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The Hunter (Blu-ray); The Artist (Blu-ray); Being Flynn (Blu-ray)

The Hunter (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

Willem Dafoe stars in this interesting indie film about a hunter for hire in search of an allegedly extinct animal in Tasmania, the Tasmanian tiger. Director Daniel Nettheim's film, based on the novel by Julia Leigh, makes nice use of Tasmanian locales, where Dafoe reportedly battled leeches and other nasty beings while filming.

Dafoe plays Martin, a loner sent to Australia to seek out the animal for a corporation that wants it for its chemical attributes. They don't really care about saving the animal; they just want to use it for experiments, and they don't need it alive.

Martin doesn't care about whatever the evil corporation wants; he just wants to get the job done and collect a check. He's sent to live with a family where the father has gone missing searching for the same beast. After getting acclimated, he starts warming up to the missing hunter's wife (Frances O'Connor) and her two children.

Above all, it's interesting to see a film set in Australia that doesn't take place in the outback. The scenery in this film is beautiful, yet very different. You get a true sense of a land that humans, perhaps, should steer clear of.

It's good to see O'Connor again; the reliable actress hasn't been in much worth talking about lately, and she does nice work here. Sam Neill chips in as a local with ambiguous intentions hired to guide Martin. Morgana Davies is quite good as Sass, one of the two children Martin befriends.

This was marketed as a "hunting" movie, but the most effective parts are the human dramas between Martin, the family and the angry townspeople who don't want his type around. Dafoe brings typical greatness to the role, making this much more than a film about a guy trying to catch a tiger. The filmmakers scored a major victory when they got him on the project.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A well-done behind the scenes doc that features all the main performers. Dafoe appears to be having fun reminiscing about the physical travails of the shoot. You also get a commentary and deleted scenes.

The Artist (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

This recent winner of the Best Picture Oscar is a funny, touching and innovative piece of work with a fun performance from Jean Dujardin (also an Oscar winner for Best Actor). He plays a silent movie star at the dawning of the sound age, much like Charlie Chaplin, who either must make the leap to sound or slip away.

Bérénice Bejo plays Peppy Miller, a star on the rise. After sharing a scene in a film, their careers go in separate directions. They are wonderfully expressive performers, which suits Michel Hazanavicius' film perfectly. Their final dance number is the sort of movie magic that's been missing since the days of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly.

It was one of last year's biggest surprises. They'll be watching this one 100 years from now. It's quite the bold achievement.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Plenty of behind-the-scenes stuff, including an in-depth look at the locations used in the movie. There's also a blooper reel.

Being Flynn (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

One would hope that a pairing of Paul Dano (so good with Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood) and Robert De Niro would create performance fireworks. In the case of this film, based on the Nick Flynn memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, we get only a few sparklers and wet bottle rockets.

Dano plays Nick, a wayward soul who gets a job in a homeless shelter. After a short time on the job his father (De Niro), whom he only recently met, winds up at the shelter looking for a room and eventually raises hell.

The role provides De Niro with the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a cab Travis Bickle-style (Cool!), and progressively lose his mind. De Niro is strong for the film's first half, but he sort of loses control of his performance as the movie plays out.

By the time the film wraps, his character's rages have lost their effectiveness.

Dano's character, who battles chemical dependency, is not well written. He just doesn't register as anything near realistic, an odd thing because he is based on a real person. His dalliances with drugs and his mental struggles are glossed over.

Director Paul Weitz, the ultimate example of a hit-and-miss director, had a chance for something really gritty here, but he settles for mildly coarse.

It's too bad. I keep waiting for the role that will return De Niro to glory, and I thought this one had a good chance. It's much better than Little Fockers (which Weitz also directed) but nothing in comparison to his best work. We De Niro fans just have to keep waiting.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A short featurette on the making of the film, and that is all.

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