Nebraska, directed by Alexander Payne (R, 114 minutes)
Nominated for six Academy Awards (including best picture), Nebraska stars Bruce Dern in a perfectly pitched performance as ill-tempered, hard-drinking Woody Grant, who delusionally determines he’s a winner of a Publishers Clearinghouse-style sweepstakes and intends to go to the company’s Lincoln, Neb., headquarters to claim his million-dollar prize. Starting out on foot from his home in chilly Billings, Mont., he persuades his ineffectual adult son David (Will Forte), with whom he does not share an agreeable relationship, to drive him.
The ensuing journey, which includes a stop at Dad’s ancestral home in a small Nebraska town and mingling with the people he grew up with, reveals much about the past, which will inevitably influence the future for both men. With June Squibb as Woody’s feisty wife, Kate; Bob Odenkirk as David’s more successful brother, Ross; and Stacy Keach as Woody’s former business partner, Ed.
The Blu-ray release includes the film in high definition and six making-of featurettes.
How I Live Now, (R, 101 minutes) Director Kevin Macdonald (Last King of Scotland, Touching the Void) adapted Meg Rosoff’s book How I Live Now into a gritty, realistic anti-war movie that’s only a bit relieved by a bittersweet love story set in rural England against the backdrop of World War III.
Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) plays Daisy, a surly goth Manhattan teenager sent to stay with relatives in a noisy, charming, pet-filled home in the English countryside, an oasis in the midst of global tensions. Initially withdrawn and alienated, she begins to warm up to her charming surroundings and strikes up a romance with her handsome step-cousin Edmund (George MacKay).But on the fringes of their idyllic summer days are tense news reports of an escalating conflict in Europe. As London and the rest of the U.K. falls into a violent and chaotic military state, Daisy finds herself hiding and fighting to survive in a world where peace efforts have failed. With Tom Holland, Harley Bird, Anna Chancellor.
Foreign Correspondent (PG, 120 minutes; Criterion Collection release) Alfred Hitchcock directs this imaginative and suspenseful 1940 espionage thriller in which an American journalist (Joel McCrea) is sent by his newspaper to cover the chaotic scene in Europe from 1938 to 1940. That’s where he encounters assassinations, bullet-dodging street chases, romance, melodrama, subversive organizations, comedy, plane crashes and Nazi bomb drops. With Albert Bassermann, Edmund Gwenn, Laraine Day, George Sanders and Herbert Marshall. Written by Joan Harrison, James Hilton and Robert Benchley. The Criterion disc features a new digital restoration, a radio adaptation of the film from 1946, an interview with Hitchcock that aired on a 1972 episode of The Dick Cavett Show, an interview with writer Mark Harris, and a featurette on the film’s visual effects.
On the Job (unrated, 120 minutes) This intriguing, self-confident and detailed Philippine crime drama concerns two inmates who are pulled out of a Manila prison to carry out assassinations of enemies of the government, then returned to their cells (with airtight alibis). Two cops of the rare honest variety are baffled by the rising body count, but are on the killers’ trail. All four are at the mercy of government officials who will do anything to keep the scheme from being discovered. With Piolo Pascual, Joel Torre, Gerald Anderson, Angel Aquino; directed by Erik Matti.
Dallas Buyers Club (R, 117 minutes) Ron Woodroof, played brilliantly by Matthew McConaughey, is not a typical AIDS activist. A scrawny, homophobic bull rider, electrician and general grifter in a 10-gallon hat and cowboy boots, he drinks, enjoys drugs, and spends his time with Texas hookers and rodeo groupies. Imagine his astonishment when he’s stricken with the AIDS virus in 1985, a situation that turns his zest for self-promotion into a unique form of humanitarianism.
After the shock wears off, Ron goes to a library, researches the disease and is back at the hospital demanding the drug AZT from Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner). Told the FDA has yet to approve the drug, he connives a way to get his own supply from an orderly, but when that fails to help him he heads to Mexico, where a disgraced American doctor (Griffin Dunne) sets him straight with a series of as-yet-unapproved drugs.
Seeing a business opportunity, Woodroof quickly sets up shop back in Dallas, selling these drugs to desperate patients including elegant drag queen Rayon (Jared Leto, another amazing performance). The two of them then set up the Dallas Buyers Club in a sleazy motel, wherein the patients pay a flat monthly fee for all the under-the-counter medications they can hold. Business quickly begins booming, which gets the attention of the FDA and local medical officials who have been aggressively testing AZT alone as a potential solution to the HIV problem.
McConaughey (who lost an astounding amount of weight for this role) and French-Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallee work hard to ensure their depiction of Woodroof never wavers into symbolism. Woodroof isn’t portrayed as a martyred humanist; he’s flesh and blood, easily bruised and angry; a survivor, at least to a point, but hardly a saint.
MovieStyle, Pages 34 on 02/21/2014
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