DVD Round-Up: 12/20/2012

Sound of my Voice (12/6/2012)


When talking about his first film, Dark Star, screenwriter Dan O’Bannon once said (and I’m paraphrasing) “it got out of hand… it went from being the most impressive student film ever made and turned into the least impressive professional films ever.”  I can’t help but think that the same happens to a lot of the films that make a stir at Sundance and get a lot of rather undeserved buzz.  Sound of My Voice is a great example of this.  It was clearly made by people who had a lot of “moxy” and it probably looked pretty good when surrounded by other productions that were even more desperate, but as it went to theaters alongside the bigger and better independent films it becomes all the more clear that this is a film that looks like it was made in somebody’s basement.  In fact this seems even more trite and amateurish than this film making collective’s previous film, Another Earth.  There are a couple decent moments and ideas (I particularly liked a moment involving The Cranberries’ “Dreams” and the ending is at least somewhat intriguing), but at the same time it seems almost criminal that this film has somehow been given the same commercial opportunities as Martha Marcy May Marlene, which is a vastly superior exploration of a cult lifestyle made on a similarly low budget.

** out of Four

The Queen of Versailles

It must have been some kind of cosmic coincidence that inspired Jackie Siegal, wife of the time-share mogul David Siegal, to name the outlandish house that she was building after the palace where Marie Antoinette once lived.  Antoinette has gone down as a universal symbol of the clueless callousness of extreme wealth and in the Siegals director Lauren Greenfield seems to have stumbled upon a modern American equivalent.  That this film shows the relative downfall of the Siegals (who’s wealth appears to have been based on a lot of very tenuous business practices which crumbled like a house of cards during the recession) seems like richly deserved justice made all the better because they never get to finish building their ridiculous monument to incredible hubris.  Later we see them forced to adjust to the lifestyle of the rich rather than the filthy rich, and see Jackie Siegal have a number of “let them eat cake” moments.  It’s interesting to see the decadent lifestyle of these people and to see their utter inability to function outside of their bubble of wealth.  These are people who are getting exactly what they deserve.  However, the documentary does perhaps run a bit longer than it needed to.  I sort of got the idea pretty quickly, and yet it kept on going.  I might have preferred this if it ran about seventy or eighty minutes rather than a hundred.

*** out of Four


Snow White and the Huntsman (12/15/2012)

12-15-2012SnowWhiteandtheHuntsman The producers of Snow White and the Huntsman are probably lucky that they managed to release their film early in the “effects driven fairy-tale action movie” trend, because it probably would have looked pretty ridiculous if it had come out after the upcoming Wizard of Oz and Jack and the Beanstalk movies instead of before.  I was surprised to see that this thing actually followed the original story of Snow White really closely, pretty much the only thing that really differentiates it from the Disney versions are its effects and its attitude.  To be fair, some of the film’s visuals really were pretty cool, especially the magic mirror and some of the creepy details of how the wicked queen (played here by Charlize Theron) manages to stay so young.  Still, Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth are both extremely bland in the main roles and otherwise the whole film just feels really bland and mediocre.

**1/2 out of Four


The Island President (12/16/2012)

While there seem to be a very large people who are willing to turn their lives into the subject of a documentary, it’s not all that often we see one made with the full cooperation of a sitting national president.  That is what we get in The Island President, a film about Mohamed Nasheed, the president of an island chain called The Maldives.  The Maldives have become a point of global attention because they could end up submerged by the ocean if global warming continues unchecked and this documentary is mostly about Nasheed’s struggles on that subject.  To me, the primary point of interest in this film is that it gives a behind the scenes look at international diplomacy: the dinners with foreign ambassadors, the negotiations at conferences, and the attempts to get the interest of important people at parties.  On top of that, Nasheed comes off as a very likable guy you want to root for.  However, I would have liked to learn more about what it’s like to govern over a chain of islands and I’m also a little put off by the film’s silence about some of that nation’s less savory elements (namely it’s religious repression).

*** out of Four


Alps (12/20/2012)

12-20-2012Alps Yorgos Lanthimos broke onto the international cinema scene in a big way with Dogtooth, which was weird, bold, audacious, smart, and entertaining.  His follow up film is mostly just weird.   That’s not to say it’s badly made, in fact it generally feels like it was made by a more skilled and mature hand, but it seems to have lost something along the way.  The concept, that there’s an organization which assigns actors to play the part of dead people for bereaved families, is interesting but not as interesting as the concept in Dogtooth and it also doesn’t go in as many interesting directions as the story in Dogtooth.  Maybe the film is unfairly hurt by all these comparisons to Dogtooth, but frankly I doubt too many people would have seen this film in the first place if it wasn’t the follow-up to that earlier film so I don’t feel to guilty about judging it in relation to that earlier effort.  I still think Lanthimos has some good movies in him, so hopefully this is just a sophomore slump.

**1/2 out of Four

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