The Week’s New Releases, run down by The Portland Pres Herald’s Justin Ellis and me!

We do this every week in Justin’s blog on the Press Herald web site; click on the link to your right to see more. Do it…..

Coming off the sad, desperate time Videoport Jones had with new DVD releases last week, this week looks like a bonanza. And fortunately our resident expert is back in fighting form and is bringing the snark (and the wisdom gleaned from watching hours and hours of DVDs).

Waltz With Bashir
Videoport Jones: “An enigmatic stunner. Israeli director Ari Folman uses a wide variety of animation styles (it often recalls Richard Linklatter’s ‘Waking Life’) to illustrate his autobiographical examination of the 1980s Israel/Lebanon war. Folman was a soldier then, and now, as a filmmaker, he finds himself, upon talking to a fellow vet about his vivid nightmare, unable to clearly picture his experiences of the war. He talks to other former soldiers and their stories, mixed with his growing remembrance of the things he’s been repressing for decades, mix together in often impressionistic images, rendered in disparate and distinctive drawing styles. Using the fluid, abstract medium to represent his own, and others’, wrenching and often unreliable memories is a good fit; this isn’t a film about grand, political theories, but an intensely personal story about the effects of war on those that live through it. A weird, often moving depiction of an awful, brutal time.”

Justin: “Way to kick us off with a downer. Then again, coming off last week’s spectacular outing with Jason Voorhees and Madea. What interests me most about this film is the decision to use animation as the storytelling device. It’s not like Folman’s experience (as it is wrapped and shaped into this film, which has some elements melded together in the interest of story), wasn’t complex or fascinating enough for a standard non-animated feature. This is a story that is wracked with emotion and pulls you in to discover the past as Folman’s character does, peeling back each layer in a way that’s surprising and tragic. What you get by conveying all of this through animation is a story that can be real but almost hyper-realistic without being, well, cartoony. It’s beautiful to look at and really pushes the boundary of what animated features can be. And that’s a good thing I think.”

Confessions of a Shopaholic
VPJ: “Okay, first: I’m not going to see this movie. That’s just the way that goes; I’m trying very hard to think of a movie title that would make me want to watch a movie less…’How to Make an American Quilt’ maybe, ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,’ or ‘How to Eat Fried Worms?’ Perhaps something called ‘How to Make Your Own Bathtub Grout and Save’...although if I actually needed to regrout something on a budget, I might find that handy. And, of course, there’s always last year’s ‘Donkey Punch’. Nope – this is the title most guaranteed to ensure that I will die never having seen this movie. Kudos. Second, I really think we’ve had enough of the reviews containing the phrase, ‘…in these difficult economic times, it seems irresponsible (unseemly, inappropriate, etc)’… Such sentiments are ridiculous, irrelevant, and deeply offensive to me as a reviewer, a film devotee, and a human-type-person; seriously ‘reviewers,’ just find some child with his hand in a cookie jar to cluck your tongue at and leave the actual movie reviews to, well, me…and Justin. If the world is in the midst of a global cheese shortage and someone wants to make a film called ‘Me and My Gouda’ about a guy swimming in vats of melted cheese for 90 minutes, that’s his/her right as an artist. (In fact, I’d probably watch it before ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’). Third, star Isla Fisher is very cute, sparky, and funny, and I wish her a much better project for her next starring role. Or at least a better title.”

JE: “You pose a really interesting query. What titles seem almost guaranteed to make someone not watch a movie. ‘Through the Looking Glass: An inside look at your colonoscopy,” or maybe “Even More Terms of Endearment.” Yikes. ANYWAY, yeah, this one is just not raising the meter at all. Even with the delightful Ms. Fisher, I don’t know if I could be tricked into watching this flick. But once again, I feel it’s necessary to point out, that I’m (and by extention the Royal ‘We’) are not the target audience for this. Just as I am more certain to watch the flick ‘Vanishing Point’ or the TV show ‘Top Gear,’ the audience for this movie is not likely to give a crap about Dodge Challenger, Cleavon Little or how fast a car can get around the Nurburgring. So, there’s that.”

VPJ: “Well, Brendan Fraser’s back, doing his family-friendly fantasy adventure thing, this time as a dad who can cause fictional book characters to come to life, casing all manner of shenanigans and monkeyshines and whatnot. Sadly, he is pretty conservative in the array of books he chooses; man, if I had that superpower, I’d have some interesting dinner parties (Lady Chatterly, meet Helen Holm, and next to her, please say hello to Sherlock Holmes, Gulley Jimson, Jeeves, Ford Prefect, Feste the Jester, and the Blue Beetle). Anyway, this one’s actually not too bad, as things go, with Helen Mirren, Paul Bettany and Andy Serkis showing up to help out and things edging pleasingly into Terry Gilliam territory at times. And, hey, before the Brendan-bashing begins, here is a list of things I think he was quite good in: ‘Blast from the Past,’ ‘Gods and Monsters,’ ‘those couple of episodes of ‘Scrubs,’ ‘School Ties,’ the truly bizarre and mis-marketed ‘Monkeybone,’ ‘Airheads,’ the heartbreaking ‘The Quiet American,’ and, hell, I’ll even throw in ‘The Scout.’ I just like the big lunk.”

JE: “And do NOT forget ‘Encino Man.’ Never, EVER forget ‘Encino Man.’ And actually, I’m gonna throw this in and duck, but I dug him in ‘The Mummy.’ Sure it was a really, really poor man’s Indiana Jones, but it was a playful adventure and you were no worse for having watched it. And yes, I’ll agree with you on his chops in those flicks (and really, who doesn’t enjoy ‘School Ties?’). I’m not gonna bash this one or Mr. Fraser, because the film, as loosely executed as it sounds, is more than a little inventive for the family genre. And hey, if you can get kids interest in book readin’, then consider it all a win. Though this poses another good question, who to have a dinner party with in the universe of literary characters. Alan Quartermain might be interesting. Does Raoul Duke count?”

Pink Panther 2
VPJ: “You know what I would pay full admission price to see? A 90-minute dinnertime chat, shot on a single camcorder, with Steve Martin, John Cleese and Kevin Kline. Is it then a measure of this film’s utter failure that I know I will never in my life watch this totally unnecessary sequel (to an unnecessary remake) despite the fact that it stars the three of them and cost tens of million of dollars to make? I’ll never know.”

JE: “That really is a considerable amount of firepower. I honestly don’t know what to make of this debacle. For one, I love the original Pink Panther movies. ‘A Shot in the Dark’ may be in my Top 10 all-time favorites. And if you can’t love Peter Sellers, then I don’t have the time of day for you. So as far as unecessary remakes and unnecessary sequels go, we can add this to the list. But I can’t wrap my head around why these three are involved. It makes no sense. For starters Martin and Cleese certainly don’t need the money, and Kline probably is not hurting either. And it’s not that Steve Martin is no longer capable of bringing the funny. I caught him on ‘SNL’ a while back and he was great. So this one remains a big question mark to me. A big question mark I also don’t plan on seeing. Ever.”

Finally, Jonesy offers up these picks to round up the new releases at Videoport: The family film ‘Phoebe in Wonderland’ (featuring an well-above-average cast including Felicity Huffman, Campbell Scott, and Patricia Clarkson), something called ‘Bob Funk’ (about a funky drunk), and the Criterion release of the ever-bewlidering French classic ‘Last Year at Marienbad.’

Today’s parting shots:

– Animation: No longer just for kids films?
– Give a movie title that ensures you would never watch the film?
– Name three fictional characters you’d have dinner or drinks with.

Published in: on June 23, 2009 at 3:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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