Mini-Review Round-Up #2

This is something I’m going to do periodically. Basically, I will employ many means to qualify films for the BAM Awards be it either seeing the film theatrically acquiring a DVD either through purchase or on Netflix. This could lead to an influx of several new titles being seen in a short span of time which would be difficult to write full reviews for. At least this way the film gets some of its deserved attention and you get some notion of my thoughts on them.

If you have questions or comments feel free to respond. I always get back.

As always please refer to My Rating Scale for an indication of what the scores mean and if you’re curious where these films might make a dent in my personal awards please check my BAM Considerations.

The Films

Kaboom

Thomas Dekker in Kaboom (IFC Films)

This is a film by director Greg Araki that can only be described as one of the strangest I’ve yet seen and in both a good and a bad way. The story is a widening gyre that goes from very real and gritty to incredibly outlandish. It’s a movie that has me torn between opposite extremes whereas I love the audaciousness of it I cannot say I liked it because it just went too crazy. The film does feature a very strong performance by Thomas Dekker.

To try to synopsize the film is a slippery slope which would likely lead to me having to explain everything. It’s not a film for a mainstream audience. There’s adult content all throughout so that whole viewer discretion is advised spiel applies to this film on many levels.

5/10

The Way Back

Jim Sturgess in The Way Back (Newmarket Films)

This is a tale about a courageous escape from a Gulag in Siberia during the second World War.

This is a film by acclaimed director Peter Weir, which is certainly not among his best but it is a very interesting and well-wrought tale. The only part that feels rushed is the ending but there’s a creative montage there. The acting is very strong in the film from the likes of Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell and Saoirse Ronan. It’s a very human tale that’s shot beautifully.

7/10

On the Shoulders of Giants

The Harlem Rens in On the Shoulders of Giants (Union Productions)

A documentary about the best basketball team you never heard of: the Harlem Rens.

This film has a fascinating subject and some interviews who are able to shine a light on the story of a team who played in the days when professional basketball meant barnstorming, however, the scope of the tale isn’t focused enough and there is a lack of footage of team, which would allow the film to be more visually appealing. I liked learning about the team and there’s great information but it’s not a great film.

6/10

The Fab Five

Jimmy King, Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and Ray Jackson in The Fab Five (ESPN Films)

A feature-length documentary from ESPN Films that chronicles the five freshmen who changed the landscape of college basketball in the early 90s.

This is a very compelling (as most of ESPN Film’s recent works have been) look at Michigan’s blue chip recruiting class and the cultural and athletic sensation they were and the aftermath of their years in the game. This film garnered a lot of attention due to the controversial comments by Jalen Rose, one of the players and a producer of the film, about Duke. However, the film is bigger and more important than those polarizing comments. Rose’s decision to honestly portray his sentiments at the time and include them in the film are bravura filmmaking. The only part of the film that falls a little short is that the controversy that swirled about the program as the players left was never really foreshadowed and that may have made it more effective.

8/10

Bob Dylan: Revealed

Bob Dylan in Bob Dylan: Revealed (Music Video Distributors)

A documentary that tries to encompass a large part of Bob Dylan’s musical career.

This film is like an instructional on how not to construct a documentary. There’s little to no music in a film a bout a musician, interview subjects dominate entire portions of the film, there is insufficient editing of what they say, there is footage that’s described as we’re seeing it and the scope is gigantic. Ultimately, if the subject, Dylan, wasn’t as interesting as he is I’d have given this the lowest possible score but instead it gets by with a

2/10

I’ve been a little behind so there will be one or two more coming quite soon.

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Review- You Again

You Again is now available to stream on Netflix.

You Again is a film that ultimately sinks or swims on the strength of its actors’ performances and due to them it manages to stay afloat.

While the concept is not shockingly original what it did promise was the comedic possibilities of the mirrored stories of high school torment as experienced by both mother and daughter which are to be relived through coincidence brought to their attention by an upcoming family wedding. Where the film falls just a bit flat is that there could’ve been more balance between the disparate rivalries but ultimately it is overwhelmingly about younger set, which makes sense but there are a few issues there.

Now all that is not to say it isn’t funny. It does have its share of laughs. Certainly more than last weekend’s other offering, The Virginity Hit, it’s just matter of some squandered potential.

In terms of performances the four leading ladies certainly deserve their mention. Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver both play to their strengths from start to finish in roles seemingly tailor made for them. Curtis excels in her enthusiastic, slightly goofy and affable role and is a perfect foil to Weaver’s sophisticated, high society businesswoman who puts on airs. Their interaction is why you want more of them. Kristen Bell and Odette Yustman both do very well with their parts even if at the end the truthfulness and motivation of Yustman’s character is somewhat suspect.

The now seemingly standard Betty White appearance was as expected rather funny even with the gag at the end which was a bit much. However, the glue that holds the film together and in fact helps this film be more relatable to a male audience are Mark (Victor Garber) and Ben (Billy Unger). Not that I think that the label “chick flick” is completely apropos as these struggles in high school could just as easily be about men with some slight variations but the target is women. However, with Garber’s character, as Gail’s (Curtis’s) husband, who tries to but can’t quite grasp the situation and Ben, Gail’s son and Marni’s (Bell’s) younger brother, who lampoons the situation brilliantly stealing quite a few scenes along the way, it allows men to find characters with which the identify and ultimately it can bring a wider audience into the story as these characters get involved in the conflicts.

With a film of this type there is the almost mandatory scene where things all come tumbling down for the protagonist. However, I feel that the apparent defeat here is a bit undermined by the toast right before what Marni actually does orchestrate. Things play out such that she could’ve actually escaped with less of the blame and she came out looking better and less conniving than she would have and was intended. Had the start of the Third Act played out differently it might’ve had more impact.

You Again is a funny piece of escapist cinema that could’ve been a little bit more if only a few things had been different. Having said that there is still a good time to be had.

6/10

Make Your Own Film Festival- Pick A Country (Part 5 of 7)

Windows doesn’t discriminate between regions any longer, and neither does Macintosh. Even if they do you should get a warning when inserting a Non-Region 1 DVD (meaning one made for distribution outside the US, Canada and Mexico) saying what region it is and asking if you want to change your computer’s region. Typically, there has been a set limit on how many times you could change regions before it became a permanent switch. Even if your computer is more finicky you still have an opportunity to watch many more DVDs, many of which you can only find online, that you never thought you could before.

Some foreign films have limited appeal and distribution internationally. With that in mind you should take that into account when traveling overseas and pick up some movies you won’t find in the US. Taking that in to consideration this critic made a number of purchases when in Brazil in 2008 to set up a mini-festival.

Avassaladoras (Overwhelming Women)

Overwhelming Women (Fox Filmes do Brasil)

This is the kind of film that would be described in Brazil as “sugarwater,” sweet, simple and ultimately disposable lacking any depth or substance. Granted it does try and in the end it is an anti-romantic comedy in as much as our protagonist gets no one in the end. It is so singularly focused on her finding someone that it barely builds her or any other semblance of a subplot. It is very narrow-minded throughout.

The cast is decent. Caco Ciocler appears here as well and is hardly recognizable and extremely funny. It goes a little over the top at times but at least it is generally light but the resolution in the end is facile and its oncoming was buried. Though they were fine Giovanna Antonelli and Reynaldo Giannechini were underutilized here and their relationship, though understandable, was quite odd until they finally speak to one another.

It is likely this kind of film and the next that give Brazilian films a bad name in Brazil. It’s a genre film, the likes of which we’ve seen thousands of come out of the US so why bother when they can be just as bad coming from the States? Also the idea could likely be better executed on television and at least would be more acceptable light fare in that medium.