Sunday, January 6, 2013

DVD Roundup - Pirates, Hope Springs, Arbitrage, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Killer Joe, Red Lights

THE PIRATES!: BAND OF MISFITS (★★½) Starring the voices of Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, Brendan Gleeson and Anton Yelchin.  Directed by Peter Lord & Jeff Newitt.

From the makers of Wallace & Gromit comes this late cash-in on the Pirates craze.  Hugh Grant ventures into voicework as a Pirate Captain who wants to win this year's Pirate of the Year award, but things have been slow going for him and his crew.  It takes the movie a while to find its groove, but there are some laughs to be had after some slow parts.


HOPE SPRINGS (★★★) Starring Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell.  Directed by David Frankel.

This movie's a great excuse to showcase the acting chops of Streep and Jones.  They played an old couple who lost physical intimacy years ago, and so they take couples therapy to rekindle that spark. At least, she pays for the course without asking permission, and he grumpily decides to go along. Carell plays it straight as the therapist.


SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN (★★½) Starring Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt and Kristin Scott Thomas.  Directed by Lasse Hallstrom.

This pleasant enough diversion is about a shiek who wants to bring salmon fishing to the Yemen.  Cue some existential moments of peace via A River Runs Through It.  McGregor and Blunt make a cute couple. The story's as light as a feather, and most of it's forgotten a few days after viewing. The fact that it was nominated for Best Comedy at the Golden Globes tells me it was a weak year for comedy.


ARBITRAGE (★★★½) Starring Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth and Brit Marling.  Directed by Nicholas Jarecki.

Richard Gere has rarely been better in this story of a hedge-fund billionaire trying to keep all of his balls in the air even as his world crumbles around him.  The triumph of the movie, and of Gere, is that the central character is sympathetic even though all of his acts are villainous. He's hiding a $400 million discrepancy in the books so he can sell the company, and if caught it'll not only ruin him but his CFO, who's also his daughter.  He's having an affair, hiding that from everyone, and then there's a criminal investigation he's the target of where we wonder how he's going to squirm out of it. Sarandon plays his long-suffering wife who enjoys the high-life he provides, and Tim Roth plays the police detective who knows Gere's guilty, but he just needs to find the proof.


KILLER JOE (★★) Starring Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple and Gina Gershon.  Directed by William Friedkin.

The subject matter of this movie is gutter level.  A trailer-trash family decides to hire a hitman named Killer Joe to kill the mother so the rest can collect the insurance money.  We know early that this stupid family is going to get on Joe's wrong side eventually.  But McConaughey's performance as Killer Joe is hypnotic.  He's a calm, dangerous man. I wound up feeling sorry for the other actors. Not the characters, the actors.


RED LIGHTS (★½) Starring Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert DeNiro, Toby Jones, Elizabeth Olsen and Joely Richardson.  Directed by Rodrigo Cortez.

The first half of this would-be psychological thriller is well done, following two skeptics (Weaver, Murphy) who work at a university and debunk fraudulent clairvoyants in their spare time.  When one of the world's most famous psychics (Robert DeNiro) comes out of retirement, they decide he needs to be investigated.  The movie's strengths disappear as the plot gets more convoluted, the dialogue more nonsensical, and the twist ending doesn't have near the impact the filmmakers hoped it would have.  It's a great cast but a lost opportunity.

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