October's DVD Reviews, Part I
Quick reviews from my Netflix queue and/or the library.



Hairspray, 2007
Much, much better than I expected.  I hadn't expected songs that actually propelled the story rather than just being musical commentary on it.  I hadn't expected Ricki Lake to be topped by a new Tracy.  I hadn't expected to even like this, but other than Travola (who was just distracting) it was awesome.

Battlestar Galactica: Season 4, Disc 1
They've gone off on a religious tangent that smells like stalling for time, and that's not like them.  I don't want this show to better than 90% of what's on tv.  I was it to be as good as it was up to this point.

Rambo, 2008
It's certainly better than Rambo III, but there's no reason to see it other than watching Rambo kill people.  Whereas that other comeback, Rocky Balboa, was filled with existential questions about finding a place in one's life that can coexist with one's legacy after past achievements can no longer be equalled (plus sub-plots about a new romance and resolving conflicts with a son who is similarly challenged by public perception of his father and whose shadow he can never break free from), this is just a very quick kill-the-fuck-out-of-everybody movie with a premise more than a plot.

Holy Mountain, 1973
I know Alejandro Jodorowsky more for his comic books than film, but this is actually on par with his work with Moebius for fantastic visuals and mind-bending stories.  I think it runs out of steam toward the end, but the first two-thirds of the film are the most original you'll see this year.  Even the first five minutes meet that bar.  I'm not shitting you.

Religulous, 2008
Saw this at the show, actually.  It's hysterically funny throughout, although producer/host Bill Mahr never tackles the fundamentals of religion as a phenomenon, just the extremists (who, admittedly, are the most religulous).  Also, in the last stretch he's trying to tie it all together as a serious message (which, again admittedly, it is) when, really, the rest of the film should have achieved that on its own without the need for a summation directed at an audience confused by the abrupt shift in tone.

The Darjeeling Limited, 2007
The ridigity of the actors and the always-locked-perpendicular-to-the-fourth-wall camera work get annoying, but by the end, the faux soul-searching of the characters translates to legitimate introspection for the viewer.

Jericho: Season 1, Discs 1&2
Remember The Day After back in the '80s?  Remember how bleak it was?  Here the producers take the same premise (what's the Midwest like after the nukes hit?) and come to a seemingly opposite conclusion.  In other words, there's plenty of corn, literally and figuratively.

PICKS OF THE LITTER: Musicals don't always translate well to film, but Hairspray is a classic.  For those looking for cult instead of camp, Holy Mountain is not for the faint of heart, but it's unique to say the least.  And despite my reservations about Religulous as a whole, it really is funny, and if you think you'll skip it because you might be offended by it, then you're the most in need of seeing it.

October's DVD Reviews, Part II

Invader Zim: Discs3&4, 2004
More great stuff, possibly better than at the start because the series seems to grow increasingly experimental.  This is all the more refreshing since it started out better than average and subsequently earned the label "New and Improved."

Michael Clayton, 2007
Quality without originality.  Everyone involved does a good job, but this simply isn't entertainment.  It failed to surprise me.  It failed to make me think about it.  It was simply a story set on a long, straight path, one where you can see the end coming from the start and the scenery isn't especially great along the way.  My advice: Find a different route through the rental section.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age, 2007
I'm not a fan of histories (and historians will quibble over the accuracies of this one anyway), but maybe because history is my worst subject, I really enjoyed this one even through the cheesy spots.

La Vie En Rose, 2007
You know how depressing The Doors was?  Hey, at least Jim Morrison died when he was still young and good looking.  And you could understand the words even when they didn't make much sense.  Now let's take all of that away.  The one thing that isn't subtitled here?  The songs in a movie about a singer!  Oh, and let's even skip completely over the most interesting elements of the subject's life (e.g., her role in rescuing POWs during WWII) in favor of footage of her slowly withering away in her old age.  Well-acted though.

The Martian Child, 2007
They terraformed Mars to grow corn.  No, not really.  Mars doesn't actually feature in this at all, just John Cusack and a lot of corn.  But I repeat myself.

Into the Wild, 2007
A complicated story that acknowledges the complexity with which you need to view its central character.  And yet it devotes well-deserved time to secondary characters.  This is a rare find, even if it's not for everyone.  (Currently #133 on the IMDb.)

PICKS OF THE LITTER: Elizabeth: The Golden Age is the Empire Strikes Back of what really ought to be a trilogy if Blanchet's game to return in another ten years and there's more history I don't remember from high school worth adapting.  And Into the Wild is really good even if the filmmaking sometimes goes as off the rails as its subject.


Copyright 2008 Ale[x]plorer.
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