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Blackthorn (R)

Magnolia Home Entertainment

I was probably the only critic in America who wasn't a fan of the Coen Brothers' True Grit remake. For days after viewing it, I wrestled with this, then finally concluded that the flick was a cold, almost reptilian western with no real soul. Like so many of the Coens' movies, to me, it felt forced, like they'd done it because they had to make a western. The movie that should be getting all the accolades is Spanish director Mateo Gil's Butch Cassidy "What if?": Blackthorn, starring Sam Shepard in a performance that should be Oscar-bound. Years after the supposed death of outlaw Cassidy, we find him living in seclusion in Bolivia, ready to head back to America to see his son. In an effort to procure funds for the trip, he gets tangled up in one last adventure, mostly against his better judgment. Blackthorn is an old-fashioned sweeping Western with zero snark and zero irony. — Louis Fowler

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Nick Di Paolo: Raw Nerve (NR)

Image Entertainment

Along with Colin Quinn, Dennis Miller and Norm MacDonald, Nick Di Paolo is one of the few "out" conservative comedians, which he proudly lets the audience know about 30 minutes into Raw Nerve, when he describes the relationship between Katie Couric and Barack Obama in the most hysterically offensive way possible. The uncomfortable, shifting laughs from the audience are priceless. Di Paolo delivers abrasive observations with pitch-perfect sarcasm, and as viewers of FX's Louie know, he's really broken out lately, becoming a real comedic force in the face of political correctness. Is it brave? Is it gutsy? That probably depends on which side of the aisle you're on. But — and this is the recent constant — it is always funny. It makes me want to go back and re-watch some of those old Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn episodes to see what I missed. — Louis Fowler

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Pearl Jam Twenty (NR) (Blu-ray)

Abramorama / Release date: Jan. 3

Pearl Jam is the prototypical grunge rock band in every way: serious bordering on pretentious, catchy in a single key, and politically engaged. Except for one thing: They never broke up. They've been around long enough now that any interest in Cameron Crowe's electric and affectionate documentary (originally an episode of PBS' American Masters) should dovetail directly with one's interest in the iconoclastic band. Long-time haters won't be converted by this loving tribute, and the band's most ardent fans will find pure ecstasy in its fast-paced use of priceless footage and rare versions of classic songs. As a document of the 1990s scene and an insider's look at the lightning-fast ascension to rock-god status that was possible then, Pearl Jam Twenty is as priceless as that footage. Too bad the film is intimate without ever really getting personal. — Daniel Barnes

  • Blackthorn, Nick Di Paolo: Raw Nerve, Pearl Jam Twenty

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