By all appearances late summer is turning into a dumping ground for movies that underperformed and Hollywood executives (and actors) probably want to forget. But we can’t let them. With a few exceptions, Videoport Jones and I are not too impressed with this week’s crop of new DVDs. What do you think?
Videoport Jones: “And the slow, inexorable demeaning of the stars of ‘The Wire’ continues, with Idris (Stringer Bell) Elba stuffed into the sad, little suit of a happy family man who finds himself stalked by his hot young assistant. Yup, it’s ‘Fatal Attraction’, almost verbatim (or ‘The Hand That Rocks the Cradle’, or ‘The Temp’, or ‘Disclosure’, and so on), with Elba forced both to play a drip and to have to
choose between two actresses ranging from the merely mediocre (Beyonce Knowles) to the utterly talentless (Ali Larter). Am I being too hard on a lame but harmlessly-forgettable film? Hell no. I’ve said, in talking about ‘The Wire’, that nearly every member of that cast is now under my protection; every crappy role they get, every junk movie they find themselves settling for, all shall be savaged mercilessly for wasting their talents. And Stringer Bell?! Wasted in something like this? That dog just won’t hunt, monsignor…”
Justin: “Did you call me monsignor? I’m so confused. While I have only scratched the surface of ‘The Wire’ (*ducks*), I have respect for Mr. Elba. I also respect him for the short stint he did on the last season of ‘The Office’ as Michael’s new boss. He somehow was able to take the same menace that Stringer represented on ‘The Wire’ and turn it just a bit to be funny in ‘The Office.’ I’m gonna completely disregard this movie and talk about the bigger issue of stars from ‘The Wire’ and their post show careers. You may ask, what does a guy who has barely watched the show have to say about that, and it’s plenty. Clarke Peters, Dominic West, Sonja Sohn, Lance Reddick…the list goes on. With the exception of Reddick, who landed on ‘Fringe,’ where have they all gone to? Either ‘The Wire’ was that one shining moment that pulled the absolute best out of an ensemble (which would make the show even that more epic), or Hollywood has failed them.”
Race to Witch Mountain
VPJ: “Man, it is not a good week in the careers of charismatic Black actors. And while Dwayne “You Shall NOT Call Me ‘The Rock’ Ever Again” Johnson is not the actor that Idris Elba is, and while, further, WWE Raw may not be the multilayered masterpiece that ‘The Wire’ was, well, I still like the big lunk, and this safe,
homogenized Disney remake is not doing his nascent stardom any favors. He’s fine in it, and the movie is fine, and, well, it’s not gonna give anyone cancer or anything but, jeez, The Artist Formerly Known As the Rock (TAFCAR?) is heading into Vin Diesel territory. If ‘The Game Plan’ was TAFCAR’s ‘The Pacifier’, then this is his, well, whatever Vin Diesel’s next movie is, probably. Listen, I recognize that the big guy’s not gonna win an Oscar anytime, well, ever, but he’s got charisma, he’s funny, he looks great onscreen, and he was actually good in ‘The Rundown’, ‘Be Cool’, and ‘Reno 911: Miami’ (‘Southland Tales’ wasn’t his fault). Plus, he is the People’s Champion, and you don’t get that for being just anybody…”
JE: “Maybe they’ll have to rescind his title belt? I feel like we go down this road all the time. Actors taking the family route, getting the payday and trying to move on. But I wonder what the cumulative effect of taking the family route is on a career? Between ‘The Game Plan’ and Witch Mountain, I have to wonder where he’s heading next? For someone like him – opposed to Eddie Murphy for instance – is he taking the roles just to get exposure and get his face out there? While we may like him that may not mean he’s a commodity just yet. But I believe in Mr. The Rock…(*ducks*). As strange as this sounds I thought he was decent in the otherwise crappy ‘The Rundown’ with Stiffler. Let’s not ignore the bigger issue here: Disney is reaching back deep into its vault to produce updated retreads? How soon till a new ‘Black Cauldron’ or ‘Apple Dumpling Gang’ remake?”
Flight of the Conchords – Season 2
VPJ: “In what purports to be the last season of this very funny, very charming HBO musical sitcom, Brett and Jemaine do, well, essentially what they always do; broke, successless, under-girlfriended, and always ready to break out into one of the most clever, winning musical comedy numbers since ‘Tenacious D’, the titular would-be bandmates are, simply put, the coolest. With their, if there is such a thing, ‘New Zealand sense of humor’ intact even through the most trying obstacles (dating an Australian, forming a gang, failing, repeatedly, to attain anything resembling paying gigs), Jemaine and Bret are just a delight to watch.”
JE: “I can truly say I never thought I’d be a fan of musical comedy, especially musical comedy featuring ‘New Zealand’s fourth most popular guitar-based digi- o acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo.’ But here we are. The weird thing is the comedy is awkward and painful to watch…but somehow charming, if that makes sense. The whole ‘down on their luck losers’ thing has been done to in the comedy world, but these guys seem to inhabit a special space where they can do no wrong. It also helps that their songs are not only funny, but catchy. Also, throw in Rhys Darby (Murray) and Kristen Schaal (Mel) and it’s enormously satisfying. Go rent this now. Better, just buy it.”
VPJ: “Disappointing. The previews looked okay, even if they did have that particular, predictable ‘based on a true story’ uplift vibe all through them, and with Robert Downey Jr. and Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx both looking like they’re gonna do their usually-entertaining things, I was moderately pumped. But…eh. Downey’s a Y REPORTER who stumbles upon Foxx’s CRAZY HOMELESS GUY WITH A SECRET TALENT and tries to USE HIM but ends up BECOMING HIS FRIEND. (If I could put the little ‘Trademark’ symbol instead of the caps, I would). It’s fine, I guess, but the whole enterprise’s been done before, the script’s flat, the characters are pat, and this one’s destined for the bargain bin in about three months.”
JE: “Can’t say I had much motivation to check this one out. I think this is a classic case of the parts just not adding up for me. I love me some RDJ and Foxx, and together they seem like a big draw. But I’m sorry, anything that has the whiff of ‘inspirational tale’ makes me a little weary. Also, the odd thing was people suggested I see this movie because I’m a journalist. That one caught me off guard. Heck I played a string instrument for a brief period as a kid, maybe that’s another reason why…wait, no. Look, there’s an audience out there for this and they know who they are. I’ll leave it at that.”
VPJ: “And now for something completely different, with Canadian cult director Bruce McDonald (‘Highway 61’, ‘Hard Core Logo’) trotting out this creepy, darkly satirical take on the zombie movie. ZOMBIES!!! This time, there’s a virus turning people into the hungry undead, and it’s spread not through zombie chomps, but through words. Yup, there’s something in people’s speech turning folks all rabid and, well, bitey, and a washed up former shock jock (‘Watchmen’s’ Stephen McHattie), locked away and broadcasting about the situation (and his own Don Imus-y take on it) is determined to let the world know what’s going on, although that may just spread the disease to everyone else. Satire, anyone? It’s a cool, weird, clever premise with some stuff to say, a good lead performance, and, of course, lots o’ zombie !”
JE: “Wasn’t this a movie of the week? Or an ‘X-Files’ episode? I’m joking (sort of), but this flick offers a new hook for the zombie movie. And that’s probably a good thing. Sure if you’ve watched as much sci fi TV shows and movies (and some really, really bad ones at that), then the idea sounds a little familiar. Though in this case I’m guessing there is no magic cure, scientific research or way to reverse the tide other than, well, good ol’ fashioned zombie bashin’. Having said that, anyone wonder if that’s the appeal of zombie movies these days? You can take a lot of aggression out on a zombie and it’s OK because they’re undead brain eaters! Just a thought.”
The Mutant Chronicles
VPJ: “Pretty hard to ignore a movie with a title like that, huh? And how about if it stars John Malkovich, Ron Perlman, and Tom Jane? It’d be almost impossible to ignore then, huh? Well…this one sneaks out on DVD this week…that’s probably not a good sign, is it?”
JE: “It came from the deep recesses of space and unleashed untold horrors on mankind. Something like that, eh? Again, let’s give this one Justin’s patented ‘if it’s a rainy lazy afternoon and it falls on the TV maybe I’ll watch it’ rating. Also, lets throw into that ‘and I can’t find or reach the remote.’ Not exactly a glowing review, but you all know what I mean. Sometimes there’s no explanation why you end up watching a movie for a few hours one afternoon. This could be THAT MOVIE!”
Finally, Jonesy has some final details on this week’s releases: “And, for the sci fi geeks among us, this week brings both the second to last DVD movie of David Tennant’s run as Doctor Who (‘Doctor Who: Planet of the ’), and the Who-spinoff ‘Torchwood’’s third season! Set your TARDIS on fun! (Please shoot me…)”
– Why can’t actors from “The Wire” get a break?
– Name a better Disney vault remake than Witch Mountain?
– Downey Jr. Foxx. Give your best buddy film scenario. GO!