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Home movies

By Philip Martin

This article was published June 11, 2010 at 3:13 a.m.

— Recent DVD releases:

180° South: Conquerors of the Useless (PG, 109 minutes) - Documentary follows surfer/ rock climber/photographer Jeff Johnson as he attempts to replicate the 1968 sailing/climbing expedition of Yvon Chouinard - the founder of the outdoor apparel company Patagonia - and Doug Tompkins from California to the tallest mountain in Chilean Patagonia. Along the way Johnson is shipwrecked off Easter Island, surfs some big waves and finally climbs Cerro Corcovado, where he meets up with his heroes Chouinard and Tompkins, who’ve spent years buying up Patagonian land with the intention of conserving it. A nice little low-budget doc with music by the likes of Modest Mouse, Andrew Bird and M. Ward.

Grade: 81

From Paris With Love (R, 92 minutes) - Not even the pleasures inherent in watching John Travolta mug it up as a gonzo CIA operative bent on breaking things and killing people in one of my favorite cities are sufficient recompense for sitting through this by-the-numbers slog from the fevered brain of Luc Besson (directed by Pierre Morel).

Grade: 78

The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It (R, 82 minutes) - Note to prospective satirists: The idea is to pick on something that’s not smarter and funnier than you are. Here Bryan Callen, a graduate of MADtv, writes, directs and stars and largely proves himself inferior to Judd Apatow. Witless and dull, if not completely vile. Grade: 68

Meredith Monk: Inner Voice (Not rated, 82 minutes) - Dutch filmmaker Babeth M. VanLoo compresses the effluvia of more than 40 years of unceasing creativity a life-affirming bio-doc of Zen-influenced dancer-singer-composer Monk, whose work is designed to generate experience, rather than explain or comment upon it. The disc could be improved by adding more extra features like the included complete performance of Monk’s “Dolmen Music.” Grade: 86

Power Kids (Not rated, 77 minutes) - Thai feature about four Muay Thai-trained children who learn that one of their friends is in desperate need of a heart transplant. To help him, the four friends must band together to fight the terrorists who’ve occupied the hospital where a donor heart is stored. Whoa. Produced by Ong-Bak and directed by Prachya Pinkaew (The Protector, Chocolate), Power Kids is one of those alien films oneruns across from time to time - it’s half family-friendly tearjerker and half brutal kick-butt-athon. But the action choreography is predictably terrific.

Grade: 80

Shutter Island (R, 138 minutes) - Martin Scorsese’s latest is an ambitious B-movie, a problematic if masterfully realized film rife with cinematic and literary references, from the Bronte sisters and Val Lewton’s sexually charged RKO horror films (Cat People, I Walked With a Zombie) to Patrick McGrath’s “postmodern gothic” studies of madness and Latin American-style magical realism.

It’s a big, boiling MacGuffin stew of a movie, a Hitchcockian experiment in audience manipulation that slaps its artificiality in your face like a G-man’s gold shield. It’s also decidedly minor Scorsese, and despite the obvious intellectual force gathered behind the project, one gets the feeling that perhaps our “greatest living director” is trying a little too hard to “merely” entertain. Scene by scene, Shutter Island is a rich sensory experience; as a whole it’s less than the sum of its images - it’s kind of like smart Michael Bay. One of the most obvious - though not the biggest - problems is simply that, at 35, Leonardo DiCaprio has still not ripened into the full-blown male lead that Scorsese so obviously thinks he should be. While DiCaprio’s a good, useful actor, he feels miscast here. He lacks the damaged gravitas required to play the perpetually suspicious Teddy Daniels,a World War II vet who saw terrible things during the liberation of Dachau. Since the war he carved out a career as a tough U.S. marshal who has experienced more than his share of trauma.

Daniels and his new partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), are called to Ashecliffe Hospital, an offshore facility for the criminally insane, to investigate the disappearance of a patient, a female serial killer who has vanished without a trace and is now presumably at large.

There the pair encounter the asylum’s macabre staff - including the pipe-fondling psychotherapist in charge, Dr.Cawley (Ben Kingsley), and the thickly accented Dr. Naehring (Max von Sydow), who reminds Teddy of his wartime chores. Almost immediately, Teddy begins to feel himself drawn into the dark, hallucinatory power of the place. Bwahhahaha.

Grade: 82


MovieStyle, Pages 35 on 06/11/2010

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