Thursday, May 31, 2012

May 2012 DVD Roundup!

Its that time again, when I ramble on about the DVDs we've seen in the last couple of months. With the weekends being slightly quieter, coupled with a raft of films at the 12A rating and below, so we can watch them with Ewan, we've got through quite a few.

The Secret World of Arrietty
It seems wrong to be underwhelmed by a Studio Ghibli movie, given the fantastic track record they have, and the lavish attention to detail they bestow on their productions, but truth be told Arrietty, whilst beautiful to look at, feels strangely hollow. It may be over-familiarity, both of the visual style and the storytelling beats, but after a while I just sort of phased out, opened a book, and started reading. It's hard to pinpoint why though - there is nothing wrong with it as a film, and it's a solid adaptation of the classic "The Borrowers", but I thought the BBC adaption that was on over Christmas, whilst taking far more liberties, was superior in pretty much every way. And after a few recent so-so productions, I really am starting to worry that Ghibli is losing it's edge.

Cowboys and Aliens
OK, so what to expect with Cowboys and Aliens? Well there should be cowboys, right, and Aliens, right? and they fight. and, um, thats it. C&A has a good cast which is clearly enjoying itself, and makes a pretty fun tour around every Western cliche they can find en route to the showdown against some pretty generic Aliens (seriously, do they all shop at the same "space alien weapons and starships" store?) but in the end this is pretty popcorn lightweight fare that makes you smile without needing to engaging your brain.

Heavy Metal
Me and Z were chatting some time back about Heavy Metal - the 80s animated concept movie we'd both heard of and never seen, so we stuck it on lovefilm to have a watch. It's horribly dated of course, not just the animation but the obsession with blood and boobs, but its fascinating to watch and you can imagine the impact it would have had at the time. As a series of vignettes the quality can be pretty patchy with some stories stronger than others, and in places its magazine roots show through more strongly than others. But its definitely worth a view.

Horrible Bosses & Bad Teacher

I'm going to mention these two together as I feel pretty much the same way about both. They both aspire to be black adult comedies, both feature a strong cast giving game performances, and both are, actually, pretty funny in places. But in the final analysis they both fail to be black, or adult enough, and end up just sort of middling when their conceits and casts could probably have delivered something more if they took a few more chances. If you look at something like Bridesmaids, or The Hangover, both have hugely sentimental finales and both work hard to keep the characters mostly sympathetic, but both allow the jokes to be sufficiently outrageous to match their basic premises. Like i say, fun, but they both feel like a missed opportunity.

Green Lantern
I've seen some real hate for Green Lantern around the place, and certainly it's not a patch on any of the recent Marvel superhero films, but really it just suffers from an excess of mediocrity. For starters, it feels like it can't quite decide what tone it wants to set - are going for four-colour or are we going gritty here? - and the costume and set design speaks of that conflict. Similarly it can't decide with its characters either, with odd loops of progression going seemingly nowhere (why establish that Carol is a great pilot only to relegate her to damsel in distress for the finale?) and too much setup for future films they are now unlikely to make because the first one doesn't really work.

Cars 2
Finally, a film that I suspect would get a far easier ride if not made by Pixar. Cars always felt out of place in the Pixar line up, a decent but oddly derivative film and Cars 2 looks on the outside like a commercial, rather than artistic choice of project. That said, its not just a rehash of the earlier film and clearly comes from a desire to make a Spy homage, rather that the first films NASCAR homage. And it's mostly successful; quickly paced, decent script and polished to a shine. Unfortunately, when I see the Pixar logo, I just expect more, and Cars 2 is merely good entertainment...which may be a harsh verdict, but there you have it.

As you can see, there is no real stand outs here, but a lot of solid, middle-of-the-road entertainment. I guess sometimes that's enough...