Tuesday, March 23, 2010

DVD reviews - Men Who Stare at Goats, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Blind Side, Brothers

Today's DVD releases are an interesting batch, but none of them are quite as good as you'd hope. Although Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Blind Side each received two Oscar nominations, they are the least interesting in this group.

Men Who Stare at Goats
This is probably the best of the bunch today. It isn't as wacky as it could have been, but it does feature some engaging performances by the all-star cast of George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey. Also Stephen Lang who played the villianous Col. Miles Quaritch in Avatar, plays a military officer here too. This is an offbeat story that's based on the real-life attempts by the US military forces to develop psychic abilities and a paranormal unit. Extras include commentaries, three featurettes and deleted scenes.

This was a remake of a respected 2004 Danish film Brødre. It had aspirations to being a serious Oscar contender, but doesn't entirely succeed. Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal plays the titular brothers, Sam and Tommy respectively. Sam is the good soldier and Tommy's the lout, but Tommy becomes close to Sam's wife Grace (Natalie Portman) when they get news of Sam's death. Things get increasingly complicated, and the cast give it their all in some strong performances. But the story doesn't completely come together and it leaves many questions unanswered. Extras include commentary and featurettes.

Fantastic Mr. Fox
For me, this was the least interesting of the many stop-motion animation films from last year. This just confirmed many issues I have with Wes Anderson's filmmaking. I know many people consider him brilliant, but I don't "get" him. I don't find him especially funny, and his style is extremely cold and unimaginative. This has all of the classic Anderson characteristics: rigid symmetry, wide-shots, low framing, movement in straight lines and right angles, hipster soundtrack, excess dialogue at the expense of story, etc. The only thing that makes this enjoyable for me is the voice acting. It's George Clooney again and he's joined by Meryl Streep and both do great work as always. Extras include a making-of featurette and a profile of author Roald Dahl.

The Blind Side
I thought the Oscar nominations for this glorified TV movie were completely unjustified. This movie was a hit because it supposedly is a "true" story. In fact, it's just Republican propaganda and gives conservative Christian Americans a pat on the back for being so good and decent for helping them poor useless black folk. It doesn't bother to figure out that Leigh Anne Tuohy (played by Sandra Bullock) helped one person but otherwise her politics are a major reason why the American poor are kept poor. Bullock's acting is merely passable, whereas the rest of the cast are awful. Quinton Aaron, who plays Michael Oher, seems to have been cast for his size only. And scenes with scores of football coaches playing themselves might have been interesting for die-hard college football fans, but fall flat otherwise. Extras include deleted scenes and interviews.

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