Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Short Takes: Brief Reviews On Some Recent Video Releases

Side Effects (2013) – Director Steven Soderbergh’s Hitchcockian mystery stars Jude Law as a psychiatrist named Jonathan Banks. He consults on the case of Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara), who has just attempted suicide. Her husband has recently been released from prison, after serving time for insider trading. Emily seems happy he’s home. However, she’s suffering from mood swings & depression. Banks puts her on an experimental new drug, which is suggested by her former therapist, well-played by Catherine Zeta-Jones. It appears to help Emily with her issues, but also has some alarming side effects, such as episodes of emotional instability and sleepwalking. Then Emily’s husband ends up dead under mysterious circumstances. Was she really depressed? Did the drug cause her to murder her husband? Is Banks to blame for what happened? What follows is a twist-laden tale of hidden agendas, obsession and murder. This is a thinking person’s thriller; while it may move a bit slowly for today’s audiences, the movie takes its time to develop its multi-layered story & characters. The solid performances, sharp writing and excellent direction make it worth viewing. Film noir fans should really enjoy it. This is a decidedly grown up movie; in addition to the Hitchcock influence, it’s also a throwback to 80s & 90s neo-noirs like Dead Again, Final Analysis & The Last Seduction. It’s now available on Blu-ray, DVD and for digital viewing & download. Here’s a link to the film’s trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_mQKEwRdjQ.

42 (2013) – Writer-Director Brian Helgeland’s film about Jackie Robinson’s first year in the majors is a powerful, well-acted drama. In 1946, Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) decides to break the color barrier and bring a black ballplayer from the Negro Leagues to the Dodgers. He signs a promising player name Jackie Robinson, cautioning him that he will have to curb his anger at the prejudice he may face, if this idea is to work. Rickey starts him in the minors, bringing him up to the big leagues in 1947. It’s a decision that will have long lasting ramifications for Rickey, Robinson, and for the game of baseball. The film does a good job showing us the prejudices Robinson faced in that first year, and how he triumphed over adversity to become a successful member of the team, opening the doors for other black players to enter the major leagues. Harrison Ford is superb as Rickey, and Chadwick Boseman is very good as Jackie. A host of familiar character actors fill out the cast. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, this is a powerful story of a very different time in our history, and its themes still resonate today. Highly recommended. The movie is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and for digital viewing & download. Here’s a link to the film’s trailer: http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi2637408025/.

Seven Psychopaths (2012) – A writer with anger issues (Colin Farrell) decides to write a screenplay about “Seven Psychopaths” basing some of it on people he knows. He ends up crossing paths with a colorful gallery of rogues & killers, and gets mixed up in dog kidnappings, mayhem & murder. Director Martin McDonaghs’s darkly comic thriller is a somewhat predictable film that tries for a mix of Tarantino & Scorsese and doesn't quite pull it off. However, there are a couple of interesting set pieces, and Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken and the rest of the cast are fantastic. They almost make it worthwhile. Take a look if you’re a fan of the genre. The movie is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and for digital viewing & download. Here’s a link to the film’s trailer: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xsuaqw_seven-psychopaths-trailer-official-hd-1080-colin-farrell-woody-harrelson_shortfilms.

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