February's DVD reviews


The Incredible Hulk, 2007 - More faithful to the source material (including the Bill Bixby tv series) than the last go-round, but it never really met the potential this property has to create a great story about the Jekyll and Hyde conflict at its core.

Alice Cooper: Live at Montreux - He never gets the credit Ozzy or Rob Zombie have heaped on them by fans and critics, and yet this is honestly a more entertaining (albeit sometimes hokey) stage show.  Truth is, the music is a bit weaker than other shock-rockers, even with nearly fourty years of material to draw from.

Gran Torino, 2009 - Really, really good.  Eastwood starts off somewhat cartoonish, but as the story evolves, his characterization begins to make sense as punctuation rather than Proper Noun the way we're used to in his films.  More importantly, this movie is really, really good.

Derailed, 2006 - Ugh.  Kind of a throwback to all those early '90s thrillers, and maybe it's because I grew up watching so many of those, but I saw the main twists coming and got tired of them fast.

Supernatural: Season 2 - Much better now that they've gotten up to speed.  The first season suffered from the absence of a larger story (i.e., they had a premise, but it rarely impacted plotting).  This time the majority of the episodes are geared toward developing that story right up to a great season-ending climax.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army, 2007 - Arguably better than the first one.  I'm not sure why this series never caught on with a cult.  It's among the best-balanced movies made for juggling fantasy, action, and comedy.

The Onion Movie, 2008 - A direct decendant of Kentucky Fried Movie, but this film was made (and then shelved) several years before its release date, so it lacks the biting wit the Onion has since achieved in the medium of sketch comedy.

Sex and the City: Extended Cut, 2008 - It overcomes my chief criticism of the show, that 30 minutes was not enough time for the emotional depths of romances, good or bad.  However, the problem here is the message seems to be that women need men or they fall apart and are emotional basket cases.  Yeah, this was made in 2008.  WTF?

Beowulf, 2007 - Interestingly, the story and the updating of it for purposes of this adaptation are pretty great.  It's the visuals that are just plain clunky via this live-action approach to CG that Avatar has since gotten very, very right.  Instead this looks like the cut scenes of any late-'90s video game, which doesn't do the rest of the project justice.

Observe and Report, 2009 - An attempt to do Taxi Driver as a comedy.  Yes, seriously.  At times it works precisely because of how weird that conceptual premise is, but it's also just a poorly-written movie in too many places for it to sell itself convincingly.

Cutthroat Island, 1995 - Remember how that film adaptation of The Pirates of Penzance looked like a stage production but was witty and fluid and fun?  Well, this is the opposite of that.

Quantum of Solace, 2009 - The first 007 movie in a long time to really feel to me like it captured the spirit of the original Sean Connery films (although I did really enjoy the Brosnan installments quite a bit).  Here we have a very gritty take on the franchise, and Daniel Craig lacks the charm of Connery, but while you could say Christian Bale doesn't exude the charisma of Adam West, it's a persona appropriate to the different approach this go-round.  This is no Dark Knight, but done right, I could see the next Bond flick coming out of nowhere and surprising us all.

Avatar, 2009 - Saw it at the show.  While the story doesn't offer any surprises, the surprise is that you are genuinely captivated by it for the entire running time.  It's a convincing universe, and while the visuals are amazing, they aren't all that's selling it.  Even in the wake of all the hype, I was quite thoroughly impressed.

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia: Season 2 - I've said it before, but this may be our next Seinfeld.  It hasn't really captured the public's appreciation in the same way as that series did by this point in time (i.e., they already aired the 5th season at this writing), but this show also does its best to kick the mainstream in the nuts and steal its wallet to buy some crack.

W., 2009 - A mess, but at least it's somewhat entertaining.  It's a collage of GWB made from his own words to reconstruct his history in a way that, ironically, makes him a sympathetic if misguided character.  We always knew the man was a buffoon out of his league, but this telling of the story makes you feel sorry for him.

Valkyrie, 2009 - Another mess.  Granted, we know that this isn't going to end well, and yet people still watched Titanic.  Thing is, the story here is largely built around a non-event, and two hours of padding don't do much to disguise that.  Add in Cruise's on-going inability to act like a human, and this is the opposite of entertaining.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, 2008 - One of those movies about characters caught up in a whirlwind of improbable circumstances.  There's nothing magical about it (e.g., Amy Adams character plays as more annoying than charming), but it's enjoyable enough.

Blake's 7: Season 2 - The series sort of meanders along, still vaguely pursuing it's original premise.  Surprisingly, the dramatic tension often transcends the fragile suspension of disbelief you have at the cheap sets and dated costumes.

PICKS OF THE LITTER: Avatar is awesome, if predictable.  Hellboy II is probably the most under-rated sequel out there.  I thought it at least equalled the original.  Katherine liked it even better than the first one.  And Gran Torino will likely be regarded as more of a classic than its automotive namesake.



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