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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.

OUT THIS WEEK & PROCEED WITH CAUTION:

  • The Promise. Here’s what we said in our original review:
    Bad writing is no head-shot to the pedagogical historical epic. But add in George’s horrendous visual storytelling style, and The Promise quickly has no escape from its tawdry text. The choice of digital video over film gives things a soap-opera feel throughout, dissolving the dusty and mournful aesthetic the filmmaking team is hops to conjure. If you’re going to use a crappy camera, at least find interesting ways to point it at your story. George doesn’t bother. The unimaginative, bland cinematography only reinforces the bad-television feel of the thing.

  • Free Fire. Here’s what we said in our original review:
    Armie Hammer’s bizarre career is infinitely more interesting – and more fun to think about – than Free Fire. As I was watching, a strange feeling washed over me. I was intrigued by the promise of gun fights, and talented actors letting loose in a film that does not take itself seriously. Soon enough, I felt like the citizens of Springfield when they tried to watch a soccer match: the excitement gave way to boredom, which then gave way to mild annoyance, and that gave way to outright hostility. I asked myself, “Why are they still shooting? Shouldn’t someone have died by now? Who the hell does Ben Wheatley think he is? Is he trying to insult me with this movie?” If Free Fire is meant as to be a shaggy dog story, then Wheatley is the only who is remotely amused, and that is no way to make a movie. When the end finally arrives, after interminable gunfire and uninspired editing, it arouses about as much excitement as a fart in an elevator.

OUT THIS WEEK & WORTH YOUR TIME:

  • Wilson. Here’s AA Dowd over at The AV Club:
    That makes Wilson, in theory and in panel form, a meditation on midlife anxiety—a tragicomedy about a loud-and-proud outsider who suddenly realizes that he wants the traditional family life he’s heretofore dodged. There’s a good chance it might play that way on screen, too, had Terry Zwigoff, who directed those other Clowes adaptations, also made this one. (Ghost World, especially, established the filmmaker as a perfect fit for the author’s potent blend of deadpan humor and middle-class melancholia.) Instead, Wilson has been shepherded by Craig Johnson, director of the Sundance-approved sibling dramedy The Skeleton Twins, and he can’t quite manage the tone: This Wilson mashes Clowes’ acid wit and existential despair into a more sitcomish shape, transforming the bad behavior of its eponymous anti-hero into quirky shtick. Can a film be both bitterly misanthropic and kind of cuddly? Johnson achieves that dubious distinction, even as he pushes Wilson from misfortune to misfortune, the years stacking up on his shoulders.

INSTANT VIEWING OF THE WEEK (George Romero and Martin Landau RIP edition):

  • Rounders (now on Netflix). Here’s Roger Ebert:
    Rounders cheerfully buys into compulsive gambling. The hero gambles away his tuition money, his girlfriend, his law degree and nearly his life, and at the end he’s still a happy gambler. If this movie were about alcoholism, the hero would regain consciousness after the DTs and order another double. Most gambling movies are dire warnings; this one is a recruiting poster. I think that’s because the movie would rather recycle the Rocky genre than end on a sour note. It stars Matt Damon as a New York law student who is a truly gifted poker player, and since the movie ends with a big game you somehow kinda know he’s not going to lose it. Since the genre insists on a victory at the end, the movie has to be in favor of poker; you don’t see Rocky deciding to retire because of brain damage.

  • Night of the Living Dead (Digital Restoration on Amazon Prime). Here’s Charles Bramesco over at The Verge:
    Romero and Russo’s script trapped a loose collection of backroads travelers in a country home and sicced a new breed of undead on them. They were violent, gaunt, inexhaustible killing machines, and they boldly contrasted with the era’s familiar monsters: the debonair Dracula, conflicted Wolfman, and tragic Frankenstein’s monster. The jagged, modern style Romero brought to his low-rent horror flick was game-changing as well. With harsh shadows, dramatically canted shots, and riveting camerawork that puts the audience into the drag-down fight to survive, Romero coined a new filmic vernacular for raw fear. Siegel traces Romero’s harshly realistic aesthetic back to early cinéma vérité and the New Journalism of Norman Mailer and Truman Capote. “Romero was experimenting with what was possible with handheld camerawork,” Siegel says, “an urgent sort of editing, interesting camera angles. Things that were less classically Hollywood.”

  • Survival of the Dead (available on Amazon for $1). Here’s what we said in our interview with George Romero:
    Zombies are boring, and I think George A. Romero knows this. Whereas vampires have free will and werewolves are cursed (Twilight not withstanding) , all zombies do is lurch and  groan, decompose and feed. Despite their limited expression, Romero returns to them because a simple monster enables creativity elsewhere. For more than forty years, Romero has found ways for zombie movies to function as social commentary, whether it’s on consumerism or race relations. From his modest beginnings sprung forth a genuine phenomenon, one that would feel like overkill if aficionados didn’t consistently find innovative ways to celebrate Romero’s creation (even Jane Austen cannot escape the horde).  Romero’s latest is Survival of the Dead, which takes places months after the initial outbreak, and deals with two feuding families on a Delaware island. For those who think Romero’s work has gotten stale, rest assured Survival is energetic and fun, with a mix of gallows humor and creative gross-outs. A new zombie rule gets written, and there’s even a message about the futility of war.

That’s it! Get streaming, kids.

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