Category Archives: DVD Review

  • 0

DVD Review – Ismael’s Ghosts

Category : DVD Review

Director: Arnaud Desplechin

Starring: Mathieu Amalric, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Marion Cotillard

Year: 2017

The films of French director Arnaud Desplechin are tied together in ways I can’t comprehend; there’s a scene in this movie in which a filmmaker who is losing control is seen to have an attic filled with pictures and strings and connections and models, basically the artistic headspace of a mad genius, and I imagine Desplechin working in the same way.  You have to be a little mad to be so talented, it’s like true vision and manic production lie under a contaminated surface that artists must choose to reach through if they want to become famous.  Anyway, Desplechin sees things and plots and metaphors that we don’t, and he captures them on camera; they just don’t always make sense to us.  Such is the case with Ismael’s Ghosts, a movie that I can’t begin to make heads or tails of, and frankly don’t want to take the century to figure out.

The Movie

Ismael is a filmmaker, a relatively famous one at that, but a bit of an unhappy soul, an extreme man who can be wonderfully spontaneous and outgoing or filled with rage and melancholy.  He is dating Sylvia, a woman who is his polar opposite; a scientist, a pragmatist, religious, prudish.  But she opens up to Ismael, he finds happiness in his relationship with her, and the two have a pleasant life together.  Ismael was married at a young age to an unusual girl named Carlotta, the daughter of a visionary director who Ismael respects, Henri Bloom.  The two men still love and talk about Carlotta, who ran away twenty years ago never to appear again, her death made official but the grief over her disappearance as yet undying.  Still, life goes on, people change, and movies are made, regardless of past problems.

Ismael is working on a new film, a story inspired by his brother Ivan who works for the government in embassies overseas.  The character Ivan Dedalus is a spy, or at least people think he is, and he has adventure in his life, something that Ismael lacks a great deal.  But while writing the script at a vacation home, with Sylvia along for company, Ismael will be visited by adventure in a form he thought he’d never see again.  Carlotta comes back, twenty years older but still beautiful, and threatens to tear Ismael’s current life apart.  Sylvia is concerned, obviously, and Ismael is conflicted; he still loves this girl, after all the pain she caused him by leaving, and can’t be sure what to do next, what the smart decision would be.  Ismael will face his past, which destroys his present, and puts the future of his film in jeopardy.

Ismael’s Ghosts is everything you’ve imagined over-dramatic French cinema to be.  Hopefully you’ve pre-judged a foreign film before and been surprised by how much you were wrong, but that won’t be the case here; Desplechin delivers every stereotype and melodramatic moments that you’ve been dreading would appear.  Drinking wine, screaming the lines, a chopped up plot, overlong run time, voracious affairs, female nudity, a story within a story, gunshots, spies, little cars; I don’t know if he was intending to create something so obscenely Franco, but he succeeded.  It’s all the cliches rolled up in one movie, and the result is a very difficult watch.  IMDb has the film’s length at 114 minutes, the DVD is 134, but I’m not sure it matters; any amount of time was too much for this messy of a movie.

I have seen one other Desplechin film, My Golden Days, and I didn’t really enjoy that one either; it was tedious and absurd, much like Ismael’s Ghosts.  Critics seem to like his movies though, and I don’t understand; they are too much work to watch and not enough reward.  I don’t mind artistic-minded features, please don’t get me wrong, and I like French dramas, the weight of their emotion.  But Desplechin just gets it wrong, misses the mark, and I’ll never quite understand him.  The acting in this film is fine, better than fine, very good even, but it fails to matter, because the movie’s story and its presentation become much too loud and distracting and wrong-headed.  Amalric is passionate, Cotillard is troubled, but I’ll never be a fan of Gainsbourg, she’s much too difficult to watch, much too dark to ever convince me that her characters have more than one side.  The timeline jumps all over, the scenes from the film in Ismael’s head are unnecessary, I wanted a simpler drama to witness, and from start to finish nothing pleased me in the way that it was meant to, nothing stood out as something worth my time and emotional effort.  If you want a quality film with two common actors, watch From the Land of the Moon, starring Marion Cotillard and Louis Garrel; it’s heavy but in all the right ways, not like Ismael’s Ghosts.

The DVD

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 (Widescreen), the video quality of the film is fine, but not the focal point.  I mentioned the run time; apparently this DVD is the “director’s cut”, which is not specified on the case, and I’m sure didn’t help with the flow and feeling of the movie, which would have been hard to dive into anyway, even at a shorter length.  The cinematography is never a noticeable attribute to the film, the visuals fail to capture audiences who are simply being overwhelmed by powerful dialogue or confused by yet another time jump.

Audio – The DVD was done in French 5.1 Dolby Digital, with subtitles in English, English SDH, and Spanish.  The audio quality is middle-of-road, with nothing to comment on negatively.  There was a nice thread of music throughout that aided in developing the sadness of the situation, so some credit should go to the team who created the score, because that does stand out, when none of the other audio did.

Extras – The only special feature on the disc is Also From Magnolia, three trailers for other Magnolia films.

Final Thoughts

Rent It. With scattered, unfocused, and overbearing themes, Ismael’s Ghosts is a job, not a pleasure, and shouldn’t be watched flippantly.  Those who already enjoy this director could take a stab at it; they should be familiar with his style and his penchant for melodrama.  I simply don’t enjoy his methods, and I get lost trying to follow his ideas, instead of losing myself in the moment.  His artistry is undeniable, but sometimes you don’t like the art that you can see is strong, it just doesn’t hit you in the place it is supposed to and where others seem to feel it.  The acting is solid, the music is nice, but the film lags behind its own goals, doesn’t resolve, and too often meanders around like a lost old man trying to find where he put his glasses.  The video is fine, the audio is good, there aren’t many extras, so the technical side is a mixed bag, and shouldn’t really be relied upon to impress you.  I would recommend that most people pass on this movie; rent only if you’re confident in what you already like.

☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ – Extras

☆ – Replay

 

 


  • 0

DVD Review – Rampage

Category : DVD Review

Director: Brad Peyton

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Year: 2018

When your only real and necessary goal is to be better than San Andreas, you’ve succeeded in placing the bar so low that almost anything you produce will be a stunning hit by comparison.  And I’m only knocking San Andreas slightly; it was an entertaining disaster flick, though not even close to a commendable disasterpiece.  Rampage only had to be marginally better, only needed a slightly better script, only had to cast slightly better actors to work alongside the natural charisma that is The Rock, in order for us to stand and applaud.  I’d say it got about halfway over the line it was aiming to cross before falling limply on its side and passing out, which is just another way to say that Brad fixed some problems from he and Dwayne’s other attempts, but not all, not by a long shot.  Rampage is still problem-ridden, and yet still a good time; this genre is frustrating if only because audiences are programmed to enjoy the destruction, we just wish the destroyers would do a better job.

The Movie

Davis Okoye is a primatologist in San Diego working with gorillas, some of which he saved directly from the poachers traps.  Animals are his passion, and he finds that he has a difficult time relating to people; how they lie, how they ruin, how afraid they are, how quick to anger.  His best friend is an alpha male named George, who he rescued as a baby, and who he can talk with though a series of signs.  When a corporate experiment in space goes haywire and destroys its station, some of its pieces crash back down to Earth, one of them right in George’s enclosure.  Suddenly, this peaceful creature is now an aggressive monster, one that is growing in size every hour.  Davis and a disgraced scientist, Dr. Kate Caldwell, will have to figure out what changed George and how to halt his growth before he’s too big to stop.

Two more animals were affected by this debris as well: a wolf from the northern Badlands and an alligator from the Everglades, each responding to the experimental formula in a unique and deadly way.  When the owners of the corporation responsible realize what has happened, they call the creatures to them using a high-tech device, intent on harvesting the internal biological technology from the animals and selling it to the highest bidder.  Davis and Kate need to race against time if they want to reach Chicago first before George does, before the ever-growing animals destroy America’s cities in their ever-blossoming rage.  Soldiers are on their way to do what they can with the weapons at their disposal, but their firepower may not be enough, and we all may already be screwed.

I played Rampage as a kid; it was one of my favorite NES games.  My sister and I would rent it from the local store, play for hours, and then we’d have to leave it on all night, because at that time there wasn’t a save function.  When we got back on the system in the morning, it would be red-hot and buzzing badly, but we’d finish the game, take over the U.S., and feel pretty accomplished.  She was always Lizzy, I was George, so this movie speaks to that kid in me, that nostalgic piece that will always remember the good times I had with this game.  The film version does a great job of recalling the destruction and the chaos surrounding the game play; climbing buildings, punching holes in them for no reason, stomping tanks, dodging airplanes, crashing down with the rubble.  I even spotted the arcade version in the office of the villain, so good on the filmmakers for letting me relive a sliver of my childhood.

Now for the movie, which is basically so bad it’s good.  San Andreas was cheesy and unbelievable; Rampage is more fake, which makes it more fun.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a terribly simple and ridiculous plot filled with some of the worst dialogue you’ll ever hear, but it’s also full of goofy moments and pure mayhem that make the experience of watching worth the time.  Some of the worst lines were saved for Malin Akerman, who was the cunning head of the evil corporation.  She and all of her words were so bad you’d think George wrote them; I would swear that someone was sabotaging her career, but I’ve already seen her in enough to know that her talent level has done that itself.  The Rock was cool, as always, he was a good hero, he and George worked together as characters, and, again, the plot was so silly and easy and linear that it kinda worked.  Buildings fall, Chicago is attacked by a crocodile, people are eaten; not a bad way to spend an evening, especially if you are a fan of the original content and are ready to root for a little absurdity.

The Blu-ray

 

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 (16×9 1080p HD) and shot using an Arri Alexa 65 camera, an Arri Alexa Mini camera with Panavision Primo, Primo-V, G-Series, T100, T150, AWZ, and ATZ lenses, and an Arri Alexa SXT camera with Panavision Primo, Primo-V, G-Series, T100, T150, AWZ, and ATZ lenses, the video quality of this Blu-ray disc is pretty phenomenal.  The picture was clear and cool in theaters, but it lost nothing in translation to video.  The creatures were animated with stunning detail, they’re better than I could have possibly imagined they would be, all those years ago; this team should be very proud of their entertainingly over-the-top film.

Audio – The Blu-ray was done in Dolby Atmos-True HD, with choices of English DTS-HD Master Audio, English Descriptive Audio, and French, Spanish, and Portuguese dubbing.  Subtitles are also available, in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.  The audio of the film is strong as well, with a score that smooths the transitions between scenes.  The balance between action and dialogue is nice, and the music really is pretty well-orchestrated, so points for the technical aspects.

Extras – There are a ton of bonus features on this disc.  Not Just A Game Anymore, a 6-minute look at the adaptation of the video game.  Deleted Scenes, a 10-minute bonus footage segment.  Gag Reel, a 2-minute bloopers show.  Rampage: Actors in Action, an 11-minute behind-the-scenes peek.  Trio of Destruction, a 10-minute feature on the creatures.  Attack on Chicago, a 10-minute breakdown of the big action scene.  And Bringing George to Life, a 12-minute motion capture education.

Final Thoughts

Recommended.  If you loved the old arcade or NES game, this movie is for you.  Literally, it was made with you in mind, the people who used to play the game, who used to knock San Francisco flat just because they could.  It’s a fun adaptation, they got the spirit just right, and Dwayne Johnson was the perfect choice for the lead role.  His charisma works with b-movies like this, that are trying to be so bad they become good.  He can’t always do it on his own, but his skill is enough here, because the pieces around him are just solid enough as well.  The action works, the animation is cool, and the Rock rocks; what more do you want?  Rampage isn’t spectacular, obviously, but it is a little awesome, if you can find it in yourself to enjoy this type of nonsense.  The video is well done, the audio actually works, and there are a boat-load of extras, so the technical side of the film deserves a high five.  I’ve seen this movie a couple times now, and it improves when given the chance; I recommend that you do just that.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 


  • 0

DVD Review – You Were Never Really Here

Category : DVD Review

Director: Lynne Ramsay

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix

Year: 2017

The first time I saw Drive I didn’t like it; too violent, too sensational, too moody, too muted.  As time went by, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had missed something, that I had let something slide by without looking too closely, that if I had but paid more attention, I would have seen something special.  So I re-watched, and now I think it’s an incredible film, I doubled my rating, from 4/10 to 8/10, so opinions can change, perceptions can alter, second viewings really can make a difference.  I mention that because I have the exact same feeling about You Were Never Really Here.  I liked it just fine the first time, but I have a suspicion that if I watched it again I’d be rewarded with falling in love.  If that’s the filmmaker’s fault or my own is up for debate, but I suppose I can only judge the movie on what I’ve already seen and witnessed and felt, not on what I think I’ll experience the next time I pop in the disc.

The Movie

Joe is a walking skeleton in the closet, an embodiment of horrific secrets that are best faced but stay behind the doors, only because confronting them is absolutely too frightening.  He was the child of an abusive relationship, he witnessed terrible things done at the hands of his father, he saw war firsthand, he watched innocence destroyed, and he knows what evil humans are capable of, especially towards those incapable of protecting themselves from the darkness.  Because of all this, Joe has become a creature of the underworld, a hired gun whose job is to find missing kids and to make those who took them pay.  He’s good at what he does, too good, often leaving his humanity behind when he lifts a hammer in his hand, but that only makes him more powerful, more in control, the past lack of which has left him scarred in a place that can’t be seen.

Joe’s latest mission is to find the young daughter of a local politician, a girl who has been unstable since her mother’s death, and who might be in serious trouble somewhere in the belly of the city.  With whatever means necessary, Joe must find her, rescue her, and punish those responsible, bringing her safely home to her father while not raising any compromising alarm.  But this job is more complicated than is usual, has more secrets behind it than is safe, and won’t go as smoothly as Joe hopes.  He’s in way over his head, and the people he must kill won’t go down without a fight.  But they don’t know Joe, don’t know what he’s been through, don’t know how brutal he can be, can’t fathom the depths into which he dives before he faces his enemies and relieves them of their souls.

The more I write about and think about this film, the more I am convinced that I need to give it another chance to impress me, because while I think it’s solid, it never took me beyond that, and I think it might the second time around.  I just have this feeling that there’s more to be discovered, that I need to look more closely, and so I will remind myself of that as I critique the feature, a good one that I think has the potential to be great.  The story is classically simple; a troubled man in a grim town, getting by as best he can, doing the dirty work because it needs done, staying in the shadows because that’s where he feels the most comfortable.  And Phoenix plays that part perfectly, I never doubted that he could or would, he’s a consummate professional, and his skills are on display here.

But let me touch on what I didn’t love the first time around, even if I think some of my opinions might change when I sit down with the film again.  First, Ramsay has been around the block before, although this Scottish director has only released a few feature films.  Morvern Callar was weird, We Need to Talk About Kevin was weird with a point, and You Were Never Really Here is no different, a very strange and deliberate look at violence and trauma, a movie that won’t be for everyone.  It’s a very specific mix between Oldboy (the original is so much better than the remake) and Good Time, both of which are superior films.  Ramsay borrows heavily, which is fine, but without enough of her own ideas to really make a shocking impression.  Even the music seems recycled, fine but not new, and that feeling prevails over the whole picture.  Perhaps when I watch again I’ll stick to my first impression, that the film is imperfect due to its resemblance to many others, but I hope that I’m wrong; I hope the next time I’m blown away.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 (16×9 Widescreen 1080p HD) and shot using an Arri Alexa XT camera with Panavision Primo Anamorphic, C-Series, G30, MAP55, MAP200, ATZ, and AWZ2.3 lenses, the video quality of You Were Never Really Here is definitely a highlight of the film, a real key to the mood aimed at by the director.  The cinematography is exceptional, with a gifted use of color and of atmosphere that’s a credit to the movie.

Audio – The Blu-ray disc was done in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with subtitles available in English SDH and in Spanish.  The sound is a driving force of the action and of the ambiance, it was obvious a ton of work was put in to making the audio mean something.  The score itself was a bit done, I’ve heard others that are very similar, it didn’t seem fresh, but it also was never poor or poorly orchestrated.

Extras – The only bonus features on the disc are a few trailers and some bookmarks for the Blu-ray.

Final Thoughts

Recommended.  While I imagine that another viewing could be quite impacting, I have to go with my first experience, and I also think that some of the film’s flaws will never go away.  I simply want to watch it again so that I can see if the mood and the metaphors will float to the surface a bit more and if the problems will start to sink.  I think there’s a good chance that happens, and I really hope it does, because this is a film I could love given the right moment and understanding.  As is stands now, the details seem a bit recycled and the direction isn’t immaculate, leading to my middling rating.  Joaquin Phoenix isn’t middle of the road though, he’s a standout wherever he appears, and this film is no exception.  The girl was a bit underdeveloped, or perhaps underutilized, the violence could have been capitalized on a touch more, and the whole thing needed an element to set it apart from others of the genre; Joe’s trauma storyline just wasn’t enough.  The video is excellent, the audio strong, but there aren’t many extras, so the technical side is mostly positive but not perfect.  The same could be said for the movie itself, but I hope that shifts after a re-watch; the potential is there for something extraordinary, I just don’t know if it can be tapped.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 


  • 0

DVD Review – Swung

Category : DVD Review

Director: Colin Kennedy

Starring: Elena Anaya, Owen McDonnell, Elizabeth McGovern

Year: 2015

For Colin Kennedy’s first attempt at directing a feature, Swung is a solid double, which could be a baseball or a swingers reference, take you pick.  It’s a better, Scottish, much more serious version of Swinging with the Finkels, which wasn’t a good movie at all, so there was really only one way to go from there.  As far as I know, there haven’t been a ton of swing-curious movies produced, and least more mainstream, non-pornographic ones, as it’s a weird and touchy subject, something that isn’t exactly comfortable to sit down in from of and watch with your mate.  Still, Swung works as an audacious hack the ball, one where you don’t get the most beautiful hit, but at least you made contact.

The Movie

Alice and David are in couples counseling, mostly on account of David’s impotence and anxiety around all things sexual.  It’s a new problem, the young couple were happy before, but recently he just can’t get it up, and if Alice makes any sort of move to fulfill her own desires it results in a row that is centered on David’s shame and embarrassment.  Alice is a journalist, David is a failed designer, which doesn’t help his confidence level, and he’s also dealing with an ex-wife who doesn’t want him to spend much time with his daughter, with official divorce papers hovering over his head as well.  It’s not really the best time in his life, and the fact that he freaks out every Alice puts on the moves isn’t helping matters much.

Her newest story is an expose on the swinging community, an idea brought on by David’s casual joining of a swingers website.  It was a joke at first, but couples actually responded, and David actually got turned on, so Alice is beginning to think that she might be able to kill two birds with one stone.  She can experience what it’s like to share a partner first hand, and she can also potentially please a boyfriend who doesn’t seem able to be pleased.  But first you have to get started, have to meet other swingers, and that’s the awkward part.  And even if you can get past your own inhibitions, there’s still the actually going through with it, with no knowledge of whether or not sex with complete strangers will fix things or break them irrevocably.

For a rather amateur attempt, Swung could have been much, much worse.  It’s a tough subject, it’s very adult and progressive, and some people simply won’t want to watch a film about swinging.  Because it’s not simply a rom/com that involves slight experimentation, this is a serious drama about a failing relationship, one that can’t escape its connection to and dependence on sex.  There is a good amount of nudity, some barriers will be broken, your comfort zone might be stretched, so go in prepared to expand, and don’t watch with your parents.  I’m not sure how couples would respond to watching this film together, whether it would be a turn on or a conversation piece, an eye-opener or simply a dramatic movie.  It’s a bit of all those things, while also being a story about a romance that has lost almost all of its own.

American audiences won’t really recognize these actors; one is Spanish, the other Irish, and neither are huge stars.  Elena Anaya has done a few known films though; she was the evil doctor in Wonder Woman and the sexy brunette in Room in Rome.  She’s fairly strong in Swung, though not remarkable, and I think the same could be said for Owen McDonnell, who is fine but not spectacular.  Elizabeth McGovern makes an appearance, and she’s solid, but her part is rather small.  Taken as a whole, this film is a daring and devilish look into the world of swingers, how it is made up of very normal people with very normal problems, but also how it might not be the healthiest way to deal.  At the same time, the individual elements won’t hold up when set on  their own, but that might simply be a product of inexperience.

The DVD

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 Widescreen and shot using an Arri Alexa camera, the video quality of the DVD is adequate, but not grand.  Much of the theme of the film is darkness, the bedroom, sexy situations, so you won’t see a ton of color and brightness, and Alice even remarks on how dismal Scotland is, so don’t expect to be blown away by the visuals.  Look for soft and somber moments that stand out; there are a few.

Audio – The disc is done in English Dolby Digital audio, with a choice between 5.1 Surround and 2.0 Stereo.  Subtitles are available in English.  That’s it for the sound, and while the music isn’t memorable, I do think that the dialogue was nicely done and well-balanced.  The sound was never choppy, it was always evenly distributed, and I never felt like the audio got away from the director, which is something.

Extras – There are no bonus features on this DVD.

Final Thoughts

Recommended.  I appreciated Swung more than I perhaps thought that I would, and not only for the sex.  The acting was commendable, the story was laid bare, the characters were honest, and I thought the directing was rather nice.  And there was enough sex, it was never a tease, you got what you came for, but it never went overboard to an unbelievable place.  There’s a conversation to be had surrounding this film, and while it isn’t the perfect picture, it can at least say that it pushed audiences a bit further than typical Hollywood fare.  The video is fine, the audio good, you won’t be blown away by those attributes, but neither will you be disappointed, but there aren’t any special features on the disc, so don’t put too much faith in the technical aspects.  I guess this amounts to a middle-of-the-road movie as far as quality is concerned, but the content can’t be denied, and it’s worth something on its own.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 


  • 0

DVD Review – Body of Deceit

Category : DVD Review

Director: Alessandro Capone

Starring: Kristanna Loken, Sarai Givaty, Antonio Cupo

Year: 2015

What’s shocking about Body of Deceit is not that it’s bad; lots of movies are bad, tons of movies actually, thousands of movies, and sometimes you have to slog through them in order to understand what good movies really look like.  Without the bitter, the sweet ain’t as sweet, right?  That applies to films as much as to anything else, how else are you supposed to develop your taste if all you ever taste is the best?  So awful cinema has its niche, it can even be fun, and not every project can be tops.  But sometimes you can still be surprised by just how awful a final product can be, after multiple teams of people sat down and decided that, yes, this movie ought to be released, audiences ought to see it.  Body of Deceit doesn’t deserve to be seen; it deserves to be incinerated.

The Movie

In Malta on vacation, a beautiful woman named Alice was in a terrible accident, resulting in a coma and memory loss.  She can no longer remember the house, the vacation, the accident, or what happened there, it’s all gone in a flash.  Back at home, Alice struggles to continue her job as a ghostwriter for a famous author.  She knows his work in and out, has written as him for years, but can’t get past the block that is stopping up her creativity.  She has frequent nightmares of what happened in Malta, but can never quite form hazy events into one coherent memory.  Before she can ever write again, she’s got to face her past and her fears.

So her husband Max schedules a trip for the pair back to Malta, back to the house, back to the place where it all went down, with the hope that Alice can finally get over whatever happened there, that she will be able to write once more with the talent she once possessed.  But not everything is as it appears to be, and someone is hiding a few very sinister secrets.  The sexy housemaid Sara seems to know more than she lets on, and her constant flirting with Alice is steaming up the glass that Alice is trying to peer through.  She’ll have to shatter it instead, revealing all the hidden truths and her own deeply buried desires.

It’s not that Body of Deceit is bad, it’s that it’s so bad you begin to lose faith in cinema and wonder if you’ll ever enjoy moving pictures ever again.  If this was ever someone’s first experience with film, I’m sure they would never watch another movie, there’s no way this wouldn’t ruin them for life.  I’m even fairly armored against terrible cinema, have learned to enjoy it as much as it can be enjoyed, and this film still almost got me rethinking my profession and my believe in sunshine and chocolate and puppies; how can nice things exist while this movie does?

Of course I’m being dramatic for fun and to make a point, but not completely; it’s actually almost that awful.  The story is so dumb you can barely imagine a human writing it; it would make me feel better if it had been shot out of a computer that had been fed a strict diet of USA Network originals from the 90s.  And it’s insulting to that channel to even mention it in the same breath as this movie, because even those executives would have shot down this script.  It’s embarrassingly bad, as are the actors, who lacked the ability to help out in any way.  You might recognize Kristanna Loken from T3, she was the T-X, but there’s a reason you haven’t heard from her since.  What’s even more sad is that they tried to make this movie sexy, but it’s not even good enough to be called soft core, or even steamy, or even smutty; it’s simply a wasted effort at whatever in God’s name the original effort was for.

The DVD

Video – With an aspect ratio of who knows and shot with a who cares, the video quality of Body of Deceit is the least of its problems, but also somehow another of its flaws.  The cinematography is terrible, regardless of the specs or cameras, and it’s not surprising that more details aren’t available, because who would possibly have taken the time to advertise or dissect this film any more than was absolutely necessary?  The picture is bad, dark and weird at times, and can simply be listed as another piece of evidence in the case to have this film expunged from the record books.

Audio – The audio is the same; not worth mentioning.  The DVD is in English, with an option of 5.1 Surround or 2.0 Stereo.  Subtitles are available in English for the deaf and hearing impaired.  That’s is, and that shows the effort they put into the audio of the film, which is none whatsoever.  There aren’t glaring mistakes, but the music and the dialogue aren’t well-done either, with a cheap feel that won’t shock you.

Extras – There are no bonus features on the disc, thank God.

Final Thoughts

Skip It.  This film truly is among the worst I have ever seen.  It’s a low quality skin flick, which isn’t damning, we’ve all seen enough of those on late at night and there’s nothing evil or inherently wrong with that, it’s just bad cinema done for a cheap thrill.  But this movie couldn’t even do that right.  There are a few boobs, but it feels uncomfortable and strange, not in any way sexy.  The mystery is stupid beyond description, and I’m still not sure what happened, nor do I want to find out.  What I want is to forget that I ever set eyes on this project, that I ever sullied my DVD player with such a pointless disc, and that people ever signed up to be in a movie such as this.  The video, audio, and extras are equally and insanely bad, so don’t go looking for any redeeming characteristics.  Just use me as your guinea pig and stay as far away from this disaster as you possibly can.

☆ – Content

☆ – Video

☆ – Audio

☆ – Extras

☆ – Replay

 

 


  • 0

DVD Review – Devil’s Gate

Category : DVD Review

Director: Clay Staub

Starring: Amanda Schull, Shawn Ashmore, Milo Ventimiglia

Year: 2017

Clay Staub’s filmography won’t take you long to read, he’s only been involved in four films ever, but he has helped on three legitimate movies as an assistant/second unit director, which is to his credit: Dawn of the Dead (the good one), 300 (the original), and The Thing (the remake).  But Devil’s Gate marks his first attempt at writing and at helming a project, which we know is a completely different animal.  I’ve seen this SyFy-quality feature referred to as an episode of the X-Files with absolutely no mystery or talent, and that’s about right, although I see it more as an attempt to recapture Signs with absolutely no excitement or ability whatsoever.  Either way, this is a movie you don’t need to see, and since it’s so utterly terribly, you really shouldn’t want to.

The Movie

A disappearance in a small town has warranted the attention of the FBI after the local cops can’t handle the task, but I’ve got news for you; they aren’t going to understand what the hell is going on either.  Maria Pritchard and her son Jonah have gone missing en route to her sister’s house, a place they stay often given the unpredictable demeanor of their farm’s pater familias, Jackson Pritchard.  Maria and Jackson could not have been more in love, but his religious fervor and her multiple miscarriages have driven a wedge between them, a fresh gap in which Jonah finds himself stuck.  So off to Auntie’s, but unfortunately they never made it there, and their car has not been seen since.  Jackson seems the obvious suspect, he’s as mad as a hatter these days, but there’s more to this tale of woe than meets the eye.

Special Agent Francis is on the case, and it’s a personal one for her, after just failing to save a girl from danger on her last mission; this time she won’t accept failure.  She’s got to work alongside the local police, but Sheriff Gruenwall isn’t being very helpful, he doesn’t even want her heading out to the Pritchard’s spooky farm.  But that’s exactly where she goes, partnering up with young Deputy Salter, who went to school with Jackson and doesn’t want to see any harm come to his lovely family.  In the middle of nowhere, the pair of investigators will stumble upon something more sinister and confusing then they ever could have imagined.  Where exactly did Maria and Jonah go, what specifically is Jackson guilty of, who is hidden in the basement, why do strange storms hit only the nearby fields, and when is this all going to make any sort of sense?!

I almost feel like spoiling the suspense for you now and revealing what all the secrets are so that you don’t feel in the least way curious about how the story comes together, because everyone should be spared this terrible movie, everyone should be warned away before it’s too late.  The twist isn’t even that great, I’ve probably already hinted at it too much, but I guess I won’t spoil it all the way, even though I can’t in good conscience recommend that you watch what honestly is one of the worst movies I’ve ever had the misfortune of watching.  Not that you can’t see it coming for yourself, it doesn’t take much to notice and assume that this film will be terrible; just the cover art of the DVD should tip you off enough to know that you don’t want any piece of this sci-fi mystery gone terribly wrong.

Where to start, where to start; I guess we’ll begin with the name that might catch your attention.  Milo Ventimiglia got a lot of buzz after This Is Us, the super dad who is also super hunky.  I watched some of that show, enough to know that it was way too sappy, and really the only good thing about it was/is Sterling K. Brown.  Whether Milo can actually act or not I can’t say, I’ve not seen him in enough, but this movie isn’t doing him any favors.  His accent, his demeanor, his god-awful lines; not what you want.  Luckily, I guess, everyone around him was equally bad, including Amanda Schull as the lead in a role that she wasn’t nearly talented enough to take on, and Jonathan Frakes with a cameo that was plain dumb.  The entire film is idiotic, with a plot that makes barely any sense, dread that’s just there for dread’s sake, and a crew behind the camera that must simply not have known how to make a good movie.  Don’t get curious and make me tell you what happens at the end, because I will, if only to save you from yourself.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 (1080p HD Widescreen), the video quality of the Blu-ray is the highlight of the film by default, but still isn’t anything to get excited about.  The picture quality is clear, that’s not the problem, it’s just that the cinematography is uninspired, the effects are bad, and the color is always a very dull gray/brown that is completely faded/dated.

Audio – The disc was done in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Surround, with an option of 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo.  Subtitles are available in English and in Spanish.  That’s it for the sound, it’s not very good either, with no score to speak of and no positive characteristics.

Extras – The only bonus feature is a trailer for the film.

Final Thoughts

Skip It.  You’ll thank me later for watching this movie so you don’t have to, or actually you won’t, because you’ll never know what I saved you from.  There are b-movies that work, you can be taken off guard by those and you learn to appreciate them, but Devil’s Gate isn’t one.  It’s a bad movie that never even gets to the point of being so bad that we can laugh along with them.  No one was laughing here, this was serious, we were supposed to be on board for a story about weird happenings on a rural farm and the plucky detectives who crack open the conspiracy.  But that was never going to happen; every single piece was too awful to enjoy, even at the film’s expense.  The video was drab, the audio was boring, there aren’t extras; even the technical aspects will put you to sleep.  Look elsewhere for entertainment, far elsewhere, because you won’t find a sliver of it here.

☆ – Content

☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ – Extras

☆ – Replay

 

 


  • 0

DVD Review – Double Lover

Category : DVD Review

Director: François Ozon

Starring: Marine Vacth, Jeremie Renier

Year: 2017

My experience in foreign language films might not be impressive, but two modern, French-speaking directors stand out when I think about my favorites, or even those who I have watched multiple movies from.  One is Xavier Dolan (I Killed My Mother, Laurence Anyways, Tom at the Farm, It’s Only the End of the World), and the other is Francois Ozon (Swimming Pool, Young & Beautiful, Frantz).  Ozon has a unique vision that eliminates borders, that makes itself felt in any language, that I enjoy experiencing every time.  I didn’t love Double Lover as much as his other films; in fact I found it full of problems.  But that doesn’t stop it from being another stunning feature from this great director, a movie that didn’t find its mark in me, but which still commands your attention and your time.

The Movie

Chloe is an ex-model who finds herself living without a purpose, and experiencing piercings stomach pains, which her doctors think are entirely mental.  So she decides to visit an analyst to talk her way through her problems; her mother’s absence, her feelings of inadequacy, her inability to connect with the world around her.  Her therapist, Paul, is a great listener, comments infrequently, simply letting Chloe unburden herself of all her issues and fears; a basic tactic that works wonders for this beautiful young woman.  Eventually, Chloe and Paul feel a connection between themselves, and they end their professional relationship so that they can take their personal relationship to the next level.

The pair move in together, Chloe’s cat Milo joining the party, and all seems well for a period of time.  But Paul is hiding something, and it will drive a wedge between the young couple.  Apparently Paul changed his last name some time back, for which he claims were just business reasons.  But Chloe soon finds out that Paul has a twin brother, Louis, who is also an analyst, one with an entirely different approach.  As Chloe begins to see him for therapy and to delve more deeply into the secrets that surely exist between these estranged brothers, she finds herself torn between her attractive to both twins.  What comes next is as shocking as it is hard to understand, as the line between reality and fantasy blurs until no one knows what is truly happening.

The film starts with Chloe cutting her hair very short and then an extremely close look at the inside of her vagina during a gynecological exam.  It’s abrupt and edge-setting, I’m sure on purpose, but I don’t believe it had the desired effect.  If it was meant to de-sexualize her, to make her a character instead of an object, then I get the point and appreciate the seriousness with which Ozon took this story.  But it really only served to make audiences uncomfortable, to make the later sex of the film painful and upsetting and grotesque, instead of in any way pleasurable.  Again, if that was the aim, Ozon did his job well, I’m just not sure he thought through the repercussions of making that sort of impact on an audience, of saying yes there will be a lot of sex, but you really aren’t supposed to enjoy it, so get ready to feel guilty if you still enjoy watching any of the actors undress.

So it’s complicated and hard to describe, the feeling that the film is a twisted romance but that we are only supposed to focus on the twisted part.  Make the story sexual or don’t, I wouldn’t recommend making it overtly sexual and then also overtly not; it’s a mixed message that never smoothed out.  Ozon is a fantastic director, but the plot beat him up and took control of the film, he was never holding the reins, and neither were the actors, unfortunately.  Vacth and Renier (twice over) were very strong in every scene, they never took a take off, but the material was just so odd, so dark, so high and low, that their characters could never settle into a specific grove.  Also, too many dreams and fantasies made the timeline choppy and unreliable, until you never could tell what was real and what was fake, so much so that by the end you gave up trying, and any reveals simply weren’t that revolutionary.  Too many mistakes were made and missteps taken for this film to be anything other than impressive but not actually good.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and shot using an Arri Alexa camera with Cooke S4 and Angenieux Optimo lenses, the video quality of the Blu-ray was very nice, with a clear picture that’s as good as you could ask for from a drama with little to no action.  The cinematography focused often on mirror images and duplicates, which was a little expected and amateur; the movie was adapted from a Joyce Carol Oates novel, so perhaps the filmmakers were just translating some of the imagery in the book, it just wasn’t a very original idea.

Audio – The Blu-ray was done in French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with an option of 5.1 Dolby Digital.  Subtitles are available in English.  That’s it for the sound, and I couldn’t even comment on the score because it made so very little impact.  The film focuses on conversations and quiet moments, with some dream sequences that are more “out there”.  But the audio doesn’t stand out in either a positive or a negative way.

Extras – Only two bonus features are available on the disc: a Conversation From The Quad with Francois Ozon and Marine Vacth, and a theatrical trailer.

Final Thoughts

Rent It.  This is the weakest Ozon film I have seen, and it’s still not awful.  The man is a talented director who’s due a low moment every now and again, I have faith that his future projects will be returns to his stellar form.  This one just didn’t sit well with me, bothered me on too many levels, and never developed into something special.  Perhaps the story is a favorite of Ozon’s, because it felt like he forced a plot that wasn’t good enough to be a film into theatres anyway, and even great acting couldn’t save what was always going to happen from happening.  The video was nice, the audio fine, there aren’t many extras, so the film definitely doesn’t focus on the technical, instead aiming at the dramatic, and hitting it square in the nose.  I simply didn’t enjoy watching, despite strong aspects here and there, but I’m ready to give this cast and crew another chance a different time.

☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 


  • 0

DVD Review – Maximilian

Category : DVD Review

Director: Andreas Prochaska

Starring: Jannis Niewohner, Christa Theret

Year: 2016

Like Rome or The Tudors before it, Maximilian attempts to bring history in bite-sized chunks to audiences who have become used to series television, especially the more racy kind that can be found on HBO and Showtime.  This is what we want now; short-run shows that push the boundaries, tell us sordid tales, and leave us wanting more.  Sometimes it turns into Emmy-caliber entertainment, sometimes we’re happy just watching a handful of episodes and then forgetting all about it, but American audiences in particular have shown a specific interest in binge watching; if we can swallow down a bit of education in the mix, all the better.  This Austrian series, which ran in 3 long episodes and is brought to us in 6 smaller segments, is exactly what we’re looking for; blood, sex, a dash of true story, and a whole lot of entertainment value that we don’t have to work hard to consume.

The Movie

The Duke is dead; long live the Duchess.  In 1477, at the end of the Middle Ages, the wealthiest nation in Europe is Burgundy, technically a duchy of France but fiercely led by Charles the Bold, a man who bows to no one.  When Charles dies in battle, the throne is up for grabs, since he left no male heir.  His daughter, Mary of Burgundy, claims the title herself, but without a man to stand beside her that claim holds no power.  The King of France, Louis XI, proclaims that his underaged son must marry Mary, therefore bringing the duchy back under his control.  The new Duchess wants nothing that France has to offer, but money can only buy so many mercenaries, she needs a warrior to lead her armies into battle, and that’s where Maximilian comes in.

In Austria, the impoverished Holy Roman Empire has lost its former glory over the centuries since Rome’s collapse, but Emperor Frederick still reigns, if mostly only in name.  His son, Maximilian, is a brilliant solider and handsome lad; he would make the perfect suitor for Mary of Burgundy.  With Mary’s money and Maximilian’s claim to the god-given title of Holy Roman Emperor, a true dynasty could be established, one to bring the entire continent out of the brutality of the old ways and into the light of modernity.  But first Maximilian will have to survive marauding Hungarians, the plague, and the assassins of the French King, if he is to reach Mary’s side and take her for his wife, turning the page of history with one dramatic sweep.

This series, which watches as a five-hour movie, is exactly the style that American audiences are enjoying right now; I’m surprised that it isn’t more widely known.  Perhaps it simply wasn’t released here; it’s entirely European and makes no attempt to be “Hollywood”.  You can tell because it doesn’t have a random, American explorer or some other ridiculous write in to appease us, which I’m very happy to report.  No, this is Austrian television, coming at you in German, French, Dutch; whatever language the historical figures would have spoken when they were alive.  In that way, I think this series does a tremendous job, but also might lose a few viewers who don’t want to spend the entire time watching subtitles from multiple languages, until their heads are spinning with accents, dialects, official names, and ancient map references.  But that all sounds good to be, as a history and a movie buff, so judge for yourself.

I was concerned at the beginning, because the first few episodes are full of court appearances and blustery discourses.  I didn’t know how many more times I could watch Maximilian be summoned to his father’s throne room to get a lecture, and then switch to a different country to see the same thing from a different royal family.  But thankfully that only lasted long enough to set events in motion; then the more dramatic elements began to pick up steam.  This is a love story at its core; Mary and Maximilian were said to have a true romance, and their relationship set the stage for the Renaissance in later years.  We see that love, some appropriate nudity, a side story or two, a touch of combat and battle; all the makings of an epic, European, Medieval melodrama, and almost always in the best ways.  What more could you ask for from a limited series; I really think that if more people got their hands on this tale it could break out in a big way.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (1920x1080p), the video quality of the Blu-ray disc is excellent, everything you could hope for from a period piece of this nature delivered in a format that raises the ceiling.  The cinematography was lovely, as were the sets and the costumes, a real transformative piece of cinema.  The color tended toward dark, but that shouldn’t be surprising, given the era, and otherwise the picture was very nice.

Audio – The disc was done in German and French DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 or 2.0.  Subtitles are available in English.  The audio quality is great as well, with a stirring soundtrack that helps move events along and will be stuck with you long after you stop watching.  The balance and sound mixing were done very nicely, no problems from the audio in any way, and the score only added to my enjoyment.

Extras – There is only one bonus feature available; a trailer for the film.

Final Thoughts

Highly Recommended.  I can recommend this feature because I enjoyed it so much, but I have to acknowledge that others might not feel as strongly about it as I do.  I love history, especially European and Medieval, so this story was right up my alley.  Also, incidentally, I love accents, attempting to place them, and following along with foreign languages as I try to pick out words I understand, especially with the help of subtitles.  And I’m a film critic, so really this movie just fell into my lap.  I would hope that others would be entertained by it too, because it’s in the current style and format, I only question audiences’ ability to stick with it when it takes a little work to follow through the course of history.  But the acting is great, the action is intense, it always feels real, and I could have watched more; it only got better and better after a bit of a slow start.  The video is very attractive, the audio is strong, there aren’t many extras, so the technical aspects are mostly positive, and definitely won’t distract.  Given a solid chance, this series could impress you; it did me.

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay

 


  • 0

DVD Review – My Friend Dahmer

Category : DVD Review

Director: Marc Meyers

Starring: Ross Lynch, Alex Wolff, Anne Heche

Year: 2017

Anne Heche puts on the best performance of her career in My Friend Dahmer, and she’s probably the third best thing about this film, which you should take as a very healthy sign.  For a movie nobody saw about a serial killer nobody wants to remember, this strange biography does so many things right, and cements itself as an under-the-radar yet top-notch production that will surprise a few people when they finally get around to popping it into there DVD player.  That doesn’t help the filmmakers or the cast and crew, but it’s something; My Friend Dahmer is better than the limited coverage it received and should be bumped up your list.

The Movie

Based on the true story as written by Jeffrey Dahmer’s best and basically only friend, John Backderf, this is a look at his high school days, junior and senior years, when his madness began to creep toward the surface and his childish idiosyncrasies became full-blown psycho killer profile chapters.  Jeff was an unhappy and unsocial kid, the eldest son in a family living in Ohio and who were about to go through a divorce.  His mother was mentally unstable, his father was a quiet chemist, his little brother was just in the way.  Jeff was a part of the high school band, but he only did it to appease his parents’ need for him to be “involved”, to be normal.  What he really liked most was to be by himself in his shed with his dead animals.

Yes, dead animals; Jeffrey’s hobby was finding roadkill, putting it in an acid solution, and watching it dissolve.  He was fascinated by bones and the internal secrets of biology, but not exactly in the healthy way that would lead you to believe that he would someday be a famous biologist.  Jeff was also gay but closeted, violent but submerged, desperate for human interaction but unsure how to initiate it.  He would find a sort of fame within his school by acting like he was having fits or seizures, what the kids at school started calling “doing a Dahmer”.  He would even become a sort of mascot for the Dahmer Fan Club, but these boys, including ‘Derf’ Backderf were only partially interested in being his friend, mostly just amused by his strange antics.  During his senior year, Jeff became more withdrawn and began to fantasize more often about violence, a clear path toward his infamy beginning where no one could see it.

One thing this film does well (and I mention it right away because I worry that the summary will make it sound like the opposite) is paint Dahmer in a pathetic light, not in a sympathetic one.  That’s a tricky balance to find, making sure that your audience relats to your main character, but not justifying the terrible things that he did, especially since Jeffrey Dahmer is perhaps the most notorious and disgusting serial killer in American history.  He’s shown as human, sure, and also as sad, but more disturbed and wrong, not misunderstood.  Again, I think that must have been a very difficult tight rope, and so credit needs to go to the director/screenwriter Marc Meyers for figuring out where the tipping point was and keeping his film centered from start to finish.

Now on to the movie, which was surprisingly good.  I hadn’t heard much about it, not many people had seen it, it came and went so fast, and it just didn’t make a splash.  Perhaps that’s because its star is a teen/pop/kids movie kind of actor, or at least has been so far, so no one took him seriously.  They will now; Lynch doesn’t deliver a groundbreaking performance, Dahmer isn’t given the permission in this film to be the hero or the emotional catalyst, but he does a very fine job in what must have been a difficult spot.  Wolff was strong as Derf, and the entire school was filled with believable characters and awesome, dated references.  But it was Anne Heche who stole the show; I never thought I’d say that.  She was great as Mrs. Dahmer, playing the part perfectly, and I honestly didn’t know it was her for a while at the beginning of the story, she was so transformative.  This is a snapshot of the life of a maniac, and although we won’t be talking about it come Oscar time, we should be taking more notice of it than we have to this point, because it deserves its due applause.

The DVD

Video – Shot using an Arri Alexa XT camera with Panavision Primo Prime Anamorphic lenses, the video quality of the film is strong enough to escape notice, not great enough to deserve notice, and somehow perfectly dated to fit the time period in which the action was set.  Some of the visuals were great, most of the film you won’t remember for the cinematography, but the whole thing captures an era very well, making it fun to watch without being a dazzling masterpiece.

Audio – The disc was done in English, with an option of 5.1 Surround or 2.0 Stereo.  Subtitles are available in English, for the deaf and hearing impaired.  That’s it for the sound, except for some rad tunes played by the high school kids in the film, which set the mood of the time period nicely.  The rest of the audio is forgettable, but often that can be a good thing; if you didn’t plan something huge in the sound department, you probably don’t mind it going unnoticed.

Extras – There are three bonus features available on the DVD: an interview with Ross Lynch, a behind-the-scenes slide show, and an official theatrical trailer.

Final Thoughts

Highly RecommendedMy Friend Dahmer is an intimate look at some of the formative years of a disturbed young man who would grow up to be a twisted killer; if that doesn’t sound like a fun Friday night I don’t know what does.  All joking aside, this film takes a touchy subject and makes it something more than a coming-of-age dramody about a serial killer, something more honest than you might imagine based solely on quick assumptions and one trailer.  Basically, they did this tale right, and hats off to all involved.  Judging it as an award-worthy drama may not be the best idea, but accepting it on face value, I can attest to, is a good idea.  The video, audio, and extras are all fine without being special, so don’t expect big things technically.  But be prepared to be surprised by the size of the story here; it’s more impressive than you might imagine.

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 


  • 0

DVD Review – Big Business

Category : DVD Review

Director: Jim Abrahams

Starring: Bette Midler, Lily Tomlin

Year: 1988

Jim Abrahams’ claim to fame is directing Airplane! and Hot Shots!; you know you’re doing something wrong when your movies end with exclamation marks.  He also directed Big Business, which is a comedy from a different angle, more a theatrical stage production than a slapstick goof romp like his others.  But at least those former two are so ridiculous that they’ve reached cult status; the same cannot be said for this latter film.  It’s pure comedy, it features two big stars, I remember it from my late childhood, but I’m almost disappointed that I watched it again, because it barely holds up and is, at most times, barely funny.

The Movie

In a small town deep in the woods of West Virginia, two very different couples rush to the hospital to deliver their babies, and a simple mistake will change the course of their children’s lives.  The Sheltons are visiting from New York City; they are rich, snooty, and none too happy about having to visit the local hospital.  The Ratliffs are natives of the town, have a whole gaggle of kids back home, and couldn’t be happier to add more to the family.  Coincidentally, both couples have twin girls and both name them Rose and Sadie.  But a distracted nurse accidentally switches one of each pair, sending a Ratliff girl to NYC, and keeping a Shelton girl right here in WV.

Fast forward through the years and a twist of fate will bring the two pairs of sisters back together again.  In New York, Sadie Shelton runs the family business with her sister Rose, and is looking to buy out a company in Jupiter Hollow, West Virginia.  Who advocates for that company, who is against the buyout, is none other than Rose Ratliff with her sister Sadie.  The Ratliffs will travel to NYC to confront the Sheltons, not knowing that their biological sister will be there during the meeting.  Hilarity, of course, ensues, as the women are confused for one another by literally everyone in the city, and events get so mixed up that there’s no telling how the buyout will turn out, or who will go home with who.

I remember liking this movie a bit more when I was younger than I did this time around, which I guess is not surprising, considering I was a tween or however old and I was amused by simple misunderstandings.  That’s the basis for many comedies, and sometimes it works perfectly because the timing is genius, but always it’s a bit silly and predictable.  Big Business watched like a stage production, with the small town girls coming to the big city and all the mix ups that occur, which doesn’t help it be taken seriously by film audiences.  My wife, who is from West Virginia, thought it could have been way more insulting to backwoods people, especially given the era in which it came out, so I guess some credit should go to the filmmakers for not “going there”.

As far the acting is concerned, there were some ups and downs.  Bette Midler is always over-the-top, Lily Tomlin is a bit slapstick, but they worked well together as both pairs of sisters.  The supporting cast was interesting: Fred Ward, Edward Herrmann, Michael Gross, Joe Grifasi who I remember from Brewster’s Millions.  Most of the action takes place in a hotel, with close calls coming out of elevators, women buying the same dresses, their boyfriends confusing which was which; I think you get the drift as soon as you hear the bare bones of the story.  It was executed well for having such a low ceiling, but doesn’t exactly wow after a second viewing, especially as an adult, especially after 30 years.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (1920x1080p) and shot using a Panaflex Camera (lenses by Panavision), the video quality of the film is poor, but understandably so.  It isn’t any worse than other movies from the 80s, and the transfer to the Blu-ray is fine.  There isn’t much cinematography to speak of, you won’t notice any incredible shots, so the visuals will never stand out, but they’re OK for the era.

Audio – The Blu-ray was done in English, with an option or 5.1 or 2.0.  Subtitles are available, but only in English.  That’s it for the audio, and although there is a bit of music throughout, you won’t remember what you heard because it won’t leave an impression.  The audio balance was fine, with no warbling, so the sound holds up, especially considering the age of the film.

Extras – The special features are few; Audio Commentary with Director Jim Abrahams and four theatrical trailers.

Final Thoughts

Recommended. If Big Business was a favorite thirty years ago, you might want to leave it in the past.  It’s a farce comedy based on mistaken identity and convenient timing; like Noises Off, but not quiet as good.  The stars do double duty, which is amusing, but the gag doesn’t hold its humor for long, and by the end I was ready for the confusion to be solved so that everyone could go home happy so that I could go to bed.  Still, I appreciate what all involved were trying to do, I can remember that it was made in 1988, not 2018, and there are some laughs to be had along the way if you’re willing to loosen up the critic’s cap a bit.  The video is dated, the audio is forgettable, and there aren’t many bonus features, so don’t look too closely at the technical aspects.  But watch relaxedly and enjoy mildly; the movie is worth about that much.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ – Replay