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DVDs In Brief: February 1, 2012


DVD round-up

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Albert Brooks’ chilling against-type performance as a vicious gangster in Drive (Sony) failed to earn him an expected Best Supporting Actor nomination, but then violent genre fare like Nicolas Winding Refn’s minimalist thriller rarely gets the recognition it deserves. Operating in the stripped-down yet stylish aesthetic of films like Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samourai, Walter Hill’s The Driver, and William Friedkin’s To Live And Die In L.A., Refn and a first-rate cast deliver a mood piece spiked with instances of shocking violence…

Mary Elizabeth Winstead fights a nigh-endless series of CGI special effects in The Thing (Universal), nominally a prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter movie, but in actuality more of a stealth remake with modern—and less believable, and less interesting—special effects. It’s pretty much a standard slasher film, where the slasher is a writhing ball of computerized fangs and tentacles…

Writer-director Andrew Niccol doesn’t quite plagiarize his Gattaca with In Time (Fox), a chilly, poreless science-fiction movie in which everyone lives according to clocks built into their arms, and time is literally money. But both films follow the same familiar dystopian plot by pitting the have-nots (including protagonist Justin Timberlake) against the haves (including love interest Amanda Seyfried) in an inherently inequitable system. Problem is, where Gattaca emphasized character, In Time is more about the unmissable, heavy-handed metaphors…

In theory, the box-office flop Dream House (Universal) creates an unsettling world where a loving couple (Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz) moves to a beautiful suburban home where weird events build up to a big twist. But in practice, the setup is so ham-handed and unconvincing that the twist becomes ridiculous, and the film is a swift roll downhill from there. Given that it cost $50 million and made $20 million at the box office, potential viewers weren’t even convinced by the ad campaign, let alone the film…

Owen Wilson, Steve Martin, and Jack Black teaming up for a film ought to be eventful, even if it is a fact-based comedy about bird watching. But The Big Year (Fox), which you might vaguely remember coming out late last year, is dull stuff that strands its potentially funny cast amidst a lot of dewy-eyed life lessons. At least the birds are photogenic.