Pick Of The Week: New
Killer Joe (Lionsgate)
Following up Bug, the second collaboration between director William Friedkin and playwright Tracy Letts is an even nastier, more confident thriller, unfolding like a modern, profane, trailer-trash variation on the film noir classic Double Indemnity. As in Double Indemnity, the plot involves knocking over a family member for the insurance money, in this case a woman whose son (Emilie Hirsch) and ex-husband (a brilliantly moronic Thomas Haden Church) have hired a cop/hitman (Matthew McConaughey, in the best of a year of a great performances) to do the job. The nasty twist—that Hirsch has offered his innocence sister (Juno Temple) as collateral before the insurance payoff—only hints at the real nastiness to come, courtesy of Kentucky Fried Chicken. The disc comes with an intro and Q&A session from its SXSW premiere, plus a Friedkin audio commentary, which promises to be lively.
Pick Of The Week: Retro
The Hi-Lo Country (Shout! Factory)
Adapted from Max Evans’ novel, The Hi-Lo Country was originally supposed to be directed by Sam Peckinpah, but never got off the ground. British director Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons, High Fidelity) may not be the first choice to make a post-WWII American Western—or the second, or the third—but he’s always been a thoughtful, versatile filmmaker and The Hi-Lo Country takes character-driven approach to the genre that’s a distance from Peckinpah, but valid on its own terms. Scripted by Walon Green, who wrote Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, and produced by Martin Scorsese, the film stars Woody Harrelson and Billy Crudup as best friends who return to their Texas home after the war to discover it’s become a very different place. Sam Elliott turns up as vicious rancher and the miscast but luscious Penélope Cruz plays Crudup’s girlfriend.
Don’t Break The Seal
Total Recall (Sony)
Put that down, right now! Are you serious?! Paul Verhoeven made a nasty, ultra-violent, hard R-rated Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle out of Philip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale,” and you’re reaching for this bloodless, pointless PG-13-rated remake? Wikipedia tells us that Len Wiseman’s remake “exhibits more political overtones,” but those are as absent here as Colin Farrell’s charisma. Only Bryan Cranston brings any fun at all as the villain, but next to Ronny Cox and Michael Ironside in Verhoeven’s film, even he wilt pitifully by comparison. The three-disc Blu-ray edition includes a “director’s cut” that’s 20 minutes longer than the theatrical version and commentary, plus behind-the-scenes featurettes and a playable video game demo of God Of War: Ascension. Sounds like a great package for people who enjoy shitty movies.
Premium Rush (Sony)
Buried in the dregs of August, David Koepp’s cycling thriller was the summer’s fastest, funniest entertainment, a live-action Roadrunner cartoon about a bike messenger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and the corrupt cop (a wonderful Michael Shannon) who tries haplessly to intercept a delivery. Their cat-and-mouse games are a hoot and it’s all wrapped up in 90 minutes.
Pitch Perfect (Universal)
Bring It On for the world of college a cappella singing groups, this diverting musical got a pass from some willing to overlook the non-performance cheese. But not The A.V. Club’s Tasha Robinson, who resented the film’s expectation that audiences would “put up with some cardboard characters and stiff plotting if the money sequences deliver.”
Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (Fox)
This second sequel addresses all the questions left unanswered by Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules… and poses new ones. (Non-joke blurb: These live-action cartoons for pre-adolescent boys are more tolerable than most, and Dog Days continues a series that’s delivered consistently on modest goals.)
Trouble With The Curve (Warner Bros.)
Clint Eastwood tells Moneyball to get off his lawn in this meandering drama about an aging baseball scout (Eastwood) who takes his daughter (Amy Adams) on the road for one last recruiting tour. It was released right after Eastwood lost some of his dignity scolding a chair at the Republican National Convention, but according to The A.V. Club’s Keith Phipps, “Eastwood plays a reminder of an older way of doing things, a professional whose likes the world won’t see again once he’s gone.”
Resident Evil: Retribution (Sony)
The fifth installment in the Resident Evil franchise picks up right where the fourth one left off. Perhaps that will come as a big relief to those who kept on paying attention after the first film.
A surprise hit on VOD and in theaters, Nicholas Jarecki’s white-collar thriller proved to be this year’s Margin Call, a modestly scaled but thoughtful assessment of the economic times. Richard Gere does subtle work as a wealthy venture capitalist whose risky ventures fall precipitously, leaving him to scramble to reveal his deceptions to his wife and daughter, who don’t know him as a criminal .
Sleepwalk With Me (IFC)
It started as stand-up comedy. Then it grew into an off-Broadway one-man show. And now Mike Birbiglia’s Sleepwalk With Me has become a pleasant-enough feature film starring Birbiglia as a comedian whose anxieties about his career and his love life are exacerbated by his REM Sleep Behavior Disorder.
The Words (Sony)
A bestselling author (Dennis Quaid) reads a passage from his novel, called The Words, which also happens to concern a writer (Bradley Cooper) working on his first book. The character within the book then gets a book with another set of characters, and… further and further this films goes up its multi-stranded literary ass.