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February 17, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | DVD Releases | February 17, 2009 |

Body of Lies: A Ridley Scott movie starring DiCaprio and Crowe that completely disappeared … I’d totally forgotten about it, although Dan’s review explains why. He writes, “Body of Lies is a misuse of two powerful actors in a muddled, clumsy story that tries to be all things to all men and winds up being far less than what a competent film dealing with modern-day terrorism should be. Part of this, admittedly, is out of Scott’s hands: We’re still in the middle of what passes for the war on terror, and as such still in the construction process of how those stories can be made into myths and transformed into their own subgenre of film. But Scott takes too many short cuts and falls prey to the easiest and dumbest tropes of that emerging group of films, and as such what could have been a compelling, character-driven film about the cost of humanity in unending war becomes another pat ‘thriller’ that’s just not that interesting.”

Changeling: Of the “other” Eastwood move in 2008, Dan writes, “Eastwood makes gorgeous, fastidious movies that hit all the beats in a fairly predictable order, but that devotion to an economical, often subdued style tends to make the stories somehow a bit too simple for such a gifted director. It’s no accident that the best films of his later period — from 1992’s Unforgiven to 2003’s Mystic River — deal with moral complexity and narrative ambiguity in a way that often eludes his other films; though they’re still competent, thoughtful, and well-made, they lack the thrust of greatness. That’s the unfortunate case with Eastwood’s latest, Changeling, a sprawling and well-acted drama that nevertheless comes down a little too firmly in its moral certainty and the alignment of good versus evil, and in doing so sacrifices a compelling story for a merely interesting one. It’s not that the film is a failure; it’s just that the film winds up falling short of that standard Eastwood has so clearly set for himself.”

Choke: Prisco liked but was underwhelmed by Choke, writing: “This is not to say that the movie is bad. It’s pretty good. It just feels slightly off-kilter. It’s like watching two brothers kiss each other in a hello greeting. They’re family, so I guess it’s natural, but it just seems bizarre. The entire movie has the look and feel of dinginess, almost like you feel a little dirty for having come in contact with it. There are plenty of laughs, but it’s hardly an out loud yukfest. It’s a successful dark comedy, managing to dance along the blade between schlocky sentimentality and crass black humor. This movie managed to get everything right, it just feels like there’s something slightly wrong with it, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.”

Flash of Genius: Phillip, likewise, had mixed feelings about Greg Kinnear’s windshield wiper drama, “Flash of Genius is one of those films that are almost impossible to critique, which ride a fine line between worthless and innocuous. As a piece of entertainment, it’s perfectly serviceable; nothing about the movie is actually bad at all, but nor is there anything to recommend. This is a standard yarn about David taking on Goliath and first-time director Marc Abraham never strays too far from the path, and yet what was probably an inspiring story in its original form makes a dull film in the rehashing.”

High School Musical 3: Senior Year: Agent Bedhead said of HSM 3 about what you’d expect, only snazzier: “In the glossy, sugar-encrusted world of Disney’s lucrative High School Musical franchise, Albuquerque’s East High School contains no enclosed stairwells, so teens are never tempted to sneak away for necking sessions. Nobody gets laid on prom night because they’re too busy getting ready for their final musical production. Furthermore, sexually ambiguous characters aren’t gay but merely have perpetual jazz hands, and, despite the ethnically diverse student body, no cultural differences exist. Instead, the HSM cast members remain blissfully unaware of anything but their own dance steps and quasi-emotional song lyrics that inform their tween audience that nothing matters except for chasing that ideal love into the sunset. Never mind that, in reality, Troy Bolton (Zak Efron) would get slapped with a restraining order from Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens) after she dumped his crying ass for the third fucking time.”

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
: Dustin was predictably appalled by this Simon Pegg starrer, writing, “I am appalled with this movie. I am appalled because it could’ve been something. I am appalled because it pulled all the punches, even those aimed at their own faces. I am appalled that it’s a sell-out movie about not selling out. I am appalled that Simon Pegg — a guy who didn’t need to sell out — sold out to this horse shit anyway. I am appalled because, while the book was bad, people, the film is worse. The memoir at least had some personality. Granted, it was the personality of a smug, self-important witless twit. But the movie doesn’t even have that. It’s a big, heaping spoonful of suck.”

Midnight Meat Train: To say Prisco didn’t think much of Midnight Meat Train would be a disservice to thinking. He writes, “Pardon me while I sharpen my knives. It’s been quite some time since I came across a movie that so offended my delicate sensibilities and needs to be taught a lesson. I am prepared to split this miserable waste of light and sound from scrotum to sternum, scoop out the gristly bits, and scatter them across the pavement. Once the meat’s gone bad, I don’t think you can spoil it any worse, but be forewarned. To show you how badly this train did the Amtrak shuffle into the murky depths of shit-o-city, I need to unravel these slippery intestines to the bitter finish. If you’d prefer to savor this particular delicacy without knowing that by the end you’ll probably be spewing bile and chunks of marinated horse after consumption, then please, enjoy your meal. For the rest of you, wade on into the mess.”

Quarantine: Phillip was disappointed in this Americanized horror flick, writing: “I guess if you can ignore the obnoxious path that leads us to Quarantine, there are some merits to be found in the film. Director/writer John Erick Dowdle hews so close to the original that it’s almost a shot-for-shot remake, so the coolness of [rec] is well duplicated. But the dilemma of the remake is ever present: making changes to the source material is risky, lest the appeal be lost, but otherwise what’s the point? And I’m afraid that Quarantine is so similar that there really isn’t a point, save to be rid of those pesky subtitles for an American audience. The only changes wrought to Quarantine, other than a very different (and telling) explanation of the horror, are superficial, augmenting the action with a bit more lurid gore.”

Religulous: Prisco took major umbrage with the Bill Maher doc, writing: “Bill Maher just doesn’t know. And that’s why Religulous is less of a documentary and more of an interactive concert film where he goes around belittling religious zealots in the effort of spreading the gospel of purported truth. He spends the entire movie berating his interviewees with a smug sense of superiority without once listening to them. Essentially, his message is that religions are dangerous and stupid because people use them not as a crutch, but as a cannon, even though most of their arguments for doing so are nothing more than smoke and bullshit. To prove this, Maher travels around the world making evangelicals foolishly stutter while sneering at them. Is it funny? Oh, undoubtedly. Bill Maher is a comedian, a snide observer who’s able to smirk and deride intellectually like Dennis Miller without the thesaurus regurgitation and feathered Heather Locklear hair. But a pack of putdowns cleverly packaged with one final arrogant monologue doesn’t make you a documentarian. It makes you Michael Moore with a shave and a Slim-Fast.”

This Week's DVD Releases / The Pajiba Staff

DVD Releases | February 17, 2009 |

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

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