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I Hope Whip Saw Star Pontypool is This Boy's Surrogate

By Genevieve Burgess | DVD Releases | January 26, 2010 | Comments ()


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Whip It: "Whip It is exactly what you think it is. There's no move that isn't telegraphed, no cliché that isn't exploited, no trope that isn't mined, no plot line that isn't predictable. Ellen Page plays Bliss, the nerdy misfit in a podunk Texas town where pageantry is, like, the most important thing ever. She and her friend Pash (Alia Shawkat) bide their time working at a local diner, dreaming of better things. Everything Bliss's parents (Marcia Gay Harden and Daniel Stern) want for her, she hates. Everything she wants, they either don't understand or disapprove of. One night she and Pash sneak out and see a live roller derby match. Bliss falls in love with it, tries out, makes the team and becomes one of the Hurl Scouts. She struggles to learn the ropes, competes against their rivals, meets a boy, clashes with her parents, saves the day a few times, has her heart broken, she and her parents learn Very Important Lessons and everyone smiles and laughs in the end as the human spirit triumphs once again.

Was any of that unexpected? The only thing that was unexpected was this: Whip It is actually a hell of a lot of fun. It's breezy, funny, engaging, and clever. Directed by Drew Barrymore, it's surprisingly intense, and despite its nonstop use of the Hollywood Coming Of Age/Sports Film Plot-O-Matic, it's a fine way to spend two hours." -- TK

Bright Star: "It is rare that a film separates potential viewers into two camps so easily as Bright Star, director Jane Campion's ode to the relationship between John Keats, the great 19th century Romantic poet, and Fanny Brawne, an independent, opinionated Englishwoman whose intellectual curiosity and appreciation for poetry won Keats' heart. For filmgoers who enjoy lushly filmed, micro-detailed period dramas about star-crossed lovers laboring under oppressive social mores, Bright Star offers an impressive example of the genre, with Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish delivering intense, nuanced performances as the penniless poet and his gentlewoman lover, separated by societal restrictions but united by romantic passion. Campion's film, which she also wrote, is a bravura example of a director's refusal to compromise thematic depth and character development for the quicker pace favored in modern media." -- Ted Boynton

Saw VI: "I'll grant this, too, that the game itself is a slight cut above the previous installments. There at least seems to be a real motivation behind the Jigsaw's actions, even if it is frogballs retarded: He had terminal cancer before he was killed, and an insurance adjuster denied his claim for experimental treatment. So, it is the insurance adjuster (Peter Outerbridge) who is dragged into the game, where he's essentially pitted against a brutal, sadistic metaphor for the algorithm that the insurance company used to deny claims. The adjuster, at various points during the game, is asked to apply that algorithm to people -- his own co-workers -- while they're staring right back at him. It's essentially what he does in his profession, but here, the death is more immediate and, well, violent. Politically, I suppose, that makes the Jigsaw Killer sympathetic to Obama's health-care policy, although his methods seem to be more aligned with Dick Cheney. He's probably a Ron Paul supporter." -- Dustin Rowles

Michael Jackson: This Is It: "Indeed, over the next few days, you may read quite a few reviews of This Is It or see hours of coverage of the movie on newscasts -- they may attempt to sell their own coverage of the film by suggesting This Is It is two hours of "raw" and "candid" coverage. Grasping, they may even try to read something into the personality of Michael Jackson based on two-hours of sometimes banal rehearsal footage. It's bullshit, people. Complete bullshit. There is nothing here, folks. This Is It is empty of revelations or insights. You'll know as much about Michael Jackson when you leave the theater as you knew going in, which is that he's kind of a weird dude that can dance your fucking face off." -- Dustin Rowles

The Boys Are Back: "Scott Hicks' The Boys Are Back might not be a great film, but it is a good and true one, full of the frantic and crushing moments of real life. Hicks is obviously able to put a lot of personal energy into the film about a single dad with two sons -- Hicks and his wife have a pair of boys, and they live in Australia just like the story's central characters -- but the script by Allan Cubitt, drawn from Simon Carr's memoir The Boys Are Back in Town has enough emotional resonance all on its own. It would have been so easy for a story like this one, rooted in tragedy and yearning for triumph, to have become small and clichéd and too easily predictable. But though the movie tweaks some names and ages, it remains true to the spirit of a father struggling to raise two boys in his own way, all while learning to help them live without the mother he thought they'd always have. The film isn't without its rough patches, and some of the scenes toward the end feel stitched together rather than organically spawned of each other, but for what it gets right, it's worthy of praise." -- Daniel Carlson

Surrogates: "The plot problems pile up though, dragging down an otherwise fascinating premise and excellent execution. While a few of the metaphorical unmaskings (when you can wear any appearance, you knew that had to be part of the plot) were interesting, the plot fell apart into almost Dan Brown level inanities. The more the twists piled up, the more obvious it was that all of the characters were apparently idiots. Think of it this way, if you were a billionaire who wanted to kill another billionaire because he was politically undermining you, would you: A. hire a street thug to do the hit and give him a billion dollar secret banned weapon to indirectly kill the target in a mysterious and public manner or B. hire the street thug, hand him a shotgun, and tell him to break in to the guy's house and make it look like a robbery. All events in this film rely on taking option A." -- Steven Lloyd Wilson

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell: "Everyone's got war stories that begin "Oh, man, I was so drunk I...": shit my pants, fucked a couch, got married to a Vietnamese hooker in Hawaii, made out with my cousin, threw up so hard it landed on my roof, showed my boobs to a Bon Jovi cover band for a dimebag, whathaveyou. Granted, Tucker Max's are better than most. To discount Max's essay style would be unfair and untrue. Bro-ski knows how to cobble a sentence together. While he writes mostly about getting shitfaced and peppers his stories with references to fetal alcohol syndrome and clown rape jokes, he might even be mistaken for a Pajiban. Problems arise when he steeps these stories in a heady broth of cocksure swagger and sexist and racist insults that reek like a novelty bottle of Sex Panther cologne. And there's a severe lack of depth. It's basically, "I got drunk, saw a hot blonde chick, called her boyfriend a fag, drank some Everclear and Red Bull and then got a blowjob in a limo, sprayed her with five ropes of cum, I'm so much cooler than you, The End." Also, he's got this bizarre obsession with sexually conquering a menagerie of defectives: deaf, blind, amputees, dwarfs, people from Jersey. I suspect his dream-bang would be a 12-year-old, Thai, mixed-gender, conjoined, octuple amputee. At least he's thinking like an Oscar winner. High Five!" -- Brian Prisco

Pontypool: "The words 'indie horror' often bring a shudder, and not the good naked shower massage kind, but the bad mouthful of three-days-past-the-expiration-date yogurt's not supposed to be crunchy kind. Usually, indie horror is an excuse for two or three rabid Fangoria fans to recruit college students to take off their clothes, play out their sexual deviances, and get splattered with ubergore by a) a redneck with a toolbox, b) some sort of Dunwich Horror, or c) another college student. None can hold a bayberry candle to the taught tension of Pontypool, which is something like Talk Radio meets 28 Days Later. A shock jock banished to the hinterlands of rural Canada finds himself trapped in the radio station while a mob of seemingly insane maniacs spouting gibberish lay siege to the building. With a minuscule cast, just a spectacular splash of gore, and a veritable straightjacket of tension, Bruce Macdonald creates an outstanding pseudo-zombie cocktail and an even better psychological horror that should make M. Night Shamalyan weep with shame." -- Brian Prisco



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