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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Relationships > Sex > Comedy > Biography > Biopic > Fashion > Racism > Poverty > Literature > Circus > Bellflower (2011/Oscilloscope Blu-ray w/DVD)/Gia (1998 Cable Telefilm/HBO Blu-ray)/Little Senegal (2011/Cinema Libre DVD)/Main Street (2009/Magnolia DVD)/Water For Elephants (2011/Fox Blu-ray)

Bellflower (2011/Oscilloscope Blu-ray w/DVD)/Gia (1998 Cable Telefilm/HBO Blu-ray)/Little Senegal (2011/Cinema Libre DVD)/Main Street (2009/Magnolia DVD)/Water For Elephants (2011/Fox Blu-ray)


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



Here are a recent group of dramas that did not necessarily work, but were usually ambitious.


Evan Glodell’s Bellflower (2011) is the kind of film you really want to see work because it is so different and has some good things going for it.  Starting out as a comedy of sorts about relationships, the two male leads (Glodell and Tyler Dawson) love to blow things up and have built a Mad Max-inspired car named Medusa to boot, but Woodrow (Glodell) is about to have relationship complications that will make all that fun less relevant and has much going for it.  The casting, including the addition of Jessie Wiseman and Rebekah Brandes as the friends who start to split over Woodrow are convincing as is the rest of the cast.


However, after getting so much to work here, the script takes a turn that hurts the whole film in the latter half that drops this from a very professional indie drama to bad film school experimentation in trying to reflect Woodrow’s problems and issues resulting from things going bad when they do and I was very disappointed because they came so close to possibly a minor classic of indie feature production.  Unfortunately, it turns wrong and that’s it, though there is more than enough here to give this one a good look.  Extras include a Trailer, Outtakes, a Behind The Scenes featurette and Medusa Rundown showing off the car.



New to Blu-ray is Michael Cristopher’s Gia (1998), the older cable TV movie that helped put Angelina Jolie on the map as the fashion model of the title who had died of AIDS at a young age as part of an abusive, ugly fall from grace just as her career was taking off.  This Unrated edition has some good moments and Jolie steals every scene she is in, but the film has a bad, ill-advised MTV approach where in place of much-needed character study, exposition and additional detail, we get hit records one too many times, dating this very badly.  Mercedes Ruehl and Faye Dunaway have good acting turns, but that is not enough to overcome the dated approach.  There are no extras.



Rachid Bouchareb’s Little Senegal (2011) is the big surprise here this time, a drama set in New York City about an older man named Alloune (Sotigui Kouyate in a really good performance) taking up a simple job in the community of the title, learning about life there and learning more about himself and his people who were taken away from his African village two centuries ago, many of whom settled there eventually.  He looks for his specific relatives, but increasingly finds himself in the middle of several conflicts that are as revealing as they are painful and the film has constant surprises throughout.


It never makes “the big statement” and might not have wanted too, but it has more than enough going for it that it is worth going out of your way for.  I just wish it had been a little longer and given us a little more on the supporting characters.  Still a fine work, it deserves more attention and I hope it gets discovered by a wider audience.  There are no extras.



John Doyle’s Main Street (2009) is an ambitious attempt to update and deliver a film version of Horton Foote’s book about a small town in transition.  Those expecting To Kill A Mockingbird or even Tender Mercies will be a bit disappointed, but this is a very well cast film and I liked the chemistry of the actors along with the locations.  Colin Firth is a corporate representative who rents a warehouse from Ellen Burstyn, a widow who is alone and may have to sell her house; one she has lived in all her life.  She has support from a relative (Patricia Clarkson) who becomes concerned with her when they find out the warehouse is being used for the temporary storage of toxic waste!


A local police officer (a nice turn by Orlando Bloom) studying to be a lawyer is also suspicious, but he also has to deal with the fact that the woman he loves (Amber Tamblyn) is possibly engaged to another man she works with. 


Even if the film is not always great, it moves along nicely and was a real pleasure to watch.  The actors integrate into the narrative as if they had always been playing these roles and Burstyn in particular is effective.  It too is worth a look.  Extras include a Trailer, Behind The Scenes featurette and Deleted Scenes.



Last and least is the latest dud from one-time Music Video director Francis Lawrence,

Water For Elephants (2011), set at a circus in flashback as we get told the story by Hal Holbrook visiting the circus today (or what’s left of it) his life story on how  he was once involved and wow, is it corny, melodramatic and predictable.  Robert Pattinson tries to play him as a young man and sometimes is not bad in the role, but the “play the violins” by-the-numbers script is a loser from the get go.  Resse Witherspoon makes her way onto the most overpaid actors list turning it another flat performance and Christopher Waltz is bad again as her “I will not let go” husband.


Yawn!  Extras include Digital Copy for PC and PC portable devices, four featurettes and (believe it or not) a feature length audio commentary track.




The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Bellflower is an HD shoot and has been stylized to look good, but it has limits in detail and depth that are even more apparent on the anamorphically enhanced DVD also included.  It is watchable, but sometimes is also overstylized.  The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Gia looks like an older HD master and the black and white moments are especially weak and grainy making this the weakest of the Blu-rays.  The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Senegal is not bad at all looking more consistent than Gia and having more definition and detail than most indie DVDs we have seen lately.  The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Main is also pleasant to look at, but is weaker and softer overall.  That leaves the 1080p 2.35 X 1 AVC @ 27.5 MBPS digital High Definition image on the Blu-ray of Water the best performer on the list, though its anamorphically enhanced DVD is much weaker than expected.


All three Blu-rays have DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes and they are pretty good throughout, though Gia can show its age at times, it still has a consistent soundfield.  The DVDs of Bellflower, Water and Main all have Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, but Main is more dialogue-based and therefore weaker.  Senegal is left with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix that can compete with Main, but has some limits due to its budget.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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