Cinema News and Reviews for the Rest of Us

DVD Round-Up: November 10, 2010

The Losers

This is the film The Expendables should have been.  And if that sounds like a compliment, it isn’t, chiefly because The Losers isn’t trying to be as cliched and ridiculous as Stallone’s misguided 80s spoof should have been aiming for.  This film is trying so hard to be cool, it’s almost sad watching the many ways in which it fails.  The characters are one-note, the dialogue is awful, and the plot is incoherent to point of complete dullness.  Idris Elba and Zoe Saldana do their best in inject some life into the proceedings, but to no avail.   The only so-bad-it’s-good bit is the performance of Jason Patrick as the villain.  Here’s a guy who seems to have no idea just how bad of an actor he really is.  (1 STAR)

Dead Poets Society

The film is considered by many to be a modern classic, and for good reason.  Director Peter Weir can’t help but fill a film with heart, and Robin Williams gives a wonderful performance in a role similar to that which won him an Oscar in Good Will Hunting.  I loved this film as a kid, and I still carry some of Williams’ stirring classroom speeches with me.  However, upon closer examination, the film does have its share of flaws.  Most of the characters fit very neatly into prep school stereotypes, and the suicide at the end feels more over-the-top than on first viewing.  But this is still a great watch, and Weir’s skillful storytelling hits the mark far more than it misses. (4 STARS)


I got my fill of this crap when I was in film school.  We meet an unlikeable asshole, listen to his histrionic criticisms about the world and watch him awkwardly navigate social situations for the entire running time, and when it’s over we end up thinking he’s just as big an asshole as before.  This is supposed to be an affecting character study, and thanks to an admittedly good performance from Ben Stiller, it succeeds some in that regard.  But the pretentious writing and the forced Indie-hip ‘thoughtfulness’ of the whole thing taps on the gag reflex far too often for this film to be worth recommending.  (2 STARS)

Michael Clayton

Screenwriter-turned-director Tony Gilroy nails the dark tone of this grimy corporate malfeasance story, and George Clooney is as good as I’ve ever seen him.  I’m not sure she deserved the Oscar she received, but Tilda Swinton does infuse some interesting vulnerability into what could have been a stock “big business” villain.  The heart of this film, though, is an excellent Tom Wilkinson playing a top lawyer who finally rejects the filth his job has covered him in.  The writing is so solid throughout that even when the plot veers into cozy John Grisham territory in the end, it feels like it’s earned it.  (4 STARS)

Hot Tub Time Machine

A completely harmless and frequently funny concept film, even if it never builds much on its catchy concept.  The music-video 80s milieu is affectionately rendered, and the ensemble cast make their characters likable and their relationships surprisingly touching at times.  There’s too much of the usual modern comedy pitfalls (gay panic, forced sexual innuendo, etc.) but this is an engaging and pleasantly brisk little film that’s worth a slot in your comedy lineup. (3 STARS)




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