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February 10, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | DVD Releases | February 10, 2009 |

Blindness: Dustin had mixed emotions about Blindness, but it came out at just the right time for him to appreciate it a little: “Blindness is a grim, slow-moving, sometimes tense, always uncomfortable movie to watch, and given how hard I had to work to sit through two hours that felt like four, I’d like to believe there was more to it than what I ultimately took away. But if there’s not — if Blindness is just a more bleak version of Lord of the Flies for adults and nothing more — I’ll still take it. Because it felt deeper than that, more substantial, and in a week where a movie about a talking Chihuahua opened with nearly $30 million, I’ll take pretension, goddamnit. At this point on the release schedule, the appearance of importance is better than a complete lack of it.”

The Foot Fist Way: Prisco had similar mixed reactions to The Foot Fist Way (by director Jody Hill, whose next film is Rogen’s Observe and Report), but ultimately recommended it, writing, “Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get ready to rumble. With half-assed laughter. Just like rotund little porknuggets with yellow belts where not every spin-kick looks sharp and maybe not every backfist is accurate, but goddamn, it still makes you smile when you watch them go through the motions. This movie hearkens me back to those days I spent in a strip mall dojo, spin kicking X-ray sheets and doing katas and self-defense demonstrations at arts fairs and outside mall food courts. Such is the case with The Foot Fist Way, a dinky little indie martial arts film that pulses with lots of heart and quite a bit of balls.”

Frozen River: A huge stand-out at last year’s Sundance Film festival, and one of our favorites in these parts (it also got an Oscar nom for Melissa Leo), Ted raved, “Frozen River is this year’s Little Engine That Could, a moving character study by writer/director Courtney Hunt about an impoverished woman caring for two sons in the pre-Christmas winter of upstate New York. In an era when just about every major film studio has its own ‘independent’ film division — irony generally being lost on Hollywood suits — Frozen River is the type of truly independent project that takes the quotation marks off the word. Despite its frayed, grey shoestring of a budget and spare production values, Frozen River went into a stacked 2008 Sundance field and emerged with the Grand Jury Prize for dramatic films, besting a slew of strong contenders.

Miracle at St. Anna: Dan was disappointed in the Spike Lee war flick, writing, “Miracle at St. Anna is easily the most expansive film Spike Lee has ever done — it spans four decades and a couple continents — but it’s also one of his weakest, an absolutely blundered, needlessly convoluted, and frequently boring war film that squanders the good idea at its center and wastes several actors in its quest for head-shaking melodrama. Lee is an accomplished filmmaker and gifted storyteller whose explorations of race relations and modern America, ranging from Do the Right Thing to 25th Hour, have been eye-opening, challenging films. That’s probably the biggest of the many disappointments of Miracle at St. Anna: that a director who’s proven himself so adroit at creating compelling characters in heightened situations would stumble so badly in his attempt to tell a tale about the Buffalo Soldiers and the invasion of Italy in World War II. It’s overwrought, overacted, over-scored, and more than anything it feels like an ironic examination of war film instead of a genuine story in its own right. It’s like Lee thought he could hold a mirror up to what he feels is the sorry state of war flicks, but forgot that he’d just reflect the same old problems.”

Nights in Rodanthe: Agent Bedhead spoke ill of this, another generic romantic comedy, writing, “Beginning with its tag line, Nights in Rodanthe doles out a generic statement that’s masquerading as prophetic wisdom: “It’s never too late for a second chance.” As luck would have it, it’s also never too late to head toward the theater door if you’ve suddenly realized the error of your ways. This film is a brazenly prototypical chick flick, so one would assume that, based upon my gender, I’d be toting several packs of Puffs Ultra To Go in my purse. No such precautions were taken or needed by myself, since I am clearly outside the target audience for the syrupy saccharine poured by Sparks and adapted, in this case, by director George C. Wolfe and screenwriters Ann Peacock and John Romano. The good news is that, if you love Nights in Rodanthe as a novel, then you will surely adore the movie as well. However, I’m not sure whether or not to be offended at the level of idiocy that drives those droves of viewers, almost entirely of the female persuasion, to find this subject matter to be satisfactory.”

Soul Men: One of Bernie Mac’s final films, Dustin chose not to speak ill of the dead, writing, “But I’m not one to speak ill of the dead, so I can’t write that Soul Men is a ********* comedy full of ********* ****** ***** ************ to ********** involved. It’s **********. Hell, it’s probably one of the ****** movies of the year. And it’s a ****** that the Weinstein Brothers didn’t have the class to ***** ** along with the remains of Bernie Mac instead of subjecting audiences to these ******* memories.”

W.: Dan had a mixed reaction toward W., wondering why we even needed the movie at this point in our history. He writes, “Stone couples his habit of eliminating nuance with a genuine passion, a passion that’s most notable when he decided to tackle political figures or eras on film. The window between his subjects and their filmic exploration has been shrinking, too: He made films about Kennedy and Nixon in the 1990s, but World Trade Center, about the attacks of 9/11, came out in 2006, just five years after the events in question and still close enough for people to feel OK about not feeling OK about seeing a movie about terrorism. But W. is fiercely immediate, a film about a sitting president that only began production five months ago. That kind of rapid response is a feat in itself, and it gives the film a surreal quality, as if it shouldn’t actually be possible to be seeing the past eight years re-enacted onscreen this soon. But it also renders the film weirdly pointless, and for all its merits, it’s hard not to ask of it the same question one character asks of the 2003 invasion of Iraq: Why? Stone has created a melodrama that flirts with Shakespearean tragedy, but it’s just another version of the same story people are still telling. Like the very president Stone is trying to understand, he sacrifices depth for immediacy and winds up with something shiny but sometimes not very convincing. His passion and grandiosity battle to a draw.”

This Week's DVD Releases / The Pajiba Staff

DVD Releases | February 10, 2009 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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