DVD Round-Up: 1/6/2015

The Interview (12/29/2014)


With all the crazy shenanigans that have gone on around the release of this film its actual qualities as a movie have gone somewhat overlooked.  This is a movie that pretty clearly comes from the mind of Seth Rogen and it covers the usual theme that tends to run though his work: slackers rising to a situation and managing to accomplish something.  The difference is that this time the thing they’re accomplishing is a world changing piece of spycraft.  The hijinx along the way are mostly in line with what we’ve come to expect from Rogen and Co. and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to people who aren’t fans of his previous work.  A decent number of the jokes land, a decent number don’t, and on a strictly comedic level I’d probably rank it somewhere in the middle of his oeuvre.  As a movie I think it has a number of good qualities but never quite lives up to its potential.

I think James Franco is actually kind of bad in the film, he didn’t seem like a real talk show host and he never fully develops his idiot persona into a fully realized comedic character.  I also think the movie makes some of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s weaknesses behind the camera a bit more obvious than they were in their last film, This is the End.  That movie almost felt like a found footage movie and that made some rather questionable camerawork and cinematography fit in with an overall aesthetic, but here it just seems kind of sloppy.  The cinematography is often really dark, and not in a way that seems stylish, just in a way that seems underlit and kind of amateurish.  There are also some ideas here that just seem kind of underdeveloped.  The film seems to set up a motif in which Kim Jon-un’s weak ego and megalomania is juxtaposed with the Franco character’s own diva-like behavior, but the movie never really completes this thought.  So, the movie is flawed in a number of ways, but I still quite liked it.  It has a certain audacity to it and a bold willingness to build a comedy around a rather sad real world situation.  All told I much prefer it to Rogen’s other effort this year, Neighbors, and generally think it deserved to be remembered as more than just “that movie that got Sony hacked.”

*** out of four

Obvious Child (12/30/2014)

I’m probably going to be brief here because I frankly don’t have a lot to say about this one beyond “it’s alright.”  The film stars Jenny Slate (who’s probably best known for accidentally dropping an F-Bomb on Saturday Night Live) as a middling stand-up comedian who finds herself pregnant after a one-night stand and decides to get an abortion.  A big reason why people are talking about this movie is because of its relatively casual attitude towards abortion.  I like abortions as much as the next person, but by turning them into something that isn’t really a big deal they kind of undercut the film’s dramatic potential.  Outside of that, this just feels like yet another Lena Dunham-esque indie comedy about insufferable Brooklyn 20-somethings and their first world problems.  That’s plainly not my favorite kind of movie, but if they float your boat you can probably do worse than this.  The movie goes from A to B efficiently enough and it passes 80 minutes well enough, but overall it’s a pretty mediocre effort that I’m pretty sure I’ll be forgetting about it shortly.

*** out of Four


How to Train Your Dragon 2 (1/1/2015)

1-1-2015HowtoTrainYourDragon2 I’ve been slowly trying to get caught up with the last decade or so of animated family films in the last couple of years and the original How to Train Your Dragon was one of the better films I tried watching for that project.  The follow-up film got some pretty decent marks from critics so I started it up with some fairly high expectations that were not realized.  Stylistically things have not changed much and it doesn’t really feel like they’ve “sold out” or dumbed down this iteration of the series.  Rather, I think they just ran into a lot of the typical problems that sequels run into.  The first film was actually pretty self-contained as far as these things go and didn’t really seem to do much to set up this second installment, so they were more or less starting from a place of “happily ever after” and introducing a new conflict that just seemed a little half-assed.  The film does have some pretty decent animation and some of the dragons do look really good, and there’s a new character introduced who seems fairly interesting even if her arc doesn’t really play out as effectively as it could have.  Overall it’s not a terrible movie at all by Dreamworks standards but I don’t think it holds a candle to the original and I think that overall it loses its way pretty quickly.

**1/2 out of Four

The One I Love (1/5/2015)

(Warning: review contains light spoilers) I didn’t really know what to expect from The One I Love when I started it up.  It stars Mark Duplass, whose surname I’ve come to associate with amateurish hipster bullshit, and most synopsises I’ve seen of it were fairly vague.   When I saw that it would focus in on a yuppie couple’s marriage I settled in for a bumpy ride… then it turned into an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”  Yeah, this is covertly a science fiction movie in which the central couple find doppelgangers in their vacation home who appear to be idealized versions of each other.  This phenomenon goes largely unexplained in the film and is mostly done as a sort of “what-if” scenario to throw into its characters’ lives and see what happens.  Both Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass do very good jobs at (sort of) playing double rolls, especially considering that they are more or less the only actors present in the film.  First time director Charlie McDowell doesn’t do a whole lot to distinguish himself and the film’s musical score also generally annoyed me, but overall this movie did work for me a lot better than I thought it would.

*** out of Four


The Rover (1/6/2015)

1-6-2015TheRover I’m not sure what’s going on in Australia right now, but it seems to have their filmmakers in an intense mood.  In the last ten years or so there have been a handful of Australian auteurs like John Hillcoat and Andrew Dominick whose work can be characterized by intense staring and sudden violence.  Among their ranks is David Michôd, who made a similarly intense film called Animal Kingdom a few years ago and seems even more like his countrymen with his latest film The Rover.  There’s not a whole lot to the story here, it’s basically just about an intense man played by Guy Pearce whose hell bent to retrieve a car that’s been stolen form him and more or less kidnaps a relative of the people who stole it.  The movie is a little bit like Blue Ruin, which was a similarly bare-bones revenge film, but I think I liked this one a little better.  The film is set in the wake of an economic and societal collapse and the film almost feels like a sort of modern western.  The danger of this world and the brutality of its inhabitants is palpable as we watch Pearce pursue his stolen vehicle.  That said, I wouldn’t call the film overly original and there’s not a lot here that you couldn’t also get from The Proposition or The Road.  Also the last shot is absolutely moronic and made me lose some respect for the film.  Still, it’s a pretty cool movie all around and I’d definitely recommend it to most audiences that will have the patience for it.

***1/2 out of Four 

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