Being John Malkovich Blu-ray — In this 1999 Criterion Collection release, Spike Jonze directs a surreal Charlie Kaufman script about a sad-sack puppeteer (John Cusack) who finds a portal that lets him control Malkovich's body, which he uses to seduce the woman of his dreams (Catherine Keener). Cameron Diaz plays the Cusack character's equally frustrated wife. The wildly inventive film works like a Mobius Strip, becoming a brain-bending puzzle filled with self-references and characters who are every bit as confused as the audience. Kaufman pal Michel Gondry provides commentary for some scenes, and there are interviews with Malkovich, Jonze, films that show within the film, as well as a background documentary.
Chronicle — Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan play a trio of high school students who film their exploits as they develop mutant abilities that let them move objects with their minds. The film plays out as if patched together from found footage, capturing the exuberance of the new powers and the bond the kids share, as well as the downsides of being different as a teen. Some of the effects are spectacular, while others seem splotched together with poor CGI. Suspend your disbelief and you'll have a good time. The Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo is light on extras, with only a single deleted scene and a camera test.
The Grey — Liam Neeson has spent much of his time bouncing among big, dopey action movies as of late, but he takes advantage of a rare chance to sink his teeth into a meaty role here. He plays a suicidal hunter who toils in a frigid Alaskan oil enterprise, forced into the wilderness with a few stragglers. The guys, who struggle get along, are compelled to band together as they tangle with a pack of wolves, as well as the unforgiving elements. Director Joe Carnahan, who had blown most of his indie cred by making The A-Team, is back in top form in this fevered thriller. In the Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo, Carnahan joins a pair of editors for commentary. There are also deleted scenes.
Hell on Wheels: Season 1 — AMC's gritty, Deadwood-like Western is set among the human wreckage of Union Pacific's 19th century transcontinental railroad project. Anson Mount plays a former Confederate soldier who's trying to eke out a living amid the hardscrabble, murder-strewn project, while also seeking to track down those who murdered his wife and son. Common and Colm Meaney also play significant roles. I missed the series when it aired last year, but found it to be as engrossing as anything else the network has to offer (Breaking Bad, Mad Men). A making-of documentary, featurettes on key characters and episode breakdowns are included.
One for the Money — Continuing her streak of questionable choices, Katherine Heigl forces herself into a ratty wig and New Jersey accent to play bounty hunter Stephanie Plum in a bland adaptation of a Janet Evanovich novel. It's interesting to see Heigl stretching out of her romantic comedy comfort zone, and she's convincing as the continually underestimated, out-of-her-depth character. But the slow-moving plot and the painful, rimshot-worthy one-liners she's forced to utter make the movie cringe-worthy at times. A deleted scene, gag reel and some lackluster featurettes make up the extras of the Blu-ray/digital copy combo.
Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie — Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim forgot to bring many of the jokes when they transferred their sketch comedy routine from the 2007-'10 Adult Swim series Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! to the movie world. They bring their Funny or Die co-conspirators with them — look for appearances from Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Will Forte and others — but can only a few funny moments. With a midnight movie crowd and the proper amount of intoxication, this shapeless mass of absurdist gags might be sublime, but at home on your TV it seems just sad and misdirected. The extras are as scattershot and marginal as the film itself.
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