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New on DVD – September 7, 2010 – MacGruber and Solitary Man


From MacGruber — Will Forte’s uncomfortably unfunny attempt to stretch a skit into a feature film — to Michael Douglas’s welcome return to serious drama in Solitary Man, here’s a look at all the films coming out this week on DVD and Blu-ray.

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On Saturday Night Live, Will Forte’s spoof on the impossibly resourceful eighties-TV standby MacGyver makes for the occasional laugh. But we thought that this film-length expansion of that idea into a send-up of cheesy eighties action films was not only pointless but painfully without laughs. Our writer said that watching MacGruber “leaves you pining for the likes of Cobra or Invasion U.S.A.,” since even those C-grade action flicks were actually (if unintentionally) a lot funnier. “When faced with this fact, one’s urge to weep becomes well nigh overwhelming.”

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Writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien (Rounders) direct their story of an aging car-dealership owner (Michael Douglas) who, frightened by an abnormality on his EKG, gets busy indulging in some seriously self-destructive behavior. When not disappointing his ex-wife (Susan Sarandon) or daughter (Jenna Fischer), he’s sleeping with too-young women and ruining his business. Although our critic thought the filmmaking merely competent, he appreciated the writers giving Douglas his sleaziest role since the first Wall Street. Killers 2-5-star-rating.gif
Ashton Kutcher is a hit man who ends up falling in love with Katherine Heigl, the perky blonde who persuades him to give up his job (which he never told her about) and move into a comfortable suburban existence, only to discover that his homicidal skills come in handy when a bounty is put on his head. We thought the overly engineered situations rife with predictable clichés but were surprised to find that Kutcher and Heigl actually managed to make a charming couple — if you like that sort of thing.

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Bryce Dallas Howard works overtime in this film of a long-lost screenplay by Tennessee Williams, playing a spoiled southern debutante who ignites a doomed-from-the-start flirtation with one of the plantation’s hired hands (Chris Evans). None of it works, according to our critic, who wasn’t impressed by the bad southern accents, immature directing, or even the original screenplay, which comes off as more of a rough draft than finished piece of art. The film, as a whole, “proves why some screenplays deserve to remain lost.”

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Zoe Kazan plays Ivy, a girl home on break from college, in this loosely structured story of episodic interactions and hastily sketched characters. Ivy has epilepsy, a condition that she resolutely doesn’t take seriously enough, and that’s about the most dramatic thing in a film that our writer found to be “scrupulous in its depiction of spring breaks as they occur in real life: no road trips, little excitement, mild comfort, and debauchery that is mild and restless at best.”

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In George Lucas’s phenomenal debut film, Robert Duvall plays the hero of the title, a shaven-headed worker stuck in a futuristic white-on-white underground city where everyone spends their days in a drugged, unthinking stupor. That is, until the day when he discovers that he’s attracted to a female co-worker, a development resolutely opposed by the unseen bureaucracy. Our critic thought the film an “angry, idealistic” classic, an “impassioned howl against the dehumanization of modern society.” Lucas’s director’s cut is now available on Blu-ray.

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