On DVD & Blu-Ray: January 22, 2013

End of Watch is a great movie. It is as plain and simple as that. There could honestly be nothing more said about it and if, on that alone, you walked into a theater and experienced it for yourself you would come out nodding in agreement. It is a brutal, unflinching look at two cops in one of the most dangerous areas in the U.S. It centers around two partners and friends who are not related by blood but share the bond of family and hold it to be just as sacred. While there have been plenty of cop dramas in the last few years, and very good ones including this years Rampart, there is something fresh about this take on the day-to-day lives of two inner city cops. Maybe the fact this doesn't feature corrupt cops, cops getting in too deep undercover or any of the other typical situations we find our movie law enforcement officials getting into but instead are doing nothing more than going along for the ride. Watching End of Watch is like experiencing an in your face, real and raw episode of Cops. If Cops were to air on HBO this is probably what it would look and feel like. I didn't really know what to expect going into the film. Both leading men here have had their fair share of credible and award-worthy type films while also having starred in plenty of B-movies and nonstarters. This looked to naturally be in the former category for both actors but the same could also be said for writer and director David Ayer who has made a few films in this genre before. Sure, he wrote Training Day and directed the underrated Harsh Times, but he too has had a hand in a number of projects that attempted to capitalize on his successes that instead ended up being nothing more than generic. Do you remember Street Kings? Probably not. It is safe to say with End of Watch though that everyone involved has hit a home run. A

I went in with rather low expectations, but hoped for the best as I find Ari Graynor to be a great comedic actor and willing to go as far as she needs to for the sake of a joke. She is paired here with the less known Lauren Anne Miller, but is able to play the role of good girl gone bad with a nice tone of genuine fun that convinces us why she feels the need to have a summer fling with her less boring and reserved self. The two girls (Ari as Katie and Miller as Lauren) are at first sworn enemies for an incident that happened in college but are brought together by mutual friend Jesse (Justin Long) when each of their circumstances have them either finding a roommate or living on the streets. Graynor's Katie is the supposed wild girl of the bunch that always partied in college and has lived up to her reputation by now working in a nail salon. Lauren was in a serious relationship that ended up going nowhere and loses her stable job in the same week. In order to make some extra cash Katie performs a little phone sex each night and Lauren can't help but see her new roomie isn't making the kind of profit she has the potential to turn. And so, the fun ensues when the girls decide to start their own phone sex line. It may sound a bit of a simple premise, but it allows for the exploration of some very funny truths and some equally tender moments that give the film a little heart to go along with its raunch. Justin Long is especially enjoyable here as the gay best friend to each of them that only loves it even more when they too become good friends. Seth Rogen, Kevin Smith, and Nia Vardalos make fun cameos and at a brisk hour and twenty-five minutes the experience speeds by leaving you with nothing more than a fun impression and a smile on your face. B

Though this film will end up being the least respectable in the renaissance of Matthew McConaughey it is necessary to point out he, along with Macy Gray, are the saving grace this film needed to be rescued from the otherworldly mess it could have been and almost is. The Paperboy is based on a 1995 novel of the same name by Pete Dexter and though I've never read the book myself I can imagine the narrative being much more satisfying when built inside the brain rather than watching this incarnation of it smoulder along until it finally becomes somewhat engaging in the final act and becomes ablaze. Shot as a film noir full of sex and racism Lee Daniels follow up to his Oscar nominated Precious shows no signs of what made his previous film so moving. Granted, this is a different kind of movie altogether, but the subject matter could easily draw many similar themes. In 1960's south Florida a reporter and his partner (McConaughey and David Oyelowo) come to town from Miami hoping to investigate a murder case where they believe Hillary Van Wetter (a great, but underused John Cusack) has been framed for the murder of the corrupt local sheriff. When McConaughey's Ward Jansen arrives in town he enlists the help of his younger brother Jack (Zac Efron who is sponsored by Fruit of the Loom) and a woman who has been in contact and fallen in love with Mr. Van Wetter while on death row, Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman). Yes, this is the movie where Kidman pees on Efron and that only serves to illustrate the trust the otherwise great cast has put in their director but what Mr. Daniels has churned out here is an incoherent mess of a movie that drags along and feels like it is going nowhere only to fall back on twists that we can see coming from a mile away. I won't fault the film for trying as it has a clear visual style, interesting musical choices and fine performances, but when a film fails as bad as this one it is very easy to tell the difference between effort and just plain bad.

This was one of my top 10 films of 2012 and that is certainly something a little out of character for me as it is a documentary. Documentaries aren't usually included in my favorites list at the end of the year but this film was certainly too stirring, too emotional, and left so much of an impact on me that I could not ignore my love for it. It is pretty much a lock for best documentary at the Oscars next month and I couldn't agree with that more and highly recommend this to anyone who loves music and the intrigue of the music industry. In what is truly a story so unbelievable it could only be true director Malik Bendjelloul has explored the mythos of late-60's singer/songwriter Rodriguez whose career never took off in the United States after two failed records but inadvertently became bigger than Elvis in South Africa. The stories surrounding the singer, his death, his music and his lyrics are all truly fascinating. You don't necessarily even have to be a music lover to enjoy the film, you could love a good mystery or maybe yearn for a true type of period piece and this documentary delivers more than something satisfying. The film makes you ask questions of mortality, destiny, and justice. I went in not knowing anything about the film, its story, or even who it concerned and I would recommend that for any viewer. It certainly makes the intrigue and viewing experience all the more satisfying. There has been some speculation about the full truth of the story and how much of what is on screen was bent for purposes of being more fantastic or even omitted to make it more unbelievable and I certainly can see why this would be done, but from what I've read it doesn't really take away from what this film delivers on a personal level. It is still very much one of my favorites of last year and I dare you not to fall in love with the music of Rodriguez after watching it. A+

Though some of this plays out like an episode of 48 Hours or a handful of other investigative shows this documentary is ultimately worth checking out for the downright structure it has to it that mirrors a great mystery thriller. Just when we think we know where the story is heading we are clued in to another development that has us wanting to rewind to the beginning of the film and watch it over in hopes of picking up on these details earlier. It is a fascinating true story that is best taken in when going in without knowledge of what exactly it's about. That is how I experienced it, simply on word of mouth and a quick synopsis that informed me the basis of the plot. That 13 year-old Nicholas disappeared from San Antonio, Texas and three years later was found alive, thousands of miles away in Spain. The mystery lies in that not all seems right with the boy when he returns home to his family. It is already a strange case, how did the boy end up so far away? What happened in the three years he was gone? It is all very absorbing and the way in which director Bart Layton has chosen to feed us the story is even more interesting in that it gives us an unfiltered glimpse into the mind behind this entire thing. I won't say more than that as I would hate to spoil any details, but the film is certainly worth checking out for a wonderful piece of mystery as well as an interesting trip through the human mind and how the psychology of some people can be so far removed from
that of the happy medium. B+

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