‘Aftershock’ aborts, ‘Pines’ pleases and ‘Sapphires’ sparkles on DVD

Among the movies that became available Tuesday, Aug. 6 on Blu-ray and DVD at retail stores and rental outlets throughout the Valley are a thriller starring Eli Roth, a drama starring Ryan Gosling and a musical dramedy starring Chris O’Dowd.

Aftershock

Eli Roth plays a hapless American tourist who, in the middle of a night of wild partying with his friends, is suddenly plunged into a living hell when a powerful earthquake rips through the coastal town of Valparaíso, Chile. (R – 90 minutes)

Those expecting “Aftershock” to essentially show what would happen if an earthquake had hit smack dab in the middle of “Hostel” will be sorely disappointed. Although it is true that Eli Roth has both writing and producing credits on the new thriller in which he also stars and director Nicolás López does place some pretty painful looking ways to die on display, none of it is particularly creative and therefore it all feels somewhat generic. Cementing that quality is a third act that is less about the disquieting consequences of natural disaster than about bad people doing barbaric things. (Thumbs Down!)

Antiviral

Caleb Jones plays an employee at a clinic that sells injections of live viruses harvested from sick celebrities to obsessed fans. When he becomes infected with the disease that kills the most revered celebrity of all, he becomes a target for collectors and rabid fans. (NR – 106 minutes)

It is not necessarily a bad thing that writer/director Brandon Cronenberg’s style seems so inspired by that of his father David. After all, he has picked up many useful skills – including an eye for visual poetry and a knack for infusing an interesting idea with significant social subtext. However, some stories – such as the one in “Antiviral” – ought to be told with at least some sense of humanity. Brandon borrows too much from David for this particular premise, using a parasite in place of an actual character and adopting a pace that will put most audiences to sleep. (Thumbs Down!)

Oblivion

Tom Cruise plays a veteran soldier who is sent by a court martial to a distant planet, where he is to destroy the remains of an alien race. The arrival of an unexpected traveler causes him to question what he knows about the planet, his mission and himself. (PG-13 – 125 minutes)

“Oblivion” borrows from just about every science-fiction flick imaginable. Writer/director Joseph Kosinski’s new movie does not have so much as a single original bone in its entire body. Although this essentially does not bode well for its chances at longevity, it ensures fans of the genre a great time in the here and now. And while the visuals are quite spectacular, the motion picture is particularly effective in its use of sound. Its score is the best that I have heard since Kosinski’s “Tron: Legacy” and the reverberation of its attacking drones makes this feel less like film than a theme park ride. (Thumbs Up!)

On the Road

Sam Riley and Garrett Headlund play an aspiring writer and an ex-con who, determined not to get locked into a constricted life, cut their ties and take to the road in search of the world, of other encounters and of themselves. Kristen Stewart also stars. (R – 124 minutes)

Regardless of the company that they might afford you, some road trips should just never be taken. “On the Road” is an one of them. Director Walter Salles’ cinematic adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s novel of the same title is a tedious, overlong and meandering motion picture – which is a shame considering its cast includes the likes of Kristen Stewart, Amy Adams and Viggo Mortensen. Sure, the scenery is sometimes spectacular but you are almost guaranteed to get lost along the way – be it out of sheer boredom or simply out of the strenuously spontaneous nature of the narrative. (Thumbs Down!)

The Place Beyond the Pines

Ryan Gosling plays a motorcycle stunt rider who turns to robbing banks as a way to provide for his lover (Eva Mendes) and their newborn child – a decision that puts him on a collision course with an ambitious rookie cop (Bradley Cooper) navigating a department ruled by a corrupt detective (Ray Liotta). (R – 140 minutes)

“The Place Beyond the Pines” is clandestinely epic. That is to say that writer/director Derek Cianfrance’s new drama is every bit as monumentally entertaining as not only one summer blockbuster but an entire trilogy – except instead of big-budget special effects to astound audiences it utilizes gigantic and genuine emotions. In fact, its story is so intensely arresting that you will not be able to take your eyes off of the screen for the entire duration of its 140-minute runtime while the powerful journey and its compelling consequences will remain with you long after the end credits have rolled. (Breakthrough!)

The Sapphires

Miranda Tapsell, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy and Shari Sebbens play Australian Aboriginal girls who learn about love, friendship and war when they are discovered by a talent scout (Chris O’Dowd) and their all-girl group entertains the U.S. troops in 1968 Vietnam. (PG-13 – 99 minutes)

Much like the four female characters whose story it tells, “The Sapphires” is – against seemingly all odds – sensational. The new historical musical dramedy is emotionally manipulative as it travels along a relatively conventional narrative path but it is so exorbitantly lively and gosh-darn likeable that you cannot help but overlook those somewhat sour notes and just enjoy the ride. And even though it is particularly less polished than most motion pictures and comes with accents that are occasionally difficult to decipher, the always charismatic Chris O’Dowd and a stellar soundtrack help to make this low-budget Australian import much easier to swallow. (Thumbs Up!)

To the Wonder

Olga Kurylenko and Ben Affleck play a couple who, after visiting Mont Saint-Michel, come to Oklahoma where problems arise. The woman meets a priest and fellow exile (Javier Bardem) who is struggling with his vocation while the man renews his ties with a childhood friend (Rachel McAdams). (R – 112 minutes)

Writer/director Terrence Malick’s characters in “To the Wonder” love to spin around in circles. At first, everything looks so absolutely gorgeous – with dialogue that makes this romantic drama feel less like a motion picture than a piece of poetry that has come to life – that you embrace the experience and spin around with them. However, as time goes on and things get increasingly abstract, you lose your grasp on the story and are sent flying into a state of discombobulation by the centrifugal force. Eventually, you are merely looking at the movie as opposed to actually absorbing it. (Thumbs Down!)

West of Memphis

Filmmaker Amy Berg examines a catastrophic failure of justice in Arkansas, telling the story behind an extraordinary and desperate fight to bring the truth to light. (R – 147 minutes)

One would think that Amy Berg, the director of “West of Memphis” – a remarkably well-researched documentary that essentially condemns the criminal system for taking too long to grant justice to the wrongly convicted – would have found a way to tell the story of the West Memphis Three in less than two-and-a-half hours. All irony aside, this motion picture packs a powerful punch – both intellectually and emotionally. Prepare to be disturbed. Prepare to be angry. Prepare to be inspired. The movie is as compelling as it comprehensive, drawing those who are familiar with the case as well as newcomers deep into the difficult ordeal. (Thumbs Up!)

Joseph J. Airdo

Joseph J. Airdo is a film critic, producer and on-air personality for Breakthrough Entertainment, a talk radio show airing 10-11 a.m. Saturdays on KPHX 1480 AM and BreakRadioShow.com that shines a spotlight on the practical perspectives of the topics and themes explored in movies. He has a pet duck named Frozen who is as opinionated about movies as he is. E-mail him at joseph.airdo@gmail.com.

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