The Good Life

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Home Video Spotlight: April 29 - May 5

Brief capsules on recently released movies worth renting.

By R. Kurt Osenlund, The Good Life film critic


"The biggest adventure of all time," reads the synopsis on the back of the "Avatar" DVD. On paper, yes. At the box office? Indisputably. But without its massive popularity and multi-billion-dollar haul? I'm not so sure about that. But, whatever. You'd better believe I already bought my copy of this sweeping eye-candy extravaganza, which makes up for in technical wizardry what it lacks in screenwriting panache. Director James Cameron didn't opt for the typical jump-out-at-you, dog-and-pony tricks when revolutionizing the world of 3-D viewing, so the artistry of "Avatar" remains well intact without the aid of special glasses. And the film's pacing is so swift, its two-plus hours whiz by like a Pandoran banshee.


Jeff Bridges didn't snag 2009's Best Actor Oscar for nothing. In "Crazy Heart," his vividly realistic turn as alcoholic country crooner Bad Blake is one of those performances where you can't tell where the actor ends and the character begins. The circumstances surrounding Blake's romance with a vulnerable reporter (Oscar nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal) never quite jive, but as a performance showcase and tuneful reflection of real-world musicians, this tiny film is effective, engrossing and authentic. The Oscar-winning music by T-Bone Burnett has the lived-in comfort of classic country.


You've seen Meryl Streep play Jewish, Australian, Irish, Polish, Italian, gay, even male, but you've never seen her quite the way you will in chick-flick-auteuress Nancy Meyers' freewheeling romp, "It's Complicated." Checking her inhibitions at the door, Streep revels in the role of a resaturateur with an empty nest who strikes up a love triangle with her horny ex-husband (Alec Bladwin) and timid architect (Steve Martin). Diving head first into some good, clean raunch and devilishly funny irresponsible behavior, the refreshingly not-under-30-or-pencil-thin Streep makes the flawed "Complicated" a true laugh-out-loud affair.


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