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DVDs In Brief: January 4, 2012

A.V. Club Staff

The first season of Justified was a consistently pleasing show, turning Elmore Leonard’s modern-day cowboy character Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) into a charismatic shoot-first hero against a vivid Kentucky backdrop. But Justified: Season Two (Sony) marked a great leap forward, thanks in large part to Margo Martindale’s Emmy-winning performance as a maternal backwoods General Store owner who also happens to lord over the county’s marijuana business. With Martindale and her family in the mix, the show strengthened its already rich sense of local color and emphasized the value of Givens’ ability to access an insular community…


Apocalyptic scenarios don’t get much scarier than Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion (Warner Bros.), precisely because he doesn’t treat its globe-threatening malady with the hysteria of escapist thrillers like Outbreak. Though many of the script’s Traffic-like multiple storylines don’t pan out satisfactorily, Soderbergh succeeds in offering a cold-blooded, plausible scenario in which a deadly infectious disease could spread around the globe. Audiences will never want to touch a communal bowl of beer nuts again…

The great Irish actor Brendan Gleeson makes the most of a meaty role in The Guard (Sony), playing a gleefully negligent cop on Ireland's west coast. Don Cheadle co-stars as an FBI agent partnered with Gleeson, but the film sidesteps familiar “mismatched buddy comedy elements in favor low-key dark comedy that slowly circles around to a story of redemption. Sort of. John Michael McDonagh, whose brother Martin gave Gleeson a similarly terrific part in In Bruges, writes and directs and, apart from a few too self-conscious moments, turns The Guard into one of 2011's most promising debuts…


Cameron Crowe has known the guys in Pearl Jam since long before there was a Pearl Jam—from back when Crowe and the musicians who’d form the backbone of the Seattle scene were all young, idealistic, and enthusiastic. Crowe’s documentary Pearl Jam Twenty (Columbia) exploits that relationship for some great stories, but doesn’t do enough to open it up to non-fans…

After suffering a terrible bike incident, noted Hollywood hack Tom Shadyac (Liar, Liar, Evan Almighty) had a life-changing epiphany and decided to devote his time, energy, and resources toward healing the world from the terrible mess it’s been in these last 5 billion millennia or so. So he traveled the world, speaking to scientists, artists, humanitarians, and philosophers for the documentary I Am (Gaiam), a simultaneously well-intentioned and misguided vanity project powered by a curious combination of altruism, narcissism, and bullshit pseudo-spirituality. It’s a different kind of movie from Shadyac, but it’s still fairly terrible, albeit in a sometimes fascinatingly personal way.


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