Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled DVDs In Brief: June 22, 2011

Had it ended at the 80-minute mark, Unknown (Warner Bros.) might have been an entertaining thriller in the style of Hitchcock’s North By Northwest. As an amnesiac on the run from conspirators in Berlin, Liam Neeson continues his late-career resurgence as a credible action star, but the longer the film goes on, the more ridiculous and implausible the conspiracy seems. At least veteran actor Bruno Ganz acquits himself nicely as an ex-Stasi officer who comes to Neeson’s aid…

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Adapted from a Philip K. Dick short story, The Adjustment Bureau (Universal) fuses a romance with an eccentric science-fiction story about free will vs. determination. In spite of great chemistry between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt as a politician and a dancer who try to escape the hands of fate—represented here by fedora-wearing supernatural agents keen on keeping Damon on a certain track—the film never transcends its own awkward universe. The world hinges on Damon’s actions, yet the stakes feel much lower than they should…

Cedar Rapids (Universal) could accurately be described as Alexander Payne lite, trading on the dopey Midwestern humor that animates Payne comedies like Election and About Schmidt. But it’s a winner nonetheless, thanks largely to the performances, especially Ed Helms as a small-town rube who goes to the sprawling urban jungle of Cedar Rapids for an insurance conference, and John C. Reilly as the drunken lout who corrupts him. Though the film toes the line between good-natured mockery and hayseed condescension, the cast helps get the balance right…

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When FX approached Louis C.K. about doing a series, they didn’t have as much money to offer as other networks like HBO, but they gave him complete autonomy, and he created a show like no other. Writing, directing, and starring in every episode on Louie: The Complete First Season (Fox), C.K. uses his standup to provide a basic structure and theme, but from there, the show goes wherever he feels like taking it.

With happythankyoumoreplease (Anchor Bay), How I Met Your Mother star Josh Radnor went the Zach Braff route, writing and directing an indie vehicle for himself in the style of Braff’s Garden State. The comparison between the two films is inevitable and only a little unfair; Radnor’s amiable relationship comedy has the feel of a half-decent late-’80s/early-’90s Woody Allen film, after Allen stopped separating his comedy and drama.

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