Archive for the 'DVD' Category

Grades Higher Than Its Peers

There’s no reason at all why this film couldn’t be as easily enjoyed on a laptop as on, say, a big plasma screen. But wait, you say—isn’t that the opposite of what makes a movie a movie? No, it isn’t. Rather, I suggest that moviegoing audiences have tended to fall in love with merely “going out”—sharing an entertainment experience in a luxurious, almost decadent setting. And over the last thirty years or so, more emphasis has been placed on the experience (by audiences, exhibitors, and distributors alike) than on the art form. What Hazeldine does here is take us back to when films really relied on cinematic technique. This is taut storytelling in its ideal form, and Hazeldine pulls it off in fine fashion.

What If…
A Pretty Wonderful Film

Hooray! Executive Producer Jerry Jenkins, director/son Dallas Jenkins, and Pureflix have delivered the best Wonderful Life variation since, well, the original. Anchoring the whole affair is John Ratzenberger as Mike, a supernatural tow truck driver who’s good with hooks… and guidance from above. This may be the most appealing Ratzenberger has ever been on film, and that’s going back a long ways now. As Ben, Kevin Sorbo is no Jimmy Stewart, and I’m sure he doesn’t pretend to be. Yet by the end, when Jenkins gives us a final payoff that adds a decidedly new twist to the genre in an Abraham-and-Isaac sort of fashion, I had thoroughly enjoyed what he’d done with the character. Kudos to Pureflix for growing and maturing.

Almost Sucks the Life Out of Itself

The film tells the very intriguing story of a second-hand store owner who finds herself in possession of a box containing a long-lost and much sought-after vial… which in turn contains the soul of a brilliant scientist who once managed to develop a drug that would prolong life indefinitely. Before long, the shopkeeper—who is herself desperately clinging to life—begins channeling the scientist, and finds herself, as they say, drawn into a web of intrigue. Saying much more about the plot would kind of ruin the experience. I will only say that, as is usual with MTI releases that I request, I was pretty much going with it the whole way… right up until the pack of zombies started ripping apart the neighborhood. Oh, well.

Bad Day To Go Fishing
Reels You In

I’m tempted to say that Scot-born Spaniard Gary Piquer anchors this film with his performance as the impresario Orsini. But the real MVP here is Brechner himself with a remarkable feature film debut. From production design to score, from performances to script, the film is practically flawless. Even the flatter roles and weaker actors come to life in a context that allows them to flourish. By the time we reach the tragically foreshadowed climax, we know far more about these characters than their words have conveyed—and we likely care more about them than we did in The Wrestler, No Country for Old Men, or Down By Law, celebrated films from celebrated directors that Fishing might invoke.

Complaints Choir
The Tabloids Are Alive

The idea of Complaints Choir is funny enough and original enough and interesting enough that I just had to take a look. This is a true Indie film project produced and released through Relativity Media. Director Ada Bligaard Søby follows Tellervo and Oliver as they work with the originators of the complaints and local composers to turn complainers into activists. As a pastor in the film remarks, it’s one thing to say, as Martin Luther King, Jr. did on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, that America bounced the check it gave to minorities; it’s quite another to turn that complaint into something positive like, “I have a dream!” So… in the spirit of the project, let me offer a couple complaints and conclude with upbeat remarks.

Comedy: The Road Less Traveled
Go Out of Your Way to Find This

As part of his touring, as stand-up comic Michael Jr. explains in his feature-length documentary Comedy: The Road Less Traveled, he noticed that comedy seems most often enjoyed by the leisure class—while in fact laughter is most therapeutic for those in hardship or pain. As a result, he set out to find a way to bring his work to audiences normally deprived of such therapy: prison inmates, recovering addicts, disabled children, the homeless. I won’t say much about what you’ll find in this film other than to remark that you’ll probably laugh a lot—and shed more than a couple of tears. This is “Christian” at its best, whether that adjective is applied to literature, film, comedy, or social action.

31º North 62º East
Peace Like A Mighty Torrent

Don’t let your biases and preconceptions—or impatience—get in the way of what is a very inventive and enjoyable comeuppance yarn. When it seems like things aren’t happening that you expect, trust that director/co-writer Tristan Loraine knows what he’s about… because he does. He very subtly and deliberately tweaks the genre in ways that make the film’s conclusion all the more effective. Rather than falling victim to budget limitations, he leverages them to his advantage in ways I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. To say more would ruin the effect. And by all means, check out Heather Peace as Mandelson. Like Carrie Ann Moss as Trinity in The Matrix, Peace looks soft… but deceptively so. By the time you’re done with the film, you’ll be convinced that Peace kicks ass.

The Trial
Journeyman Court Drama

Mac is a pretty good metaphor for the film itself. He’s a guy who seems appealingly familiar and is not particularly out to impress anyone; yet he takes his job seriously even if he’s not the best lawyer on the circuit. His crew is made up people he knows he can trust, but are not people for whom casework is a steady gig. He’ll put in the work necessary to get the job done—and will likely miss details that hotshot professionals, like prosecutor Joe Whetstone, wouldn’t let by. And when the case is over, he’s smart enough to know that there are bigger trials in life than torts, crimes, litigation, and prosecution.

The Way Home
Outstanding, Simply Outstanding

Jenn and I are rarely in a position to “willingly suspend our disbelief,” even when we just watch a movie “for fun.” Countless are the times we’ve started to screen a movie and then just turned it off because it’s lost us for any of a number of reasons. So when we start a movie, our B.S. Meter is pitched high. It never peeped once during this film, in spite of the usual handful of clunky performances from minor characters that you find in low-budget indies. If you have the slightest interest in watching a film that speaks volumes about faith and the power of America’s heartland—minus car chases, explosions, and gratuitous sex—you can’t hardly go wrong with The Way Home.

Do You Wanna Dance?
Yes, I Do

Making a successful niche film may not mean you’re making great art (hello, Omega Code), or it may not mean you’re making great entertainment (yes, Into Great Silence, I’m talking to you), but it least means you’re passionate about what you’re doing and know how to get your film in front of people who will like it. That’s no mean feat—and it’s a model that brings us dozens of passion-filled movie experiences every year. So, thanks to the Spiritual Cinema Circle, I’m happy to recommend another successful and engaging niche film for the Greek market: 1997’s Do You Wanna Dance? Happily, it’s well enough made and engaging enough that it should also play well with a pretty broad audience.

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