Archive for the 'DVD' Category

Max Manus: Man of War
Biographical War Film, Straight Up

A twenty-something international adventurer and rogue, Manus first saw military action as a volunteer with the Finnish army in their brief war with the Russians at the outset of the Second World War—and his recollections of that horror form the flashback framework for his autobiographical account of his anti-Nazi resistance work during the German occupation of Norway. This is one of those “true story” films which is so earnest in getting all the details “right” that much of the life has been sucked out of it. At the same time, stylistically speaking, the film fits in nicely with classic European war films like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Zulu, or even Richard Attenborough’s A Bridge Too Far.

Take Science… Seriously

Part loony gonzo documentary (think Morgan Spurlock) and part earnest science project (think Mythbusters with really, really big budgets and brainiac nerds instead of uber-fanboys), BLAST! is director Paul Devlin’s film of his astrophysicist brother Mark Devlin’s attempt to put a telescope in high-Earth orbit to gather clues about the origins of the Universe.  If that sounds like a pretty esoteric thing to wrap your brain around… well, it is.  But Mark Devlin and his team of scientists and grad students are just wacky enough to make it all fun, and Paul Devlin’s style is light enough not to bog down proceedings.  Much.  (It is a science film, after all!)

Challenging Take on Alternative Realities

I can see why Chatroom feels more like Cheatroom to those who want it to do more and be more. The film is rated R for “disturbing violent content, some sexual material and brief language.” And yes, the disturbing violent content is there in about as strong a dose as you’d want before crossing over into NC-17 territory. But these teens are far more sexually restrained than those in, say, American Pie or even Animal House. And when it comes to language, this almost feels like an episode of Glee. But for me, that’s a recommendation. Chatroom is a reminder that you don’t have to be trashy to be edgy, prurient to be challenging, or boundary-pushing to be creative.

A Talk with Gary Moore
Getting Lost, Getting Saved

“As you know, this business is type-casting,” says Bill Collector star Gary Moore. “And when you’re a good fit for the part it’s just so fun and easy. And I was just really Lorenzo. I was arrested at sixteen years old for being a pretty major drug dealer. And I was sent off to a work farm in South Dakota. And when you’re in South Dakota in the winter, on a work farm, you tend to think your life over real fast. I thought, ‘Wow! Where am I now? I’m a Chicago inner-city kid in the middle of nowhere, and I think God’s trying to get my attention!’”

Love’s Kitchen
Tasty, Light, and Flaky

Like Bill Forsyth’s films, James Hacking’s Kitchen is well stocked with local flavor (in this case, the fictional town of Wooten Dusset) and low-key characterizations. And like Hero, Kitchen features an American character as the wildcard who stirs the pot: Kate Templeton, a food critic (and divorcee) on sabbatical… whose globe-trotting daddy just happens to live in the town where once-promising chef (and widower) Rob Haley proposes to resurrect his low-profile culinary career. If you can stomach a little schmaltz with your entrée, Love’s Kitchen is a tasty little cinematic treat. Just don’t expect cailles en sarcophage… but you’re not likely to need Rolaids, either.

Blue Crush 2
In the Mold of Surf Classics

In this ultra-image-conscious and commoditized age, it appears that the surfing community is taking the reins of its self image, and making sure (to a degree) that what appears onscreen bears some positive and constructive resemblance to the values it actually espouses. The outcome of the plot is predictable (and at times awfully cheesy), but the good news is that this film is actually more squeaky clean, relatively speaking, than the values presented by most Disney teen-star films these days. The surfers in this film care about each other and about their planet more than they care about money, pop culture, and drugs or booze. So Funicello, aside from that silly hair, would almost fit right in.

Thou Shalt Laugh! 5
Well Worth a Look

Newcomers Leland Klassen Daren Streblow both bring a measure of down-home real-world comedy to bear on their acts. Klassen’s bit about border crossings is particularly good, and he puts his gangly appearance (and large hands) to good use in a satisfying display of physical humor. Streblow is like the nerdy guy from your fifth grade class all grown up and funny—and he makes particularly good use of material from his family life, good-naturedly poking fun at the quirks of his kids. I laughed often and freely with these two. The liveliest act in the pack, though—and the most polished—is returning comic Bone Hampton, who gets good mileage out of being black in front of a mostly whitebread audience.

Secret at Arrow Lake
Modest Mystery

C. Thomas Howell anchors what would otherwise be a largely uncompelling story and cast. One weakly-staged and -played plot complication aside, there’s not an awful lot happening in this story that my three-sentence synopsis doesn’t convey. The pace is languid though not boring, and there’s just enough story to fill up the 83 minutes of running time without overstaying its welcome—though some of the scenes do feel a little repetitive. Ali Faulkner is enjoyable as Mia (even if her character could have been written more strongly and memorably) and the supporting characters are mostly distinctive. When all was said and done, I liked Secret at Arrow Lake because I like gentle mysteries—and Arrow Lake came up with a surprising resolution that didn’t feel forced.

The Encounter
What You Expect, But Not

I’m really not sure how much to say about The Encounter—because if I tell you why I liked parts of it, I’ll probably spoil most of the effect for you. In short, The Encounter is David A. R. White’s surprising, often humorous, and decidedly Christian-niche-market micro-budget take on the classic travelers-meet-mysterious-stranger story. If that’s all you need to know from me, stop right here. And remember that I said “I liked parts of it” and that my primary adjectives were “surprising” and “often humorous.” What makes David A. R. White’s take on this tale a particularly Christian-niche spin is his decision to blend the stock story with a semi-related niche staple: the mysterious stranger who is a stand-in for Jesus.

The Bill Collector
Pure Fun

Gosh, yes, I’m biased when it comes to director Cristóbal Krusen and his films. The good news for readers is that I’m telling you about it all up front; the bad news for Cris is that I’m typically harder on films when I know I’m reviewing material about which I am likely biased! The better news, all the way around, is that The Bill Collector is consistently entertaining, even when it dips into the come-to-Jesus moments that typify most PureFlix releases. At the heart of it all is an engaging performance by Gary Moore as Lorenzo Adams, a collection agency star who’s so effective only because he knows a thing or two (or three or four) about recalcitrant debtors.

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