Home movies: Casa de mi Padre, The Deep Blue Sea, Footnote , Friends With Kids, Intruders, Lockout, Meeting Evil, My Way and The Three Stooges

July 26, 2012

A few recent DVD releases:

Casa de mi Padre (R, 84 minutes) — A pastiche of Mexican westerns and telenovelas, Casa stars Will Ferrell (speaking pretty fair high school Spanish) as Armando Alvarez, the son of a Mexican rancher, whose brother (Gael Garcia Bernal) runs afoul of a drug cartel. Our reviewer in the Democrat-Gazette, Piers Marchant, noted: “Director Matt Piedmont appears to be up for just about anything, whether it actually makes any sense within the context of the film or not …. This kitchen-sink approach is the film’s undoing. So many silly and nonsensical things happen that there’s nothing to hold together all its disparate elements other than Ferrell’s presence …. In its best moments, the film throws in enough amusing idiocy to keep you entertained; at its worst, it grows increasingly tedious as it goes through the motions of its over-simplified plot. It would have made a killer 15-minute Funny or Die piece.” Grade: 77

The Deep Blue Sea (R, 98 minutes) — Terence Davies’ The Deep Blue Sea is an indigo tone poem about romantic restlessness — some call it “lust” — that is at once devastating, infuriating and a little unsatisfying, despite the best efforts of the actors and some genuinely beautiful visuals. Though some pains are taken to open up Terence Rattigan’s repressive play for the screen, the film’s roots are evident, as the characters talk and smoke and gaze out windows.
Set in post-World War II Britain, with its still-fresh ruins and blitzkrieg memories, it is all about Hester Collyer (Rachel Weisz), a woman who, as the film opens, attempts to commit suicide, dialing shillings down an old-fashioned gas meter and scratching out a note before stretching out on the floor to die. She’s saved by a conscientious landlady, and so we come to learn how — 10 months earlier — she’d left her decent and compassionate husband, the teddy-bearish, upper-class magistrate Sir William (the wonderfully nuanced Simon Russell Beale) for Freddie (Tom Hiddleston), a thrill-seeking cad. She knows he doesn’t love her, but she just can’t quit him. Grade: 88

Footnote (PG, 103 minutes) — A poignant movie about two Talmudic scholars, an emotionally estranged father and son, that engages seriously with some knotty questions — familial debt, gratitude and authenticity — while, as unlikely as it sounds, may be the funniest movie I’ve seen this year. Director Joseph Cedar (whose previous film was the grim Beaufort) has succeeded in crafting a drama about the internecine skirmishes — actual and metaphoric — fought between fathers and sons that might fairly be called Shakespearean. And he does it in a highly entertaining, nearly flashy manner that employs some delightfully upbeat music (courtesy of Amit Poznansky) combined with visual flourishes, graphics and framings that tease thriller conventions. Grade: 90

Friends With Kids (R, 107 minutes) — A talky and sometimes witty romantic comedy that, at least for a while, serves as a bracing antidote to all those irritating, stroller-pushing Sacred Baby couples who seem to be everywhere, even in upscale restaurants, these days. The critique of child-rearing is refreshing — for children do wreak havoc on one’s social life and suppress certain options. And couples who are friendly can drift apart when children intervene.
It helps that writer-director-star Jennifer Westfeldt has assembled a fine company, including the reliable comic actor Adam Scott as Jason, her chief foil, and her real-life partner Jon Hamm, as the truth-telling grump of the group. Rounding out the three principal couples are Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd, all of whom, along with Hamm, appeared in last year’s trashier, funnier and by all means superior Bridesmaids. Grade: 86

Intruders (R, 100 minutes) — Good-looking, if ultimately underwhelming, Spanish horror movie from Juan Carlos Fresnadillo features the usual solid performance from Clive Owen. Not terrible, but no Pan’s Labyrinth, either. Grade: 82

Lockout (R, 95 minutes) — A first-person shooter game improved slightly by the energetic presence of Guy Pearce. Produced by Luc Besson and most likely directed to his specifications. Grade: 73

Meeting Evil (R, 89 minutes) — A not quite direct-to-video B-movie (according to IMDB, it pulled in $181 — that’s right, no zeroes — in theatrical release) that stars Samuel L. Jackson as a psychotic killer who hitches a ride with hapless Luke Wilson. From a Thomas Berger novel, if you care. Grade: 65

My Way (R, 137 minutes) — South Korean World War II epic is ponderous and preposterous, bloody and bloated and seemingly edited by a Cuisinart. It’s also the most expensive movie ever to come out of Korea and allegedly based on a true story. Grade: 70

The Three Stooges (PG, 85 minutes) — I made it through about 30 minutes, enough to understand what the Farelly Brothers were shooting for — a 21st-century movie that retained the midcentury (in)sensibility of the Stooges. The performances are actually very fine impersonations, but Stooges fans are likely to receive this as blasphemy, and few others are likely to care. Our Dan Lybarger sat through the whole thing and compared it to “getting repeatedly poked in the eyes.” Grade: 62

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