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February 20, 2008 |

By Dustin Rowles | DVD Releases | February 20, 2008 |

30 Days of Night: Agent Bedhead says the film has “vampires and an abundance of nighttime, and not a whole hell of a lot more,” but writes that Josh Blandnet, “for all his ubiquitous squinty-eyed expressiveness, really does make a valiant effort as the town’s sheriff.” Unfortunately, aside from some impressive visuals, the film doesn’t ultimately deliver the goods.

American Gangster: Daniel suitably sums up Gangster in the first few lines of his review: “Ridley Scott’s American Gangster is great at living in the tension between what it needs to be and what it’s too lazy not to become. It’s a powerfully American film, in everything from storytelling to mindset, and that tone of hypocrisy-but-somehow- not runs through every sweaty, glistening frame: The film wants to be a taut modern mob story but winds up getting bogged down in personal subplots that don’t pan out; it decries violence as horrible even as it gets off on the kinetic jolt of it all; it’s big and strong, but also occasionally meandering and weak.

In the Valley of Elah: Though it killed him (really killed him), Dustin conceded that — thanks largely to Tommy Lee Jones’ impressive performance — Elah was a much better film than one might expect from Paul Haggis. “It was a ponderous, slow-moving Haggisian effort” but it also did a respectable job of depicting “the dehumanizing effects of combat, the way killing can rob you of your soul, and the difficulties of transitioning from solider to civilian life … It is, at times, a powerful film; unfortunately, much of the power comes by way of cheap manipulation and overwrought, in-your-face symbolism. A man with any sense of nuance whatsoever might have been able to create, with Mark Boal’s source material (a piece originally published in Playboy), the definitive movie of this war. As it stands, Haggis has created another more-or-less forgettable movie.”

Lust, Caution: Constance (where art thou?) writes that the film “is stubbornly long and a dark, melodramatic account of people far too skilled at deceit but fatally ill-equipped to suffer the emotional consequences of such masquerades, it still manages to be totally watchable, ” concluding that “with the rich film color, the intimate, shadow portraits and the wide panoramic shots of culturally clashed China Lust, Caution is a fortress of visual snackitude.”

Margot at the Wedding: Dan, who makes these blurbs easy, sums up Margot as such: “Margot at the Wedding is efficiently made and technically sound, but it’s so downright unlikable that no joy can be derived from viewing it except for the visual cues in the final scene that the film is about to mercifully shuffle off into the void. Margot at the Wedding is one raw pile of vitriol and doubt and pain, anchored by a protagonist neither worthy of redemption nor at any great pains to seek it.”

Michael Clayton: Dan states that Michael Clayton “is a thriller devoid of surprises but still crammed with tension. Writer-director Tony Gilroy is fantastic in his first turn as director in mining every bit of his story for emotional nuance and turning what could have been a boilerplate legal drama into a compelling story about frailty, greed, and what it means to realize too late that you’ve gone too far down a dark, bad road.

Rendition: Once again, Dan writes of Rendition: “Director Gavin Hood, in his first U.S. feature, succeeds in driving home the terrible cost of what it means to visit these acts of retribution on our enemies, and to make something foreign and impossible seem feasible and unnervingly close” and concludes “Rendition isn’t about how a society responds to torture; it’s about the fact that we shouldn’t even be doing it in the first place. Here’s hoping that message makes it safely to the right people.”

Lust, Clayton

This Week's DVD Releases / The Pajiba Staff

DVD Releases | February 20, 2008 |

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

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