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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Drama > Family > Mental Health > Sex > Religion > Faith > Rock Music > The Beaver (2011/Summit)/40 Days & 40 Nights (2002/Miramax/Lionsgate)/Hesher (2011/Lionsgate)/Lourdes (2011/Palisades Tartan)/Sympathy For Delicious (2010/Maya/Blu-rays)

The Beaver (2011/Summit)/40 Days & 40 Nights (2002/Miramax/Lionsgate)/Hesher (2011/Lionsgate)/Lourdes (2011/Palisades Tartan)/Sympathy For Delicious (2010/Maya/Blu-rays)

 

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

 

 

Comedies going into serious territory always have the problem of trying to be comedies in the first place.If they cannot do that well, trying more is always a burden and the results can be poor, problematic films like the following even when some of them are ambitious.

 

 

Jodie Fosterís The Beaver (2011) is another attempt by the great actress to helm a film about something different.Though her films have always been interesting and tried to be more than formulaic, they always turn out odd.This time, she also plays the wife of Mel Gibson at the point where their relationship has collapsed and she is leaving him.He is angry and mentally unwell, so as he is about to throw out some old items, he comes across a beaver hand puppet.So distraught, he cracks and it starts talking to him!

 

Unfortunately Fosterís reunion with Maverick co-star Gibson is not good, with Gibson not able to give a good performance as he seems too burned out from his real-life troubles to carry the role off.It is painful to watch this not work and is never funny and lacks the ironic distance to be so.Anton Yelchin is their son and when he gets involved with a young lady his age, the film tries to take on that storyline as well, but it only hurts the problematic happenings more.I wanted to like this, but it does not work early on and never gets better or more believable.Extras include Deleted Scenes, feature length audio commentary by Foster and Everything Is Going To Be O.K. making of featurette.By trying to reach out and help those with mental illness, the film and its intents have confused the situation.

 

 

Even worse is Michael Lehmannís 40 Days & 40 Nights (2002), an older film from the director of Hudson Hawk and Heathers that is more like Hawk as Josh Hartnett (in one of the films that helped kill his fledgling career) plays a guy who gives up sex for the period of the title which equals the religious period of Lent.In an early twist that does not matter, it becomes a big item on the then burgeoning, pre social networking Internet, but in all this is very boring and also wastes the talents of Vinessa Shaw, Griffin Dunne and Shannyn Sossamon among the others involved in this dud.

 

It has also dated badly for all kinds of reasons and just never works in any way you could think of.Lehmann sure could not make it work.Extras include a Teaser Trailer and odd feature length audio commentary by Lehmann, Producer Michael London and Screenwriter Robert Perez.

 

 

I really like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Natalie Portman, but in Spencer Susserís ill conceived Hesher (2011) is a relentlessly awful and awful waste of talent as Gordon-Levitt is the burned-out title character; a rock-n-roll bum who is ignorant, arrogant, spiteful, aggressive, rude, crude and psychotically inappropriate who comes into the life of a mentally ill father (Rainn Wilson who has done bad rock-n-roll guts himself), grandmother (Piper Laurie of Carrie and Abby in her most frightening film since) and a son (Devin Brochu) when the latter angrily breaks a window of a place our title character is squatting.Despite the boy being so young, Hesher wants revenge against this child who is already being bullied, cannot defend himself and is suffering the loss of his mother as well as having zero family support.

 

What could have been an interesting and even funny family drama or character study is a near total mess that has no idea where it is going, what to do or what it really wants to say.After 10 minutes, the film quickly implodes and gets worse and worse and worse as it goes along.Everything becomes overkill and never works.Too bad, because there was some talent here.Extras include Outtakes, Deleted Scenes that would not have helped, Air Traffic interruptions clip, Hesher sketch gallery and a Behind The Scenes featurette.

 

 

Trying to be profound and not working out is Jessica Hausnerís Lourdes (2011) about a woman in a wheelchair who goers to the Pyrenees Mountains (et al) to be healed and walk again.Nicely shot for an HD production, the film lands up looking more like a Jacques Tati film (Playtime) than a drama and wants to be profound, but it is really a run-on piece that could have been a short and delivers nothing you have not seen already.Like the recent Secret Sunshine (reviewed elsewhere on this site), it wants to re-mystify religion (namely Christianity) on some level as if to make it magical and (hereís the worst part) make it hard to know as id the audience was idiotic.Especially at this time of extremist Christianity, this is a condescending insult and despite her sincerity, this does not work.Extras include Talent Interviews and trailers for this and other Palisades Tartan releases.

 

 

Finally we have a film that offers key elements form the previous two films and is the directing debut of the actor Mark Ruffalo.Sympathy For Delicious (2010) stars Christopher Thornton as a wheelchair-bound DJ named Dean who is down on his luck and very unhappy with his life when he discovers he can actually heal the sick by holding them with his hands for a while. He will not let anyone know this and keeps it to himself, being up the first question as to if he is being selfish or trying to avoid disaster, though the film wants to overdo the first possibility.

 

He cannot heal himself and does not know the limits of this power or how long it will last, but he is able to help a man in the infamous skid row and the word slowly gets out.Thing get worse when a drugged-out, ignorant British rock-n-roll singer (Orlando Bloom showing up for the first time in a while, doing a decent job of playing against his nice guy image) who seems more like he is from the 1970s glam movement.He does not like Dean, but his influential female friend (Juliette Lewis) wants him in the band as its DJ, though all the band people and company are skied out and that leaves their manager (Laura Linney) trying to hold things together.They want to use him to sell tickets by playing rock music and saying he is a healer, which the lead singer hoped will make him more Jesus-like to his fans.

 

It all backfires of course, but the film does too as it becomes very predictable, is not always convincing and cannot overcome the gimmicky aspects of its concept outside of the internal narrative.However, Ruffalo has some directing talent and the actual idea had potential, which is why it attracted so much talent.Too bad it does not work out.Extras include a Behind The Scenes featurette, Theatrical Trailer and feature length audio commentary by Ruffalo, Thornton and Bloom.

 

 

The 1080p digital High Definition image transfers across the five Blu-rays are about as good as we would expect for the way each feature is shot, save the weak, dated 1.85 X 1 image on 40 Days which seems sourced from an older HD master.The Beaver at 2.35 X 1 is the best-looking disc on the list as shot by Director of Photography Hagen Bogodanski.That leaves the remaining three releases looking good, but having some softness and all exhibiting the tired, artificial overcast look that has plagued too many films of late.Lourdes and Sympathy are 1.85, while Hesher is 2.35 X 1.All have DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes, save Hesher pushing its luck by expanding its mix to DTS-MA 7.1 with no advantage or improvements over the other four films.All are low-budget productions with dialogue-based mixes that sometimes come alive when music kicks in.Otherwise, that is it.

 

 

-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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