DVD Round-Up: 1/16/2013

Ted (1/11/2013)


When I saw the trailer for Seth MacFarlane’s directorial debut, Ted, I expected it to be a film that would please audiences but I never thought it would end up being the ninth highest grossing film of the year.  The film is essentially trying to take the idea of a “man-child” to its absolute extreme by pairing a stoned slacker with a child’s toy is kind of a clever idea and I can see why that concept would draw a lot of curious people to theaters, however, I’m not sure how it turned into a sustained success because the film itself is mediocre at best.  In short, this movie isn’t funny.  There are some amusing moments (many of them revealed by the trailer) and I found the film to be mostly watchable, but I didn’t really laugh at all while watching the film.  To be fair, I feel like these movies are meant to be seen in theaters where contagious laughter makes a lot of the humor pop more than it probably should.  That’s a problem I’ve had when catching up to comedies like this and Bridesmaids and Get Him to the Greek at home before.
** out of Four

China Heavyweight (1/13/2013)

This documentary takes a look at the world of boxing in the People’s Republic of China by following a coach named Qi Moxiang as he tries to find and develop talent for the nation’s Olympic boxing team.  The film takes a vérité approach and seems to aspire to be a sort of Hoop Dreams in the different sport and location but few of the characters in the doc really stood out and too little is done to explain and contextualize what we’re watching.  There are some interesting moments like when Qi Moxiang tries to justify the sport to a Buddhist monk, but for the most part I found the film rather dull.  People who are exceptionally interested in China or in Boxing might get more out of it, but those looking for a more accessible documentary about China will be better served by the film Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry.
** out of Four

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (1/15/2013)

1-15-2013OnceUponATimeinAnatolia I’ll say upfront that Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is not for everyone, and even if it is “for you,” your enjoyment of the film may be highly dependent on the mood you’re in the day you watch it.  This is a deliberately paced and contemplative art film which builds an almost hypnotizing mood through its use of location, the length of its shots, and its eye for human interaction.  It could easily be dismissed as pretentious nonsense or it could just baffle viewers who watch it on the wrong day and don’t connect with it.  I was certainly baffled like that when I tried to watch Ceylan’s 2006 film, Climates, but maybe I wasn’t at the right state of mind that day.  Truth be told, I don’t know that I can really explain this film’s appeal, but I can say that it had me rather enthralled and interested for two and a half hours when I watched it.
***1/2 out of Four

5 Broken Cameras (1/16/2013)

While few documentaries are what you’d call “big budget” affairs, it takes a film like 5 Broken Cameras to help you realize just how many resources most professional documentaries have to draw from.  This film tells the story of a Palestinian village’s non-violent resistance to the illegal expansion of a West Bank settlement onto Palestinian lands and was shot almost entirely by a single ordinary farmer on a series of commercial-grade video cameras.  These protesters are responded to violently by the Israeli military who continually shoot the protestors with tear gas almost every time they try to protest for a number of years.  As the filmmaker finds himself in the middle of these situations his cameras keep getting broken by angry Israeli soldiers (hence the title).  We end up with both a pretty good biographical portrait of the man with the camera and also a pretty concise and personal look at the situation that he’s protesting.  There are things in the film that I would have liked to see more of, but ultimately I think the movie’s pretty remarkable given the conditions under which it was made.
***1/2 out of Four

Compliance (1/16/2013)

1-16-2013Compliance Craig Zobel’s indie thriller Compliance begins with the message “this film is based on true events” scrawled across the screen in big block letters.  This is important information because if you didn’t know that this film was an accurate dramatization of a real event you’d never in a million years believe it.  The film begins with a man claiming to be a police detective calling the manager of a fast food restaurant and telling her that one of her female employees has stolen money from a customer.  The man on the phone instructs the manager to take the employee into the back and begin strip searching her, and the film only goes deeper into Milgram experiment territory from there.  I’d seen this story dramatized as a “ripped from the headlines” episode of the show Law and Order: SVU before, and that presentation didn’t come close to matching the level of horror and disgust that this film produces.  This film is not a fun time in the conventional sense of the word but it is more successful in making the audience tense, uncomfortable, and anxious than any horror film.  It’s not a perfect film, the actress playing the victim is a little weak and the film also doesn’t seem to know how to end, but I feel like it bravely examines a troubling part of the human psyche and in doing so it is quite successful.
***1/2 out of Four

4 responses to “DVD Round-Up: 1/16/2013

  1. I liked Ted, but I also saw it in theaters like you said. Bridesmaids I had the same experience as you, watching it as a DVD catch-up, and thus found it quite unfunny. Perhaps watching Ted again now would prove the same thing.

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