Home movies: Transformers, Carlos and Viva Riva

September 30, 2011

Recently released DVDS:

L’Amour Fou (Not rated, 98 minutes) — A very cool, slow-moving French documentary about designer Yves Saint Laurent’s ascension to fame and his long, slow slide into depression, narrated by his longtime business partner and lover, Pierre Berge. Sporadically interesting, but generally maddening. Grade: 80

The Butcher, The Chef and The Swordsman (PG-13, 92 minutes) — Fox introduces its new video label, Fox World Cinema, with this Chinese action comedy, the first film from the director Wuershan. The film tells three interlocking stories set in feudal times in a kinetic, genre-hopping style that feels like Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill on crystal meth. Some might consider that a good thing. Others will just be exhausted. Grade: 77

Carlos (Unrated, 330 minutes) — Olivier Assayas investigates the pathological narcissism of the infamous terrorist assassin Ilich (“Carlos the Jackal”) Ramirez Sanchez (Edgar Ramirez) in a film (originally a miniseries) that is savage and funny. Grade: 89

Help Me Help You</strong> (Not rated, 85 minutes) — This good-natured, harmless, low-budget comedy about a dying physician isn’t really much of a movie, but if you buy it from the website helpmehelpyoumovie.com and don’t like it, the real Pittsburgh doctor — Ravi Godse — who wrote, directed and starred in it will give you your money back and send you an e-mail apology. You don’t hear George Clooney making that kind of offer. Godse has made other movies, but this is the first for which he has recruited name stars such as Steve Guttenberg, Richard Kind (Spin City) and Steeler great Franco Harris. Grade: 75

The Ledge (R, 101 minutes) — We’re told that Charles Darwin’s great-great-grandson wrote the screenplay for this rather controversial and sophomoric tirade against organized religion that’s only partially redeemed by the obvious investment of a pretty good cast. Gavin (Charlie Hunnum) is a hotel manager with an apartment above his pay grade who takes no small delight in cuckolding his new neighbor, religious zealot Joe (Patrick Wilson), a thoroughly unlikeable straw man. Anyway, for reasons we won’t spoil, Gavin ends up on the titular precipice, preparing to jump. Enter a police negotiator (Terrence Howard) with his own issues and an irritating habit of answering his cell phone no matter what he’s in the middle of. Not to be confused with the forthcoming Man on the Ledge.Grade: 78

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (PG-13, 157 minutes) — An insane product. I will just go with the synopsis off the Internet Movie Database: “The Autobots learn of a Cybertronian spacecraft hidden on the Moon, and race against the Decepticons to reach it and to learn its secrets.” I’ve now seen this movie twice and I still don’t know what that means. I did enjoy the first half hour. But it is crazy and ultimately depressing. And also very loud. I’m sorry to have to tell you this. Grade: 80

Viva Riva (R, 96 minutes) — The first movie from the Democratic Republic of Congo to be distributed in the U.S., Viva Riva is an enjoyably raw action entertainment that compares favorably with any number of peversely cherished ’70s blaxploitation and grindhouse films. It’s all about the “getting over” of the charming petty grifter Riva (Patsha Bay Mukuna) who manages his first major heist — the theft of a truckload of fuel from Angola. Familiar Hollywood-derived tropes are trotted out, and our anti-hero comes off more as lucky fool than bad motor scooter and there’s lots of sex. Grade: 85

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