Pick Of The Week: New
Luck: Season One (HBO)
The second season of David Milch’s doomed HBO series—ordered without the incentive of a particularly successful first season—was cut short when a spate a horse deaths led to network to cancel the show in the middle of production. It had to be an excruciating loss for Milch, the mastermind behind Hill Street Blues and Deadwood, given his passion for horse racing and the evident love for horses that appeared on screen. But all that sour residue shouldn’t stain Luck, a gorgeous and lovingly detailed slice-of-life about every aspect of the sport—the owners and trainers, the jockeys and their agents, the degenerate gamblers who turn up every day, and, in Dustin Hoffman’s gangster, the money and muscle that keep the operation humming. The show takes some work to sort out—guides like this one are helpful—but it’s worth the effort.
Pick Of The Week: Retro
Nothing this week. The holidays have a way of shutting that whole thing down.
Don’t Break The Seal
The Apparition (Warner Bros.)
PG-13 horror movies are the scourge of the genre. A PG-13 horror movie released at the very end of August is less promising still. Add to that an 84-minute running time with slow-crawling end credits, and The Apparition is the wrong kind of late-summer nightmare. In his “D” review, The A.V. Club’s Keith Phipps recognized some potential in its setting of a haunted house in the middle of many unsold suburban lots, but getting scares through suggestion only works if the director doing the suggesting knows what he’s doing.” Phipps offers this specific warning, however: “Viewers scared of finding their clothes tied in knots should stay far away.”
Men In Black 3 (Sony)
Summer sequels don’t get much more disposable than MIB3, the latest in a franchise that had one great idea—a secret government organization to contain the alien threat—and needed only one movie to exploit it thoroughly. And yet MIB3 has an ace in the hole in Josh Brolin, whose impersonation of a young Tommy Lee Jones is so scarily exact, it makes the movie better than it had any right to be.
Among the animation cognoscenti, ParaNorman rivaled Brave as the year’s most anticipated movie, being the second stop-motion 3-D film from Laika, the production company responsible for the wonderful Coraline. By those standards, it’s disappointingly haphazard, but The A.V. Club’s Tasha Robinson notes, the film “ups the ante with new technology that allows for more variety in character design” and has a great Jon Brion score instead of “the usual selection of pop hits.”
Step Up Revolution (Summit)
The question hovering over Step Up Revolution (a.k.a. Step Up 4: Miami Heat or Step Up 4Ever) was this: What kind of impact would its radical dance dance revolution have on the November elections? Now we know it swung the results in Obama’s direction—that and the Lena Dunham virgin ad maybe—the film’s flash mob propaganda might not have been worth it.
Director John Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave—the team responsible for The Proposition—return with another revisionist period shoot-‘em-up, this one about bootleggers in the wilds of Prohibition-era Virginia. The A.V. Club’s Keith Phipps calls it “a lyrical, meditative movie stretched over the skeleton of a lurid thriller, a self-consciously high-quality film that’s even better when those bones start to break through.”
Whitney Houston’s final screen performance passes the torch to American Idol winner Jordin Sparks in this serviceable remake of the 1976 Diana Ross vehicle about a Harlem girl group in the '50s. The A.V. Club’s Keith Phipps praises Sparks’ “appealing presence and open, expressive face,” but complains that the film “keeps her passive and out of the spotlight until the finale.”
ESPN Films 30 For 30: 9.79 (Team Marketing)
Easily the best of the current crop of 30 For 30 entries, Daniel Gorden’s documentary about the scandalized 100m dash at the Summer Olympics in Seoul delves into the plague of performance-enhancing drugs at the event and its attendant hypocrisies.