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Home movies

By Philip Martin

This article was published June 25, 2010 at 4:09 a.m.

— Recent DVD releases:

The Children’s War (Not rated, 64 minutes) - Earnest and harrowing, if somewhat thin, documentary about the Lord’s Resistance Army, a militant “Christian” group in northern Uganda led by war criminal and “prophet” Joseph Kony, which has been engaged in armed rebellion against the Ugandan government since 1986. In the process, the LRA has kidnapped and conscripted “soldiers” as young as 5 years old. Texas filmmaker Bryan Singlepresents the horrific testimony of survivors. More an informational video than a cinematic experience, it’s nevertheless a vital, important project.

Grade: 87

Fuel (Not rated, 112 minutes) - 2008 Sundance award-winning documentary (directed by biodiesel advocate Joshua Tickell) shows the not-so-shocking connections between the auto industry, the oil industry and the government, prescriptively offering alternatives such as solar and wind power, electric cars and his converted Winnebago, the “Veggie Van.”

Grade: 83

The Good Guy (R, 91 minutes) - Mild, pleasant, obvious romantic comedy set on Wall Street that’s most notable for its (maybe accurate) portrayal of young brokers as amoral idiots oblivious to the real-life consequences of their risky business. With perpetual ingenue Alexis Bledel as the innocent introduced to the heady world of high finance, Scott Porter as the hotshot dealer with whom she hooks up and Bryan Greenberg in what, were this a finer movie, we might call the Jimmy Stewart role of the awkward, bookish new guy whose conscience and sense of irony might be just a little too developed for his own good. With Andrew McCarthy as the boss!

Grade: 83

Green Zone (R, 115 minutes) - While Universal made a tactical error in marketing this movie as an unofficial sequel to the Bourne movies (the theorybeing that lukewarm reception to Green Zone effectively killed any momentum for the next Bourne installment), in truth there’s a lot to like in directorPaul Greengrass’ fast-break freneticism and in the evocatively fictionalized Iraq war story told here. It’s nothing we haven’t heard before, but - for Hollywood, at least - it’s nuanced and exciting storytelling.

Grade: 86

The Last Station (R, 112 minutes) - Based on the fact-derived novel by Jay Parini, and buttressed by two of the past year’s most entertaining performances - Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren were deservedly nominated for Oscars for their portrayals of Count Leo Tolstoy and his long-suffering wife, Sofya - Michael Hoffman’s film is, as a whole, slightly underwhelming, in part because Tolstoy is simply too big a figure to fit into a two-hour drama. Still the story of Tolstoy’s 11th-hour escape from his country estate and his partner and collaborator of 48 years is an interesting anecdote.

Grade: 86

The Maid (Not rated, 95 minutes) - Chilean director Sebastian Silva’s deeply intelligent, empathetic drama about a loyal (and simple) household servant (played with remarkable discipline by Catalina Saavedra) was quite likely the best movie with any sort of national distribution that didn’t make it to Arkansas theaters in 2009. Fascinating, humane and compellingly honest.

Grade: 90

Rock Slyde (PG-13, 86 minutes) - One of those movies you can judge by its DVD jacket: Patrick Warburton is Rock Slyde, private detective. Andy Dick is the villain, Rena Sofer is the girl, the Naked Gun movies are the model. Jason Alexander, Brian Bosworth and Jerry Cantrell show up for cameos.It’s not horrible, but it’s to a specific taste.

Grade: 85

She’s Out of My League (PG-13, 86 minutes) - Sweeter and more humane than the trailers indicated, but this good-natured nerd-gets-hottie fantasy simply wasn’t as consistently funny as The Hangover, the 2009 movie to which it was invariably compared. Still, it has a few quality moments, and it doesn’t default to the angry ugliness of so many fraternity-boy sexual comedies.

Grade: 84

MovieStyle, Pages 35 on 06/25/2010

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