DVD reviews: 'End of Watch,' 'Searching for Sugar Man' and 'The Imposter'
“End of Watch” (2012, R, 109 min., $29.98). “End of Watch” isn't just one of the grittiest cop films of 2012. It's arguably the grittiest cop movie ever made. Written and directed by David Ayer, this action-packed drama about two police officers in the gang-infested streets of Los Angeles has no problem getting its hands dirty, and the use of handheld and surveillance cameras add the exclamation point. Viewers also are treated to the sincere relationship between partners who face life-or-death circumstances together every day. Even though Ayer's film takes some leaps in its plot, it's the realism that will grab viewers and make this one of the more memorable ones of 2012. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena — excellent in their performances — assume the lead roles of uniformed officers working the hardest areas of L.A. The cops have a great relationship, and it's exhibited in their light-hearted talks about family and work. They stumble upon some dangerous folks in the drug business and make some important arrests. The busts catch the eyes of some of the top drug distributors, and they want the partners dead. As Brian (Gyllenhaal) and Mike (Pena) head out to do their job, there's a surprise waiting. There are some good extras, including lots of featurettes on the making of “End of Watch.” Fortunately, they're in standard DVD and Blu-ray packages. 3 Stars.
“Searching for Sugar Man” (2012, PG-13, 87 min., $30.99). It's a certainty that a lot of people won't waste their time with documentaries because they're just too depressing. If that's true, Malik Bendjelloul's “Searching For Sugar Man” is the anti-documentary. Nominated for an Academy Award in the genre, the film tells a warm tale and hands out lots of joy. A musician from the 1970s is the focus, and his name is Sixto Rodriguez. Comparable to a James Taylor or Bob Dylan, Rodriguez was discovered in a Detroit bar in the late 1960s. Those that found him described Rodriguez as a can't-miss talent headed for big things. The soulful Rodriguez cut a few albums, but they never did anything in the U.S. Fortunately, it found its way to South Africa, where Rodriguez grew to be bigger than the Rolling Stones. Surprisingly enough, he never found out about his popularity until a couple of fans from South Africa came looking for him. That's where this story picks up. Bendjelloul, making his feature-length doc debut, delivers one of the best films of 2012, and one that deserves to stand with the Oscar contenders. There are some good special features available, too, and they can be found on standard DVD and Blu-ray. “An Evening with Malik Bendjelloul and Rodriguez” is the best of the bunch, as it answers questions viewers might have. A making-of featurette is also available. 4 Stars.
“The Imposter” (2012, R, 95 min., $19.97). There's always talk of snubs at the Academy Awards, and some of that discussion this year should revolve around filmmaker Bart Layton's documentary “The Imposter.” Layton not only takes viewers to the edges of their seats, but he keeps them there for quite a few days with this emotional thriller. “The Imposter” achieves what every other documentary sets out to do, generating plenty of conversation around its subject matter. Layton and his team set out to tell the story of the disappearance of Nicholas Barclay, a teen from Texas who went missing in 1994, and was thought to be found three and a half years later in Spain. Only, it's not really Nicholas, but a French con artist named Frederic Bourdin who doesn't even really look that much like the Texan teen. The con works on the Barclay family, though, as they accept Bourdin in without question. Eventually, outsiders begin snooping, and Bourdin's days in the United States are numbered. There are any number of questions to be asked about Bourdin's crime, and how he pulled it off, and they're all answered in “The Imposter.” Special features are limited for “The Imposter,” and the film only appears to be available on standard DVD. A thorough making-of featurette is available, though, and it answers some of the additional questions viewers will have. 3.5 Stars.
“Keep the Lights On” (2012, NR, 102 min., $29.95). Nominated for four Independent Spirit Awards, including best picture, filmmaker Ira Sach's picture explores the relationship between two New York City men over nearly a decade. Thure Lindhardt and Zachary Booth are in lead roles in this dramatic feature.
“For a Good Time Call …” (2012, R, 85 min., $29.98). A terrific cast — Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor, Nia Vardalos, Lauren Anne Miller and Justin Long star — takes its place for a comedy about two former enemies who become friends when they're forced to live together to afford a nice life in New York City.
“Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai” (2012, NR, 128 min., $26.95). A remake of a Masaki Kobayashi film from 1962, talented director Takashi Miike's latest project tells the story of a samurai asking for a honorable death by ritual suicide from a feudal lord. When the lord thinks twice about the request, the samurai does his best to persuade him.
“The Men Who Built America” (2012, NR, 360 min., $29.98). This miniseries from the History Channel explores the lives of the men who built the foundation for modern America. Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller are some of the important figures included in this three-disc set.
“Birders: The Central Park Effect” (2012, NR, 60 min., $19.95). Jeffrey Kimball wrote and directed this nature-centered documentary that exposes viewers to New York City's Central Park, a resting spot or home to more than species of birds. Kimball also introduces viewers to those birdwatchers who grace the park to enjoy the winged visitors.
“Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis” (2011, NR, 115 min., $19.98). Jerry Lewis, a showbiz legend, is featured in this documentary from Gregg Barson that made its premier on Encore in 2011. Through Barson's film, viewers are treated to Lewis' rise to fame and the legacy that he will leave some day when he moves on.
“Beauty is Embarrassing: The Wayne White Story” (2012, NR, 88 min., $29.95). A designer, painter, puppeteer, sculptor and musician, Wayne White has been a creative force for more than 30 years. This documentary from Neil Barkeley gives viewers a closer look at White, and how he's become a part of pop culture.
“Death Race 3: Inferno” (2012, R, 101 min., $29.98). There's more gas in the tank for the “Death Race” franchise, as the violent competition moves to South Africa for a fight to freedom. Luke Goss, Danny Trejo and Ving Rhames star in this feature presentation from Roel Reine that revs up on the hard-charging vehicles and stunts.
“Officer Down” (2013, R, 97 min., $24.98). Stephen Dorff, James Woods, Dominic Purcell and Walton Goggins star in Brian A. Miller's action-packed picture about a dirty cop trying to redeem his career by keeping his nose clean. However, when a face from the past comes looking for a favor, the cop has to walk the line between good and bad.
“Abel's Field” (2012, PG, 108 min., $22.99). A good movie for the entire family, Kevin Sorbo and Samuel Davis star in a picture about a struggling high school senior who's had a tough life in losing his parents and being forced to care for his sisters. When he finds a positive role model, things start turning around.
“Chris Hardwick: Mandroid” (standup comedy, NR, 63 min., $14.99)