayne collaborated on Westerns many times, but no film took them out of their element quite like 1952’s The Quiet Man, a remarkably lush, Technicolor drama that took Ford and Wayne out of Monument Valley and into the hills of Ireland, where they shot on location. Wayne plays an American boxer who swears off the sport after accidentally killing a man. Instead he goes back to his family homestead in Ireland and falls in love.

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (Shout! Factory)
Screenwriter Nicholas Meyer (Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan) and director Herbert Ross (Pennies From Heaven) collaborated on this unique 1976 twist on Sherlock Holmes mythology. Here Holmes (Nicol Williamson) and Dr. Watson (Robert Duvall) joins forces with Sigmund Freud (Alan Arkin) to solve a kidnapping case by employing Freud’s access to the subconscious.


Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning (Sony)
The third sequel to a undistinguished Jean-Claude Van Damme/Dolph Lundgren action team-up sounds unpromising at a minimum, but John Hyams’ Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning has gotten a reputation for strong, almost avant-garde action stylings. It will be reviewed here soon.

For A Good Time, Call… (Universal)
Compared somewhat falsely to Bridesmaids simply for being a profane, female-centered comedy, For A Good Time, Call stars Ari Graynor and Lauren Miller as bitter rivals who become roommates out of mutual necessity. The A.V. Club’s Tasha Robinson says the film is “contrived and formulaic,” but it passes the Bechdel test with flying colors.


Pina (Criterion)
Wim Wenders’ tribute to/collaboration with the late choreographer Pina Bausch remains one of the few 3D movies that are explicitly and artfully designed for the format—and may, in fact, not translate all that well to the 2D home viewing experience. But the Criterion edition will make the best possible case, and Bausch’s innovative, colorful dance routines are often awe-inspiring.

Birders: The Central Park Effect (Music Box)
A documentary about a group of birdwatchers in Central Park doesn’t sound like the most gripping subject imaginable, but this hour-long portrait of birders is surprisingly absorbing, bringing the viewer into a passion that may otherwise be hard to understand.


Hara-Kiri: Death Of A Samurai (Tribeca)
Takashi Miike’s 3D remake of Masaki Kobayashi’s classic 1962 film may sound, in principal, like a vulgarization, but it’s one of Miike’s most thoughtful, formally controlled efforts, far from the J-horror extremes on which he made his reputation. Not to say that it’s devoid of shock—the ritual suicide of the title is as harrowing as anything he’s ever done—but his story of an unemployed samurai desperate for work resonates in more subtle ways, too.

Ivan’s Childhood (Criterion)
Russian master Andrei Tarkovsky produced a number of complex, ambitious, and at times daunting classics like Andrei Rublev, Solaris, and Stalker, but his debut feature, Ivan’s Childhood, is surprisingly accessible, a confident and virtuosic look at war through a child’s point of view. It will also be reviewed here soon.


Keep The Lights On (Music Box)
Ira Sachs’ poignant autobiographical film about a decade-long relationship between a documentary filmmaker (Thure Lindhardt) and a closeted lawyer (Zachary Booth) seems, to The A.V. Club’s Sam Adams, “less like a memoir than a collage made from diary scraps, evocative but not prescriptive.”

Nature Calls (Magnolia)
An abundance of talent came together for this offbeat comedy: Writer-director Todd Rohal (The Guatemalan Handshake, The Catechism Cataclysm), star Patton Oswalt, a supporting cast that includes Rob Riggle, Patrice O’Neal, Johnny Knoxville, and Maura Tierney. Things didn’t work out so well.


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