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Gun Hill Road, Bachelorette, Lay the Favorite 

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click to enlarge Gun Hill Road DVD

Gun Hill Road (R)

Virgil Films

Esai Morales never gets enough credit for what he does. Sometimes it seems he doesn't get any credit. Look at his roles in films like La Bamba and Mi Familia; he always brings a stirring, emotional range to his work and deserves recognition. In his latest, Gun Hill Road, he delivers an amazing performance as Enrique, an ex-con who was raped in prison. Upon his release, he returns home to his family only to find his son Michael (an amazing Harmony Santana) describing himself as a transsexual and trying to come to terms with it, all while navigating through the closed-minded high school world. That forces Enrique to confront his own hatred and prejudices against what he thinks Michael should be. Gun Hill Road is an honest, heart-wrenching look at acceptance, machismo and family bonds that should've gained Morales an Oscar nod. — Louis Fowler

click to enlarge Bachelorette DVD

Bachelorette (R)

Starz/Anchor Bay

"Reviving a fucked-up bitch wasn't exactly on the itinerary," spits slightly less-fucked-up Regan (a commanding Kirsten Dunst) at an unlucky member of a wedding party who dared question the maid of honor's time-management skills. Regan may be running on cocaine, alcohol and sheer panic, but the flatlining bridesmaid added Xanax to the mix, so, plans evolve. Writer-director Leslye Headland's hedonistic joyride feels like a dark response to the Bridesmaids phenomenon, but in reality, the two films premiered within months of each other. The dazzling cast, all going full-tilt, is captivating, though their characters are rarely likable. Besides its hard-as-nails R rating, the admirable character explorations dig a bit deeply under the surface for a Friday night. But for adventurous palates, it's one of the more daring raunchfests in recent memory. — Justin Strout

click to enlarge Lay the Favorite DVD

Lay the Favorite (R)

Anchor Bay

Stephen Frears has directed some classics, including The Grifters and High Fidelity. His latest, Lay the Favorite, will not go into that category. It's watchable, but also kind of a waste of time. Most of the problem lies with lead Rebecca Hall, a British actress forced to play American trailer-trash. She does it in such an overblown way that they should have cast The Simpsons' Cletus the Slack-jawed Yokel. Every time she's on screen, you marvel at just how abysmal her performance is, especially when she's forced to share said screen with such veterans as Bruce Willis (playing it subdued) and Catherine Zeta-Jones (playing it broad, but amusingly). Hall's character is a Florida stripper who moves to Vegas and gets involved in sports betting and high-stakes gambling, only to learn something about herself in the end. At least someone does. — Louis Fowler

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