Tuesday, October 14, 2008

New on DVD - 10/14/08

FTFR DVD Pick of the Week

A brilliant example of the New Romanian Cinema, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, like Cristi Puiu's 2006 The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, uses long takes, few edits, and a lack of musical score to create a raw, earthy realism. It moves slowly and takes its time, but it's a gripping work, drawing the audience in and refusing to let it go. It's a sometimes agonizing build-up to the inevitable abortion, but that's not really the focus here. Many have called 4 Months a pro-life film, but I wouldn't say that. It confronts us with decisions too powerful to be ignored but it never stoops to preach. Instead it takes a neutral stance and lets the audience come away with its own feelings. But contrary to popular belief, this is not really so much a film about abortion as it is about oppression.

THE EDGE OF HEAVEN (***)

Despite its shortcomings, its hard to deny that The Edge of Heaven is a notable work. It starts off very strongly, but its uneven nature hampers it as the film goes on. Akin creates characters we sympathize with and feel for, but in the end we're still held at arm's length. It's enough to keep us interested, but not enough to truly enthrall us.

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (***)

The film is never for a moment as good as any of the original trilogy (and that includes the unfairly maligned "Temple of Doom"), but it's still a blast. Instead of the adventure serials that the original trilogy paid homage to, "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is more in the vein of the sci-fi B movies that were popular during the time the film is set. It is a much more outlandish film than its predecessors, even if its central premise isn't ultimately any more ridiculous than the supernatural mythologies of the originals. However, there are several moments where the film seems to jump the tracks (Mutt's Tarzan moment during the jungle chase is a bit much), and Ray Winstone's character is horribly underdeveloped, as is often the case with the plot, which becomes increasingly muddled as the film goes on.

MONGOL (***)

Overall, Mongol is quite an accomplished work. This is filmmaking on a grand and rare scale. If only it hadn't stumbled in the final round it could have been great. It's still nothing to sneeze at though, because in light of 300 and other modern "epics," Mongol is a refreshingly old school light in the darkness.

STUCK (**½)

It's a tawdry, torrid premise, and Gordon zeros right in on its sleazy tabloid nature, giving the film the feel of a old fashioned exploitation flick. And for the most part it works. Stuck is filled with dark humor and enough gore and bloodshed to satisfy and bloodthirsty horror fan. The film's biggest downfall, however, are the performances, which with the exception of Rea (who is actually quite good), seem forced or phoned in, and quite a few moments seem to be the victim of poor post production dubbing.

XXY (****)

This is powerful stuff - revelatory really. It is the kind of filmmaking we yearn for but so seldom find - soulful and searching, exploring life in ways few people dare to imagine, asking questions so many avoid. That makes XXY an essential film, and ultimately, one of the finest examinations of human sexuality I have ever seen.

4 comments:

J.D. said...

Yay, 4 Months! I MUST OWN IT SO I CAN FORCE AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE TO WATCH IT. Mm-hmm.

Matthew Lucas said...

I was surprised to see 4 MONTHS on the list of new releases on DVD...I've had a copy of it on my shelf since June...it's been available at Borders for months.

Sam Juliano said...

Indeed Matthew, it's been out there. Odd that it appears now on this week's list.

Film-Book dot Com said...

You, Nick Plowman and Evan Derrick are all giving 4 Months two thumbs up. I'm going to have to check it out. I already have it. I just haven't watched it yet. The same goes for XXY.

By the way, I wrote a post about why Indy 4 sucked:
http://film-book.com/why-indiana-jones-and-the-kingdom-of-the-crystal-skull-sucked