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I Want My VOD: February 2012

by admin February 15, 2012 3:42 pm
I Want My VOD: February 2012

Eva Green and Ewan McGregor are perfectly senseless in Perfect Sense.

Perfect Sense
Portuguese novelist José Saramago isn't thanked in the credits of the European indie Perfect Sense, but he (or his estate, since the writer passed away in 2012) at the very least deserves a shout-out, if not a cut of the movie's profits, as director David Mackenzie and writer Kim Fupz Aakeson have quite clearly been influenced by Saramago's best-selling 1995 novel, Blindness. In that book (and the underrated film version), society collapses when a mysterious outbreak of blindness sweeps across the globe. Not content to rob mankind of just one sense, Mackenzie and Aakeson concoct an alternate reality in which a strange virus claims each of the five senses in succession. The first to go is smell, followed by taste, and then hearing and so on until the world literally goes dark when everyone's eyesight fails at once. Like Blindness, Perfect Sense uses this apocalyptic scenario as a backdrop for a smaller-scale story, specifically the up-and-down romance between a chef (Ewan McGregor) and a scientist (Eva Green). As the world goes to pieces, repairs itself and then goes to pieces all over again when another sense vanishes, these two cling to each other, desperately seeking the kind of stability that's steadily vanishing outside their front door. Where Blindness successfully made its slightly absurd premise feel all too real, Perfect Sense never achieves the same level of verisimilitude largely because the central relationship between McGregor and Green fails to ring true. Both are talented, attractive actors, but they simply don't connect here. And without real emotions for us to grasp onto, the movie ends up feeling like silly speculative fiction. (Available via IFC on Demand)
Best Scene: Just before the population loses their sense of taste, everyone in the world is suddenly compelled to consume whatever is at hand, be it a raw slab of meat or a gallon of mustard.

Return
A modern-day version of Hal Ashby's 1978 drama Coming Home, Return swaps out Jon Voight's returning veteran with one played by Linda Cardellini and exchanges the Vietnam War for Iraq. An army reservist, Kelli was unexpectedly called up for active duty and sent to the Middle East, leaving behind her husband Mike (Michael Shannon) and their two young daughters. Now her tour is over and she's come back to her small town, where life has moved on without her. Struggling to readjust to a civilian existence, Kelli no longer finds any pleasure in her job at a local factory, her best friends or her husband, who, in her absence, struck up a flirtation with a cute redhead that blossomed into an affair. As her depression worsens, she starts drinking too much and makes a series of bad decisions that threaten to cost her the only thing that still matters -- her kids. Writer/director Liza Johnson is admirably committed to presenting how difficult life on the home front can be for veterans, but after a certain point, the movie becomes a somewhat tedious exercise in watching bad things happen to a decent person. Nice to see Cardellini finally land a meaty role again, though. (Available from Focus World via On Demand and iTunes; also playing in limited theatrical release)
Best Scene: Kelli bonds with another veteran, Bud (John Slattery), who seems to understand her, but soon reveals that he's even more messed up than she is.

Gnarr
If you think the American political system is populated by jokesters, just wait until you see who the citizens of Reykjavík, Iceland had the option of electing the city's mayor. Jón Gnarr Kristinsson was a former punk rocker turned actor and comedian when he decided to change career tracks completely and run for higher office three years ago. Seizing on the widespread anger against the country's current government in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis that affected Iceland as much (if not more) than America, Gnarr formed the Best Party and recruited other candidates who had zero political experience to run for seats on the city council while he campaigned for the mayorship. Maybe because his campaign platform included such wacky, but crowd-pleasing notions as free towels at all public swimming pools and the country's own branch of Disneyland he proved quite popular with voters, much to the shock and dismay of the career politicians he was running against. You'll have to see the movie (or Google Gnarr's name) to see how his bid turned out, but let's just say that Stephen Colbert may want to seriously reconsider his Presidential bid. (Available from Focus World via On Demand and iTunes)
Best Scene: Gnarr gets super-excited when he learns that he and Barack Obama have the same favorite character from The Wire: Omar Little. (Duh -- who else would you pick?)

The Tents
Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston
Just in time for New York's Fashion Week, here are two fashion-themed documentaries for the haute couture fan in all of us. James Belzer's The Tents revisits the birth of Fashion Week and the iconic Bryant Park tents that came to symbolize the event. A fashion journalist himself, Belzer scores interviews with some of the industry's biggest names, including Betsey Johnson, Isaac Mizrahi (who, let's face it, will pretty much talk to anyone with a camera) and Nina Garcia. A trim 70 minutes, the movie doesn't have a lot of substance to it, but as a highlight reel of the past few decades in fashion history, it's fun to watch. Certainly much more fun that Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston, in which first-time director Whitney Sudler-Smith rambles around the country tracking down people that knew or worked with the famed New York designer, Halston, who died in 1990 after defining Big Apple fashion in the '70. But it quickly becomes clear that Smith is far less interested in Halston as a fashion designer and more compelled by the glamorous life he led in the nonstop bacchanal that was '70s-era New York. Many of his questions are along the lines of "So what was Studio 54 really like" rather than "So how did Halston develop his style?" We get it -- you wish you had been born forty years earlier. Maybe make a movie about that instead of one that purports to be a biography of a fashion legend. (The Tents and Ultrasuede are both available via On Demand.)
Best Scene: Hearing Garcia recount the origin of Project Runway in The Tents and watching Liza Minnelli encourage a clearly out-of-his-depth Smith to "do more research" before he continues his film, Ultrasuede.

Also on VOD This Month
Movies on Demand: Don't just watch the Brazilian cop picture Elite Squad: The Enemy Within because it's a tense, thrilling action film. Watch it because director José Padilha is currently set to helm the Robocop remake.
IFC On Demand: A young married couple tries to deal with the serious illness that has befallen their infant daughter in Declaration of War.
Magnolia on Demand: Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie brings the surreal craziness of Adult Swim's Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job to the big (and small) screen.

Think you've got game? Prove it! Check out Games Without Pity, our new area featuring trivia, puzzle, card, strategy, action and word games -- all free to play and guaranteed to help pass the time until your next show starts.

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