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HOME MOVIES

By Karen Martin

This article was published December 27, 2013 at 2:13 a.m.

Staying in on New Year’s Eve? Take advantage of the opportunity to swig glasses of bubbly and watch some of Home Movies’ favorite 2013 releases on Blu-ray and DVD: Mud (PG-13, 130 minutes) Arkansan Jeff Nichols’ Mud, filmed around Stuttgart, concerns two nearly feral boys (Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland) who, while roaming the riverbanks that edge their home, run across a fascinating fugitive (Matthew McConaughey) who entices them to help him evade bounty hunters on his trail as well as reunite with his problematic true love (Reese Witherspoon). The film, says our critic Philip Martin, is about relationships that are tenuous and inescapable, desperate and fraught with misplaced romance. “ It’s about facing up to a world indifferent to your wishes, about awaking from the dream of childhood and discovering limitations in the people you love, and loving the many way. It is a boys’ adventure story graced with magical realism and touched up with some gritty Southern naturalism. It is indisputably one of the best films of its rare type, a thoughtful and accessible movie that, even with a little spasm of violence near the end, might be enjoyed (and even cherished) by all ages.” With Ray McKinnon, Sarah Paulson, Sam Shepard, Michael Shannon.

Short Term 12 (R, 96 minutes) A group home for at-risk teenagers is the sort of community effort that attracts hefty contributions from philanthropic types at stylish wine-and-canape fundraisers.But most of those partygoers (not to mention the rest of us) have never been inside one. Realistic, honest and intelligent, Short Term 12, which opened this year’s Little Rock Film Festival, gives audiences a fly-on-the-wall view of goings-on at such a home. It’s a place where a roomful of laughter can change in a flash into a shouting frenzy complete with chair-throwing, where a pair of spiteful enemies can find common ground during an outdoor athletic competition, where a thoughtless remark by a staff member can result in a burst of tears, where a brief visit from a friend or relative can create an atmosphere of enthusiasm and hope. With Brie Larson, Kaitlyn Dever, John Gallagher Jr.; directed by Destin Cretton.

Enough Said (PG-13, 93 minutes) In Nicole Holofcener’s sweetly funny middle-age romance, Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays a funny, self-effacing divorced masseuse named Eva, whose well-adjusted daughter is about to depart for college. Accompanied by her best friend Sarah (Toni Collette) and her husband Will (Ben Falcone), Eva goes to a poolside party where she meets a potential client in poet Marianne (Catherine Keener) and a potential romantic prospect in museum curator and fellow future empty-nester Albert (the late James Gandolfini, in one of his last roles). Complications ensue, mostly caused by the negativity Eva hears about husbands from Marianne and Sarah, which makes her question her growing attraction for Albert.

The Hunt (R, 115 minutes) Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt is a movie about a moral panic and outrage in a small Danish village. Beautifully shot by cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen (whose work here won the Vulcain Prize at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival), it concerns kindly divorced teacher’s assistant Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), whose lonely life improves when he enters a new relationship and renews a bond with his son. Then what starts out as a little girl’s white lie eventually tears his world apart. With Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkopp. Subtitled.

The Spectacular Now (R, 95 minutes) This is the unsentimental tale of Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), a high school senior and effortless charmer, and of how he unexpectedly falls in love with “good girl” Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley), who’s not as predictable as she seems. What starts as an unlikely romance becomes a sharp-eyed examination of the heady confusion and haunting passion of youth, one that doesn’t look for tidy truths. With Brie Larson, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary Elizabeth Winstead; directed by James Ponsoldt.

The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete (R, 108 minutes) A spellbinding, no-nonsense urban drama, George Tillman Jr.’s brutally honest story follows two kids: cocky, resourceful and sometimes delusional 14-year-old Mister (Skylan Brooks) and puppy-like 9-year-old Pete (Ethan Dizon), who are forced to make their own way through a hot summer - and hide out from the dreaded child protective services department - in a far-from-gentrified Brooklyn housing project when Pete’s incapable mother pretty much disappears and Mister’s drug-addled mother is taken into custody.With Jennifer Hudson, Jordin Sparks, Anthony Mackie, Jeffrey Wright.

What Maisie Knew (R, 99 minutes) In What Maisie Knew, Julianne Moore’s Susanna is an aging rocker - over-dyed too-long hair, ridiculously high heels, too-tight jeans and troweled-on makeup - who relives the glory days by watching her live performances on a big-screen TV with her band mates and noodling around on a grand piano while writing songs. She’s not famous enough to be recognized on the street, but has a strong enough fan base to afford a handsome Tribeca apartment, complete with a recording studio and a uniformed doorman. With the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle comes a narcissism and inflated sense of importance that is rivaled only by that of her partner, obnoxious art dealer Beall (Steve Coogan).

The nasty pair spend their time together hurling brutal insults, accusations and putdowns at each other. Think Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? without the literacy - there is nothing glamorous or clever about their arguments. Each is out to do as much down-and-dirty damage as possible.

In the midst of their ongoing war is 6-year-old daughter Maisie (Onata Aprile) - creative, intelligent, curious, well stocked with toys and adorably dressed. She’s being raised by selfish parents who forget to pick her up from school, drop her off without notice on doorsteps of people who may or may not be home, and seem to be aware of Maisie only when she’s standing in front of them. They certainly don’t care that their viciousness is raining blows down on this delicate, defenseless little girl. She takes it without complaint. It’s the only life she knows.

This is tough stuff, and directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel don’t let up. So be prepared.

MovieStyle, Pages 29 on 12/27/2013

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