DVD Round-Up: 11/28/2012

The Deep Blue Sea (10/17/2012)

10-17-2012TheDeepBlueSea

No, this isn’t about genetically altered sharks; it’s actually based on a play set in post-WW2 Britain by Terence Rattigan.  Director Terrence Davies doesn’t do a whole lot to expand the material beyond its stage roots, but he does make some choices I wasn’t too fond of.  First of all, the cinematography is garbage.  Davies shoots the whole thing in a very soft and tinted tone that just looks televisual and amateurish.  That might be a superficial issue to have, but it’s there through the whole film and can’t be all that easily ignored.  The strength of the original source material does shine through though and there’s also some really good acting from both Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston.  I guess I’m happy that this introduced me to Rattigan’s play, but Davies’ less than inspired direction makes this feel more like a Masterpiece Theater adaptation of it than a quality feature film adaptation.

*** out of Four

Kill List (10/24/2012)

If nothing else, this film really keeps you guessing.  At first it seems like one of those “kitchen sink” dramas about the British working class, then it turns into a brutal assassin movie, and then it turns into a spooky satanic thriller in the vein of Polanski’s The Ninth Gate.  The movie is filmed very well and has a number of very cool and memorable scenes.  At times though, the film feels like it has been made so as to string together said scenes rather than as a great story unto itself.  There are a number of loose threads that have perhaps been left as such deliberately in order to preserve a sense of mystery, but they still kind of bugged me after the movie was over.  It should also be noted that this movie is extremely violent and shows people being killed in some very painful looking ways, so this isn’t going to be for everyone, but for genre fans this will seem like a very fresh and interesting movie.

***1/2 out of Four

10-24-2012KillList

The Dictator (11/7/2012)

11-12-2012TheDictator  

Sasha Baron Cohen is comedic genius, and that makes it all the more painful when he makes crap like The Dictator.  This really could have been good, there is a sort of dark comedy to the way that decadent dictators behave and Cohen could have tapped into that.  Instead what he’s made is a low brow comedy that’s every bit as stupid as the garbage that the Jim Careys, Adam Sandlers, and Mike Myers of the world make when they’re at their worst.  This is a film with no internal logic, it pretty much does whatever it wants to do in order to accommodate whatever dumb joke it wants to make.  Every once in a while it throws out a good joke deserving of a better movie, but those moments are few and far between in this otherwise lacking comedy.

*1/2 out of Four

Oslo, August 31st (11/16/2012)

I expected a lot from this sophomore effort from the Norwegian director Joachim Trier, and while the film isn’t necessarily the terrific leap forward that I was expecting, it is still a strong piece of work.  The film is a lot different from Trier’s debut film, Reprise, which was a much more energetic and almost Danny Boyle-esque film made by a hungry young wunderkind.  Oslo, August 31st is a slower, some would say more mature, film about a young man taking a short trip to Oslo after having undergone a rehab treatment program.  As we watch this character meet old friends and experience progress and setbacks we begin to get a good picture of what his life was like before rehab and how he got to this point.  The film is steeped in melancholy and is filmed very well and has some good acting.  However, I’m growing a bit tired of these arthouse movies where we watch people going through an important day in their lives.  This format is certainly unique from Hollywood fare, but I don’t know that it’s all that creative when compared to the wider selection of world-cinema.  Still, this film tells such a story more effectively than most, so it deserves credit just the same.

***1/2 out of Four

11-16-2012OsloAugust31st

The Invisible War (11/28/2012)

11-28-2012TheInvisibleWar It’s hard to give too much of a glowing recommendation to Kirby Dick’s documentary The Invisible War, because it follows more or less the same patterns that almost every agit-prop documentary of the last decade has.  As a piece of filmmaking it is average at best.  However, the subject matter here is so disturbing and infuriating that it largely works in spite of itself.  The film is about sexual assaults in the military and the system that allows them to continue without intervention.  The film features profiles of men and women who have been sexual assault victims while serving in the armed forces as well as interviews by former military investigators with insights into the systemic failures ingrained in the military.  Anyone who’s been paying attention has likely heard one or two similar horror stories on the news here or there, but there’s something uniquely powerful about seeing such accounts collected into a case against the system that’s all the more powerful.  It’s telling that similar accusations have greatly tarnished the Catholic Church while the military is still nearly deified by large swaths of the population.  This documentary is probably a better example of effective political activism than of fine filmmaking, but a strong movie is a strong movie.

***1/2 out of Four

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