DVD Round-Up: 9/25/2013

Spring Breakers(8/22/2013)


Where to start with this… thing.  This was the movie that everyone was talking about earlier this year for some reason.  I mean not everyone, it didn’t light up the box office or anything, but pretty much everyone who did see it was a blogger who felt compelled to write a think-piece in response to whatever it is that professional provocateur Harmony Korine was trying to say when he unleashed it.  I’ll give the movie this: there is some interesting filmmaking on display here.  He’s got a really neat editing style, he makes some cool musical choices, some of the scenes are pretty creatively realized, and there are moments in the film that have a real bizzaro charm to them.  As such the movie can’t be completely dismissed or ignored all that easily.  But to what end is all this style directed.  I don’t think Korine takes any of this all that seriously as a straight-up story; three of the film’s four characters are completely indistinguishable beyond the fact that they’re psycho party chicks and their adventures in Florida don’t really make much sense if you take them at face value.  Is Korine trying to make some wider statement about youth culture?  I hope not, because if he is then he’s doing it through such extreme exaggeration that it probably serves little purpose other than to confuse older audiences into making confused assumptions.  Is he simply trying to wallow in T & A?  No, the film shows a ton of skin but its style is so assaultive that it’s not going to be arousing to many.  Ultimately the only way I really enjoyed the film was as an exercise in style, and that isn’t really enough.

**1/2 out of Four

Starbuck (9/4/2013)

I don’t exactly know the statistics, but I’ve always been of the belief that people going to fertility clinics is a relatively rare occurrence and that people using anonymously donated sperm from said clinics is even more rare.  Despite this, there seems to be an inordinate number of movies and especially TV shows that involve test tube babies. The French Canadian comedy Starbuck, which was rushed into a limited American release earlier this year in order to predate an upcoming Hollywood remake, is the latest work to look at the funny side of artificial insemination.  The high concept here is that a former sperm donor has learned that he has unwittingly fathered 533 children who are now over 18 and want to make contact with him.  Through a set of contrived circumstances, “Starbuck” finds himself wanting to make contact with these people, but being forced to do so anonymously for some unclear legal reason.  Though it is a foreign language film that was likely relegated to “arthouses,” this movie is extremely conventional and also not overly funny.  It’s harmless enough, but being remade by Vince Vaughn is not beneath its dignity.

** out of Four


Olympus Has Fallen (9/7/2013)

9-7-2013OlympusHasFallen Olympus Has Fallen was the first, and to my eyes the more promising, of the two “terrorists take over the White House” movies from this year.  This is a tough film to analyze because I find it to be something of a guilty pleasure in spite of the fact that it is deeply flawed.  For one thing, this film is absolutely shameless in the way it rips off Die Hard beat for beat.  Shameless.  It makes Air Force One look downright original.  It also has some very strange notion of geo-politics and vastly overestimates how willing a sitting president would be to put national priorities at risk in order to save high profile hostages.  There are other smaller problems too like a singularly awful performance by Dylan McDermott.  All that said, I’m a sucker for old-school action films that are loaded to the brim with R-rated gun violence and this film has just that in abundance.  Things kick off with an epic shootout on the white house lawn and the film never relents in its dedication to bloodshed and mayhem.  I can’t in good conscience call this a “good” movie, but if you see it scheduled on HBO or something and you’re looking for a good action film, it’s worth a look.

**1/2 out of Four

Dead Man Down(9/13/2013)

I’ve always had a pet peeve about movies that are trying to be “gritty” even though they don’t really strive for any kind of realism and they’ve clearly been written by film students who come from wealth and don’t really know a damn thing about “the streets.”  It’s why I’ve never had any respect for the films of David Ayer, but he at least seems to know a thing or two about police procedure (it’s the criminal side that he’s clueless about).  Dead Man Down on the other hand seems to be a pure fantasy, one which tellingly rips of the videogames “Grand Theft Auto IV” and “Heavy Rain.”  The world of crime depicted here is not unlike the fantastical criminal organizations we saw in Quentin Tarentino’s first three films, but this movie doesn’t trade in wit and iconoclasticism the way those films did.  The basic story is revenge hokum and I can’t say that I ever much cared about any of the characters.  Niels Arden Oplev has given the film a somewhat interesting look via digital photography but he squanders a number of good actors and fails to bring any overly interesting action scene to the fore.  This movie isn’t terrible, but there’s nothing about it that stands out and there’s a whole world of better crime films that are more worthy of any viewer’s time.

** out of Four


42 (9/25/2013)

9-25-201342 If Lee Daniels’ The Butler is this year’s The Help, then 42 is almost certainly this year’s Red Tails.  I was pretty shocked when I saw the film’s trailer, which seemed to promise little more than a TV film treatment of one of the most famous stories to come out of the civil rights era.  Yeah, the actual film offers little more than what the trailer “promised.”  The film is told in a very straightforward way and has almost nothing original to say about the life of Jackie Robinson.  The production values are mediocre, and most of the cast is unnoteworthy.  Harrison Ford is his usual grumpy self, but I can’t blame him too much for not being great considering the questionable dialogue that is pervasive in this film.  In general, the movie indulges in all of its corny instincts and then emphasizes them with a dreadful and overbearing score.  At the end of the day, I think the makers of 42 got so wrapped up in making a film that would “educate” and “inspire” children that they forgot to make a film that anyone over twelve would get anything out of.  That’s a trap that a lot of films about African American heroes tend to fall into, but I feel like Jackie Robinson in particular deserved better.

** out of Four


2 responses to “DVD Round-Up: 9/25/2013

  1. Franco’s performance was fun, but very broad. I feel like I would have enjoyed it a lot more in a more overtly comical film.

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