January's DVD reviews

The Wrestler, 2008 - The washed-out underdog story was already decades old when they did it in Rocky, but this is a different take on it entirely.  I've never been a Mickey Rourke fan, but I have to admit he carries it (and Marisa Tomei surprised me too by being really hot, and at (then) 44 when I wasn't really a fan of hers either).  Nothing overly ambitious or pretentious; it's simply a character study done very well.

30 Rock: Season 2 - Not especially groundbreaking compared to the first season, but it's consistently funny and worth watching.

The Waterboy, 1998 - Yeah, just getting around to this one.  I'm glad Sandler has subsequently branched out.  As a result, I can view this as a nostalgia piece in a larger context of a phase in the genre rather than as the sad bit of poor cinema it is on its own.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, 2008 - Honestly, this is one of the dumbest movies I've seen in a long time, and I'm saying that next to a review of The Waterboy for fuck's sake.  This series just doesn't get the character-centered appeal of the source material as far as I'm concerned.  It's all about the action (which is admittedly pretty good), but of course you have sit through some seriously inane exposition to get to that.  And then there's the non-stop attempts at humor from a school of comedy that makes Will Ferrel offerings look erudite and understated by comparison.  I've never done so much eye rolling at all of the above.

Burn Notice: Season 2 - Great series that is something of a throwback to the '80s guy(s) in a fancy car who saves people shows (e.g., Knight Rider, Stingray, A-Team, Magnum PI, etc. etc. etc.).  It's been done abundantly but not recently.  Additionally, the lighter elements are more snark than slapstick (i.e., no Murdock or "Boz") and there's an overarching quest that keeps you watching.

Death Race, 2007 - A prequel to the 1975 Roger Corman produced film.  It's pretty good, but it loses something by trading the original's camp for the rust and concrete-colored bleakness this go-round.  I mean, imagine casting Jason Statham as Snake Pliskin in a remake of Escape from New York.  You'd have to jettison the cigar and over-the-top wisecracks.  Sure, you'd make it grittier, but would you have as enjoyable a movie?  Fuck no!  The bigger budget here doesn't offset the fact that this is an unbelievable premise, and the film should just embrace that and throw out all attempts to update it as anything other than the B-movie is it.

Watchmen, 2009 - Awesome.  I didn't think I'd say that.  Like a lot of folks, I really couldn't imagine this complex a story being condensed in a way that would retain its essence.  I assumed significant chunks would have to be lost or that this would be a "greatest hits" of the novel the way the Harry Potter movies have been labeled, but no; it's actually pretty good.  I could quibble that Dr. Manhattan's solilique on Mars didn't make exactly the same point as in the graphic novel or that they tinkered with the ending or that I would have done things differently here and there, but you know what?  I should just shut the fuck up because it's better than any of us expected.

Lost: Season 5 - The story is about timetravel both in the literal sense as well as non-linear story, and the latter is what makes this a real masterpiece this time around.

Star Trek, 2009 - Lots of good behind-the-scenes stuff that hint at just how wrong this movie might have gone had they made different choices.  What they did was make very nearly every right one and make this a watchable franchise again.  JJ Abrams.  Wow, dude.

Slumdog Millionaire, 2008 - Epic.

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, 1964 - A classic for sure.  It's been twenty-something years since I'd seen it, and it holds up surprisingly well except that I kept wondering if some of the characters were intended to be gay or if I was just reading too much into some well-intentioned over-acting.

The Last Starfighter, 1984 - Terrific (if dated) little sci-fi movie with lots of new extras that revisit the making-of process.  The film is noteable for having the first photo-realistic CGI, but it's more successful at telling a great story and ultimately succeeds at feeling genuine where others (e.g., Flight of the Navigator) felt strained to maintain the action.  I had the lunch box of this when I was in the 6th grade.  Turns out I'm still a fan.

Burn After Reading, 2009 - Quirky Cohen brothers' comedy with an A-list cast that feels like overkill on a script that borders on screwball.  Don't get me wrong; it's funny, but not commensurately sophisticated for all the talent assembled here.

PICKS OF THE LITTER: I could go on about Watchmen for hours.  For starters: Oh. My. Gawd.  The cast alone blew me away.  There was none of that "Holly Berry is STORM?!" bullshit here.  Rorschach is perfect.  Everyone was except perhaps Carla Gugino who is too hot to convincingly play herself as the unsympathetic, retired Silk Spectre.  Like I said, there are some changes from the source material, but those were largely for reasons owing to pacing and not ego or creative differences.  I was not disappointed. Slumdog Millionaire was terrific, but if you aren't gay enough to treat the Academy Awards like the Superbowl the way I do, then you probably don't care.  Just watch Lost instead.  You grow more confused with every episode, but instead of getting pissed off, you don't fucking care because it's a completely different experience to watch tv and not know exactly how everything's going to turn out.

Copyright 2010 Ale[x]plorer.
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