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Dexter: The Fourth Season

(Showtime)

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Dexter: The Fourth Season
Showtime/Paramount


Dexter as a series has continued to mature and the writing has continued to be strong. Even more importantly, it seems that our relationship to Dexter has continued to change. Consider how much we depended on Dexter for the primary narrative in season one, his voice explicating, justifying and giving meaning to every event and person. This seductive narrative style has continued and we mainly continue to experience Dexter’s world with Dexter’s guidance. Dexter: The Fourth Season has upped the ante for its audience, utterly transforming the main characters’ world while maintaining the basic moral tensions that make it work as both a drama and a meditative reflection on the nature of violence and evil. By the last episode, it’s our own dark passengers that are called to account. W. Scott Poole


 

 



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Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick

29


Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Universal


This movie is the voice of a generation. It’s a little light on substance and heavy on style, but I’ve never seen this kind of style done so well. Layering a video-game mentality onto reality, Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead), was the perfect director to adapt Bryan Lee O’Malley’s spectacular graphic novels, his reference-heavy aesthetic complimenting the story of apathetic, shiftless young people who are stuck coasting along and trying to figure out how to relate to others; they’re jaded and cynical but maintain a sense of humor about everything, and are heavily, heavily inflected by pop culture, especially (vintage) video games and bands and movies. The film’s cut fast and smart with a soundtrack handled by Beck and Anamanaguchi, and the DVD is completely loaded with engaging special features. As some girl near me said when walking out of the theater, “yay, do it again!” Jenn Misko


 

 



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I’m Still Here

Director: Casey Affleck
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix

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I’m Still Here
Magnolia Home Entertainment


Although it saw a limited theatrical release in 2010, I’m Still Here, an “is it or isn’t it?” mockumentary chronicling Joaquin Phoenix’s step away from the spotlight and downward spiral, is a film best seen on DVD. Despite Phoenix and Affleck’s public acknowledgment that the actor was pulling an Andy Kaufman and that I’m Still Here was his own contrived, 90-minute trip into Tony Clifton territory, there are points throughout the film where it’s hard not to wonder whether there is some truth in the tirades and meltdowns issued forth by the twice-snubbed Oscar nominee. Phoenix, with his unkempt beard and unsightly paunch, showcases method acting at its finest, putting up a front that was widely speculated at before the film’s creators confirmed the charade two years later. The lengthy commentaries and deleted scenes among the disc’s extras add to the value of seeing the mockumentary on DVD. However, the biggest bonus of all is being able to rewind and close up on the horrified look on P. Diddy’s face when he listens to Phoenix’s demo tapes displaying his original hip-hop stylings. Lana Cooper


 

 



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The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Michael Gambon

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The Fantastic Mr. Fox
20th Century Fox


Though Fantastic Mr. Fox is the only Wes Anderson film not to be released by the good people at the Criterion Collection, this is certainly no slight against the film’s quality. The succinct 2009 stop-motion animated picture is a delightful, insightful picture in the same quirky spirit as Mr. Anderson’s past work. The all-star voice cast delivers the goods in part because of a unique recording method engineered by Anderson and depicted in one of the disc’s glut of special features. Instead of following the usual method of recording each actor separately, Anderson put the actors together in a real life farmland. Seeing George Clooney and Bill Murray act out the “You cussing with me?” scene live is worth the purchase by itself. Fantastic Mr. Fox is the ideal for the relatively new Blu-ray medium, delivering stunning visuals, a great story, and answers to every technical question surrounding the distinctive production. Here’s hoping 2011 has more of its fantastic kind. Ben Travers


 

 



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The Good, The Bad, The Weird

Director: Kim Ji-woon
Cast: Song Kang-ho,  Lee Byung-hun , Jung Woo-sung, Yoon Je-moon , Ryoo Seung-soo , Song Yeong-chang

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The Good, The Bad, The Weird
IFC Films


The Good, The Bad, The Weird tells the story a demented outlaw, a sharp shooting bounty hunter, and a mascara wearing hitman, who are all after the same mysterious treasure map in 1930s Manchuria. Throw in Chinese gangsters, junkyard gangs, and the Japanese government, and you have the bastard child of Sergio Leone and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Directed by Kim Ji-woon (A Bittersweet Life), and featuring three of Korea’s biggest stars (Lee Byung-hun, Song Kang-ho, and Jung Woo-sung), this is a perfect combination of frantic action, explosive violence, and grim spaghetti western aesthetics. While not as packed with bonus features as the Region 2 release (which features multiple versions of the film, as well as commentary tracks), the Blu-ray presentation showcases Oh Seung-chul’s cinematography, as he captures the sweeping, desolate beauty of the settings, and the frenzied, high-energy battle scenes. Brent McKnight


 
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