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  • Published
    March 14, 2011

    Meditation on death; comedy on birth

    Hereafter (Warner, Blu-ray and standard DVD, PG-13, 129 min.). Director Clint Eastwood serves up three interlocking tales in this almost meditative look at death and whether there is a hereafter. There is a blue-collar worker in San Francisco, a French journalist and a young boy in London. Matt Damon (he also did “Invictus” with Eastwood) is George Lonegan, now a laborer after having run a psychic business. The …

  • Published
    March 7, 2011

    Thrillers ‘Next Three Days,’ ‘Man From Nowhere’

    The Next Three Days (Lionsgate, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 133 min.). Russell Crowe plays Pittsburgh area junior college teacher John Brennan in writer/director Paul Haggis’ remake of the French film “Pour Elle,” known in this country as “Anything For Her.” One night Brennan and his wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks) go out to dinner with another couple, which turns out rather argumentative (Lara does have a …

  • Published
    February 28, 2011

    Seeking justice in rural England, ancient China

    Midsomer Murders Set 17 (Great Britain, 2008, Acorn, 4 DVDs, NR, 400 min.). Back in England, it is getting near the end of John Nettle’s 14-year run as Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby, but these four mysteries were filmed in 2008 and make up the first part of series 12, which never aired in the United States. And while Midsomer may appear to be the murder capital of the English countryside, as inspired by …

  • Published
    February 21, 2011

    ‘Unstoppable’ on the right track

    Unstoppable (Fox, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 98 min.). “Unstoppable” is one heck of a ride, as relentless in building excitement as the runaway train at its heart is in building up unchecked speed. The film, directed by Tony Scott with his penchant for doing things for real, stars Denzel Washington as 28-year railroad vet engineer Frank Barnes and Chris Pine as newbie conductor Will Colson, his partner for …

  • Published
    February 7, 2011

    Valentine’s Day brings out the romance

    Life As We Know It (Warner, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 114 min.). The set-up of the film is unrealistic and we certainly know where the film is heading, but it actually turns out to be pleasant and diverting … just don’t expect greatness. The film opens with Holly Berenson (Katherine Heigl) and Eric Messer (John Duhamel) going on a date arranged by their best friends, Pete and Allison. The date is such a …

  • Published
    January 31, 2011

    Subtle horrors

    Let Me In (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray or standard DVD, R, 115 min.). Based on the Swedish novel and screenplay “Let the Right One In” by John Ajvide Lindqvist, this is the story of a young, lonely, bullied boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee as Owen) who befriends his new neighbor Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz), who appears to be 12 years old but has been so for decades as she is a vampire. Being a vampire is presented as anything but …

  • Published
    January 24, 2011

    All is go for ‘Red’

    Red (Summit, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 111 min.). I must admit that I got a great kick out of seeing Helen Mirren wielding a rifle and firing off a machine guy in this fun action film. She plays one of a handful of ex-special ops team members of Frank Moses (another solid, winning performance by Bruce Willis, who excels in these types of roles). Moses is retired and simply wants to hook up with Sarah …

  • Published
    January 17, 2011

    ‘Machete’ is a cut above

    Machete (Fox Blu-ray or standard DVD, R, 105 min.). When “Grindhouse,” consisting of Robert Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof,” hit the theaters, it included fake movie trailers between the two films. Now one of those trailers has blossomed into “Machete,” co-written by Rodriguez and directed by Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis. The film is notable for giving veteran actor Danny Trejo …

  • Published
    January 10, 2011

    Two low-budget failures

    Twelve (Fox, Blu-ray or standard DVD, R, 93 min.). This is a disappointing effort from director Joel Schumacher. Based on the 2002 novel by Nick McDonnell, published when he was 18, the film is all about self-indulgence among privileged teens on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The main problem is you do not care about any of the characters, so the film seems pointless. Only Billy Magnussen as steroid-enraged …

  • Published
    January 3, 2011

    Unique ‘Howl’ satisfies

    Howl (Oscilloscope, Blu-ray and standard DVD, R, 84 min.). The film is unique as it uses only words spoken or written by poet Allen Ginsberg, a leading figure of the Beat Generation, and those used at his publisher’s obscenity trial; and then it also uses some over-heated animation to try to portray the poem visually. If the animation does not quite work all the time, it nonetheless is interesting. At the …

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