OWF's DVD/Blu-Ray Picks: 12th July: GREEN ZONE, VALENTINE'S DAY, YOUTH IN REVOLT and BASELINE
Every week I will bring you reviews of my home video picks of the week, as well as a round-up of pretty much everything else that is released at the same time. Dont be shy if you are from the U.S. as the column is still interesting for you as a quick snippets of what I think of these movies and hopefully they will help you decide whether to Netflix, or make a purchase on a movie you might have missed in the cinemas.
This week's selection, though wildly ranging in quality does include the highlights of Paul Greengrass' Green Zone starring Matt Damon and the incredibly enjoyable experience that is Michael Cera in Youth in Revolt. There's also a pair of Blu-Ray transfers by Kevin Smith, in the shape of Clerks and Chasing Amy, and a whole heap of stuff you'd be a fool to miss out on reading about. But, then maybe I'm biased...
Read on for more home-based movie musings.Feature FilmsGreen Zone new to DVD and Blu-Ray our original cinematic review:
Greengrass and Helgeland sustain a fair amount of tension in the first half of the film. Opposers of the Iraq war effort will find a few juicy moments to savor, particularly a briefing session where Damons Miller dissenting views are shot down by an officer who simply states, Democracy is messy. Unfortunately, the film quickly devolves into a spy melodrama, with Miller eventually consorting with the media to blow the lid off the failed WMD plot. Its not historically accurate, and one can only guess that its there to add spice to the story and keep it from feeling repetitive and stale.
As The Hurt Locker showed, films about the Iraq war can be handled truthfully and bluntly, without the trappings of Hollywood spy thrillers to propel their plots. I suspect that Greengrass film will suffer in comparison so soon after The Hurt Lockers huge win at the Oscars. Its a shame that Green Zone is sabotaged by its own WMD the thriller cliche that will sink it in the eyes of people so enthralled by a better and more genuine film about a complex military operation.
You can read our very own Matt Holmes' Blu-Ray review right here as well for some more techno-specific information.Youth in Revolt new to DVD and Blu-Ray
Bubba Ho-Tep new to Blu-Ray
Michael Cera- king of the indie hipsters (and soon about to cement his position thanks to Scott Pilgrim), proves that he has more than one strong to his bow by playing the Raising Cain/Fight Club style schizophrenic to great effect. His villainy is brilliantly written, and even better performed, and while the plot can get a little out of hand at times, the film is brilliant nevertheless.
Clerks new to Blu-Ray
The film that really launched Bruce Campbell into my consciousness is just brilliant. Two parts lunacy to one part mad-cap humour, the plot alone is enough to seduce you, with an ageing Elvis teaming up with a very unfamiliar looking JFK to fight off an evil mummy. It is possibly one of the cleverest B-Movies of all time, mixing the familiarly crazy plot-lines of the genre with some deeper musings on lost youth- and the news that we are to finally see the sequel (sadly without Campbell) is nectar to my ears.
Sadly, the transfer doesn't really do the film justice: grainy in places, when it does work the high-gloss robs Campbell's Elvis of his dark, low-res shroud, meaning it is painfully obvious that he is heavily made up in places. Not a deal breaker, but yet another case of a Blu-Ray edition not doing its homework and being taylored to the film's visual needs.
Chasing Amy new to Blu-Ray
The film that launched a thousand cock jokes (otherwise known as the stellar career of Kevin Smith) is still as good today as it was when it was first released, proving that Smith is the Bard of every disaffected Gen X youth with a McJob and a chip on their shoulders.
But, do we need it in Blu-Ray I hear you probably not ask. No, and I'll tell you why friends: Clerks looks like shit. Even the cleaned up 10th Anniversary Edition looked like shit, and if you want a case for why Blu-Ray can do precisely nothing to help the look of independently shot, zero-budget projects you need only look at the First Cut that is included on the BR disc here. It's mucky, its dark and it sounds incredibly bad- but as a comparison piece to Smith's later works it is invaluable, and every Smith fan will no doubt proudly go out and buy it. I know I will.
Valentine's Day new to DVD and Blu-Ray
To me, Chasing Amy was like Clerks 2 well before that project ever came into being: Smith populates the film with the archetypal View Askew caricatures (which are invariably best played by Jason Lee), and manages to pull off a likeable enough romance without the film ever being likely to pop up in am Essential Kevin Smith Films conversation.
Again, the transfer is awful, and unlike Clerks there isn't the same level of excuse. While the budget was a paltry $250k, Smith had by now learnt some of the filmic techniques that could hide the fact- though there are a LOT of rainy scenes in the original DVD transfer thanks to the poor equipment. The chief issue I have with the BR transfer is the same old thing- noise reduction: the film looks like it is being viewed through vaseline, with the high-def treatment compromising facial texture, line-density and pretty much everything that make visuals look real (apart from colour, which is well treated). Here, everything looks like its made out of marsh-mallow.
While you can forgive Clerks on Blu-Ray because its rough edges add to its Indie appeal, this over-zealously glossed Chasing Amy is rough for all the wrong reasons and manages to take away some of the essential Indie-ness by trying to be too pretty. Again, it's a case of high-def treatments entirely missing the point- please, people, stop doing this!!!
This review is brought to you by the letter L, for Lazy. I've already offered my thoughts on Valentine's Day, having been "lucky" enough to see it at the cinema on Valentine's Day (the things we do for sex, eh?), so, I've handily reproduced the passage that I thought best summed it up for your consideration:
My first major problem with Valentines Day is it is so bloody cynical in its attempts to make women go all gushy and purr awww at every sickeningly sweet romantic motif... The one part in particular that got to me was during a busy scene in Ashton Kutchers flower shop where for no discernible artistic reason I can fathom, the scene cuts to two toddlers kissing. Queue near-frantic cutesy reactions from the female part (I won't say half as there were a LOT of single women in there) of the audience- I could practically smell their ovaries twitching...
...Despite the problems, Valentines Day is a valiant effort to recapture the success of Love Actually, though it is way too obvious, and I cant forgive the manipulation levels involved. Whatever happened to the artistry of the subtle?
So basically, it's not terrible, but it is way too obviously manipulative for its good, suffers from some sloppy plotting, and some even worse casting (Julia Roberts as a soldier?!) and never succeeds in becoming anything more than an inadequate Love Actually derivative.Leap Year new to DVD and Blu-Ray
Baseline new to DVD and Blu-Ray
Another Valentine's Day effort. This time, the film is utterly and inconceivably terrible. Everyone involved should know better- especially Matthew Goode and Amy Adams. Where Valentine's Day is obviously manipulative, Leap Year is just plain lazy, wallowing self-consciously in cliché without ever trying to offer the production values or acting skill to transcend the very familiar material. It isn't on the Dump-Bin scale simply because it doesn't offer enough to make you particularly care unfortunately, but that doesn't mean it isn't a load of old arse.
Otto, Or Up With Dead People new to DVD
This Faustian British gangster flick, on the surface looks like every lazy Guy Ritchie-alike crime flick that saturated the market in the wake of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' success, but credit where credit is due it shines above the majority of those brainless generic siblings.
The story is familiar (and tiresome) enough, with supposedly reluctant hero Danny getting embroiled up to his neck in dodgy business thanks to saving his very dodgy boss from a hitman, and then realising his involvement could spell a dodgy end for him as he seeks to make his own way in the world, while remaining straight. All a bit dodgy.
It is all very familiar, but Baseline goes one better over other Brit gangster flicks thanks to some excellent acting performances, particularly from Brit Grim/Crime flick stalwart Jamie Foreman as the boss and newcomer Freddie Connor as the hero of the piece. It doesnt rank up with the best by some way, but it is still likeable enough to return to, even despite the bare-bones disc releases.
I wasn't going to include Otto here- though it was up for consideration for the Dump-Bin before being ruled better than the three eventual inclusions- that was, until I came across this review from Newsblaze, which I could't resist reproducing as a case both for and against the film. For because the film will inevitably find its zombie-fiend audience (especially since it does offer some new musings on the subject- homosexuality and the adversity of zombie existence naming but two), and Against because, well, just read it:
Trucker new to DVD
Veers between raw zombie cuisine, raw gay porn, high calorie sex that includes entrails-devouring as foreplay, and cranky anti-establishment rants against advanced capitalism. Not to mention that it's hard out there for a zombie too.
Michelle Monaghan won some hugely positive reviews for her role in Trucker when the film hit the festival circuit and it seems she was set to become the queen of the circuit on the back of that praise. It's just a pity that her performance is let down somewhat by the film it appears in: it is often overly sincere, smacks a little of the TV movie and struggles at times to make you really care what's going to happen (and when you do it's all a touch too predictable for its own good).
It all looks a bit washed out, and even despite the fact that you really do urge yourself to like the movie, and admire its moral aspirations about self-discovery and human relationships, the film ultimately fails to really inspire as strong feelings as Monaghan's performance will to first time viewers. If you want an Indie, devoted to extra-societal existence and human relationships, wait for the excellent Blue Valentine, which has left a positive scar on me ever since I saw it in Cannes.
Nothing to report other than yet another Doctor Who compilation (yawn) in the shape of Doctor Who: The Dominators, and the eighth series of Waking the Dead, which is one of those British TV detective shows that runs sort of like a CSI cousin if CSI was filmed by Lars Von Trier. Not exactly uplifting stuff.
It says something when the highlight of the TV releases week is the complete Sherlock Hound boxset- but then it was made by the peerless Hayao Miyakazi before he started off Studio Ghibli, so it isn't that difficult to see why it is actually a pretty watchable kids' take on the classic Conan Doyle story.The DVD Dump-Bin
Every week, along with the DVD titles that appear in the usual Picks post, I end up watching some films I simply wouldnt wish on anyone. However, since you all asked so nicely, and since Im one of those perverse types who actually seeks bad films to watch occassionally, I thought Id share some of the worst of the worst. And hopefully we can club together and have them condemned forever to the big DVD dump-bin in the sky.
Not a good week for DVD releases, in all honesty- Green Zone, Youth in Revolt and the two Kevin Smith Blu-Rays are the only ones I'd actually buy (and will)- but an over-populated week for the Dump-Bin thanks to some seriously ropey offerings. But, without further ado, the "winners" are:
The HBO cult-hit about vampires? No? Oh right, I see what they did with the title there. So, surely this is a slick vampire offering- especially since it claims to be Moonlight meets Twilight. But no, as per usual, the marketers have basically just pissed lies all over the cover to make you believe the film is any good. Instead, New Blood looks exactly like it is trying really hard to copy (and not emulate) all of the successful vampire/supernatural films and shows out there, including Night Watch, Twilight, Moonlight, True Blood and Buffy on a budget of roughly the added pocket contents of all of the production staff involved. If I could make this film not exist, I would work damn hard for the privilege: its greatest tragedy is that it isn't even as good as the 2007 film of the same name starring Nick Moran (in his untouchably shite period when he couldn't have come out of a barrel of tits sucking anything but his thumb), John Hurt (shame on you) and one of those appalling Wayans fellas.
Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus
I know exactly how I'm supposed to react to this film- I'm supposed to chuckle and congratulate the film-makers for their cleverness in making a perfect B-Movie. I know it because that's exactly what the admittedly hilarious Youtube promo told me I should react. Embroiled in some vein attempt to convince us that bad is the new good, and that the visual garbage that is the film's special effects, the fettid turd of a script and the abysmal acting is actually all intended, Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus nonetheless only manages to look like the shit it self-consciously attempts to be. How ironic- a film seeking to be shit for pleasure actually just ends up being relentlessly shit.
Oh, and for any critic out there who goes on about it being cultish and an acquired taste, get over yourself. No-one can enjoy this, because it lacks every essential requirement for entertainment, and no amount of convincing yourself that you're cool because you "got" it is going to change the fact.
Susan Boyle from Pain to Fame
Are you kidding me?! Seriously, Susan Boyle is not an exceptional singer- she is the product of the unfortunate societal opinion that ugly equals untalented. She is essentially famous because she disproves that theory by a degree- she is an alright singer, if you can get away from the nasal drag on every word, but she is definitely not the world-beating talent that Simon Cowell would have you believe. Think about it, when she appeared on stage first-time she was laughed at because her face looks like some rubber stretched over a box of wire coat hangers, and then everyone miraculously fell in love with her when she wasn't as shit as she was ugly. A disgraceful philosophy, and one that has propelled a woman who isn't fit to lead a stage musical (seriously, really listen to her without falling for the ugly/talent magical paradox) to a world-wide phenomenon.
Documentaries like this are the real dregs of her fame, creating a myth about her early life (okay it wasn't all roses, but whose is?) that makes her fame all the more affecting. Just like how she "overcame" being ugly. It's all just horribly tasteless, and feels exactly like the kind of thing you'd have to expect from a society that prizes what magazines like Heat and Closer have to say over the Times and the Telegraph.
I'm not even going to mention Twilight: An Obsession- a documentary piece on the phenomenal success of the emo-vamp franchise that has TAKEN OVER THE FUCKING WORLD. Judge for yourself how I feel about it...