Thursday, January 24, 2013

DVD Roundup - Dredd, Hysteria, ParaNorman, Pitch Perfect


DREDD (★★★) Starring Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey and Wood Harris.  Directed by Pete Travis.

This is a fairly decent entry into the action shoot-em-up genre, and it's much better than the Sylvester Stallone-Rob Schneider starrer Judge Dredd from 1995.  Here the role of Dredd goes to Karl Urban (Star Trek), and true to the comic book, he never takes off his helmet.  He's training a rookie in the near-future to be a judge, when the role of officer, prosecutor and judge are all wrapped up into the same job.

Most of the movie takes place in a high-rise building, so that saves money on set locations.  Lots of bullets fly, and it has a perverse sense of humor about all the blood splattering.

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HYSTERIA (★★) Starring Hugh Dancy, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jonathan Pryce, Felicity Jones and Rupert Everett.  Directed by Tanya Wexler.

It starts out as a wink-wink 1880's British comedy about how clueless men were, and particularly doctors, regarding women's mental health and sexuality.  It also never changes its tone, even when things should feel serious.

This movie says it's based on true events, but a quick Wiki peek shows that it's so loosely based on what happened, they shouldn't have bothered with the "based on true events" line at all.  It's essentially about the accidental invention of the vibrator.  Hugh Dancy plays the dithering doc who values science more than his contemporaries, and Maggie Gyllenhaal plays the before-her-time feminist who inspires him.  It's jolly fine for a while but it never wavers from the level on which it started.

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PARANORMAN (★★½) Starring the voices of Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, John Goodman and Jeff Garlin. Directed by Chris Butler & Sam Fell.

This stop-motion animated film has its pleasures, but also its pitfalls.  It's in that uncanny valley of "who is this movie for?" It's about a boy who can see ghosts, but no one believes him, but they have to when the dead start walking due to the curse of a witch.  It's not bad for a rental, but it's no Coraline or Frankenweenie.

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PITCH PERFECT (★★★½)  Starring Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Rebel Wilson, Alexis Knapp, Adam DeVine, John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks.
Directed by Jason Moore.

Surprisingly fun, fast-paced comedy about competitive a capella groups in college.  Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air) brings street cred to the role of the outsider, but there's game performances from Brittany Snow (Hairspray), Anna Camp (True Blood), and Rebel Wilson, as well as Christopher Guest-worthy commentary from John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks.  This is so much more than Glee: The Movie.

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