Friday, June 1, 2012

This Week in DVD - May 31st Edition

I figured I should throw up one last post before we start a new month.

Shame (2011)

A dark character study about a sex addict, but lets face it, the elephant in the room is Fassbender's schlong.  There's been a lot of hype about this movie and his member, but you only see it when he's just walking around his pad naked, like just getting a glass of water or going to the bathroom, as all bachelors do.  It's not sexual at all and ends up having nothing to do with the story other than to show you what he's packing.  In fact, I think they get it all out of the way by the 15-minute mark and then they are done with it.  There's just as much female nudity, probably a little more actually.

Anyway, Fassbender plays a bachelor in NYC.  He appears to be successful, but I don't think it's ever actually said what he does for a living.  Without explicitly stating it, it's clear he has a sex addiction.  It's to the point where it even affects his work.  His house and work computers are full of porn, he masturbates constantly (also at work), pays for whores, hooks up with pretty much anyone (including co-workers), etc.  He has a younger sister, played by Carey Mulligan, he completely avoids to until she shows up unannounced and begs to crash at his place for a bit.  She's got her own issues as well, so this is not a very healthy family.

Eventually, things really spiral out of control for him and it gets to be kind of sad.

Besides the schlong, this is an NC-17 movie, and there are some very graphic sex scenes, so be warned if that's not your thing when watching a movie.

I was really looking forward to seeing Shame after all the buzz, but it's a little too melodramatic and drawn out.  Even for a movie like this, the pacing is too slow.  It starts off strong, but then it just kind of fizzles out.  You initially want to like Fassbender's character, but he's really an unlikeable person and he doesn't seem to have much in the way of any kind of growth.  It's just a short snapshot of his life.  Fassbender does a great job with the role though.  It's a well-acted film about broken, unlikable people.  I still enjoyed the film, because I like characters studies, even if there's no resolution, but this isn't for everyone.  Again, it's a dark movie and I think many will be turned off by it.

3.5 (out of 5) Death Stars

The Iron Lady (2011)

A historical biopic about Margaret Thatcher.  Meryl Streep does her almost predictably awesome job with the role, but the movie itself just isn't all that interesting.  Thatcher was a bit before my time and I'm not really a political animal, so I didn't really have an opinion of her going in...and I still don't.

I think the main problem is that the movie is told in a really disjointed way, skipping around between her younger years as she decides to get into politics, her rise to power and difficulties as Prime Rib...I mean Minister (sorry, I'm hungry), and then just before her death as she suffers from dementia.

While I think the scenes of her with dementia were meant to make her sympathetic, I think the movie would have benefited for focusing on the middle part of her life and career.  It's funny because there are a lot of parallels between this and another biopic released last year, J. Edgar.  The main flaws of that film were also its disjointed story telling, jumping around in time, and not focusing on the more interesting aspects of his career.

Outside of Streep and Jim Broadbent's performances, there wasn't much to keep me interested and I found it a struggle to get through. I can see why Streep won the Oscar, but I think there were other deserving performances from much better films last year.

2.5 (out of 5) Death Stars

One for the Money (2012)

It's almost unfair for me to even review this.  I'm not a Katherine Heigl fan.  Outside of Knocked Up, she hasn't been in a single good movie.  She's such a ditz that she actually talked shit about that movie for being sexist, but has then starred in a series of movies that are even more sexist, including this one.  Way to bite the hand that feeds you, Heigl.  Movies like this are your punishment.

Anyway, Heigl plays Stephanie Plum.  Out of work and desperate for cash, she turns to becoming a bounty hunter/bail bondsman.  Her big score happens to be an old high school flame.

I guess I don't know much about being a bounty hunter, because Plum just walks in and becomes a bounty hunter in just a few minutes.  No training or experience required.   Then, she oscillates between being inept and then capable.  Which is it?  Was that the point?

One irritating thing about Heigl's movies is that she has this thing in all them were her only real character flaw is that she's either clumsy or she eats like a pig.  In this movie, she eats like a pig.  What makes it insulting is that they go out of their way to show you she's got a nice body and many characters even comment on it.  They say things like, "How do you look like you do eating the way you do?"  Um yeah, nice back door brag.  Exactly how does that make audiences identify with you?  Was the movie supposed to be an empowering story about a strong, smart woman?  Well, it's not.

I don't know anything about the series of books this character was based on, but I hope they were written better than this movie, cause otherwise, this is a terrible character to base a book or movie series off of.  I've heard by many fans of the book series, they didn't like the casting of Heigl, so there's that, too.

It's not funny, sexy or entertaining.  There's no chemistry at all between anyone.

.5 out of 5 - Pass

New Years Eve (2011)

In keeping with the 'bad movies with Katherine Heigl' theme, I watched this junk over the weekend.

Brought to you by the maker's of Valentine's Day (Gary Marshall).  What's next?  Labor Day?  President's Day?  It's not that these movies are outright terrible, it's just that there's nothing to like about them either.  They aren't funny, clever, or do nothing new or interesting.  There are too many characters and threads and it's difficult to keep them all straight or care about anyone since you don't get invested.  There's no focus.  If they actually tried cutting down on the number of characters and threads, they might be able to make a movie that makes you feel something.  There are plenty of examples of movies in this style that do it right.

To show you how bland this movie is, look at the DVD.  Doesn't this just scream 'bland' to you?

So many things about this movie bugged me.  They have Bon Jovi in the movie playing a musician (big surprise) that's going to perform at Times Square, and have characters tell him 'you rock', only to have him play easy listening cover songs when he finally takes the stage.  He doesn't even play Bon Jovi songs.  Huh?  Of course, his character is the one that is paired up with Heigl, so you don't care about those two.

Then you have Josh Duhamel inexplicably paired up with Sarah Jessica Parker, who's nearly ten years older than him.  Not that it's a problem with her being older, it's that their thread involves Duhamel pining over her for a year after a one night, chance encounter the previous New Years Eve.  Move on dude, you can do better!

Then after that, it's more people you care even less about.  They waste people like Hillary Swank, Sophia Vergara and Robert De Niro in roles that don't do anything significant.  I can only guess they were doing someone a favor or just needed small paycheck for small amount of work.

1 (out of 5) Death Stars - Pass.  It's just a waste of time.

Also out recently:

The Devil Inside (2012)

For a found footage film, it actually starts out okay, but then it has one of the worst endings I've seen in a long time.  I kid you not, the ending was so bad, that people booed and I saw people ask for their money back out in the lobby.  It's that bad.  I talk more about it in my original review.

Chris Gore had a great point about demon/devil possession movies like this.  So a devil possess this lady for what?  To annoy everyone?  Why doesn't the devil try possessing someone of significance for a change?  Like someone they could use to  actually affect the world?  What does possessing some random girl mean in the large scheme of things?  Maybe this is why the Devil is stuck in Hell.  You're an idiot and need to learn how to strategize.

.5 (out of 5) Death Stars - Pass on this.  It's sad because a better ending actually would have made this worth watching.

Chronicle (2012)

One of my early, surprise favorites of the year.  I loved this movie!  While you may think this is yet another found-footage film used as a gimmick, it really isn't.  It was just shot in that handheld style and it's effective this time around.  It'll be clear from the story that this is definitely not about a bunch of kids that get lost in the forest and nobody ever finds out what happens to them.

It is about a group of teens that through some accident all gain telekinesis, and then it delves into how they experiment with and use their powers.  One of them turns bad though, and I like to joke that this is basically an angsty teenage version of teen becoming Darth Vader, except not as annoying as Episode III or Hayden Christensen.  You can read more about it here.

It has some surprisingly good effects and until The Avengers came out, the best superhero fight scene I've seen in a while.

4 (out of 5) Death Stars - Strong rental recommendation and something I'll likely be adding to my Blu-Ray collection soon.

The Grey (2012)

This is a really polarizing movie.  It seems that most people I've talked to about this The Grey didn't like it and I suspect it's because most people were expecting a different kind of a movie.  Even my own parents didn't like this after I recommended that they watch it, so I feel like I'm in a minority for liking this one as much as I did.

Let's get this out of the way: this is not a movie about fighting wolves or wolf punching.  It's a movie about man vs. nature, survival and ultimately a philosophical movie about what drives a man to keep going and even questioning faith.  This is not an action film!  The famous scene from the trailer where he straps bottles to his hands is the very last shot of the film, so the trailer really mislead everyone on what the movie was about.  Remember that trailers often lie and misrepresent what a movie is about, and the director of the film often has little control or input as to how the trailer is cut to market the movie.  There are only handful of directors that have that kind of clout.

Anyway, it's a darker movie that doesn't have a happy ending.  Although, you need to watch until the end of the credits (or just fast forward, since this is DVD we are talking about).

I think I gave this 4 Death Stars originally, but I think I'm going to bump it down to 3.5.  It's an example of a good movie that you never need to watch again.

3.5 (out of 5) Death Stars - I still think it's worth a rental, but understand what you're getting into.

The Woman in Black (2012)

I called this Harry Potter vs. the Haunted House in my original review, except there's no magic.  I think magic would have helped this movie.  Maybe some Expecto Patron!  Yes, Expecto Patron makes every movie amazing!

It's an okay film, but it's a little too slow and they relied on way too many jump scares.  It also seems like they used expensive special effects when practical effects would have been more convincing.  The motivation of the ghost didn't work for me, and it bugs me when a ghost is haunting people that didn't have anything to do with her pain.  I did like the ending, and I thought it was the one part that stuck with me.  It was very much a punch in the gut.  It also does have a creepy vibe that was somewhat effective.

I still think it's worth a rental if you like ghost stories.  Movies like this are always better suited for rental, as I think it's easier to buy into the haunted house setting, sitting in the dark on your couch, instead of in a mostly full theater.  It's scarier watching it by yourself at home, or with a date.

2.5 (out of 5) Death Stars - Rental

Red Tails (2012)

A story about the Tuskegee Airmen, their role in World War II and the struggles they had to overcome to be accepted.

A lot of people were really hard on George Lucas about this one, but I actually didn't think this was that bad.  It's not great either, but there are some really good effects and dog fight sequences.  The problem was that outside of a character or two, everything was just kind of flat.  The dialog was also kind corny in parts.  A better script and director I think really would have made this so much better.

I haven't seen it, but many people have recommended the HBO movie from a few years back about the Tuskegee Airmen, which also stars Cuba Gooding Jr.  It's funny because Red Tails had a very TV-movie feel to it and I think that's mainly because the writing team and director have mostly worked in TV up until this point.  You can read more in my original review here.

2.5 out of 5 Death Stars - I'd say it's worth a rental if you haven't seen it.

This Means War (2012)

I thought this was a mess of a film.  I wrote in my original review, that it felt like they took a bunch of disparate elements from different films and mashed them all together.

There are all kinds of things in the film that are inconsistent, undeveloped and don't make any sense.  It doesn't surprise me this is how the movie turned out when it had three writers and McG directing.

I feel bad for the cast as it seemed like they were trying to make it work, but there's only so much they could do with the material.  The charm of the cast can only get you so far.

2 (out of 5) Death Stars - This actually isn't a bad rental if you're in the mood for a spy-rom-com, but just try not to think about the details and story too much.  There actually are some funny moments, so it's not completely awful.

Goon (2012)

Lets end on a good note.

Here's another smaller film that surprised me.  It's a hockey comedy up there with Slap Shot as far as the top of the hockey movie food chain goes.  Seann William Scott stars as a sweet, but dumb, guy who's main talent is beating people up.  He's witnessed by the right people and this leads to him become a fan-favorite, hockey goon.  It's actually based on the memoirs of a real-life hockey goon, Doug Smith.  You can read more in my original review here.

I saw this a while back and haven't been able to bring myself to delete it from my DVR.  Usually once a week, I'll put it on as background noise.  Initially, I expressed disappointment that it wasn't funnier, but like many comedies, it's one of those that grows on you a little and I find new things to laugh about each time I watch it.  Even if you aren't a hockey fan, it's something you should be able to enjoy and get a laugh out of.  It's surprisingly sweet as well.

3.5 (out of 5) Death Stars - Another strong rental recommendation to end this post on.

That's it for now.  Thanks for reading!


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