Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
One of the greatest fears quite possibly every decent, hard-working American has is that of being locked away against his or her will, in a prison, or, possibly worse, an insane asylum. This is the quandary that college professor Allen (the continually misplaced Nick Stahl) finds himself in after beating to death the (wrong) man who raped his girlfriend. As we follow Allen’s ordeals in this hospital for the criminally insane, we see how he maintains his composure with constantly having to live in fear that the inmate next to him will be the next person to fly off the hinges and kill him. We also get to follow along on his sweet romance with a woman (Olivia Wilde) from the next-door female correctional facility. And this is all well and good and entertaining, but then director DW Brown felt the need to add a ridiculous villain, a psycho named Carl Tarses (the always unwelcomed Dash Mihok) who goes on a murder spree, totally losing any emotional momentum the movie had. Lock this up and throw away the key!
You can keep your documentaries about orphans in Darfur. Been there, done that. One can only take so many self-important movies about self-righteous filmmakers covering brutal acts of war in order to secure their place in history — Oscar history, that is — until you become desensitized and cynical, as I have. But documentaries about food and people making food? Now that’s something to restore my faith in reality filmmaking! The brilliantly watchable Jiro Dreams of Sushi is the simple true life story of elderly Jiro Ono, a chef in Tokyo who also happens to make the best sushi in the world. It does a viewer’s heart good to watch this inspiring and uplifting story of perseverance, perfection and personal standards when it comes to creating something that truly comes from your heart, not because of money or fame, but because you simply have the drive to be the best. I dream that more documentaries were as good as this is.
One of the scariest things that we can do in our urban cityscape is to use an ATM in the middle of the night, usually in a deserted area, where someone could easily sneak up from behind and gut us and, let’s be honest, probably get away with it. The thriller ATM plays on that fear and for the most part, succeeds deftly. After a Christmas party, a trio of annoying co-workers stop to get some quick cash, only to find themselves trapped in the cubicle that houses the money-spouting machines as a parka-clad madman finds new and inventive ways to torture and taunt them. This is all well and good until the remarkably unsatisfying ending that made me feel like I wasted the past hour and a half — which I did. If ATM was a bank statement, in big black letters it would read “Insufficient Funds” and the overdraft fees would be extraneously obscene.
Timed to coincide with the DVD release of the recent big-screen pseudo-adaptation of those lovable comedy cut-ups Moe, Larry and Curly, the release of public domain Stooge material is hitting the shelves to pocket some quick cash for various companies and distributors — not that there’s anything wrong with that, but with so many low-priced collections out there, it can be hard to know which one is truly worth your time scouring the Wal-Mart bargain bin for. Might I suggest A Three Stooges Celebration? Not only is it a pretty complete collection of the Stooges’ PD material (“Disorder in the Court,” “Sing a Song of Six Pants,” et al.), but there is also a pretty thorough documentary and classic early ’60s cartoons that are very satisfying oddities that add to the nyuck-nycked mystique of the trio. It fits nicely alongside your legitimate Three Stooges collections (available from Sony Home Entertainment) as a wise-guy friendly companion piece.
Longtime indie studio Troma Entertainment, purveyors of some of the most truly tasteless, yet wholly iconic, moving images for almost 40 years, have released their biggest, brashest and most ambitious movie since Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, with the rampaging splatter-comedy Father’s Day. Conceived by the Canadian comedy-troupe Astron-6, Father’s Day is the story of an obese serial killer named Fuchman with a penchant for raping and murdering dads. A one-eyed ex-orphan, his stripper sister, a street hustler and a newbie priest all team up to take Fuchman down once and for all, a noble quest that will take them from the back-alleys of Tromaville to the very depths of Hell. A riotously funny (and oh-so-filthy) tribute to the grindhouse-VHS nasties of the ’80s, Father’s Day is a true return to form for Troma, released in a four-disc special edition that even includes a soundtrack filled with hilariously inspirational pseudo-’80s hair metal tunes.