Delivery Man

Toni Servillo in THE GREAT BEAUTY

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. The Great Beauty (Criterion) Paolo Sorrentino’s almost plotless portrait of the glamorous nightlife of contemporary Rome may seem on the surface to be an obvious choice for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. After all, it quite deliberately follows the footsteps of La Dolce Vita as an ode not only to Rome’s vast history, but its history of cinematic glitz. Yet there’s a great deal going on below The Great Beauty’s exquisitely realized surface. Rather than a simple 21st century upgrade of Fellini’s Rome, The Great Beauty is an existential travelogue, a decadent and detailed portrayal of a place uncertain about how to realize its future as a definitive global city in the culture so content to rest its champagne-soaked laurels on its extensive reputation. We see Rome through the eyes of Toni Servillo’s Jep Gambardella, whose failure to produce a second novel after a monumental first success sets the stage for his engrossing tour of Rome’s beguiling but hollow surfaces. While it made nary an appearance on op-ed trendpieces on the topic, Sorrentino’s film belongs directly alongside 2013’s many portrayals of excess for an era of economic uncertainty. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more beautifully shot and edited exegesis on the sweet life. – Landon Palmer [Blu-ray/DVD extras:  Interviews with the director, lead actor, and screenwriter; deleted scenes; trailer; an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by Philip Lapote]

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2013.moviedoppelgangers

Every year, there seem to be unintended themes emerging from movie releases. It’s almost as if the studios called each other to coordinate projects like friends in high school planning to wear matching outfits on a Friday. Sometimes this effect is unintentional, like when an emerging movie star manages to have multiple films comes out the same year (see Melissa McCarthy below); other times, it’s a result of executives switching studios and developing similar projects (like the infamous Disney and DreamWorks 1998 double-header grudge match of A Bug’s Life vs. Antz and Armageddon vs. Deep Impact). This year is no different, producing a slew of movie doppelgangers. For the sake of creativity, I left the painfully obvious off. Still, who can forget offerings like Olympus Has Fallen up against White House Down as well as This Is the End paired with The World’s End? And, if you really hate yourself, you can watch a terrible trippleganger of A Haunted House, Scary Movie 5 and 30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with the Devil Inside the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Whether it’s similar themes, the same actor in noticeably similar roles, or parallel stand-out moments in two films, this list of 13 movie pairings can provide a nice selection of companion pieces for your viewing pleasure.

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Donor Unknown

One side effect of living in a time of rapid scientific advancement is that story ideas that once would have been considered “genre” are now fully plausible. Both the new fiction film Delivery Man (a remake of the 2011 French Canadian feature Starbuck) and the 2010 documentary Donor Unknown are about men who, through prolific sperm donation, have become the “fathers” of a good amount of children. They played a role in so many conceptions without ever meeting the parents or offspring. Both movies look at what happens when those children become curious about their biological origins and the interactions they have with their donors. READ MORE

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D

Brett (Chris Pratt) is a family man at the end of his rope. His career is in tatters after losing his law license, his wife is probably cheating on him, and his four young children, while adorable, will probably be the death of him. His status as a stay at home dad hasn’t earned him any more respect from his kids, and on the rare days when he wakes up feeling pretty good about his life a single call from his mother is all it takes to remind him of his multiple failures. A chance at redemption comes when he discovers his best friend has just been named in a civil lawsuit. It seems some sperm donations made two decades prior resulted in a few children, and the now grown-up progeny are suing for the right to know the identity of their biological father. It has the potential to be a groundbreaking case, and the idea of being the lawyer at the center of it all both excites and terrifies Brett. He gets his license reinstated, packs his kids’ lunches, and dives in to the deep end for the trial of his life. Ah what could have been. Unfortunately, Delivery Man is not about Brett, his struggle for self-respect, or a trial with far-reaching moral and legal implications. Instead it’s the story of his best friend, David (Vince Vaughn), a mediocre man who discovers 533 reasons why he should be a better one.

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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