DVD Reviews 

The End of the Tour

by Alan Rapp on January 7, 2016

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: The End of the Tour
  • IMDb: link

The End of the TourBased on the memoir Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself in which David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) recounts his experiences meeting and interviewing David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) at the end of the author’s book tour for Infinite Jest, The End of the Tour is character-driven piece centered around the conversations between the two authors twelve years before Wallace’s suicide. Smart, insecure, and low-key (all which could also be used to describe Segel’s character), director James Ponsoldt‘s take on the memoir allows us to see both men at their best and worst (often brought out by their own fears and each other) over a condensed period of time.

Playing on themes of imperfection, ego, self-doubt, envy, and an undeniable need to connect and befriend someone else in your same specialized niche, Ponsoldt and his two stars deliver an engaging movie about nothing more than two writers talking about what they do and how they think.

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Love & Mercy

by Alan Rapp on January 5, 2016

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Love & Mercy
  • IMDb: link

Love & MercyLove & Mercy gives us two separate looks at the life of Brian Wilson (played by Paul Dano in the 1960s and John Cusack in the 80s). While the past deals with the beginning of Wilson’s mental instability the later storyline picks up years later with Wilson being taken advantage of by therapist Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti).

Although both stories are interesting by themselves, for me the two parts never came together. Dano is intriguing as the younger version, especially while struggling to create Pet Sounds. Cusack’s doped-up older version of the musician is far less interesting, but that plotline does give us Elizabeth Banks in one of the actress’ best performances. Several pieces and performances of Love & Mercy work well, including how director Bill Pohlad incorporates the Beach Boys‘ music, but the script struggles to merge the two-parts into a compelling whole while simplifying Wilson’s mental illness and Landy’s villainy for dramatic effect.

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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

by Alan Rapp on December 30, 2015

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  • IMDb: link

Me and Earl and the Dying GirlAdapting her own novel, writer Jesse Andrews offers us a look into a year of life of lonely high school senior Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann) who has spent his entire high school experience with the sole goal of not pissing anyone off. Acquaintances with several of his classmates, but friend to none, Greg’s only outlet outside the carefully constructed web of calm (that happens to be the exact opposite of his home life) are the movies he makes with Earl (RJ Cyler), a longtime friend (even if Greg refuses to refer to him that way).

Greg’s carefully crafted world is shattered when his mother (Connie Britton) forces him to spend time with a classmate who has contracted Leukemia. At first spending time with Rachel (Olivia Cooke) only to placate his mother, Greg quickly begins to enjoy their time together, even if doing so slowly destroys his world as the aloof teen who has avoided both conflict and making any real choices in his life is put in situations where neither can be avoided.

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Meru

by Alan Rapp on December 29, 2015

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Meru
  • IMDb: link

MeruMeru documents not one but two attempts by experienced climbers (Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk) to scale the “anti-Everest” of Meru Peak in the Himalayan Mountains using the never-before completed “Shark’s Fin” route known by climbers as one of the hardest routes in the world given the complexities and challenges of the mountain.

With a mix of footage from both the failed 2008 attempt and the successful 2011 climb, the movie also documents the period in-between concerning Ozturk’s near-fatal accident and Chin being caught in an avalanche, neither of which deter either the men’s resolve to return to the mountain. The film also documents Anker’s loss of an earlier climbing partner and his struggle to return to his passion afterwards. Filled with breathtaking photography and first-account interviews taken before, during, and after the climbs, Meru captures the beauty and danger of mountain climbing while allowing the climbers themselves to explain their drive to do what they do.

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Hot Girls Wanted

by Alan Rapp on December 28, 2015

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Hot Girls Wanted
  • IMDb: link

Hot Girls WantedDirected by Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus, Hot Girls Wanted takes a look at the growing online amateur porn industry by taking us into the house of a small group of Internet porn newbies (few of whom will still be working in the industry by the end of the documentary). The directors succeed in getting a firsthand experience of the industry which tosses out young women at a rate, even once introduced into the industry, our starlets don’t comprehend.

Meant to be a shocking tell-all, Hot Girls Wanted is only partially successful (mainly because of how willing the young women all are to agree to and rationalize away any dehumanizing activity as long as it is 1. on camera and 2. pays the bills). The complicity to their actions undercuts the documentary’s message just as strongly as the documentarians taking further advantage of each of the women profiled for the purpose of their movie.

However, money is only half of the equation. A better film would dive deeper into the yearning for celebrity each girl is willing to go down an increasingly dark and fetishized path to achieve.

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