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(2013/Virgil Films DVD)/Barabbas
(2012 TV Mini-Series/Gaiam Vivendi Blu-ray)/Breakout
(2013/Sony DVD)/Gimme The
(2013/RLJ DVD)/The We And
The I (2013/Virgil Films
C+/B-/C/C-/C/C+ Sound: C+/B/C+/C/C/B- Extras: D/D/D/C/D/D
Main Programs: C/C/C-/C/C-/C
for some recent independent releases...
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(2013) has a gimmick that could go either way. Bruce Greenwood is
the CEO of an advertising agency who has been so sickened by
catchphrases that they are the only thing he can say or repeat after
a nervous breakdown that has led to his hospitalization. With a
young, greedy, slick, goof in the wings to take his place, he
obliviously (or does he?) continues this tact and is about to be sent
out of the hospital when a woman (Parker Posey) who works there
decides to take him home to treat him there.
conflict with her daughter and how unlikely this would be in real
life, the film gambles that it can be funny with this premise for 87
minutes, but despite good, likable actors, the script has no ironic
distance from the high concept or take advantage of other
possibilities here. The result is a film that never takes off.
is amazing here in that he never hits a false note saying a few
hundred ad taglines, but that is more of a list that a film or
script. Posey comes up with a different take in her performance, but
it never adds up. Though it is not as horrid as the Dudley
Moore/Darryl Hannah disaster Crazy
the ending (stolen from a great original Twilight
episode for no good reason) makes no sense either. Oh, well.
are no extras.
(2012) is a new TV mini-series version of the religious tale of the
title man and how he helped by and crossed paths with Christ by being
the thief who is sparred during the Crucifixion. Best know from the
1961 Richard Fleischer film with Anthony Quinn in the role, this
version has one of the only actors around worthy of succeeding him,
the underrated Billy Zane. Shot on location in Tunisia, it looks
decent and as good as anything on the list, but at 188 minutes, it is
a long program and the shorter 1961 film was only so good.
did not know the rest of the cast, but this was not as pretentious or
condescending as many similar productions of late (including that Fox
Bible mini-series), so I give it points for ambition, but true Bible
scholars might enjoy it and Zane carries it about as much as he can.
A nice, independently-made alternative, fans of the tale and of the
faith will at least want to give this one a look.
are no extras.
(2013) began as a potentially interesting thriller where Brendan
Frazier is a father who becomes an environmental activist, who then
becomes a protester against loggers and in a physical altercation,
accidentally kills a worker who attacks him. He goes to jail, but as
they negotiate to get him released in a crazy deal with the logging
company (the family of the dead man never shows up!?!), a crazy man
(Dominic Purcell as a Southern Right Wing killer caricature) travels
with his mentally ill brother (Ethan Suplee) trying to show him a
the supposedly sand brother is a psychopath and when he kills someone
in the woods, the son and daughter of Frazier's father hear it and
son sees it, so the southern brothers show up to meet them and their
guardian on the trip. The result is another killing and two children
in jeopardy. Based on the title, guess what Frazier-in-prison does
make it worse, it is like Deliverance for goofs, becomes
quickly cynical, exploitative, obnoxious, has an idiot plot, mocks
mental illness as well and represents the worst of what we used to
get as exploitation thrillers in the 1970s, but without any of the
fun, guts or point. This is hideous and one of the worst things I
have seen in a while, despite its start. It never becomes torture
porn, but it is bad in every other way you can imagine and is the
nadir of all involved. Frazier needs a better project quick!
are no extras.
(2012) is the first of two urban films set in New York City we are
looking at. Jonathan Demme has decides to back this one and it the
slightly better of the two films as a couple of graffiti artists
Sofia and Malcolm (Zoe Lescaze and Meeko) live in the Bronx and when
their latest work has been desecrated by rival taggers, they want
revenge, but also thing tagging the Big Apple prop at a New York Mets
game would send a message of their intents as artists and leaving
their mark on the spray paint art world.
between, Malcolm gets involved with a woman who has money, or so he
thinks and Sofia starts to doubt herself and wonder about her future.
We get some good dialogue (I wonder if some of this was
improvisation) and good casting that is mostly convincing, but the
end is open in the wrong way, there are too many moments where the
smart characters get dumb and I was only so impressed. Yet it is
remarkable this turned out as well as it did, so you can see for
yourself if you are interested.
include a short film called Killer,
a feature length audio commentary track with the cast and crew,
Original Theatrical Trailer, Deleted Scenes and an episode of the
promoting the film.
We And The I
(2013) is more predictable and less convincing as a bus full of teens
(also from the Bronx, this took three years to develop according to
the package) finished with school and ready for summer break.
However, conflicts, fighting, grudges and immature behavior get all
off to a bad start (as well as the film itself) and bad things start
to happen, though the film wants to be joking about it more than it
should and let us wallow in the irresponsibility.
when the conclusion comes up, we are supposed to be surprised but are
not in the least at all. The problem (typical of Gondry's feature
films versus his short works) is that he keeps too much distance from
the actors and characters so the work becomes more mechanical than it
should (even in Be
but not in his Block
concert film with Dave Chappelle which proves my point) and the young
people here are understood and also made to be less smart than they
or we are. This will be a curio too, but both this and Loot prove
the New York School of filmmaking and and style is not as easy as
just doing an urban film, even with a potentially good cast. This is
why Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee continue to be the kings of this
are no extras.
and almost least is Kevan Otto's Online
(2013) is a silly, faith-based drama about a married man whose casual
encounter with an old flame on an online website leads to him having
a hot sexual affair with her and all hell breaks loose.
Unfortunately, so does a predictable, infantile script that tells us
“social websites bad, marriage and faith good” and if it
were any worse, it would be smug. Instead, it is just lame, tired
and narrow throughout its long, long 94 minutes. Then the solutions
to the situation are more unrealistic than the situation which is
ineffectively portrayed in the first place despite the fact that this
sadly odes happen all the time. More criticism of the web and less
preaching would have helped, but the faith formula is long played out
(like social networking and reality TV) and the acting is like
watching talking mannequins.
least it was not as outright offensive as Breakout,
but that does not say much.
are no extras.
1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on Barabbas
may have some styling and digital visual effects that hold the
fidelity back a bit, but it was shot in the Super 16mm film format
and it makes it stand out versus most of its cheaply done, slap dash
contemporaries just shooting generically in HD.
leaves the rest DVD releases and all five DVDs are anamorphically
enhanced and at 1.78 X 1 save Sponsor
at 2.35 X 1 and We
at 1.85 X 1 which both happen to have the best image performance
including color, limited motion blur and softness. Loot
has some interesting people and locales to shoot, but it is extremely
disappointing here being very soft and hard to watch, though I wonder
if it is a technical transfer issue to some extent, because the shots
are thought out. In between are Breakout
which is much softer than anything with Brendan Frazier should be and
which is simply a very bad HD shoot.
for sound, all five DVDs are presented in lossy Dolby Digital 5.1
mixes, but only We
really has a palpable soundfield throughout, showing Gondry's sense
of music and sound throughout. Sponsor
tie for second place, with lacking soundfields and weaker
presentations too much in the front channels. Loot
(due to location audio issues and its small budget) and Online
(by being a flat, boring recording) are the sonic disappointments
here and the less said the better.
with the best sound sporting a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1
mix that is stunningly strong, solid, has a consistent soundfield and
embarrasses many a feature film release, not to mention other
faith-based dramas and other TV Mini-Series. Yes, it is one of the
best faith-based releases technically in years and the fact that it
is independent tells us something.