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WEEKLY BYT GUIDE TO DVD RELEASES / ON DEMAND / INSTANT NETFLIXING
August 27, 2013 | 2:00PM

Since we know how important at-home-entertainment is for all of us – every week we do a little “what’s getting released on DVD/on demand/Netflix this week” round up for you, with nice little excerpts of our past reviews and more. You’ll love it. Trust us. Now all you need is someone to watch these movies with:

OUT THIS WEEK & PROCEED WITH CAUTION:

  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist: Here’s what we said in our original review:
    So why doesn’t The Reluctant Fundamentalist work? A big part of the problem is Ahmed as the main character. He’s not bad, per se. But given how critical his role is to the arc of the story, the actor fails to engage the audience emotionally. He’s serviceable, but more of a cipher than a character, and not in a good way. The structure of the film is also rote. I felt like I was ahead of it the whole time, watching both the fall out of 9/11 for Changez personally and the approaching crisis between Changez and Bobby. The filmmakers seem to be on autopilot, checking off the boxes while using the flashback gimmick to shoehorn a sense of hyper-realized drama into the proceedings. The unfolding, while substantive as an intellectual exercise, isn’t organic or emotionally vibrant. I suppose it’s worth asking whether someone who – unlike myself – wasn’t already sympathetic to the film’s thesis might be constructively challenged by it. At the end of the day, though, I just wasn’t moved.
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OUT THIS WEEK & WORTH YOUR TIME:

  • Pain & Gain. Here’s what we said in our original review:
    Of the dozens of infuriating things about Michael Bay – the absurd overreliance on explosions, the utter disinterest in quality dialog, the lazy objectification of women, to name just the most prominent few – the most irksome for cinephiles is the wasted potential. The man has a strong visual sense and fills even his dumbest work with excellently composed frames. His command of editing rhythms and logical storytelling is undeniable, even if he habitually turns those abilities to such trashy, unambitious purposes that he sucks the joy out of his blockbuster fare. If you’ve been wondering whether Bay would ever bring those skills to something interesting, and produce something more than empty calories, Pain & Gain is your answer: yes.
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  • Kon-Tiki. Here’s what we said in our original review:
    For a generation of people all over the planet, the Kon-Tiki voyage was an early precursor to the fascination with space exploration. Explorer Thor Heyerdahl his crew of five drifted from Peru to Polynesia, just so he could prove a historical thesis. My dad remembers reading Heyerdahl’s subsequent book about the journey when he was a boy (he’s from Bucharest, and the edition was conveniently translated into Romanian). I can see why everyone was attracted to the material: it’s a stunning yarn with a happy ending. Kon-Tiki, the Norwegian film by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, handsomely dramatizes the trip. Even with a few embellishments, it’s still a stirring story of survival.
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INSTANT NETFLIX VIEWING OF THE WEEK (STAND-UP COMEDY EDITION):

  • John Hodgman: RAGNAROK. John Hodgman has been developing his alpha-nerd persona for years, and his latest special is its logical conclusion. Filmed right before the end of the Mayan calendar last year, the conceit of RAGNAROK is that Hodgman is a deranged millionaire who’s hell-bent on preparing for the apocalypse (jars of piss and mayonnaise are on the stage). For about an hour, the comedian playfully asserts himself a mustached megalomaniac who thinks lowly of his audience, but the best moments are when he improvises or breaks character. In one hilarious sequence, Hodgman brings an English teenager on stage, and then tells him to wait outside for any signs of the End of Days (the boy leaves without his coat, naturally). RAGNAROK ends curiously, with a ukulele sing-a-along about baptism. It’s a strange way to end a comedy special, but then again, Hodgman is not your typical comedian. He wants us to think about the power of a second chance.
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  • Doug Stanhope: Beer Hall Pustch. Doug Stanhope is not for the faint of heart. His comedy is sometimes observational, this is true, but he’s unafraid to destroy institutions we revere. His latest special is named for the beer hall where Hitler staged a failed coup in the 1920s, and while I don’t think he expected his audience to start a riot, he’s nonetheless irreverent. He spends a lot of time talking about the indignity of aging, whether he discusses Jake LaMotta in his nineties or the death of his mother. The section about his mother is particularly revealing: he assisted in her suicide, and you can see Stanhope’s depth of feeling as he talks about the gritty particulars of her last days. But Stanhope waits until the end to break out the big guns. From seemingly nowhere, he launches into a long, disturbingly detailed football rape fantasy that’s bust-a-gut hilarious due to its sheer audacity. Stanhope’s comedy is a difficult pill to swallow, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
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  • Reggie Watts: Why $#!+ So Crazy? Back in 2009, Cale and Svetlana were busy organizing the first Bentzen Ball, and they’d ask comedians in what order they’d prefer to go on stage. Many of them replied with, “Just don’t put me after Reggie Watts.” After seeing his performance, it was plain to see why no one wanted to follow his act. This is before he was well-known, before his tour with Conan O’Brien, and before he provided the music for Comedy! Bang! Bang! His 2010 special is an opportunity to see the full range of his talents since the ubiquitous YouTube clips only provide a small glimpse.
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That’s what we’re watching on Netflix this week. Got any streaming recommendations? Let us know in the comments!

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