Tuesday, March 6, 2012

This Week in DVD - March 6th

I've been a little lazy with my movie reviews lately.  I not sure what it is: my mood, the alignment of Venus and Jupiter (still both visible this week), getting my period.  I just haven't been all that motivated to write.  If you're someone that actually enjoys reading my reviews, I apologize for that.  I guess everyone needs a break, even from a hobby.

The Big Year

This was kind of unusual to watch.  Not in a 'this movie was weird' sense, but more that 'this movie was not at all what I thought it was going to be' sense.  You've got a pretty good comedic cast with Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson.  Even the supporting characters are played by people like Joel McHale, Kevin Pollak and Rashida Jones.  I'm watching this movie and waiting for something funny to happen.  I started to think this is one of the un-funniest comedies ever made.  Then, I came to the realization that this is not a comedy at all.  It's more of a family drama.

Basically, it's about bird watching.  Yes, bird watching.  A "Big Year" refers to people taking a year to try and see as many different types of birds as humanly possible.  This is something that actually happens.  It's a real thing that people actually do.  Anyway, the current "Big Year" record holder is played by Owen Wilson, who's kind of  the superstar, hot shot bird watcher the others are gunning for.  At the same time, two other enthusiasts (Martin and Black) also decide to do a Big Year to top the current record.

Here's where it felt like it could have been a comedy, where you have Owen Wilson playing this arrogant person who's actually actively trying to sabotage the other bird watchers to ensure he stays on top.  It felt like there were opportunities to play this for laughs, but they never really go there.  Instead, you get more family moments that show they are all basically nice people (even Wilson's character is hard not to like), and it's not meant to be funny.  If they had tried to throw a lot of jokes in here, I think it would have all felt forced.

I also think the trailer is a little misleading where it features one (fake) looking scene of a girl getting attacked by a swarm of birds and it appears they did it for laughs.  However, even in the context of the movie, that scene really isn't all that funny and not as slapstick as it appeared in the trailer.  I have to wonder if the people that make these trailers actually watch the movie first.  Granted, I know many times that's not possible as the movie isn't finished when the trailer is being created, but maybe they should work with the director a little more to find out what the movie is about.

Overall, The Big Year is a little long, but I actually kind of enjoyed it.  I think if you go in understanding that it's not a comedy, and more of a nice, family drama, it'll probably be a little easier to get through.  It thought it was a sweet movie that's helped by having a good cast.

3 (out of 5) Death Stars

Beneath the Darkness

After like the first five minutes, I thought I was really going to like this.  The beginning of the movie opens with Dennis Quaid acting crazy and killing a guy for an unexplained reason. I was like, "Cool!  Dennis Quaid is a psycho killer!"

Then, the movie then fast forwards two years and focuses on a group of four teens (Aimee Teegarden and a bunch of forgettable dudes).  You know how they generally cast actors much older than they are playing, especially when dealing with teens?  Well, maybe it was the lighting, but I swear one of these guys had grey hair on his temples.

Anyway, one night they are bored and say they know where you can see a ghost.  They go to Dennis Quaid's house where they see a silhouette of him dancing with someone. As they know Dennis Quaid to be single, a few of them insist it was a ghost he was dancing with. It couldn't be that the guy actually had a date or anything like that, cause that would be...you know...crazy!  The stupid teens go back a few nights later and break into his house even know they know he's home at the time.  Why did they think this was a good idea?  What are they trying to accomplish here?  To make matters worse, they proceed to make a ton of noise once inside the house.  Just stupid behavior, you know.

Not surprisingly, Quaid discovers the kids and this kicks off a chain of laughable events and murders. This is one of those movies that fails because you really don't like the teens at all from the get go, so you actually root for the killer.  I want him to kill these stupid teens.

The acting isn't very good and the dialog is terrible in spots.  It was nice to see Quaid playing against type though.  That's probably the only thing noteworthy about it.

1 (out of 5) Death Stars - Pass.  Not worth your time.

The Big Bang

Not to be confused with the similarly titled, bad TV show on CBS.  This was an interesting movie for me.  It stars Antonio Banderas as a private investigator.  The movie opens with him being interrogated by three cops played by Delroy Lindo, William Fichtner and Thomas Kretschmann.  As Banderas is telling his story to the cops, it continues to get more complex and out there.

He was hired by a boxer recently released from prison (Kurrgan from the WWE) to find his former, stripper girlfriend.  As the story goes on, you find that many people are looking for this girl as she knows the location of a large cache of diamonds the boxer had her hide.

Banderas' investigation leads him to cross paths with bizarre and interesting people as he discovers more about the story.  The movie continues to get weirder as it goes on until it all builds to its conclusion.

The thing that really made The Big Bang cool for me is that this ends up being a very geeky, film noir movie.  It might be a little too wordy, convoluted and arty for many though.  If you're physics geek, I think you'll really dig all the references to it.  I enjoyed it for those elements, but I could see many tuning out and going, 'WTF is this?'

3 Death Stars - Good rental for all the nerds (I say that lovingly) out there.

OSS 117:  Cairo, Nest of Spies and OSS 117: Lost in Rio

For those of you who were first introduced to Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo and director Michel Hazanavicius by The Artist, allow me to point you to some other movies they've been in. I actually saw these about a year ago and and it was the main reason why I was initially interested in seeing The Artist once I knew the same people were involved. 

The OSS series are a parody of spy films set in the 60's.  Jean Dujardin stars as French secret agent OSS 117.  While his outward appearance is as cool and charming as Sean Connery's 007, you quickly find out that Agent OSS 117, is a bit of an ass.  He's oftentimes clueless, racist, sexist and lacks tact.  Despite all this, he always manages to save the day and still get the girl though.

This first in the series, Cairo, Nest of Spies, also stars his The Artist costar (and Hazanavicius' wife) Bérénice Bejo.  The second, Lost in Rio, is just the further adventures of OSS 117 (sans Bejo this time).  I really hope there's a third movie planned.  I really can't say which one is better than the other.  I think they are both hilarious.

Despite these movies being made in 2006 and 2009, the series really nails the feel of the old 60's spy films.  The movies are totally politically incorrect, but that's what I love about them.  You might initially be a little surprised at some of the things OSS 117 casually says, but then you have to wonder, "Didn't a lot of people say and think things like that back then?"  I think it's one of the appeals of Mad Men.  At least that's what initially drew me in to that show.

If there's anything negative I can say about them, it's simply that the movies are in French and subtitled.  The humor totally comes though and you'll see why Dujardin is such a great talent and comedic actor.  The series is like a mashup of 007, The Pink Panther, The Naked Gun and Austin Powers.
Anyway, I give both of these movies 4.5 Death Stars and have watched them several times each. I notice subtle jokes with each viewing.  Then again, I think it helps to watch a subtitled movie multiple times, as you don't have to focus so much on the story and reading the subtitles with subsequent views.

They are both streaming on Netflix, so check them out while you still can.

This scene is from Cairo, Nest of Spies, and just kills me every time.

Notable movies released on DVD last week.  If you're interesting in buying any of these movies, you can always get them on Amazon.  If you click through my link below when going to Amazon, they throw a little love back my way.


I kind of keep going back and forth on this one.  Part of me wants to say that it's a great, beautifully shot movie featuring the best 3D outside of Avatar (which it is), and then part of me wants to go that it's an slightly uneven and overrated movie.  I heard someone the other day say it was great movie for kids, and I still don't agree with that.  Not at least for kids under 10.  It's long and I don't think the second half of the movie would interest most kids.  Like kids know who Georges Méliès is.  Hell, most adults don't know who he is.  It's more for cinefiles and I think that's why Hollywood was so ga-ga over it.  Well, that and it's a Scorsese film.

Don't get me wrong though, I did like the story and I do think it's worth watching.

4 Death Stars - You can read the original review here.

I Melt With You

I was recently asked if there was a movie I've given 1 or less Death Stars to.  I Melt With You this is one of them.  I thought this was a piece of shit movie.  It's basically about a bunch college buddies that get together one week out of the year and do a ton of a drugs.  These guys are all pretty much douche bags.  After another night of drinking and drugs, one of of the guys kills himself over guilt of something from his past. The remaining guys then struggle with killing themselves because of some weird, barely explained suicide pact they all made together back in college.  Never mind that these guys had families, kids, etc.  Let's all kill each other over some stupid college pact.  If you want to read more about it, and I can't imagine why you would, you can read my original review here.

.5 Death Stars - It really is a terrible movie that I struggled to get through.  I recommend you skip it.

Coming out on DVD today:

The Skin I Live In

This is a movie that the more I think about it, the more I like it.  It's another foreign film, so that may turn many of you off.  It's actually kind of difficult to describe without spoiling the whole movie. The movie is graphic, weird and creepy, but I loved how this movie managed to mash up so many different elements (horror, thriller, sci-fi) into a single movie and make it all work.  It's been described as 'an art-house Human Centipede' and I still that's that's pretty accurate. There are some great twists that managed to catch me by surprise.

I actually think this movie was totally snubbed for best foreign film.  I do not understand how this didn't even get nominated.

In my initial review, I gave this 3.5 Death Stars, but this is one of those movies that I'm thinking about bumping up to 4 Death Stars on further reflection.  I think I'll need to watch it again before I do that though.

I strongly recommend renting it if you think you can handle it.  It's definitely not for everyone.


This isn't a great movie, but the visuals and some of the action are fantastic.  I'm actually looking forward to watching this again on my 3D TV.  I really don't have much to say about it again.  The story isn't anything special and it's actually kind of boring when there's no action going on.  I thought the cast was fine for the most part.

Weird, I didn't give it a Death Star rating in my original review.  This is one of those movies that's in the 2.5-3 Death Star range.  If you like movies like 300, Clash of the Titans, etc., then I think it's worth a rental.

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