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Blu-rays of the Week
Ready Player One
Ernest Cline’s novel about a near-future of virtual-reality domination—especially in the OASIS, which is primarily channeling 1980s pop culture—has been brought to the screen with glee by Steven Spielberg, who may be the only director able to visualize such a pop utopia gone wild, except that the movies he directed or produced during that era (ET, Poltergeist, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Goonies, Roger Rabbit) are so pervasive that not including any of them is a black mark on the film.
The main problem is that there’s a distance between the protagonists’ avatars and viewers; but this is still fun to watch, especially the bizarre but brilliant sequence featuring Kubrick’s The Shining. The film looks great on Blu; a thorough two-hour making-of documentary is the lone featurette.
The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean
John Huston’s 1972 revisionist western stars Paul Newman as an outlaw who cleans up a small Texas town and becomes the law there for decades, making a comfortable home for himself even as Wild West violence and basic lawlessness continue.
As usual with Huston (who also has a cameo), this is a colorful and twisty tale, told with tongue firmly in cheek. Newman is fine as always, then-newcomer Victoria Principal is a real find, and the scenic locations look fantastic on Blu-ray.
Dwyane Johnson plays a primatologist whose beloved albino gorilla George—an ultra-intelligent creature who communicates by sign language—becomes rabid when he becomes infected by a pathogen that fell from a satellite lab orbiting the earth. Soon, George and his boss find themselves in a battle against a hugely mutated crocodile and wolf intent on laying waste to Chicago.
It’s moviemaking at its most mindless—even the mutated monsters are little fun—and it’s especially unfortunate that early, amusing scenes of bonding between The Rock and the ape are dropped so quickly for special effects nonsense. It all looks watchable enough on Blu-ray; extras include featurettes, deleted scenes and a gag reel.
Super Troopers 2
In this vapid (and belated) sequel to the already dopey comedy about a moronic Vermont police officers, they now have to deal with Canadians, which makes for even more ridiculously unfunny comedy. Several performers who should know better—including “Wonder Woman” Lynda Carter and the great Irish actor Brian Cox, who at least seem to be having fun—return to ham it up mightily in the service of a lost comedic cause.
Emerging unscathed from this mess is Emmanuelle Chriqui as a charming Canadian cultural attaché. The Blu-ray looks good; extras include deleted scenes, interviews and on-set featurette.
DVDs of the Week
After an equestrian movie stuntman is left paralyzed in an on-set accident, his insurance company fights his claim, but the adjuster they assigned—despite being happily married with children—begins falling for him.
In director Denis Dercourt’s intimate character study, Cecile de France and Albert Dupontel make a believable pair of damaged individuals who find common cause in their unlikely relationship.
Five intersecting stories of Moroccans who cannot reconcile their liberal lifestyle with the country’s stifling conservatism are chronicled by writer-director Nabil Ayouch’s absorbing melodrama, a forceful if strident study of how freedoms is curtailed by repression.
An excellent cast—including Maryam Touzani as a free-spirited woman in an abusive relationship and Abdelilah Rachid as a young gay man whose idol is Freddie Mercury—brings to the forefront the individuals affected by such reactionary ugliness.
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