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12/14/10

Highly Recommended

Josh Fox in GASLAND

*** GasLand (New Video) — In addition to Fox’s engaging persona, what ultimately makes GasLand so effective and convincing is that he hasn’t made this film to brashly declare that natural gas drilling is 100% evil. All he’s asking is that the powers-that-be proceed with caution—led by legitimate government regulation, first and foremost—in order to make sure that fracking isn’t going to ruin our precious watersheds in our rush to become as self-sufficient as possible (and to make a handful of rich people even richer). Read the rest of my review, then buy it on DVD.

*** Exit Through The Gift Shop (Oscilloscope) — Is invisible street artist Banksy’s debut feature an outright joke? Is it an actual profile of the Mr. Magoo-like Thierry Gutta (aka Mr. Brainwash), a video camera toting hanger on who spent years filming street artists only to become a known street artist himself? Does it condemn Gutta for his accidental success? Does it mock art aficionados for falling for Gutta’s shtick? Is it a shtick? Who knows. I’d like to think Exit Through The Gift Shop is a carefully orchestrated satire of the modern art world—Andy Warhol, most directly—that brilliantly exposes the absurdity of attaching so much monetary value to work that most of us walk past on the street without even noticing. Oh yeah, and it’s entertaining as sh*t. Buy it on DVD.

*** Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (IFC Films) — No matter what you think of Joan Rivers—obnoxious, groundbreaking, hilarious, annoying, piercingly honest, grotesquely plastic—Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg’s documentary is sure to make you see her in a different light. At the very least, you’ll never doubt her devotion to her profession ever again. While it might sound strange to compare Stern and Sundberg’s portrait of the tireless comedienne to Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster, I had an oddly similar reaction watching both of these films. Stern and Sundberg pull off a feat similar to Berlinger and Sinofsky, in that they present sides of their subject that make you want to dismiss and judge Rivers, even as you find your admiration for her growing. Read my full review, then buy it on DVD or Blu-ray.

Once Brothers (NBA Entertainment) — t isn’t just the recent streak of less-than-mediocre entries in ESPN’s 30 For 30 series that makes Michael Tolajian’s Once Brothers stand out. It’s a very strong work, in which the grand scope of the Yugoslav Wars of the early 1990s is personalized through the relationship—and unfortunate falling out—between former NBA stars Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic. As civil war broke out on the many-sided divide but in Croatia and Serbia in particular, Petrovic, a serious Croat, ended his relationship with Divac, an upbeat Serb. For reasons you either already know or will find out three paragraphs from now, Divac is the sole present-day narrator of this story, as he journeys back to his homeland to reflect upon this somber chapter in not just his country’s history, but in his own life. Read my full review, then buy it on DVD.

Recommended

Cyrus (Fox Searchlight) — The Fox Searchlight logo appears… John C. Reilly shows up on screen… alongside Catherine Keener… here comes Marisa Tomei… and, wait a minute, is that Jonah Hill? Yet why does this movie not feel like a Hollywood movie? Why does it have a mellower vibe than most? That’s because it was made by none other than Jay and Mark Duplass, the low-key/bro-key duo responsible for inspiring a generation of micro-budget filmmakers with their debut feature The Puffy Chair (though, for my money, their 15-minute short film The Intervention is their true breakout). In their leap to a seven-figure production starring actual movie stars, the Duplass Brothers have managed to retain their casual, nuanced approach, which combines naturalistic performances with dramatically heightened premises. Even on this scale, Cyrus plays more like a home movie than a big-budget Hollywood comedy. That is a very good thing. This time around, the Duplasses set their sites on an awkward love triangle between a divorced nerd (Reilly), the beautiful woman who loves him (Tomei), and her potentially psychopathic son (Hill). If the Duplass Brothers don’t go for the jugular in the climax—this is no Chuck & Buck or The Hand That Rocks The Cradle—that’s to be expected, and, dare I say, applauded. Cyrus hits closer to home for exhibiting restraint when it could have tumbled off the plausible cliff. More than that, it is just so incredibly nice to see John C. Reilly giving a full-blooded performance once again. Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray.

The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle (Tribeca Film) — David Russo’s film isn’t just different from anything I’ve seen in recent memory, it’s different than… I don’t even know. I’m having a hard time comparing it to anything else (which is certainly a compliment). It feels like a lost midnight movie from the ’80s, especially with regards to the performances. I don’t really know what this movie is about, but I laughed a lot and the memory of it has stuck with me since I saw it at Sundance a few years ago. Buy it on DVD.

Recommended?

The Other Guys (Sony Pictures) — Truth be told, I didn’t find this movie to be very funny, but it also seems like one of those efforts that might play better from the couch on a lazy Saturday afternoon. Buy it on DVD, Blu-ray, or in a 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy.

Have Not Seen But Want To

The Quintessential Guy Maddin! 5 Films From the Heart of Winnipeg (Zeitgeist Films) — Buy the 4-DVD Set [Disc One: Careful (1992, 100 min, Remastered and Repressed Edition) Disc Two: Twilight of the Ice Nymphs (1997, 90 min) + Archangel (1990, 83 min) Disc Three: Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary (2003, 75 min) Disc Four: Cowards Bend the Knee (2004, 64 min)]

The Town (Warner Brothers) — Buy it on DVD or Extended Cut Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy.

Mugabe and the White African (First Run Features) — Buy it on DVD.

Micmacs (Sony Pictures) — Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray.

Le Noise (Amazon Exclusive) — Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray.

Mother and Child (Sony Classics) — Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray.

Trouble in Mind: Special Edition (Shout! Factory) — Buy it on DVD.

The Trotsky (Tribeca Film) — Buy it on DVD.

Altiplano (First Run Features) — Buy it on DVD.

I May Have Jumped The Gun A Few Weeks Back So I’m Including This Again For Obvious Reasons

*** America Lost and Found: The BBS Story (Criterion) — Based on the success of their multimedia breakout sensation The Monkees, filmmakers Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider, and Steve Blauner joined forces to attack the Hollywood system by working within it. Between 1968 and 1972, they produced a slew of bold films that challenged the norm and laid the groundwork for the New Hollywood of the 1970s. The lineup speaks for itself: Head; Easy Rider; Five Easy Pieces; Drive, He Said; The Last Picture Show; The King of Marvin Gardens; A Safe Place. If you’re a fan of this special era in cinema history, this collection is a must-have on DVD or Blu-ray.

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