New DVDs for May include the new Ken Loach, ‘The Angel’s Share’; comedies ‘Butter’ & ‘Pitch Perfect’; the new Clint Eastwood; meta literary drama ‘The Words’; an adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s cult novel ‘On the Road’; & the acclaimed account of Polio victim Mark O’Brien’s experiences with a sex surrogate in ‘The Sessions’…
The angels’ share.
“Considering Loach has a reputation for bleak, brilliant dramas, some might be surprised to see the light comic touch he’s applied to this winning mix of comedy and drama. That said, it still has a fair amount to say. The Angel’s Share initially starts on a sombre note, as it’s not long before we meet the main characters in a courtroom. Here, they’re being sentenced for a series of offences, and young father Robbie is only saved from prison by the fact that his girlfriend is shortly to give birth. But from these foundations comes a triumph of a film, as community service brings whiskey into Robbie’s life. The Angel’s Share also certainly makes a few points as it tells its story, and there’s a political subtext here. Yet Loach injects warmth and humour into the film, and his young, inexperienced cast prove really rather special, too. Tonally, The Angel’s Share shifts around a little, and it does have a change of direction that’s likely to be divisive. Yet it’s a smart, enjoyable film…” (From Amazon.co.uk review)
“Butter is a quirky film that sort of works as a straight-up comedy, and sort of works as the satire it seems intended to be. Jennifer Garner and Ty Burrell play Iowans Laura and Bob, whose lives have centered on the very Midwestern phenomenon of butter sculpture. Bob’s been having an affair with a cheeky stripper, Brooke (Olivia Wilde), who’s dying to figure out a way to go public with her affections for Laura’s husband. Enter the annual butter-sculpting contest. Bob’s decided to retire; Laura wants to carry on his tradition; Brooke wants to show up to cause emotional carnage. Then Destiny arrives. Destiny (Yara Shahidi) is an orphaned African-American girl and the foster child of well-meaning Ethan and Julie (Rob Corddry and Alicia Silverstone) and who has an almost unbelievable gift for, you guessed it, butter sculpture. What happens at the contest and in the small Iowa suburb is both a fascinating look at people’s unusual obsessions and a satire of those obsessions…” (From Amazon.com review)
“Set appealingly on a college campus, with charming actors and a very funny script that will entertain fans, truly, from 10 to 90. The plot in Pitch Perfect follows the character of college freshman Beca (a delightful Anna Kendrick) as she decides to join her school’s a cappella women’s singing group. (Unlike on Glee, where the glee club is populated with outcasts, college a cappella groups are prestigious–and hard to get into.) Fellow singers include Brittany Snow as Chloe and Alexis Knapp as Stacie, a student who’s hilariously slutty and innocent at the same time. The faculty coordinator is Anna Camp, so memorable in The Help, and here both earnest and a bit naive. There’s also a potential love story between Beca and Jesse (Skylar Astin), a member of the male group at the same school. And the script, by sometime 30 Rock writer Kay Cannon, is witty, wry, and just silly enough…Pitch Perfect is a surprisingly fresh and smart take on young adulthood, with a soundtrack that will have you cheering…” (From Amazon.com review)
Ages of love.
“Sexy, romantic, adventurous and very funny, AGES OF LOVE examines three different couples united in their quest for love. “Youth” tells of Roberto, a young and ambitious lawyer who is going to marry Sara. His whole life is perfectly planned out. During a expropriation which he is in charge of, he meets Micol, a gorgeous and provocative young woman from a small village in Tuscany. And this is when things start to get complicated… In “Maturity” we meet Fabio, a famous anchorman, has been the perfect husband for twenty five years. At a party one night, he meets Eliana, a femme fatale full of surprises. This one-night stand proves to be more than what he bargained for when she refuses to leave… “Beyond” introduces us to Adrian, an American art history professor who moved to Rome after his divorce. He is friends with Augusto, the building’s concierge, whose ebullient daughter Viola is about to disrupt his peaceful existence and relight his fire…” (Syndetics summary)
On the road
“Set in the late 1940s and based on the novel of the same name by Jack Kerouac, On the Road is the story of young writer Sal Paradise’s journey–a journey back and forth across America in search of freedom, self-expression, and self-discovery. Feeling lost after his father’s death, Sal (Sam Riley) is intrigued by the free-spirited Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) and impulsively joins him on a cross-country drive. With a criminal past and a hankering for independence, sex, music, drugs, and traveling the open road, Dean possesses complete disregard for the law, social niceties, the feelings of the women in his life, and anything but the present moment. Sal finds his initial trip with his new friend exciting and energizing. History repeats itself, as it is apt to do, and the friends make several more trips across the country together. But even as they revel in their unique relationship and the liberty of traveling, the inevitability of change will eventually affect Sal and Dean’s friendship as well as their relationships with their families and friends…” (From Amazon.co.uk review)
“In adapting the remembrances of Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone), who spent most of his life in an iron lung, Australian filmmaker and fellow polio survivor Ben Lewin recounts his alternately sad and funny attempts to lose his virginity (O’Brien previously appeared as himself in Jessica Yu’s documentary Breathing Lessons). By 1988, the 36-year-old Berkeley writer had forged friendships with women, but romantic relationships eluded him. In discussing the matter with his therapist, she suggests Cheryl Cohen Greene (Helen Hunt), a wife, mother, and sexual surrogate. It’s a viable solution, but as a devout Catholic, Mark is uncomfortable with the idea of extramarital relations, so he shares his concerns with an open-minded priest (William H. Macy). With an absence of pity and an abundance of wit, Lewin documents Mark’s journey though this physical, emotional, and spiritual minefield, which takes a toll on Cheryl as well… If Hunt received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for her performance, which involves a fair amount of nudity, the Academy failed to recognize Hawkes, a regrettable omission as this fine actor succeeds in creating a fully rounded human being…” (From Amazon.com review)
Trouble with the curve.
“The biggest surprise behind Trouble with the Curve, Eastwood’s first time in front of the camera since Gran Torino (and his first appearance in a film he hasn’t directed since 1993’s In the Line of Fire), is how resolutely unsurprising it is, telling its story with an unfashionably retro simplicity… Pulling a 180 from the methods espoused in Moneyball, Randy Brown’s script follows Gus (Eastwood), a cantankerous talent scout for the Atlanta Braves whose old-school ethics are on the outs. While on what may be his last recruiting trip, Gus is reunited with his estranged daughter (Amy Adams), an upwardly mobile attorney still smarting from her father’s distancing techniques. First-time director Robert Lorenz wisely places his actors front and center, with the sparkling Adams, Justin Timberlake, Matthew Lillard, and the great John Goodman all delivering terrifically tuned performances. Ultimately, though, Trouble with the Curve rises and falls with Eastwood, who keeps the material from drifting into cornball territory by sheer force of will…(From Amazon.com review)
“Out on parole after 8 years inside Bill Hayward returns home to find his now 11 and 15 year old sons abandoned by their mother and fending for themselves. Unwilling to play Dad, an uncaring Bill is determined to move on. Although Dean the older boy has found a job and is doing his best to be a father to his younger brother Jimmy, the arrival of Bill has brought them to the attention of social services. With the danger of being put into care looming, Dean forces his feckless Dad to stay by threatening to grass him up for dealing. If there’s one thing Bill doesn’t want it’s to go back to prison. He reluctantly agrees to stay for a week to help fool social services that the boys are being cared for. Having never really grown up himself Bill quickly connects with Jimmy and through this new bond starts to realize what he’s been missing. He has a family, a place in the world. He is a father. However, their happy family set up is short lived when Jimmy gets into trouble with Bill’s dangerous old cohorts. To sort it out would breach the terms of his license and risk sending him back to Jail…’ (From Amazon.co.uk description)
“In the framing device, bestselling author Clay Hammond (a very good Dennis Quaid) reads passages from his novel, The Words, about Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper), a struggling writer whose fiancée, Dora (Zoë Saldana), sticks by him during the years he spends toiling away on his first book. Though he isn’t without ability, he can’t find a taker, so he gets a mailroom job with a publishing house. While honeymooning in Paris, Dora buys him a vintage satchel in which he finds an unsigned manuscript. After she breaks into tears at the beauty of the prose–thinking she’s finally gotten a true glimpse of his talent–he publishes The Window Tears under his own name, and it becomes a literary phenomenon, but then a shadowy figure starts following him around. The Old Man (Jeremy Irons) turns out to have ties to the text, which centers on a young American (Ben Barnes) stationed in France during World War II, who loses his heart to literature and love (Nora Arnezeder) in ways both wonderful and terrible. The three story strands…couldn’t be timelier in light of the plagiarism scandals that have been rocking the publishing world…” (From Amazon.com review)
“When the Tan gang’s prison breakout goes violently wrong, they need a hideout in a hurry. Picking the McMansion of a middle-class Maori family probably seemed like a safe bet. But how were the Tans to know that this particular family have reintroduced some very old-fashioned cuisine to their dining table? Will the Tans escape the trap, or is there gangster in the casserole tonight?…” (Syndetics summary)