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Office Christmas Party

Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…

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Harry Benson: Shoot First

The filmmakers are themselves too celebrity besotted to comment in a meaningful way on how Benson’s career balanced depictions of the rich and famous with…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Home Entertainment Consumer Guide: November 3, 2016

10 NEW TO NETFLIX

"Big Eyes"
"Bob Roberts"
"The Doors"
"Henry Gamble's Birthday Party"
"Jesus Camp"
"Kung Fu Panda 3"
"Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You"
"Pervert Park"
"Ravenous"
"Sun Choke"

13 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD

"Anthropoid"

A rarely told story of World War II gets a (mostly) thrilling update in Sean Ellis' sturdy period piece. At the height of the war, two Czechoslovakian soldiers were sent to Prague to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, the key architect of the Final Solution. Cillian Murphy is very engaging as one of the two men; Jamie Dornan is less-so as the other one. As boring as Dornan is, Ellis' film comes to life in two key sequences, a centerpiece and a finale. And fans of WWII flicks in which men speak in hushed tones about espionage will get more out of this than any similar pic in a few years. It has echoes of the similarly solid "Valkyrie."

Buy it here

Special Features
The Making of Anthropoid
Storyboard to Film Comparisons

"Bad Moms"

The writers of "The Hangover" turn their "adults behaving like kids" milieu from men in Vegas to moms in suburbia in this hit summer comedy that should find a very loyal audience on the home market. It's one of those comedies that's far from perfect but made incredibly watchable by a likable, talented cast, including Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn. It has a few too many montages of women behaving badly to pop songs (at one point, I thought the whole movie might just become that) but Kunis really anchors the piece nicely. And, yes, I too feel old at the fact that one of the stars of "That '70s Show" can ably play a suburban mother.

Buy it here

Special Features
Deleted Scenes
Gag Reel
Interview with The Cast & Thier Moms

"Imperium"

Daniel Radcliffe gives his second great performance of 2016 (after "Swiss Army Man") as FBI Agent Nate Foster, a young man who goes undercover in the White Supremacist movement after a shipment of toxic materials is stolen and the government fears another Oklahoma City bombing. Radcliffe brilliantly captures a man truly interested in human nature, and how people can be seduced by movements as horrific as White Power. There are some truly tense scenes, and they are so largely because Radcliffe has humanized this character to the point that we care about him. The movie doesn't culminate in a way that truly satisfies, but Radcliffe absolutely makes it worth seeing.

Buy it here

Special Features
Commentary with Writer/Director Ragusis and Writer Michael German
"Living Undercover" Featurette
Making Imperium
Cast/Crew Interviews
Trailer Gallery

"Lights Out"

I'm surprised how many people gave this one a pass in theaters, some even comparing it favorably to "The Conjuring 2" and "Don't Breathe." It's not in the same league as those films. Teresa Palmer is the best thing about this ghost story of a woman who can only be seen when the lights are off, but it's half-baked and no exaggeration to say that you saw everything worthwhile in the trailers. It has no surprises and its message of "depression as a physical manifestation" is poorly developed before it's used in a horrendously dangerous way in the insulting ending. Palmer and Maria Bello deserve better.

Buy it here

Special Features
Deleted Scenes

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"McCabe & Mrs. Miller" (Criterion)

The first of two Robert Altman films released recently on Criterion Blu-ray is one of the auteur's most popular works, a Western that's been analyzed and discussed at length for decades. What more is there to say about "McCabe"? Luckily, Criterion gathers some people who know quite a bit about the film and its production to offer new insight and remind us how remarkable this film truly is, especially when it comes to design and cinematography. From the buildings they literally made while they were shooting (those people constructing houses in the background are crew) to the highly-acclaimed use of natural light by Vilmos Zsigmond, "McCabe" is a perfect film for Blu-ray, as the HD transfer from Criterion allows further visual analysis. I have to say that it's an Altman film that I've never completely warmed to but this latest viewing was my favorite. It's such an easy film to admire on a technical level, and an interesting one to watch in light of Warren Beatty's comeback this year with "Rules Don't Apply." Hearing fellow cast members like Keith Carradine and Michael Murphy talk about working with him is fascinating enough for film historians to warrant a purchase.

Buy it here

Special Features
Audio commentary from 2002 featuring director Robert Altman and producer David Foster
New making-of documentary, featuring members of the Cast and Crew
New conversation about the film and Altman's career between film historians Cari Beauchamp and Rick Jewell
Featurette from the film's 1970 production
Art Directors Guild Film Society Q&A from 1999 with production designer Leon Ericksen
Excerpts from archival interviews with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond
Gallery of stills from the set by photographer Steve Schapiro
Excerpts from two 1971 episodes of The Dick Cavett Show featuring Altman and film critic Pauline Kael
Trailer
PLUS: An essay by novelist and critic Nathaniel Rich

"Men & Chicken"

What a joyously strange film this is. Mads Mikkelsen, currently in "Dr. Strange" and forever Hannibal to this fan of the NBC show, gives a glorious performance as a twisted, crazy jerk of a man who, with his brother, tries to track down his family and discovers that his family tree is full of nuts. That quote on the cover is mine and pretty much sums up the oddity that is this flick. Sadly, the final act kind of comes apart, but the build-up is funny and fast enough that it's forgivable. And anyone who loves Mads, which should be everyone, needs to see what he brings here.

Buy it here

Special Features
24-Page Booklet Featuring a Stunning Look Behind the Scenes
Trailers
Digital Download

"Short Cuts" (Criterion)

Altman #2 this week is one of my favorite films of the '90s. I can still remember being just the right age for the one-two punch of "The Player" and "Short Cuts," two films that really allowed for a reappreciation of Altman's work, at least for the teenage me. They sent me back into his catalog and I was never the same. Honestly, "Short Cuts" did more than just allow for a deeper appreciation of Altman as it also introduced me to Raymond Carver, one of my favorite authors. Altman's take on Carver's stories is one of the most accomplished and fascinating ensemble pieces of its era, capturing something about the interconnected nature of L.A. that we haven't really seen since. There are many movies that are Altman-esque but there is only one Altman.

Buy it here

Special Features
Conversation between director Robert Altman and actor Tim Robbins from 2004
Luck, Trust & Ketchup: Robert Altman in Carver Country, a feature-length 1993 documentary on the making of Short Cuts
To Write and Keep Kind, a 1992 PBS documentary on the life of author Raymond Carver
One-hour 1983 audio interview with Carver, conducted for the American Audio Prose Library
Original demo recordings of the film's Doc Pomus Mac Rebennack songs, performed by Rebennack (Dr. John)
Deleted scenes
A look inside the marketing of Short Cuts
PLUS: An essay by film critic Michael Wilmington

"Star Trek Beyond"

The third "Star Trek" film featuring the latest cast and crew received praise for playing like a really strong episode of the series instead of the nostalgia-based nods to the original series from the two J.J. Abrams films. Sure, that's true, but this is a pretty mediocre episode. Wasting Idris Elba under so much make-up is only one of the film's problems. The action is strong but I just saw it and I can barely remember the plot. I'm ready to release this cast for bigger and better projects, especially Chris Pine, who seems on the verge of a breakthrough. And this film is bittersweet now as the last major one for Anton Yelchin, an actor I already miss.

Buy it here

Special Features
Deleted Scenes
Beyond the Darkness: Story Origins
Enterprise Takedown: Destroying and Icon
Trekking in the Desert: On Location in Dubai
To Live Long and Prosper: 50 Years of Star Trek
For Leonard and Anton

Twilight Time - October 2016

The wonderful people at Twilight Time sent over their latest releases for October and this may be their best month to date. My favorite of the latest batch is the underrated "Runaway Train," but you should also revisit "Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte" and the great "Boxcar Bertha." Also this month, TT releases "The Train" with Burt Lancaster and the star-studded "The Chase" with Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda, Robert Redford, E.G. Marshall and Angie Dickinson.

Buy it here


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