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By KAREN MARTIN SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

This article was published January 4, 2013 at 1:54 a.m.

robert-pattinson-is-a-bored-billionaire-trying-to-get-across-manhattan-for-a-haircut-in-david-cronenbergs-cosmopolis

Robert Pattinson is a bored billionaire trying to get across Manhattan for a haircut in David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis.

— David Cronenberg Cosmopolis R, 109 minutes

If you've seen some of director David Cronenberg’s earlier films - Videodrome (TV executive becomes enamored of pornographic snuff films, 1982), The Fly (scientist accidentally transforms himself into a fly, 1986), Dead Ringers (twin gynecologists go nuts after falling for the same woman, 1988), Naked Lunch (hallucinations and giant bugs, 1991) - you may not remember particulars about the plots, but one thought sticks in your head: This guy creates creepy shockers that go way beyond the scope of normal imaginations.

Cronenberg’s later films, such as Crash (Los Angeles commercial director becomes fascinated with people who consider car accidents a route to eroticism, 1996), Spider (a paranoid schizophrenic moves from a psychiatric hospital into an unpleasant halfway house in east London, 2002), A History of Violence (an average American family deals with merciless brutality, 2005) and Eastern Promises (Russian mobsters in London, 2007), continue his themes of physical and mental degeneration and psychic violence. But these days you’re less likely to see the word “cult” attached to Cronenberg’s work.

Now there is Cosmopolis, a surreal story based on a slim novel by Don DeLillo that follows 28-year-old New York billionaire asset manager Eric Packer (Twilight’s Robert Pattinson) as he undertakes a cross-town journey in his superbly equipped limousine to get a haircut that leads him away from his perfectly ordered world into city riots, a parade of obnoxious visitors, and unplanned intimate encounters.

“Cosmopolis is dreamy and funny, in an off-centered way,” says David Denby in The New Yorker. “Cronenberg has retained much of DeLillo’s dialogue, which is, by turns, clipped and expansive and idea-studded - a kind of postmodernist exposition of how money functions in cyberspace. And he has come up with an equivalent to DeLillo’s curt and cool equipoise - a style of filmmaking that is classically measured and calm, without an extra shot or cut.”

The DVD release contains extras such as a “Citizens of Cosmopolis” featurette and an audio commentary with Cronenberg. The Blu-ray has all that plus interviews with the cast and crew.

Other recent releases:

Les Miserables (PG-13, 129 minutes) No, this isn’t the Russell Crowe/Hugh Jackman musical version that’s now in theaters. It’s a 1998 non-musical release starring Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean, a 19th-century convict paroled after 19 years of hard labor, with Javert, the relentlessly pursuing police inspector intent on putting Valjean behind bars again, portrayed by Geoffrey Rush. The cast includes Claire Danes as Cosette and Uma Thurman as Fantine.

“Rush plays Javert with the expression of a man who is pleased there’s a bad stink in the air because he just happens to be carrying disinfectant,” writes critic Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle. “Despite his low-affect strategy, he is able to suggest depths of anger and mental torment here - though the film might have had more perverse zip had he played Javert the same jittery way he played David Helfgott in Shine.”

Looper (R, 118 minutes) This time-travel thriller is a smart and sharply realized vision of a not too distant, not too dystopian future that doesn’t get too fussy with the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics, according to our critic, Philip Martin. “It’s one time-travel movie that won’t make your head hurt," he says in his review. “If you’re a looper [in this case played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt], your job is simple: The mark appears and you cut him down. Your victim is from the future, where he has offended your employers,who have sent him back to be dispatched, by you, 30 years in the past. He disappears from his own time, without a trace. No one looks for him in your time - if he’s alive, he’s not missing.” A conflict arises when the victim is also the looper. With Emily Blunt, Bruce Willis, Paul Dano, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels.

The Trouble With Bliss (PG-13, 97 minutes) will please fans of Michael C. Hall (Dexter), but won’t do much for those expecting a clever coming-of-age-at last tale. It tells the rather forced story of 35-year-old New Yorker Morris Bliss (Michael C. Hall), a sad sack who wants to travel but has no money, needs a job but has no prospects and shares a walk up East Village apartment with his disdainful, exasperated father (Peter Fonda) while carrying on weird relationships with a sexy 18-year-old (Brie Larson) and a flirtatious married neighbor (Lucy Liu).

Karen Martin is a Little Rock based writer and critic. E-mail her at karenmartin18@gmail.com

MovieStyle, Pages 29 on 01/04/2013

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