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The Damned Fine Dead Sorority Freak Informant Box

By Genevieve Burgess | DVD Releases | February 23, 2010 |

By Genevieve Burgess | DVD Releases | February 23, 2010 |

The Informant!: “Many of Steven Soderbergh’s films in the past eight or nine years can be understood in light of the director asking himself a different hypothetical question: What if I made a slick caper movie cobbled from the emotional remnants of the 1960s? What if I made a stilted, form-driven science-fiction movie cobbled together from the emotional remnants of the 1970s? What if I made a historical drama using period filming techniques cobbled together from the emotional remnants of the 1940s? Etc., etc. Where Soderbergh’s earlier films seemed genuinely interested in examining what it meant to pick a certain storytelling approach while never losing sight of the central narrative, his later work is often willfully unclassifiable, as in the deeply flawed and navel-gazing Ocean’s Twelve or the passion project Che. But with The Informant!, Soderbergh’s finally made a movie that doesn’t know whether it’s a limp comedy or a slack thriller. It just inhabits an uncomfortable and not very interesting middle ground between funny and serious, between full and false intentions, and as a result it’s impossible to get involved or appreciate it on any real level. Based on a true story written up in a book by investigative journalist Kurt Eichenwald (who also gets a producer credit) and adapted by Scott Z. Burns, The Informant! is too wacky to create suspense and too dull to elicit humor. It just sits there, waiting to be admired for its existence by a writer-director who’s forgotten how great he used to be.” - Daniel Carlson

The Box: “It’s tempting to say that writer-director Richard Kelly’s The Box isn’t a great film and be done with it, as if that were all there were to discuss, but that would miss the larger point of Kelly’s existence: He isn’t setting out to make great films, but interesting ones that also try to be good, and their quality is derived precisely from the fact that they’re often so confounding, so aloof, so willing to remain unsolved. That’s not to say The Box sacrifices force for aim. It may not be a great film, but it’s certainly a good one. It’s a speedy and wonderfully claustrophobic thriller, one that calls to mind the suspense-filled potboilers of a bygone era as well as the work of everyone from Hitchcock to Lynch. Kelly is coolly efficient at establishing an atmosphere of real dread, and there are horrific reveals that create genuine, unsettling terror in an age when too many genre directors lean on cheap jump-scares and loud music. But the bottom line is that Kelly’s ultimately made another circuitous, willfully confusing sci-fi film that’s as eager to please the cult that embraced his Donnie Darko as it is reluctant to be a prettily wrapped package. The Box is a fine film to worry over, to return to just to relive the simple and often pleasing experience of not quite knowing what’s going on.” - Daniel Carlson

Everybody’s Fine: “I think the blue hairs might want to check their expectations a bit, because while the first half of Everybody’s Fine is exactly as advertised, the third act delivers a melodramatic, overly wrought, heinously sentimental right hook that will plant you on your ass, stand over your crippled body, and taunt you like a fourth and two in Patriots territory. And if you dare cry — if you dare give in to this driveling bilge — then Everybody’s Fine will kick you in the sternum, pull your hair, and sit on you like a naked fat man on a mouse. This movie has a wicked fucking Steel Magnolias edge that is completely at odds with the rest of the movie. The extent it works depends largely on your susceptibility to movie manipulation, because Everybody’s Fine pulls out all the stops, reaches into your chest cavity and plays your heartstrings like a violent drunk trying to make time with a viola. It’s not pretty, but if you’re weak willed, it’ll probably do the trick.” - Dustin Rowles

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant: “Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant painfully exemplifies the trickiest part of making a PG-13 film. It is a movie plagued by not knowing what it wants to be, a schizophrenia extending all the way into its title. “Cirque du Freak” is intriguing, dark, and funny, teetering on the edge of R. “The Vampire’s Assistant” is boring, trite and mediocre, teetering on the edge of PG. The latter is not improved by its combination with the former, constantly conspiring to bring the entire film down to its level.” - Steven Lloyd Wilson

Sorority Row: “Horror snobs shall roll their eyes at the prospective desecration of yet another 1980s slasher, but rest assured that, in this instance, the upgrade barely resembles the original. Sorority Row is supposedly a remake of the 1983 slasher, The House on Sorority Row, but is actually based upon the Seven Sisters screenplay by Mark Rosman. Not that this matters any at all within a film that relegates Carrie Fisher to a thankless cameo as sorority mother Mrs. Crenshaw, who is both heavily armed but possesses embarrassingly bad shotgun aim. The only way Fisher could possibly be more humiliated is if she were forced to wear cinnamon rolls on each side of her head.” - Agent Bedhead

Dead Snow: “Tommy Wirkola’s Dead Snow heavily relies on the past, far too content to stack homage upon homage than to forge something unique. The film is little more than a formula larded with references to Wirkola’s favorite films, making Dead Snow nothing more than goofy fan service and a visceral thrill-ride for horror fans. And that’s fine, I guess. I certainly had fun watching the film romp giddily through its gory collage, and the premise - Nazi zombies (!) - is enough to coast on kitsch value alone. Wirkola subscribes to the idea that, so long as the premise is sufficiently ridiculous, there’s no reason for a film to have any depth. I won’t argue with that, but this means his pastiche effort won’t be remembered with the same fervor as his inspirations.” - Phillip Stephens

The Damned United: “In short, Clough and his scout/assistant/best friend, Peter Taylor (the always excellent Timothy Spall) took a scrappy, crappy Derby County team from the bottom of the second division to champions of the first division, which is tantamount, I suspect, to managing the Pittsburgh Pirates to a World Series win over the New York Yankees. However, as manager of Derby County, Clough — who insisted that his footballers play clean — had several incidents along the way with the storied Leeds manager, Don Revie, who would eventually leave his post to become manager of England (opening up the vacany at Leeds for Clough). Revie apparently slighted him on several occasions, and encouraged his players to resort to bullying tactics. Clough, thus, built up a lot of animosity toward Leeds and Revie over the years, speaking out against the team on several occasions, building up a lot of inner anger that finally bubbled over when Clough took control of Revie’s old team. He didn’t tone down his rhetoric; instead, he shat all over the former manager and his players’ style of play. His style, too, was in direct opposition to Revie’s — Clough was vain, showy, and pompous, while Revie’s nature was more old-school and gruff. Think Josh McDaniels vs. Bill Parcells (if you’re an NFL fan) or Ozzie Guillen vs. Joe Torre (if you’re a baseball fan). Predictably, the Leeds players refused to play for Clough, and he was ousted after only 44 days as manager, completing a quick fall from grace that he brought upon himself.” - Dustin Rowles

Genevieve Burgess is a Features Contributor for Pajiba. You can follow Genevieve Burgess on Twitter.

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