DVDs In Brief: November 16, 2011

DVDs In Brief: November 16, 2011

Writer-director Mike Mills (Thumbsucker) drew on his own personal history for Beginners (Universal), a moving indie drama about a lonely thirtysomething (Ewan McGregor) coming to terms with his father’s late-life change in sexual orientation and subsequent death from lung cancer. As the father, Christopher Plummer dominates the film with his touching exuberance and heart, and whenever it lapses into quirkiness—much of it dealing with McGregor’s on-again/off-again romance with an equally commitment-phobic French actress (Mélanie Laurent)—Plummer’s performance swaddles the film like a warm blanket… 

Tom Hanks’ directorial career got off to a winning start with That Thing You Do! back in 1996, but he seems to have lost all momentum in the years between. Hanks stars as the eponymous Larry Crowne (Universal), a divorced man who decides to go back to school when he’s laid off from his job at a Wal-mart-like mega store. There he has cutesy/sleepy adventures, including a romance with a hard-drinking speech teacher played by Julia Roberts. Nia Vardalos' bland script defuses whatever chemistry they create…

Like some unholy cross between Blue Valentine and The Road Warrior, the Sundance favorite Bellflower (Oscilloscope) is an apocalyptic break-up movie, melding the tortured dissolution of a relationship with muscle cars, flamethrowers, and much uglier shows of aggression. There’s no denying that writer/director/star Evan Glodell has a remarkable eye—the heavily treated, hyper-saturated color photography is a clear highlight—but the film loses itself in repetition and rampant misogyny…

The premise of two simultaneous bank robberies—one by a high-tech group of thieves (led by Mekhi Phifer) in the Hans Gruber-in-Die Hard tradition, the other two smash-and-grab dummies (Tim Blake Nelson and Pruitt Taylor Vince)—may be unlikely in the extreme, but there’s plenty of potential for Flypaper (IFC) to be a tense caper comedy. But writer-director Rob Minkoff errs on the side of wacky and errs further by casting Patrick Dempsey as a Rain Man type who manically deconstructs the situation from the sidelines… 

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