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The Reel Deal DVD

  • Argo   
  • As a director, Ben Affleck continues to get better and better. In 2007, his debut, Gone Baby Gone, was a powerful drama about two detectives searching for a missing girl. Then came The Town, a successful crime thriller about a bank robber who befriends a former hostage. But his best work to date is Argo - a film that blends both powerful dramatics with the trappings of a political thriller. In the film, a group of militants have stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran during the Iranian Revolution and taken hostages. Unbeknownst to them, six Americans were able to escape to the nearby Canadian embassy. And it's up to the CIA and specialist Tony Mendez to extricate them, hatching an outrageous plan that involves a Canadian film crew, shooting the next Star Wars. With gritty period details, wardrobe, and camera work, Argo is a Hollywood crowd pleaser, a suspenseful throwback with well balanced humor. But more importantly, it's a testament to Affleck's uncanny storytelling ability, making mission impossible possible.

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  • Cloud Atlas   
  • If you've read the 2004 award winning novel, Cloud Atlas, by British author David Mitchell, you may have thought that a motion picture adaptation was impossible. The complexity and size of the project difficult to convey. But with the help of the Wachowskis and director Tom Tykwer, along with a terrific ensemble, and the largest independent budget in film history, Cloud Atlas has emerged on the big screen. A highly engaging and rewarding film that blends six unique stories from 1850 to 2346, each intricately connected to one another as characters are born and reborn, their souls evolving over different times and places - an American notary during the California Gold Rush, an investigative reporter looking into nuclear fallout in the 70's, and a post-apocalyptic tribesman. For all its shortcomings, you have to admire the imagination, philosophy, and courage behind Cloud Atlas, boldly going where few films dare to tread.

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  • Dredd   
  • The 1995 version of Judge Dredd starring Sylvester Stallone was an imperfect blend of parody and action. But the latest reincarnation of John Wagner's street judge is much more robust, graphic, and simple. Even the title has been reduced to simply, Dredd. Here, Judge Dredd is ordered to investigate a triple homicide in the slums of Mega-City One, while also evaluating a rookie. Together, the two stumble upon a drug cartel and attempt to administer justice. With Karl Urban in the title role, Dredd foregoes the Hollywood blockbuster trademarks for grit and gore. Set almost entirely within a single high rise building, it invokes memories of Die Hard. It's minimalistic, unapologetic, and surprisingly suspenseful. Even in 3D. Much closer to the comic than its predecessor, this Dredd is guilty of entertainment.

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  • For a Good Time, Call...   
  • It's a title you'd expect to see on the wall of a truck stop restroom: For a Good Time, Call... the resulting number indicating some sort of sexual rendezvous. Here, For a Good Time, Call... represents a Sundance favorite about two college enemies thrown together under the same roof. Desperate to make end's meat, they agree to start their own phone sex operation and through their adventures and business pursuits, become genuine friends. Falling somewhere between Bridesmaids and Zack & Miri Make a Porno, For a Good Time stars two up and coming comediennes, Lauren Anne Miller and Ari Graynor. Even though the film plays out like a formulaic sitcom, it does have its moments as this female friendly comedy is filled with lots of charm and raunchy laughs. Not to mention, a hilarious onslaught of clientele cameos you simply won't want to miss.

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  • Looper   
  • Rarely has time travel been depicted without some sort of paradox. But in director Rian Johnson's latest film, Looper, you'd be hard pressed to find one. The story takes place in the year 2044, where Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a looper, a hired gun who is paid by the mob to eliminate potential threats. The mob uses time travel to send their targets back to a specific time and place where a looper is waiting to kill them. That is, until the target is actually the looper. Here, Bruce Willis plays the future version of Joseph Gordon-Levitt who escapes and causes a thrilling man hunt. Meticulously assembled, Looper is an audacious project that blends dark comedy with old fashion action and a splash of romance. On screen, Gordon-Levitt and Willis are dynamic together, as intentions are laid out and survival instincts kick in. All of which makes Looper a very fulfilling sci-fi adventure that certainly knows how to close the loop.

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  • Robot and Frank   
  • It's easy to see why Robot & Frank was one of the crowd favorites at Sundance this year. Starring Frank Langella and set in the not too distant future, the film tells the story of a former cat burglar aptly named Frank, who begins to develop dementia. Worried about his increasing memory loss and overall health, his son purchases a humanoid robot to look after him. At first, Frank rejects the good natured robot. But over time, the two develop a strong and unique friendship. Toggling between Frank's hardened views and the robot's upbeat personality, Robot & Frank uncovers humor and tenderness as the two rough exteriors come together, battling age, emotion, and unwanted change. This is human and artificial intelligence coexisting in the most graceful and meaningful way. A way that would make Isaac Asimov very proud.

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  • The Sessions   
  • Based on the true story of Mark O'Brien, a Berkeley scholar and poet, The Sessions is a touching film about a man trapped in an iron lung, whose final wish before he dies is to lose his virginity. Paralyzed by polio at the age of six, O'Brien has spent 32 years confined to a bed, unable to sit up, let alone experience any kind of intimacy. With the help of therapists and his priest, he gets in touch with Cheryl Cohen-Green, a professional sex surrogate, who helps to make his final wish come true. In the hands of any other filmmaker, The Sessions might be overly sentimental or sexually perverse. But writer/director Ben Lewin understands his characters inside and out, partly because he too contracted polio as a child. The result is a very elegant and charming film about the simple need for human affection. With expert performances by Helen Hunt and John Hawkes, The Sessions is filled with astonishing grace and hope. And no doubt, is a strong contender for Oscar this year.

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  • Skyfall   
  • This week, it's all about Bond. James Bond, who turns 50 this year and celebrates with a loud bang. The release of Skyfall represents the third outing for Daniel Craig, who completely inhabits the role with confidence, down to earth realism, and surprising vulnerability. For this installment, after a mission goes south, Bond is shot and presumed dead. Meanwhile, MI6 comes under attack as a new villain emerges with a diabolical plan and 007 must operate off the grid to help save the agency and restore M's reputation. While the plot mechanics may sound familiar, the execution is refreshingly new. Directed by Sam Mendes, a British filmmaker who won an Academy Award for American Beauty, Skyfall embraces the old while flourishing with the new. The action, the design, and the psychological drama are all top notch, sophisticated within a real world context. One of the most engaging and complete Bond movies in the series, Skyfall is as satisfying as a great martini. Shaken, not stirred.

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