Pick Of The Week: New
Girls: The Complete First Season (HBO)
Lena Dunham’s HBO show plays like the anti-Sex And The City, following the misadventures of another set of entitled, promiscuous New Yorkers while constantly, viciously undercutting them at every turn. The young writer/star has become a magnet for controversy—Gawker’s ugly obsession has manifested itself in recaps and a mocked book proposal—but the show is mostly a pleasure, a candid and merciless comedy about women trying to figure out what direction they want their professional and romantic lives to take. Along with Louie, it’s also one of the few shows on television that bears the unmistakable stamp of its creator. The set includes five audio commentaries with Dunham and her producer (and co-writer, in the season’s best episode, “The Return”) Judd Apatow, as well as a Dunham-Apatow interview and conversations with the cast.
Pick Of The Week: Retro
Miami Connection (Drafthouse)
For fans of cheesy ’80s martial-arts movies, Y.K. Kim’s Miami Connection is the year’s most important discovery. Made in 1987 and released in a few Orlando theaters a year later, the film was banished to the land of wind and ghosts until a programmer for the Alamo Drafthouse picked it up on eBay for $50. Rereleased on Drafthouse’s in-house label, the film has steadily gained momentum on the midnight circuit for its disarming mix of sweetness and ineptitude, as well as its pervasive ’80s-ness, which comes through strongest in synth-rock band called Dragon Sound, whose members are also tae kwon do masters. (Just try to get “Against The Ninja” and “Friends” out of your head.) The DVD/BD somehow comes with over two hours of bonus materials, and real obsessives can get a poster and 7-inch vinyl copy of the songs through the website.
Don’t Break The Seal
Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock is known for pulling stunts—eating nothing but McDonald’s for a month, personally embarking on the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, living on minimum wage for 30 days—but trying to make a 90-minute feature out of the fact that some dudes have facial hair may be his most audacious effort to date. Mansome attempts a whimsical look at male grooming, with appearances by funnymen like Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, and Zach Galifianakis, but its conclusions about phenomena like “metrosexuals” are thinly drawn, and Spurlock’s first-person style, in this context, smacks of vanity. Bottom line: There just isn’t a movie here.
Though a third-act kidnapping plot and a rote message about growing up eventually throw it off track, the best parts of Seth MacFarlane’s hit comedy about a man and his wisecracking teddy bear has a lizard-brain appeal: It turns viewers into Dax Shepard’s character in Idiocracy, guffawing stupidly at Ow! My Balls!
The Bourne Legacy (Universal)
Absurdly overlong and convoluted at 135 minutes, The Bourne Legacy struggles to survive the absence of Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass, but once new star Jeremy Renner goes on the run with scientist Rachel Weisz, the film’s back-to-basics action is still diverting.
Ice Age: Continental Drift (Fox)
If The A.V. Club made a Least Essential Movies list like we do for music, the fourth Ice Age movie would have to be a contender for the prize. Lots of funny people contributing voice work—Wanda Sykes, Aziz Ansari, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Alan Tudyk among them—don’t make much of a difference.
Dick Tracy (BD) (Disney)
In retrospect, it seems odd that Disney would invest so much money and energy to a big-screen version of an 80-year-old comic by a fiftysomething director/producer/star, but Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy blitzed theaters in the summer of 1990 and did respectable business despite middling reviews. And while the film strikes some bum notes, particularly in Beatty and Madonna’s lead performances, it’s an exceptionally beautiful production, with top-of-the-line tech support by production designer Richard Sylbert, costume designer Milena Canonero, and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro.
Before breaking through with Memento, Christopher Nolan cut his teeth on the ingenious little neo-noir Following, which concerns a writer (Jeremy Theobald) who makes a habit of trailing strangers in a bid to get inspiration for his next book. Things take a dark turn when he follows the wrong man down a criminal path.
The Qatsi Trilogy (Criterion)
Environmentalists, pot-smokers, and pot-smoking environmentalists take heed: Criterion has released all three of Godfrey Reggio’s experimental documentaries—Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, and Noqoyqatsi—in a comprehensive box set that shows a planet out of balance. The only trouble with Reggio’s films is that they’re so beautiful their message about the scourge of the modern world gets undermined.
Why Stop Now (IFC)
The undistinguished Sundance filler Why Stop Now has a great ironic premise—piano prodigy (Jesse Eisenberg) must procure drugs for his drug-addicted mother (Melissa Leo) in order to qualify her for in-patient care—but it fails to exploit it fully as screwball or straight drama.
The Portrait Of A Lady (BD) (Shout! Factory)
After The Piano was an arthouse sensation, Jane Campion was given carte blanche to make what she wanted, and she chose this impossibly ambitious adaptation of Henry James novel. It’s a decorous muddle, but at least it’s one that tries to contend with the book rather than merely abridge it for the arthouse crowd.
Michael Caine, Peter Ustinov, Omar Sharif, Rex Harrison, and William Holden are among the thespians who gathered for Richard Fleischer’s notorious 1979 film about modern-day slave trading in Africa. Caine has claimed it’s one of the worst films he ever made—a bold statement if there ever was one—but a new Blu-ray special edition seems primed to restoke the controversy.
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