Sunday, May 8, 2011

'Blue Valentine' a gritty look at a changing relationship


New films
No Strings Attached $29.99/ Blu-ray $39.99
The Illusionist Blu-ray $38.96
Blue Valentine $29.98/ Blu-ray $39.99
Black Death $26.98/ Blu-ray $29.98
I Saw the Devil $26.98/ Blu-ray $29.98
The Hit List $24.96/ Blu-ray $30.95

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (in stores Friday) $29.99/ Blu-ray $39.99
AC/DC: Live at River Plate $14.98/ Blu-ray $29.98

Older films
Some Like It Hot Blu-ray $19.99
The Horse Soldiers Blu-ray $16.99
Alien Blu-ray $34.98
Aliens Blu-ray $34.98
The Sign of the Cross $19.98
Something Wild: The Criterion Collection $29.95/ Blu-ray $39.95

McMillan & Wife: Season 3 $39.98
Cougars, Inc. $26.98/ Blu-ray $29.99
Bhutto $27.95

Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling give fearless performances in "Blue Valentine," a gritty and uncompromising exploration of a contemporary relationship. The film shifts between two periods of the couple's time together - the beginning of the romance, when Dean (Gosling) and Cindy (Williams) meet, to a few years later, when they are married, facing money worries and are parents of a young girl (Faith Wladyka).

Dean is a bit of a dreamer who carries a ukulele around, happy to have someone to love. While a worker and provider, he has little ambition, which begins to bother his wife. And so after six years together, he and Cindy, a nurse trying to get a promotion, find themselves moving in different directions.

The film, which took 12 years for writer-director Derek Cianfrance to bring to the screen, is too shifting in focus to be engrossing, though there are some moments between the actors that are riveting.

Falling in and out of love can be an inarticulate and inconsistent experience in real life, but translating that to the screen doesn't necessarily ring true.

Second-string comedy

Ivan Reitman's "No Strings Attached" tries to be an adult romantic comedy.

It stars Natalie Portman - who seems to have made about 50 movies before she went on maternity leave (and won an Oscar) - as Emma, a Los Angeles doctor who works emergency room rotations. Ashton Kutcher is a television writer, whom she is attracted

to. Neither wants to commit to an emotional relationship, so they settle on a sexual one, which is captured in a montage in this R-rated film.

But there will be strings - eventually. Reitman ("Ghostbusters," "Dave") has made some funny movies, and "No Strings" has got enough laughs to make it passable. But it lacks the maturity it needs to make it interesting enough for the rating.

Got Bieber fever?

Backstage at the Grammys, teen star Justin Bieber showed himself to be a pretty charming young man, which I'm sure his fan base of teen girls already knows. The 105-minute documentary "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never" is half concert film and half get to know the Bieb. I'm sure that works just fine for his fans.

Daniels goes 'Wild'

Jeff Daniels, currently starring in "God of Carnage" at the Ahmanson Theatre, got on everyone's radar 25 years ago in Jonathan Demme's very smart and weirdly funny comedy "Something Wild." Daniels plays Charlie, a young executive rebelling against his buttoned-up life by doing things like sneaking out on a lunch tab. This little indiscretion catches the eye of Audrey (Melanie Griffith), a free spirit with a Louise Brooks haircut who even calls herself Lulu. She then lures him on a wild road adventure with lots of crazy sex, crazy encounters and dangers, the last involving Audrey's psycho ex-boyfriend Ray (Ray Liotta), who is fresh out of prison.

Criterion has a newly restored version of "Something Wild" supervised by its cinematographer, Tak Fujimoto. The disc includes new interviews with Demme and writer E. Max Frye, plus a booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Thomson.

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