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— Recent DVD releases:

Bass Ackwards (Not rated, 103 minutes) - Micro-budget indie (don’t call it mumblecore) executive produced by Mark Duplass and directed by its writer star Linas Phillips, who plays a young man named Linas who embarks on a cross-country journey in a VW bus after the end of a disastrous affair. While the movie itself isn’t bad - it’s mild and quirky without the smugness that tends to infect these scruffy little films - it is most notable for its novel distribution system, which made it available nationally via most cable and satellite TV providers’ on-demand services the day after its premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Grade: 86

Beautiful (R, 103 minutes) - Cryptic Australian thriller, the first film by Dean O’Flaherty, about some girls who disappear from an idyllic suburb and the teenagers who try to solve the mystery, is well acted (Peta Wilson and Deborra-Lee Furness appear in supporting roles), beautifully photographed and otherwise finely realized. If it’s not the equal of some of the films it evokes (American Beauty, Blue Velvet), it’s certainly worth a rental.

Grade: 87

Blood on the Highway (R, 88 minutes) - Cheesy self aware horror movie chockfull of gory gags and sex jokes, a few of which click. May find a home with cultists looking to adopt.

Grade: 83

Crazy (R, 106 minutes) - Bio-pic of ’50s country-jazz guitar picker Hank Garland (played here by musician Waylon Payne) is straight ahead formula with surprisingly high production values (for a low-budget period piece) and a genuine feel for the music. While it’s probably no coincidence that it’s being released in the same vicinity as the higher-profile Crazy Heart, this is a movie that deserves to be considered on its on modest terms.

Grade: 86

The Crazies (R, 101 minutes) - Remake of the George Romero film features Timothy Olyphant as the sheriff of a peaceful small town where things begin to go horribly awry. Meh.

Grade: 79

Creation ( PG-13, 108 minutes) - Disappointingly soapy drama about the domestic life of Charles Darwin (Paul Bettany). Jennifer Connelly plays his wife, Emma. A squandered opportunity.

Grade: 77

Everlasting Moments (Not rated, 131 minutes) - Jan Troell’s beautiful and evocative 2008 film about a simple Swedish housewife who, in 1911, begins to discover her artistic soul after being gifted with a camera. A genuinely wonderful film.

Grade: 90

Hot Tub Time Machine ( PG-13, 98 minutes) - Mindlessness done pretty well. Three middle-aged friends and a Gen Next tag along whose lives haven’t turned out as they’d hoped travel back to 1986 via the titular device. Stupid fun ensues, some of it involving Crispin Glover.

Grade: 85

Pretty Bird (R, 120 minutes) - While the names attached to Paul Schneider’s directorial debut (Paul Giamatti, Billy Crudup, Kristen Wiig) might make it sound attractive, there’s a reason this 2008 black comedy - allegedly based on a true story about entrepreneurs looking to manufacture a rocket belt - never made it to a theater near you.

Grade: 78

TiMER (R, 99 minutes) - Despite its far-fetched premise - in an alternate universe where love is preordained, for a nominal charge, an implant in your wrist will count down the years, months and hours until you meet your soul mate - Jac Schaeffer’s debut feature has a surfeit of low-budget, high-concept indie charm and an adorable lead in Emma Caulfield (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

Grade: 82

The White Ribbon (R, 145 minutes) - While Michael Haneke’s Oscar-nominated The White Ribbon has about it a whiff of Old World masterpiece, it’s also the sort of strident, rigorous work that could be taken - or even meant - as a bitter joke. It is a movie about a series of inexplicable - maybe senseless - cruelties committed in a fictitious German village called Eichwald in the months before the outbreak of WorldWar I. It is narrated by an elderly schoolteacher looking back on the events from a great distance - presumably after World War II. While it may be taken as an open ended puzzle film, similar in ways to Haneke’s 2006 film Cache, it also intends to be a kind of philosophical inquiry into the nature of evil or, as the director puts it, “terrorism”: These are the children who grew up to be Nazis and “Good Germans,” but the village of Eichwald also evokes the grotesques of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. There is a forensic, matterof-fact tone to the film that reads as sober and authentic, even to those of us who suspect Haneke has a heartbeat and a sense of humor.

Grade: 90

MovieStyle, Pages 33 on 07/02/2010

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