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Home movies

By Philip Martin

This article was published April 23, 2010 at 3:57 a.m.

— Recent DVD releases:

Avatar (PG-13, 161 minutes) James Cameron’s latest exploding inevitable rushes to DVD. By now you’ve likely formed your opinion of it, whether or not you’ve seen it. My own opinion is that it’s less a movie than the prototype for some new kind of immersive entertainment experience and that reviewing it is about as rewarding as reviewing a beach ball. Anyway, be advised that this is a bare-bones release, with no extras, and that there will likely be a special collector’s edition released at a premium price before the end of the year.

Grade: 85

Cheech & Chong’s Hey WatchThis (R, 83 minutes) In 2009, the venerable comedy team reunited after 25 years and toured America. This show was filmed in San Antonio’s Majestic Theater and it’s about what you’d expect if you’re a fan of the duo. Old bits get tweaked in interesting ways, and Tommy Chong addresses his recent incarceration for selling drug paraphernalia.

Grade: 83

Crazy Heart (R, 111 minutes) A solid (if unremarkable) script presented in a straightforward, restrained manner but enlivened by naturalistic, honest acting, Crazy Heart is more than the sum of its parts.While it probably helps if you have a taste for No Depressionstyle Americana, Jeff Bridges’ Oscar-winning portrayal of the central Merle Haggard/ Kris Kristofferson/Billy Joe Shaver character is as lovely as advertised; Maggie Gyllenhaal does her best work since Secretary and Colin Farrell is a pleasure in his uncredited role as a big-hat country superstar.

Grade: 88

Cloud Nine (Not Rated, 98 minutes) An explicit, minimalist German drama about an ordinary-looking 67-year-old woman (Ursula Werner), who embarks on an adulterous affair with a vigorous 76-year-old man (Horst Westphal). While that description alone might be enough to put some people off the film, Werner’s performance as a confused, love-struck senior citizen who is jolted out of her placid (and content) domesticity by an 11th-hour infatuation is genuinely touching.

Grade: 87

The Lovely Bones (PG-13, 130 minutes) A failed movie that may deserve a look on DVD, The Lovely Bones is an odd and sometimes dispiriting movie that lurches wildly between wishful fantasy and gritty crime procedural. While young Saoirse Ronan is entirely watchable, with an alert, intelligent and rapt face capable ofconveying comprehension and confusion in the same look, director Peter Jackson thrusts her through his movie like a petulant child playing with an embattled rag doll. Her 14-year-old character isn’t merely abused and murdered by the creepy suburbanite George Harvey (Stanley Tucci), but by a creepy director who constructs for her a risible vision of heaven’s waiting room, a sunny vulgar space where whims are literalized. While it’s not a complete botch, and an audience divorced from the source material might receive the movie differently, The Lovely Bones feels inert and superfluous, a tone-deaf interpretation of someone else’s song.

Grade: 83

Peacock (PG-13, 90 minutes) A surprisingly effective (given its miniscule theatrical release) sub-Hitchcock thriller with an excellent cast, Peacock gives us Cillian Murphy as John Skillpa, a timid bank clerk living in small town Nebraska in the ’50s, whose life is disrupted when a train caboose derails and crashes into his backyard. With a very strong cast, including Ellen Page, Susan Sarandon, Bill Pullman and Josh Lucas, Peacock is a disturbing, smart film that deserved better.

Grade: 87

Prom Wars (R, 89 minutes) Generic Canadian teen comedy. The title tells you just about everything, but it’s less raunchy than you might expect - the rating is for language and teen drinking.

Grade: 77

The Tiger Next Door (PG, 86 minutes) Camilla Calamandrei’s documentary starts out with the startling assertion that there are likely more tigers being held privately in the United States than exist in the wild, then proceeds to introduce us to the wildly entertaining Dennis Hill, a former meth addict who collected 24 of the big cats on his Indiana farm until a surprise government inspection cost him his license to keep and breed the animals.

Grade: 86

The Young Victoria (PG, 100 minutes) When the film opened theatrically, our reviewer Karen Martin wrote: “British period pieces are often stately, historically significant, and awfully dull. Not The Young Victoria. Jean-Marc Vallee’s imaginings of life in 1837 as seen through the eyes of a youthful English queen is saucy and vibrant, more charming than educational or instructive.” She liked the movie’s unstuffy attitude, and Emily Blunt’s lightly worn performance. I concur.

Grade: 86

MovieStyle, Pages 35 on 04/23/2010

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