June 10, 2008

DVD Pick of the Week: Funny Games

Welcome back! Well, to some of you, anyway. To the rest of you, glad you decided to stop by and I hope that this humble column helps you navigate the stacks of new releases each week. My goal is to point you toward titles of interest and warn you away from those films that seek to do nothing but leech away your time and give you nothing in return.

This week brings an eclectic selection of films that includes a low budget horror flick, a short-lived television series, some Hollywood selections from earlier this year, an odd looking horror/comedy, a classic Western, and some wrestling. I know there are a few here that I am looking forward to checking out, as well as some that I am eager to see for the first time. Read on and see if any strike your fancy.

Funny Games. This movie is not for everyone. Actually, there are probably very few that this is for. What does the fact that I liked it say about me? This movie is a brave exercise in film making, a film that is more about garnering a reaction than telling a story. This film is a shot for shot remake of a film that Michael Haneke made in the 1990's, it is a movie that is unflinching in its accusing the audience of allowing what is going on to happen, and enjoying it. It challenges the limits to which you are willing to put yourself through for the sake of entertainment. As one of our antagonists says, "You mustn't forget the value of entertainment." But are you entertained? I was, and I am sure this is what Haneke was targeting. (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

The Signal. A mysterious signal invades electronic equipment, turning people into killers. I had hoped to see this low budget horror film on the big screen, but it never happened. The film was a collaborative effort by three men, each writing and directing an act of the film, offering multiple viewpoints of the event. The creative trio are David Bruckner, Dan Bush, and Jacob Gentry. I look forward to catching it on DVD. (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

John Adams. This is the HBO mini-series that aired earlier this year starring Paul Giamatti. I have heard good things about it, but have not seen it. Could be an interesting series, does anyone have any thoughts on it and its accuracy? (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

The Bucket List. Yes, I laughed. Yes, I even got a touch misty. Despite those facts, I cannot say that I truly "felt" anything. Nicholson and Freeman deliver the best they are able to, but still the film falls flat in the end. It is all surface and no substance. There is very little beneath the comic veneer that covers everything in a slick, glossy finish. If you scratch it away you will discover a film that doesn't want you to do any digging. Still, it does have a few moments and is worth a rental. (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

The Other Boleyn Girl. Nothing clicks, and when it came to a merciful end I was left wondering why. There is certainly plenty of talent involved, why is this not more involving than it is? Why is everything so drained of personality in the midst of wildly overdone theatrics? The film centers on the sexual and personal politics used by families to gain stature, power, and wealth. It also shows what happens when one wields more power than they actually have and dig themselves in a hole of insurmountable depth. To top it off, the proceedings are handled in dry, melodramatic fashion that makes it look like a stage play with close-ups. Ugh. (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

Jumper. Something like Jumper could have been an exhilarating, thrill-a-minute ride. It turned out to be all set-up with no payoff. Not only that, but the build seemed to have been written by a first timer with no sense of pacing or logic. I don't mean to come off quite so cynical, but this could have been so much more. It is worth a rental to see the missed opportunities, but not much more. (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

The Rock: The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment. While my interest in wrestling has waned over the years, there are still a few guys that can get my attention. The height of my viewing was shortly after Rock's rise to fame. While he was never the greatest wrestler, he was a great showman, and sometimes that is more important in the biz. This set should be quite entertaining. (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

High Noon. Classic Gary Cooper Western, and one of many important films I have not seen, gets a two disk special edition from Lionsgate. Perhaps it is time for me to catch up with it. (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

Witless Protection. I successfully avoided this on the big screen, and it looks like I should be able to do the same on DVD. Larry the Cable Guy is kind of funny as a stand-up, but his films keep getting worse, and they started out bad, so you can guess where they are now! (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

Tekwar. William Shatner tried his hand at starting a new science fictions series when he penned the initial Tekwar story. The story became the basis for this short-lived series about a future with an addictive drug called Tek and the war surrounding it. I remember it as being Okay, but nothing special. It could be worth revisiting on DVD. (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

Otis. This looks like a weird one. It centers on a serial killer named, obviously, Otis. He kidnaps a young girl named Riley, but she is able to turn the tables and escape. The family then goes out for some revenge. The trailer looks utterly bizarre for this new entry from the Raw Feed horror imprint. (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

Heavy Metal in Baghdad. This is a documentary about a metal band in Baghdad, the only Iraqi metal band in the country and their attempts to keep going and dealing with the invasion and subsequent occupation. This could be very interesting. (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

Invisible Target. This latest Dragon Dynasty release is a recent film from Hong Kong featuring high energy action and fights. The trailer looks like a blast. The film has a cast with stars such as Jacky Wu Jing, Nicholas Tse, Andy On, and Jaycee Chan. In the movie a renegade cop, a young officer, and a veteran detective are thrown together to try to take down Hong Kong’s most lethal mercenary gang and their ruthless leader. (BUY, RENT, SKIP)


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