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“The Canyons” – The auteurs behind “American Gigolo” (director/screenwriter Paul Schrader) and “American Psycho” (novelist/scenarist Bret Easton Ellis) team for an uber-stylish, wildly provocative look at contemporary SoCal manners, mores and murder. Starring tabloid magnet Lindsay Lohan (heartbreakingly brilliant) and
porn star James Deen (startlingly good), the film zigs just when you think it’s going to sag, and keeps you happily buzzed from beginning to end. In a dispiriting summer season when most big-ticket Hollywood movies seem content to function as expensive wallpaper, this micro-budgeted indie proves you don’t need a $200-million budget to make art that matters. (A). Available on iTunes and other VOD services beginning August 2nd.
“The To-Do List” – Despite a first-rate cast (including Aubrey Plaza, Connie Britton and a scene-stealing Bill Hader), this raunchy comedy about a high school valedictorian (Plaza) attempting to get a crash course on the birds and the bees before entering college is more smutty-awkward than smutty amusing. Set in 1993 for no apparent reason, the film’s Idaho (?) setting looks suspiciously like Southern California–which, according to IMDB, it was. Duh. (C).
“The Wolverine” – If there really had to be another “Wolverine” spin-off, this James (“Walk the Line,” “3:10 to Yuma”) Mangold-helmed entry delivers the goods in expeditious fashion. The Japanese setting–and Mangold’s playful riffs on the entire history of Asian cinema–help give it spice, and a spectacular fight sequence atop a speeding bullet train is worthy of a top-tier 007 movie. It’s maybe 20 minutes too long, but what film isn’t these days? (B).
New on DVD:
“G.I. Joe: Retaliation” – There’s nothing more tedious than trash that doesn’t know it’s trash. This idiotic, thoroughly pointless sequel to the 2009 guilty pleasure seems to be under the delusion that it’s, y’know, a real movie. Unlike the original no-brainer actioner, “Retaliation” is merely a noisy, overproduced bore. Channing Tatum fans should know that he’s barely in this installment, and The Rock hardly qualifies as an adequate replacement. (D).