DVDs In Brief: August 4, 2010

DVDs In Brief: August 4, 2010

Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s comic-book series Kick-Ass professes to explore what superhero life would be like in the real world—which is to say, bloody, violent, and disturbing. Matthew Vaughn’s film adaptation Kick-Ass (Lionsgate) dumps a lot of the gore and grimness in favor of a more four-color version with room for plenty of Nicolas Cage mugging, sex gags, funny music cues, and big explosions, with the result that the film isn’t purely a superhero movie, a parody, or a teen comedy, it’s an erratic, unsatisfying combination of all the above…

A thriller of great wit and consummate craftsmanship, Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer (Summit) is the kind of small-scale triumph the director could pull off in his sleep, but minor pleasures are pleasures nonetheless. Ewan McGregor stars as an author-for-hire enlisted to finish the memoirs of a disgraced former prime minister (Pierce Brosnan) who lives on a small island. The personal resonance for Polanski, a filmmaker in exile, is unmistakable, and Olivia Williams’ steely performance as the politician’s wife is a standout… 

The first third of Jacque Audiard’s A Prophet is as good as any movie this year—a taut, gut-wrenching portrait of a young Arab prisoner (Tahar Rahim) forced into committing a terrible act of violence. The other two-thirds are nearly as good, following him as he slowly climbs the ladder and loses himself in the process. His journey is predictable, but Audiard handles it with the thrilling aplomb of a Martin Scorsese movie… 

Following a car accident, a young woman (Christina Ricci) wakes up on a cold metal slab, where a funeral-home director (Liam Neeson) gets her ready for a viewing. Is she really alive, or in some in-between world? Is the funeral-home director a creep, or a nice guy prodding her to accept the inevitable? The inert gothic thingie After.Life (Anchor Bay) doesn’t make answering these question an urgent concern…

The film adaptation of Jeff Kinney’s Diary Of A Wimpy Kid (Fox) half-text-half-comics book series sells a relatively harmless but kind of ridiculous fantasy in which a wimpy, overconfident go-getter middle-schooler gradually learns that being yourself is the best route to popularity, and loyalty to friends is more important than that popularity. It’s a corny message, but a reasonably positive one. Or at least it would be if it weren’t thoroughly couched in screaming, farting, boogers, and other kiddie grossness.

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