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Wednesday, Jan. 02, 2013

Recliner Reviews for Jan. 3, 2012

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Sometimes it’s a dilemma: what DVD should you rent or what movie should you stream or order-on-demand? Do you want a date flick, an action caper, or a goofy comedy? Weekly Surge is here to help with our reviews of recent at-home movie releases, which we’ve watched from the comfort of that favorite recliner.

“Butter”

Back in 1999 there was a movie released entitled “Election.” It was a great satire on high school politics and midlife crises. This is kind of like that, only it’s about butter-carving, strippers, orphans, midlife crises, sexually coming-of-age, repressed angst and…shit it’s about everything. That’s the problem, it goes in too many directions. Jennifer Garner, Ty Burrell, Olivia Wilde, Hugh Jackman, Alicia Silverstone, Ashley Greene, Rob Corddry and Kristen Schaal play characters who all have their own stories woven in. It’s woven so tightly, the real story of an orphaned child, told by Yara Shahidi almost gets lost. Shahidi and Corddry keep it alive by digging in, past the self-aware, surface satire. The other characters are fun and could’ve been given dimensions and finality, if only more/better time was spent on them. Instead, they’re cardboard cutouts, storytelling devices, not real or memorable. It’s still fun and Shahidi has carved a nice niche for herself as a young actress – worth a watch.

“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”

Produced by Tim Burton, directed by Russian action auteur Timur Bekmambetov, and written by Seth Grahame-Smith, who also wrote the highly-successful novel on which the film is based. The cast is filled with stable, up-and-coming actors. It should be an instant cult-classic – a dark, juicy slice of action movie. If only it wasn’t based on one of our most popular presidents and most critics didn’t rip it apart for being disrespectful to history and most fans of the book didn’t view the movie as a betrayal of the root material. But if you didn’t read the book (we didn’t), if you’re not a critic (we’re reviewers) and you believe it’s cool to make fictional stories based on history (most school books do), then this is a pretty awesome action movie. The key is not taking it too seriously because thinking about Honest Abe slicing up the undead with his trusty axe is plain fun. OK, vampires have been overdone and we’re seeing a lot of Lincoln these days, but this over the top depiction is a nice balance on the sober times of our 16th president. Despite its first impressions, this film may get another chance as time goes on – worth a watch.

“Lawless”

Based on true events, this story chronicles a bootlegging family during Prohibition in Kentucky. The book it was adapted from, "The Wettest County in the World" was written by the grandson of the main character. John Hillcoat directs – he brought us two of the bleakest films of the 2000s – “The Road” and “The Proposition.” Australian crooner Nick Cave wrote the screenplay and arranged the soundtrack. The film stars Shia LaBeouf but the true star is Tom Hardy. He’s a force of nature in every scene. Hardy, along with Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman and the soundtrack lift the film from being a mediocre period piece. There are montage scenes with Labeouf doing voiceovers that cheapen the story a bit but the intensity of Hardy and Pearce make you forgive the pitfalls and enjoy the ride. It’s a terrible/forgettable title for a film with brutal and powerful performances – worth a watch.

Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge

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