DVD Reviews for 8/14:“When You’re Walking On Eggshells, Don’t Hop!”
By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 08/13/09 12:25:08
Due to the combination of a weak slate of releases and my gussying up my resume in the hopes of getting hired onto one of Obama’s death panels--after all, soylent green is made from birthers--there will once again be no long review this week. However, I can assure you that a.) things will be back to normal next week and b.) if you have a taste for cinema created beyond our borders, there may be a couple of titles here that you will want to check out after all.
NEW AND NOTABLE17 AGAIN (New Line Home Entertainment. $29.98): Following the rule that into each generation must come at least one movie in which an adult finds himself inside the body of a teenager or vice versa, this overly familiar comedy features Matthew Perry as a dissatisfied man who feels that his entire life went wrong after high school and who gets a chance to do it all over again in the body of his younger self, which just happens to be that of teen idol Zac Efron. The movie as a whole is pretty lousy--you have pretty much seen every joke before and its moralizing messages are uncomfortably juxtaposed with some borderline creepy moments (such as the bit when daughter Michelle Trachtenberg begins to unwittingly hit on her dad)--but to be fair, Efron actually isn’t too bad and shows enough talent despite the material to suggest that he can make the transition from heartthrob to actor, provided that he ignores junk like this in the future.
90210--THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (CBS DVD. $49.99): The late-summer deluge of season sets of TV shows about to return to the airwaves with new episodes begins with the premiere season of this revival of the long-running Nineties teen soap opera. This time around, however, the earnestness of the original has been removed in order to compete with the lurid likes of “Gossip Girl”--it is barely five minutes into the first episode before we are treated to oral sex in the high school parking lot. The one thing that it does have in common with the original is the fact that it isn’t very good but it has at least had the decency to allow the beloved-yet-frightening Shannen Doherty to drop in once in a while to show the comparatively bland band of newcomer starlets how it is done. (Keep you eyes peeled for a cameo from another column crush object, the one and only Diablo Cody.) Other TV-related DVDs appearing this week include “Adam-12: Season Three” (Shout! Factory. $34.99), “Designing Women: Season 2” (Shout! Factory. $44.99) and “Super Friends: The Lost Episodes” (Warner Home Video. $26.98).
ALIEN TRESPASS (Image Entertainment. $27.98): In this exceptionally lame parody of cheesy Fifties-era sci-fi films (a topic for humor that is about as fresh and exciting as jokes about Estes Kefauver), a UFO crashes in a small town and the alien pilot must take over the body of a local scientist (Eric McCormick) in order to capture the vile creature that escaped before it can destroy the town and, by extension, the world. There are a couple of amusing moments here and there but not nearly enough to sustain the length of an entire feature--this probably would have worked better as a parody trailer. If you are in the mood for a spoof of this type, stick with the somewhat more inspired “Lost Skeleton of Cadavra” instead.
APRES LUI (IFC Films. $24.98): the legendary Catherine Deneuve stars in this French melodrama about a woman whose grief over the loss of her son in a car accident leads her to become obsessed with her son’s best friend, the guy who was behind the wheel during said accident. Truth be told, Gael Morel’s film is a little too gloppy and soapy and times for its own good but the central performance from Deneuve, which manages to be heartbreaking without tripping over into mawkishness, is so good and true that it makes the entire thing worth watching.
BORN IN ‘68 (Strand Releasing. $27.99): In what feels at times like the French equivalent of the great Italian epic “The Best of Youth,” this jumbo-sized film introduces us to three young people in the tumultuous summer of 1968 who decide to start a commune in the woods with some friends and follows them and their children two decades later as they take stock of how both they and the world have changed. If that doesn’t intrigue you, perhaps the fact that it stars mega-gorgeous French supermodel Laetitia Casta (who actually isn’t too bad here) may help sway you a bit.
THE CLASS (Sony Home Entertainment. $28.96): Long presumed to be the front-runner for this year’s Best Foreign-Language Film (right up to the moment when the Japanese entry “Departures” was announced as the winner), this award-winning French docu-drama follows one long year in the life of a teacher (Francois Begaudeau, who also wrote the book the film was based on) whose racially mixed classroom is largely populated by kids who seem to spend more time and energy trying to subvert his authority than they would if they just sat down and followed the lesson plan. This latest work from acclaimed director Laurent Cantet is a well-made movie but one that runs on far too long for its own good. However, if you are a teacher yourself, you might want to watch it as a way of slowly easing yourself back into teacher mode before school begins again in a couple of weeks.
DARK RISING (E1 Entertainment. $19.98): In this low-budget and ham-fisted attempt to create an instant cult classic out of nothing, rassler Jay Reso stars as a guy who goes on a camping trip with his ex-girlfriend, her new lady friend and his best pal--ostensibly in the hopes of winning back his ex from the Sapphic side--and winds up inadvertently freeing a demon hell-bent on destroying the world. Luckily for him, he also manages to set free a dedicated demon-hunter and luckily for us, she is both purty and scantily-clad. It is pretty terrible but if you make it through to the bitter end, the bonus features do include a wrestling match between Reso and someone by the name of Rhino, a fact that probably means more to wrestling fans than it does to me.
FISSURE (Indigenous Film Works. $19.98): In this decidedly trippy murder mystery, for lack of a better term, a troubled cop (James McDonald) haunted by a history of addiction and bad life choices investigates a mysterious death in a house teeming with inexplicable clues and conflicting testimonies from the various suspects that threaten his already shaky grip on reality. The film isn’t quite a complete success but it is definitely more ambitious than most of its type and it remains reasonably compelling all the way through.
GIGANTIC (Vivendi Entertainment. $26.99): If “(500) Days of Summer” didn’t satisfy your jones for relentlessly quirky indie romantic comedies featuring Zooey Deschanel as a flighty free spirit--and really, it should have--you may want to check out this relentlessly quirky indie romantic comedy in which she plays a flighty free spirit who falls for a mattress salesman (Paul Dano) after learning of his plans to adopt a Chinese baby. However, if you thought that “(500) Days of Summer” was a little too quirky for its own good, give this one a wide berth because it contains twice the quirk as that one and maybe half the entertainment value.
I LOVE YOU MAN (Paramount Home Video. $29.99): Upon getting engaged, goofy real estate agent Paul Rudd discovers that he has no significant male friends who could serve as his best man and goes out in search of finding a best pal in time for the wedding. (Yes, he has a brother he gets along with, but to ask why he doesn’t just ask him is the same thing as asking why Katherine Heigl didn’t just get an abortion in “Knocked Up”--if he does, there is no movie.) Eventually he does hit it off with weirdo Jason Segel and wackiness ensues in a male-bonding comedy that doesn’t actually come from Judd Apatow, though it does everything in its power to seem like one of his films. There are some very funny moments here and there (several courtesy of Lou Ferrigno, of all people) but others drag on forever and the film as a whole, while entertaining enough to warrant a rental, is the kind that will quickly fade from memory once you are done watching it.
KATYN (Koch Video. $26.98): Having already covered various aspects of the dark side of recent Polish history in such films as “Man of Marble” and “Man of Iron,” internationally acclaimed director Andrzej Wajda offer viewers his striking account of a shocking 1939 incident in which over 120,000 Polish military officers and citizens were summarily executed by the Soviet army and the even-more-shocking attempt on the part of the Soviets to cover up their involvement when the mass grave were discovered by Nazi forces four years later.
LONDON TO BRIGHTON (E1 Entertainment. $24.98): In this exceptionally sleazy and depressing drama from England, a low-rent prostitute is forced by her pimp to procure a 12-year-old girl for the delectation of the father of a vicious local crime lord--naturally, everything goes horribly wrong and the hooker and the girl are forced to go on the run for their lives. Although I am glad that it doesn’t try to go for the weirdo humor of a Guy Ritchie crime film, this one is just so grim and dour that you will want to take one of those Silkwood showers after watching it. If you do make it through, it however, you will be rewarded with a startlingly impressive performance from Georgia Groome (who was 15 at the time of production) as the young girl.
PARIS 36 (Sony Home Entertainment. $28.96): In this oddball sort-of musical set in the Parisian suburb just before World War II changed things forever, a young woman (Nora Arnezeder) arrives in town with the hopes of beginning her singing career and finds herself involved in an effort to keep a local theater from being shut down due to lack of funds. The film itself is pretty much nonsense, but it is cheerful and relatively non-offensive nonsense and Arnezeder is charming enough to keep it afloat even when it threatens to drown in a sea of whimsy.
THE TIGER’S TALE (MGM Home Entertainment. $26.98): John Boorman, the director responsible for such classics as “Point Blank,” “Deliverance” and “Excalibur” and such cult favorites as “Zardoz” and the massively underrated “Exorcist II: The Heretic,” returns after a long absence (his last feature was the fairly disastrous 2004 drama “In My Country”) with this strange blend of comedy, mystery and drama about a successful Irish real estate developer (Brendan Gleeson, with whom Boorman previously collaborated on the masterful “The General”) who, while involved in the riskiest deal of his career, is convinced that he has spotted an exact double of himself that is slowly trying to take over his entire life. Because this film never got a theatrical release in America and because it co-stars the always-frightening Kim Cattrall as Gleeson’s wife, some of you may find yourself suspecting the quality of this particular item. However, while it won’t go down as one of Boorman’s masterpieces, it is nevertheless a fairly inventive work with an excellent performance from Gleeson that certainly deserved a better fate in the marketplace than it received.
ABOUT LAST NIGHT (Sony Home Entertainment. $28.95)
BLUE THUNDER (Sony Home Entertainment. $28.95)
CUTTHROAT ISLAND (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.99)
THE NINTH GATE (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.99)
REPLICANT (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.99)
SEE NO EVIL (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.99)
ST ELMO’S FIRE (Sony Home Entertainment. $28.95)
STARMAN (Sony Home Entertainment. $28.95)