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(OUT OF 10)

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A New York couple has a big decision to make: Do they attend a Fourth of July party in Manhattan, or do they spend a quiet day with family in Brooklyn? They flip a coin, and both options play out on-screen in real time, parallel-universe style (sort of like what is happening on TV's Lost). In one scenario, they have that quiet dinner with family, and the proceedings are sweet and serene. In the other, they find a cellular phone in a taxicab and wind up running for their lives.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lynn Collins star as the couple, and they prove themselves to be capable of both intimate drama and balls-to-the-wall thrills. Directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel (The Deep End, Bee Season) take a silly premise and make it work—to a certain degree. While an experiment like this could end up very messy and convoluted, they manage to make it comprehensible and well-balanced.

It's not a great movie, but it entertained me on some levels and contains some good performances.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Some audition footage, script/scene comparisons and a photo gallery.

Disgrace (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

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Post-apartheid South Africa gets a tense examination in this absorbing film from director Steve Jacobs, based on a novel by J.M. Coetzee.

John Malkovich stars as David Lurie, a poetry professor in Cape Town, South Africa, who has an obsessive affair with a student (Antoinette Engel), gets himself fired and goes to see his daughter, Lucy (Jessica Haines), at her isolated farm. David has trepidations about where her daughter lives and her susceptibility to criminals. It turns out his fears are justified.

David and his daughter essentially find themselves in a contained race war, with Lucy's farm a symbolic representation of South Africa as a whole. The film doesn't take sides with its politics, and I'm sure the movie will inspire more than a few heated conversations about who "did the right thing." Yes, I am referencing Spike Lee's brilliant Do the Right Thing. The two films have interesting parallels.

Malkovich is, once again, brilliant in the central role. His character displays everything from perverse egocentricity to sweet empathy. At one moment, he's heroic; the next, he's a severely flawed coward. It's a complex character that gives Malkovich one of his meatiest roles in years.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Some interviews with the cast and crew.

The Lovely Bones (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

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This movie got the crap kicked out of it by critics (including our own James DiGiovanna), and this mystifies me. Saoirse Ronan is magnificent as Susie Salmon, a young girl who watches over her family from the "in-between" after she's murdered. Stanley Tucci plays a sickening child killer in yet another fine film from director Peter Jackson.

I've read the Alice Sebold novel, and while there was plenty good about it, I was appalled by the book's ending. My feeling is that Jackson adapted the right stuff from the book, and jettisoned the awkward mistakes Sebold made. Overall, this is a beautiful-looking, well-made movie.

SPECIAL FEATURES: The Blu-ray contains a second disc with a three-hour-plus look at the making of the movie.

The Slammin' Salmon (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

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Broken Lizard has made their funniest movie yet with this slapstick look at an intense night of waiting tables at a seafood restaurant. The Slammin' Salmon is owned by former boxing champion Cleon Salmon (Michael Clarke Duncan), who initiates a contest with his staff to see who can sell the most food in one night. The winner gets a big cash prize—and the loser gets his ass kicked by the boss.

I've always found Broken Lizard comedies (Super Troopers, Club Dread, Beerfest) to be inconsistent, and this one is no exception. It's put over the top by the performances, especially a surprising one from Duncan. His former boxer isn't so much punchy as he is completely insane.

Jay Chandrasekhar (Jay, I will give you $50 to shorten your name ... I HATE TYPING IT!) is hilarious as Nuts, a waiter who forgets to take his medication. Will Forte, one of the best things about the current Saturday Night Live cast, gets giggles as a lonely customer. And I also liked April Bowlby as a waitress and ballerina wannabe who, despite suffering numerous facial burns during the competition, soldiers on.

This is no masterpiece, but it shows that Broken Lizard can be funny when they simplify the setting and let their talent dominate. Fans of their work won't be disappointed.

SPECIAL FEATURES: There are two commentaries featuring various members of the Broken Lizard troupe, and an interview segment with them commenting on their true-life restaurant experiences.

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