Cinematical's Spin-ematical: 'The Book of Eli,' 'When in Rome,' 'Youth in Revolt'

The Book of Eli

Under the direction of Albert and Allen Hughes, this post-apocalyptic rocks along nicely. It's a straight-ahead genre flick, heavily styled to within an inch of its life; Denzel Washington plays a laconic semi-religious Western hero, guarding a mysterious book as he makes his way across an empty landscape. Not entirely empty, though, since he has to deal with the likes of the villainous Gary Oldman and the opportunistic Mila Kunis. A good, entertaining romp. Rent it.

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Youth in Revolt
Based on an acclaimed book by C.D. Payne, Youth in Revolt got pushed around the release schedule a bit before landing in January. Our own Erik Davis is a huge fan of the novel ("499 pages of dark comedic brilliance") and acknowledges that the movie version "definitely ends up feeling disjointed and forced in some areas -- but thanks to a wickedly hilarious performance from Michael Cera (easily the best of his career), this brainy teenage sex comedy does manage to dole out a handful of great scenes." Rent it.

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When in Rome
I missed this romantic comedy starring Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel during its theatrical run -- intentionally, I might add -- so I turn to Cinematical's Jenni Miller, who said the flick has "a certain charm" and allows that it may be "a decent guilty pleasure for a Sunday afternoon." Of course, Jenni really didn't likeThe Book of Eli, which i did, so my recommendation is still: Skip it.

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Also out:Unthinkable (thriller with Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Sheen)

After the jump: Indies on DVD and more Blu-ray picks!

'The Horseman' on DVDThe Horseman
"Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but there's nothing quite like meting out instant vengeance with a blowtorch and a pair of pliers," I wrote in my review from SXSW last year. Peter Marshall plays a father "who is devastated when he learns that his daughter has died, but he completely falls apart when he's informed that she overdosed on drugs. His grief turns to unbridled anger when he receives a videotape in the mail, showing several men having sex with the glassy-eyed, sad-looking young woman, and he sets off to kill the bastards."

Directed by Steven Kastrissios, The Horseman is a pulverizing experience, yet for all the blood, broken bones, and brutality, the film holds back at key moments, allowing the mind to fill in the blanks of (most of) the money shots. Clearly it's not for everyone.

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Directed by Chris Smith, the documentary features "one man [who] uncannily outlines the dark path our nation and world are heading down."

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Sex Positive
Nearly forgotten today, Richard Berkowitz co-wrote two key texts that introduced the concept of "safe sex." Daryl Wein's documentary chronicles Berkowitz's journey from college student to S&M hustler to safe sex advocate to gay community outcast. As I noted in my review, the film builds up a good head of steam that is dissipated after the fiery 70s and the apparent reluctance of Berkowitz to revisit certain issues, but it's worthwhile viewing on the whole.

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Also out: Burma VJ: Reporting From a Closed Country, Mary and Max, Happy Tears

'Showgirls'Showgirls: 15th Anniversary Sinsational Edition
If you've only seen parts of this movie, which I believe is still the only NC-17 rated flick to receive a wide release, those parts should look better than ever in Blu-ray. That in itself is reason for reflection, looking back with 15 years of hindsight. But what would have happened if director Paul Verhoeven had actually have made a terrific film, instead of the bad joke that resulted?

The obvious culprit is writer Joe Eszterhas, riding high and churning out slop that appealed to the lowest common denominator. He knew how to string together sensational sequences, but floundered when it came to recognizably human characters. Imagine if Nomi was a real, breathing woman instead of the caricature on screen. Elizabeth Berkley, gamely stripping down and prancing around naked, may have suffered the most; sometimes it seems that Verhoeven was content to stare at her body rather than give her, you know, direction.

It's a sad mess, but it's in the range of movies that are so bad they're still just bad, not good.

Also out: Vengeance Trilogy, Darkman, Mystery Train, The Stepfather. Enter the Dragon, Flash Gordon.