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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Home Movies/Out on Digital: May 16

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Shoot First, Die Later

The 1974 film by Italy’s Fernando Di Leo was just the thing Quentin Tarantino devoured in his formative years. It’s a crime drama, populated by quirky-funny gangsters and corrupt cops (who won’t cross certain lines), speaking with lousy lip synchronization. The backdrop is ’70s Euro stylish, and the soundtrack is funky rock-electronic. Shoot First, Die Later’s strengths are in editing and location shots, plus a marvelous car chase with little Fiats along narrow Italian streets. “You’re worse than a turtle—floor it!” the lieutenant orders his driver. It’s a wild ride through the end.

Stand Up Guys

Al Pacino, Alan Arkin and Christopher Walken play a trio of ex-cons trying to outrun their past—and time itself—in this crime comedy. Stand Up Guys features an A-team of veteran actors in search of a decent screenplay, yet there is some pleasure in watching them perform. Walken is given the best part and infuses pathos into a character faced with a desperate dilemma.

"The Ultimate Guide to the Presidents"

Fortunately the History Channel documentary series relies more on interviews with historians than bad historical recreations (with stentorian narration). "The Ultimate Guide" summarizes the 44 presidents and identifies ongoing themes, including the almost inevitable accumulation of power at the expense of Congress. Much time is spent with George Washington, who helped establish the significance of the chief executive while respecting constitutional limits. The series doesn't flinch from difficult issues, including the fact that all early presidents except John Adams and John Quincy Adams owned slaves.

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