Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
Jenna Fischer is a likable kid. I hate to see her being just shit on continually throughout the course of the indie dramedy A Little Help. It’s painful to watch everyone just make her life hell, because her character Laura isn’t a bad person who deserves it; she’s just extremely depressed thanks to an overactive self-awareness, along with the fact that her husband’s cheating on her, her son is an unlikable jerk, her sister and mom won’t leave quit needling her ... it goes on and on. So, to cope, she cries, she pounds beers, and she smoke cigarettes. I’d say she’s handling it quite well, considering. When said philandering hubby dies, she’s faced with the chance to start over and makes some extremely realistic brash decisions, the kind that someone who has never had to think for herself would make. Fischer gives a heart-breaking yet strong performance; you really wish you could reach into the screen and hug her, and maybe even buy her a beer.
When a critic reviews a movie, they have to be continually conscious to not confuse a dislike for the actor in the film with the dislike for the character they play. However, when a film blurs that line and presents the actor playing himself, it is nearly impossible not to. I mean, that’s the whole point of not playing a character, right? The grating horror flick Vlog is one of those types of movies, putting wannabe scream queen Brooke Marks, both the actor and character, in front of the camera for 70 minutes as the insipid host of a video blog called “Brooke Marks the Spot”, wherein she sits in her underwear and recites horribly unfunny material about boobs and the like, all the while continually mugging like a low-rent Olivia Munn. The “horror” comes from the murders of her friends by a stalker, none of which are engaging or particularly well-done. Control-alt-delete!
For all intents and purposes, The Heart Specialist is an African-American marketed drama-comedy. In the five years since it was made in 2006, we’ve come to expect a bit more style and panache from these types of movies, thanks to innovator Tyler Perry. Specialist feels like it is trying a bit too hard to be too many things and can’t find a comfortable tone to settle on, with Marla Gibbs as a nasty old lady one minute, grabbing a doctor’s ass and asking for some “brown sugar,” and then, a few minutes later, a main character being diagnosed with testicular cancer in gut-wrenching detail. The tone never flows in a way that lets the viewer get comfortable; it’s hard to tell what director Dennis Cooper was going for. Still, the always watchable Zoe Saldana makes the movie her own, stealing every scene she’s in with an effervescent cuteness that will make you fall in love with her.