Home Video Round-Up: 1/10/2017

Warcraft (12/7/2016)


It’s weird, It’s been something like seven years since Avatar came out and became the worldwide highest grossing movie of all time and yet almost nothing seems to have come along that really picks up on that movie’s technical innovations, at least nothing until Duncan Jones tried to make a big budget adaptation of the computer game series “Warcraft.”  Warcraft is certainly a movie with a vision and it is definitely interesting to watch how it tries to bring the game’s visual aesthetic to the screen.  There are a couple of effects that fall a bit short but for the most part they’re quite good and the movie’s art direction and costume design is really going all out.  However, there’s a reason that this movie was not embraced by audiences (outside of China, where it was a surprise hit): this thing is really, really, really, really, really nerdy.  Believe me, I like me some super nerdy stuff (I own all five seasons of Babylon 5 on DVD), but even I found myself rolling my eyes and wanting to give a wedgie to whoever was writing this nonsense about orcs and their magic pacts or whatever.  It’s not even so much that it’s nerdy so much as it does nothing to adapt the material for a wide audience or even ease them into it.  It’s like if when they made the very first X-Men movie in 2000 they had just come right out with the yellow spandex and had the characters and they were going through some crazy storyline like “House of M” or “Age of Apocalypse” right off the bat.  The characters are unengaging, the plot is uninteresting, the action scenes are competent but don’t really stand out.  The whole thing is just this big messy thing with clear potential buried somewhere but ultimately just a clear failure.

** out of Five

The Seventh Fire (12/16/2016)

It’s been said that there are a dearth of stories about African Americans, and that’s true, but there are other groups in this country that are also under-represented and that’s probably the truest of Native Americans who are pretty much non-existent on the screen outside of period pieces.  Truth be told though, this is hardly just a Hollywood problem, the media in general doesn’t seem terribly interested in Native American tribes, and in part that might be because much of their population is concentrated in reservations that are far from the major population centers and they just aren’t integrated into most peoples’ day to day lives the way that African Americans and Latinos are.  All this is to say, I think there’s a very big opening for documentaries like The Seventh Fire, which takes a look at life on the White Earth Indian Reservation and specifically looks at a man named Rob Brown who was involved in drug running and a restless 17 year old named Kevin Fineday who may soon be going down the same path.  In many ways the film seems to suggest that American Indians are suffering a lot of the same problems that the rural people on Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, and less fictional shows are also suffering.  From a filmmaking perspective there’s not a lot to report on here, the movie kind of feels like it was destined to be broadcast on PBS’s Frontline or Independent Lens… in fact I’d be shocked if that didn’t already happen.

*** out of Five


Morris From America (12/17/2016)

12-17-2016MorrisFromAmerica Morris From America is one of those movies that doesn’t have much of anything wrong with it at all but whose ambitions are so modest that you can’t really help but to not give much of a shit.  Well maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration.  The movie has something of a unique premise for a coming of age movie in that it’s about a 14 year old African American kid who’s living with his single father, who is an ex-pat living in Germany.  Not really a set up you see every day and Craig Robinson is pretty charming as the father.  There are some funny moments along the way and a couple of interesting interactions, but it’s shot without a even the slightest bit of visual flair and the arc the main character experiences is ultimately pretty standard for this kind of movie.  The whole thing feels less like a movie and more like a pilot for a sitcom, a sitcom I wouldn’t mind watching for what it’s worth, but it’s certainly not great cinema.

*** out of Five

Holy Hell (12/18/2016)

I’ve never really understood the mentality that would lead someone to join a cult, and perhaps because of this I’ve always been interested in stories about them to a certain extent.  This documentary was made by a guy named Will Allen, who was a former member of the Buddhafield cult.  While in that cult Allen worked as their official videographer and when he left them he managed to take a bunch of footage with him which he eventually used to make this documentary about the cult’s rise and fall.  Buddhafield was a weird little movement that appeared to have only about a hundred members at its peak.  It didn’t end in a mass suicide or anything but it certainly showed all the usual tendencies of a cult with an abusive leader and it’s not often that we’re given this level of access to one of these organizations.  Their beliefs and philosophies make almost no sense and I am once again left kind of baffled that people would go in on something like this.  Allen is ultimately not the world’s greatest documentarian but he does give the film something of a personal touch that it wouldn’t have had if he’d simply handed the footage over to an objective third party.

***1/2 out of Five


Krisha (1/10/2017)

1-10-2017Krisha Do you have that one family member who seems to never be able to get their act together and no matter how many times you try to give them a chance they always find a way to ruin every family gathering?  Well I don’t.  In fact I don’t have a whole lot of experience with large multi-generational gatherings in general (my Thanksgivings in general have rarely involved more than six or seven total guests) and as such I’m not necessarily in the best position to relate to the super-low-budget indie Krisha even if I can see that it’s a pretty well put together little movie made in the family home of 26 year old debut filmmaker Trey Edward Shults.   The film actually stars Shults’ aunt Krisha Fairchild in the title role of a 60 something year old woman with mental problems attending her family’s Thanksgiving gathering.  Shults films the whole encounter in a fairly intimate manner but you can tell he’s not just randomly pointing a DV camera at his subjects and does have some legit filmmaking skill.  The film is effective at showing this woman’s breakdown and her family’s discomfort, but to what end?  At the end of the day this feels more like a movie at the stronger end of the “festival only” league of filmmaking than like something that should really be competing with general release films to me, but maybe people who can relate to it more closely will feel differently.

**1/2 out of Five


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