DVD Round-Up: 2/9/2013

Klown (1/26/2013)


We don’t often see straightforward low-brow comedies from foreign countries (I’m sure they’re made, but I’m guessing that most aren’t deemed worthy of export), and that in itself makes the Danish farce Klown seem oddly unique.  The film is based on a hit television show in its native country and seems to be something of a fusion of rowdy sex comedy with “Curb Your Enthusiasm” style awkward situation comedy.  The film’s story about a pair of friends (one meek, the other debauched) going on a road trip is not overly original; in fact it’s basically a cruder and stupider version of the movie Sideways.  With that in mind I’d never compare it to any kind of challenging world cinema, but I’d also peg any attempt to dismiss it for its vulgarity is also wrongheaded because there is some funny stuff to be found here.  In general, I think this would fit in well sitting right next to American comedies like The Hangover and Wedding Crashers, nothing more and nothing less.  I’m fine with that.*** out of Four

The Imposter (1/27/2013)

The Impostor may not be the year’s best documentary but it’s certainly the most well produced. The film tells the story of a European con man who convinced the authorities that he was an American child who was kidnapped years prior and is sent home to the family of this kidnapped child.  This family, shockingly, believes that this guy is indeed their prodigal son and take him in.  It’s one of those “stranger than fiction” stories that’s certainly worth exploring and director Bart Layton finds a number of interesting ways to conduct said exploration.  What he’s made is a very cinematic documentary shot in a widescreen aspect ratio and blending Errol Morris-style interviews with fully produced reenactment segments.  Layton seems to have gotten interviews with pretty much every relevant person involved including the conman himself and he edits it all together in a really slick and interesting way.***1/2 out of Four 1-27-2013TheImposter

Paranormal Activity 4 (2/1/2013)

2-1-2013ParanormalActivity4 While the original film is clearly the series’ highpoint, I did find things to enjoy about its first two sequels to Paranormal Activity, in part because I was rather amused by the way they fleshed out and explained aspects of the first film while maintaining an aura of mystery as well.  After the third film, which was actually a prequel, it seemed the series was ready to finally move into the ultimate endgame that things have seemingly been building toward.  Instead what we get with Paranormal Activity 4 is a padded tangent of a story that does almost nothing in order to advance the series’ larger narrative.  There is still some potency left in some of the franchise’s signature tricks and scares, so someone simply looking for a few nice jumps may find something to enjoy here, but that is decidedly not why I’m still checking in on this series.  For the next installment the creative team had better stop trying to expand the gravy train and start getting things going or this is quickly going to start moving toward “direct to video” territory.** out of Four

Searching for Sugar Man(2/2/2013)

The running joke about documentaries is that most of them make you want to cut your wrists shortly after seeing them because they cover some depressing social ill, and there’s certainly some truth to that sometimes.  However, the documentary format can really be used for all sorts of different things and it’s foolish to assume that all of them are depressing.  Case in point is Searching for Sugar Man, a popular documentary which looks at the case of Rodriguez: a singer-songwriter who put out two generally unpopular albums in the late sixties before slipping back into obscurity, but whose music apparently struck a major chord in South Africa, where he’s considered to be on par with The Beatles and Paul Simon.  The documentary looks at Rodriguez’ story from a South African point of view and follows a record store owner and a rock journalist as they try to learn who Rodriguez was and about his eventual fate.  The draw here is certainly the story itself moreso than the filmmaking techniques (though the film’s craft is certainly quite adequate), and the story is certainly compelling and interesting, albeit somewhat misleading about certain facts.***1/2 out of Four 2-2-2013SearchingForSugarMan

To Rome With Love (2/9/2013)

2-10-2013ToRomeWithLove Woody Allen rarely ever makes two good movies in a row, so most fans were ready to be disappointed by his Midnight in Paris follow-up, To Rome With Love.  Of course when Allen drops the ball the results are still usually at least a little entertaining, so I at least expected moderate entertainment out of the film and it was mostly able to match those mild expectations.  For the first time that I can recall, this is the first time that Woody Allen has tried to make a film by bringing together four mostly separate storylines with little more than a setting in common.  There is a kernel of a good idea in all four of these stories and all of them showcase a couple of interesting performances, but as they stand each one of these stories somehow feels both under-developed and over-long at the same time and there seems to be little reason for all of them to be in the same movie.  I’m afraid that I have to suspect that the whole thing was simply thrown together to capitalize on an offer to fund the film by people looking to advertise Rome as tourist destination.  I think it’s about time Woody Allen was called out for making these long advertisements for European cities.  If Coca Cola, Nike, or McDonalds were paying him to make films about their products people would be rightfully offended, and this is only marginally different.  Still, Woody Allen is a guy that seems largely incapable of making a movie that doesn’t amuse me at least marginally well so I can’t stay mad at the movie for long.**1/2 out of Four

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