The Butler

January 8, 2014

Video TapeWorm

New, encore and low-price releases on Tuesday, Jan. 14

THIS WEEK’S TWIN PEEKS:

LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER

2014; $31.98; PG-13

Inspired by the life of Eugene Allen, Forest Whitaker is terrific as “Cecil Gaines,” the titular White House servant who discretely served eight presidents over 30 years. Frankly, the other casting choices — Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, etc. — left us cold, but the movie rises above on Whitaker’s talent and the history seen through his character’s eyes, including the civil rights movement, Vietnam and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Much like “The Help,” this scales history down to the human element, making it far more powerful. A must-own.

RIDDICK

2013; $23.98; R

We’ll not deny it: We are drooling uber-fans of Vin Diesel’s primordial action antihero, Riddick, first seen in “Pitch Black” (2000), and then in the blissfully over-the-top blockbuster, “The Chronicles of Riddick” (2004). That latter film lost money, so this time out the filmmakers made a much smaller, more accessible flick, with Diesel battling alien predators and waves of semi-human mercenaries on a lifeless, sun-blasted hunk of rock in the middle of an infinite nowhere. Katee Sackhoff from “Battlestar Galactica” provides the requisite shower-scene boob-flash, while Karl Urban — one of our favorite actors — does the running and fighting. Freakin’ awesome. Don’t miss it.

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20 FEET FROM STARDOM

2013; $16.98-$24.98; PG-13

Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger, Sting and a half-dozen other of the world’s great acts step aside to let their backup singers take center stage in this excellent doc. Of particular note is the phenomenal Darlene Love, who sang lead on such Phil Spector hits as “He’s a Rebel” and added her talents to scores of his “Wall of Sound”-era groups before becoming a staple with such legends as Sam Cooke, Dionne Warwick, The Beach Boys and Elvis Presley. Our only complaint: It’s too short at 90 minutes. We could have watched for days, Day Doo Run Run, Day Doo Run Runnnn.

A SINGLE SHOT

2013; $24.98-$29.98; R

A dark drama in which deer hunter Sam Rockwell accidentally kills a woman, then finds she’s holding a box full of money. In a series of bad choices, he gives the money to sleazy lawyer (or is that redundant?), William H. Macy, to keep it out of the hands of his divorce-minded wife, Kelly Reilly. Annnnd, here come the criminals, looking for their loot. It feels like an old Sam Spade film noir, with the deep piney woods standing in for a rain-soaked city. Worth a look.

BIG SUR

2013; $9.98-$20.98; R

Jean-Marc Barr (“Dogville”) stars as Beat master Jack Kerouac, aka “Jack Duluoz,” during his legendary cloister at Big Sur after the instant worldwide fame of “On the Road” drives him to drink, depression and lots of sex. What a great gig! He goes slowly mad while costars Stana Katic (TV’s “Castle”), Radha Mitchell, breathtaking Kate Bosworth, Josh Lucas, Henry Thomas and Nora Kirkpatrick hog the spotlight. A nice companion to the recent Kristen Stewart version of “On the Road.”

CARRIE

2013; $35.98; R

OK, there’s already been a half-dozen remakes and sequels to this Stephen King tale, so what gives? In a word, Chloe Grace Moretz. She brings a profoundly different flavor to the Sissy Spacek role, with little help from Julianne Moore as her Christian-nutbag mother who tries to keep the family telekinesis under wraps. Yes, it all ends with a bloodbath at the prom, but Chloe is the first actress yet to make you feel both her pain and the overwhelming dark pleasures of being all-powerful. Highly recommended, especially if you view the Spacek version and this one back-to-back.

FOUR

2012; $22.98-$24.98; R

Simply put: The most powerful indie drama you never heard of. Wendell Pierce, a family man who routinely travels on “business,” must leave again over the Fourth of July weekend, leaving lovely daughter Aja Naomi King (“Emily Owens M.D.”) to fend for herself and her ill mother. But the young woman spends most of her time with her Latino boyfriend, E.J. Bonilla. Dad, meanwhile, is not really at work; he’s visiting his white, gay young man, “June” (Emory Cohen), unaware this weekend will mark a very real independence day for them all. Brave, provocative and daring.

FRUITVALE STATION

2013; $19.98-$39.98; R

This award-winning indie darling is a unique and mesmerizing look at .... well, we’re not sure. It follows a young man who wakes up one morning and decides it’s time to get his shit together. He’s going to be better to his girlfriend, his mom and his little daughter. But this is a dramatization of a true story, that of Oscar Grant III, who was held face down by two cops as a third stepped back and shot him in the back while he waited for a BART train. This is not a spoiler — the whole thing was captured on scores of cell phones at the time — and the filmmakers want you to be fully aware that today is Oscar’s last day on Earth. A powerhouse.

RUN

2013; $12.98-$24.98; UR

A frantically paced 90-minute 3-D crash course in Parkour starring William Moseley (“The Chronicles of Narnia”) and every surface, hole and crag in NYC. He uses his special skills to commit robberies with the help of his dad, Adrian Pasdar, until he meets Kelsey Chow (“One Tree Hill”) and the always oily Eric Roberts. A breathless actioner with a neat soundtrack.

THE SPECTACULAR NOW

2013; $16.98-$24.98; R

Miles Teller (“21 & Over”) is a high-school party animal who falls head over heels for “the good girl,” Shailene Woodley (“The Secret Life of the American Teenager”), in this excellent look at the hormone-and-dreams-driven passions of youth. Haunting, heartbreaking, exciting, lovely, intoxicating and arousing with Brie Larson, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and more. Highly recommended, though the “R” rating is bogus.

A more complete listing and free vids at videotapeworm.com.