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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Satire > Spoof > Politics > Four Lions (2010/Magnolia/MagNet Blu-ray) + How Do You Know (2010/Sony Blu-ray) + No One Knows About Persian Cats (2009/IFC/MPI DVD) + The Owls (2010/First Run DVD) + The People Iíve Slept With (2009/

Four Lions (2010/Magnolia/MagNet Blu-ray) + How Do You Know (2010/Sony Blu-ray) + No One Knows About Persian Cats (2009/IFC/MPI DVD) + The Owls (2010/First Run DVD) + The People Iíve Slept With (2009/Maya DVD)

 

Picture: C+/B/C/C/C+†††† Sound: B-/B/C+/C+/C+†††Extras: C-/C-/C/C/C-†††† Films: C-/C-/C/C/C-

 

 

Combining comedy with social issues rarely works.If anything, it usually leads to sloppy work, though some attempts are better than just doing an outright pointless comedy.The following five recent releases prove this point.

 

Chris Morrisí Four Lions (2010) wants to be a comedy about young adult Arabs acting like children wanting to for, a terrorist group.The premise, one note as it is, apparently amused some, but I was surprised just how bad this was.Though the idea could be funny if the makers knew the definition of irony or deeply dug into the politics of the situation, but instead we get a smug, self-amused wreck of a work that is all over the place and never amusing.If it wanted to offer an alternate discourse on those featured, it failed there to.

 

In comparison, James L. Brooksí unfortunate dud How Do You Know (2010) is about nothing much, but at least does not think it is much more, yet how did this not work?Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson and Paul Rudd are good comic talents, but they tend too often to be only as good as their material and that is sadly what happens in this misguided comedy in which Jack Nicholson (as Ruddís father) steals the few scenes he is in and the rest plays like a very bad TV movie as a near love triangle forms between the three younger actors as they all try to figure out what love is.Too bad the screenplay does not begin to know or care.

 

The result is tired fluff that looks good and does not go anywhere, like a Hostess Cake that looks good, but you should skip eating.Except for very few amusing moments, this is a big disappointment from Brooks, especially now that I know how much money was spent on it.Where did the cash go?

 

Offering a better Arab discourse than Four Lions is Bahman Ghobadiís No One Knows About Persian Cats (2009) because the people are not portrayed as idiots, but as people.This is done as a docudrama involving the underground world of forbidden Rock music in Iran and has some interesting music and moments, but the scripted parts ruin what could have been a really good piece in the vein of Milos Formanís work that drove the Soviet Union nuts.More music and data on what was really going on versus the scripted parts would have made this something, but the contradictory approaches backfire.Still, I was glad to see it once, even when I was ultimately disappointed.

 

Then there is Cheryl Dunyeís The Owls (2010) about older lesbians trying to weather changing times and relationships.Dunye (Watermelon Woman) has managed to achieve a discourse for alternate female sexuality in her work and is one of the few directors surviving the industry uncompromised in presenting such work.There is no explicit comedy, but a few scenes are comic in an implicit way meant to reflect the realities a lesbian audience has to deal with in real life all the time.

 

However, this falls short, juggles more than the script can handle (despite some good performances) and gets so carried away at the end that I did not ultimately buy it.I also saw some missed opportunities, but maybe that will fit another film.Still, it at least had characters that were realistic and some of that comes from their dignity, until the film collapses, than that matters less unfortunately when this implodes.

 

Finally is another project with a gay discourse, but one that tries to combine a gay male sensibility with that of heterosexual females (and an Asian one at that) in Quentin Leeís The People Iíve Slept With (2009) is so fascinated by what he sees as the common denominators between the two discourses that the storyline about a young lady who loves to sleep around becomes too silly (and as a substitute for something to say, gross) to work and it goes from being potentially a challenging work to a very unfortunate, predictable one.

 

In addition, so much of this is predictable and we have seen it in so much indie, mumblecore and Gay New Wave work that it plays more like a bad student thesis film than anything that resembles an original work that is finalized.Too bad, because there is much to say, but Lee became too distracted and self-amused to do what he could have here.Another sign of desperation has the female lead talking to the audience (breaking the fourth wall) far too often.This might not put you to sleep, but it will come close.

 

All five just add up to apathy.

 

 

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on Lions is loaded with degraded images, shaky camerawork, low def digital and is not that great looking, while the 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Know at least looks like some of its big budget was used to make this look like a grade-A film, even if it did not turn out that way all along.The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Cats and anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Owls are the softest here with motion blur, color issues, aliasing errors and disappointing presentations all around.That leaves the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Slept looking a little better than the other DVDs, but not by much.

 

As for sound, both Blu-rays have DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 mixes and they sound better than the DVDs here, but Lions has rough sound that is sometimes monophonic, distorted and digital in nature that is not great in the mix.Know does not have a great soundfield, but it is the cleanest and warmest soundtrack here by default and once again, enough money went into the mix.All the DVDs have Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, save Owls with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, but they all have the same basic stereo style of fidelity with the 5.1 mixes stretching around the low budget sound, which you can hear when you compared Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 on Slept.

 

Extras include making of pieces on all five releases, with Lions adding Storyboards, Deleted Scenes, Bradford Interview and Background Material, while Know adds Deleted Scenes, Blooper Reel, Filmmaker Audio Commentary and Blu-ray exclusive Additional Deleted Scenes, Brooks/Hans Zimmer on-camera interview and BD Live interactivity.Cats adds a trailer, Owls has text n the Cast & Crew and other information and Slept also has an Alternate Opening and Alternate Ending.

 

 

-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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