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Home movies

By Philip Martin

This article was published June 18, 2010 at 3:45 a.m.

— Recent DVD releases:

The Book of Eli (R, 118 minutes) - Denzel Washington does the khaki-tinged postapocalyptic movie. He stars as Eli, the righteous bearer of the mysterious “book,” traversing the ruined landscape looking for ... ? Well, what he finds is trouble in the form of a group of cannibal hijackers led by (who else?) Gary Oldman. While the movie has illusions of portentousness, it can - and should - be taken as a chance to see good actors having a little too much ultra-violent fun.

Grade: 81

Burma VJ (Not rated, 84 minutes) - Mesmerizing, Oscar-nominated inside look into the 2007 uprising via the cameras of 30 or so underground videographers who risked torture and prison to record the chaotic events surrounding the rebellion of Buddhist monks against the repressive military regime. (Foreign press crews were prevented from entering the country and the Internet shut down.) Assembled by Danish documentarian Anders Ostergaard from footage smuggled out of the country.

Grade: 88

Happy Tears (R, 95 minutes) - Demi Moore and Parker Posey play polar-opposite sisters dealing with their aging father (Rip Torn) who’s showing signs of senility, soiling himself and shacking up with his “nurse” (Ellen Barkin). While the film suffers from a lack of tonal control - it shifts abruptly between comic and tearjerking modes - the performances (especially by Moore and Barkin) are pretty interesting. Trivia note: Director Mitchell Lichtenstein is the son of artist Roy Lichtenstein.

Grade: 82

It Came From Kuchar (Not Rated, 86 minutes) - It’s ironic that director Jennifer M. Kroot was able to make a good movie about twin brothers George and Mike Kuchar, the low-budget underground auteurs who have been cranking out terrible low-budget genre films since the early 1960s (Corruption of the Damned, Sins of the Fleshapoids and Hold Me While I’m Naked are among their most notable works). Kroot obviously harbors some affection for the Kuchars (especially George, who comes across in interviews as a kind and thoughtful kook), and she marshals an impressive roster of talking heads (filmmakers Atom Egoyan, John Waters and Guy Madden among them) to make the case for their remarkably bent 8-millimeter visions. Grade: 87

When in Rome (PG-13, 91 minutes) - In this film, we are expected to suspend our disbelief and accept that the adorable Kristen Bell needs some sort of crackpot magic spell to attract suitors.Anyway, a coin in the Trevi fountain causes Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Dax Shepard and Danny DeVito to fall deeply in love with Bell’s Beth, a lonely Guggenheim Museum curator. But here’s also Nick (Josh Duhamel), who loves Beth despite not falling under the fountain’s curse. But she doesn’t know that. They don’t come more contrived and by-the-numbers than this, folks, though there is a weird bit that has Heder re-visiting his Napoleon Dynamite character for no discernible reason.

Grade: 77

Youth in Revolt (R, 90 minutes) - Michael Cera goes to the sweet-tempered high school persona well once (or twice) too often with, sigh, Nick Twisp, who lives in hormonal agony with his sex-obsessed divorced mother (Jean Smart) and her nasty boyfriend. Nick meets the girl of his daydreams, Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), during a typically low-rent family getaway, and develops a dangerous alter-ego to woo her. But despite inevitable escalation of Nick’s mold-breaking felonies, the whole production ends up feeling rather flat and redundant, as Cera’s considerable charm begins to wear thin. Still, we hold out hope for Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. Grade: 80

MovieStyle, Pages 38 on 06/18/2010

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