DVD Tuesday: ‘Bank Job’ & ‘Penelope’

by W. Andrew Powell

The Bank Job

Jason Statham and his crew in The Bank Job

Hot new releases this week include The Bank Job, with Jason Statham once again playing the part of a mesmerizing thief; Christina Ricci as the doe-eyed, pig-nosed Penelope; and the ridiculous horror movie Shutter, with Joshua Jackson as a haunted photographer.

The Bank Job
Jason Statham has become synonymous with shoot outs, car chases, and other crime shenanigans, which suggests the poor guy is being typecast or something. But from the good films to the bad, Statham always delivers that rugged anti-hero charm, and The Bank Job is no exception. In fact, it’s one of the best films Statham has been involved in.

Based on an infamous London robbery in 1971, The Bank Job is a heist thriller about a group of petty criminals who team up for a single job that could set them for the rest of their lives. Statham stars as Terry, a small-time criminal with a wife and kids who only gets involved with the heist after his old friend Martine, played by Saffron Burrows, swears it’s a sure thing.

Bringing together his most trust-worthy friends, Terry and his crew plan the perfect heist, tunnelling under the bank to break in, so they can walk away with the fortune at their leisure. But Martine has other plans, and has been sent into the job by the British government who are trying to get their hands on scandalous and damning photos that could cause trouble for the Royal Family.

Setting itself well apart from other heist films, The Bank Job achieves a level of reality that is gritty, and thrilling. The action is quick, the story flies by, and there is even an uncommon depth to the tale, particularly in Terry’s relationship to Martine and his wife, and the way he eventually has to break bad news to his family.

In any given year I see dozens of mind-numbing, ridiculous films that will leave me questioning my love of cinema, and yet it boggles my mind when I read what critics have to say about a film like Penelope.

This charming modern fairy tale stars Christina Ricci as the cursed Penelope, a young woman born with a pig’s snout and ears after an indiscretion in the well-to-do blueblood’s family tree caused a witch to curse the next Wilhern girl to be born. Generations pass before the next legitimate girl is born, but when Penelope finally arrives her mother, played by Catherine O’Hara, can’t bear to have her daughter live like a freakshow and fakes the girl’s death, hiding her within the mansion for years.

When she is finally of age, Penelope’s family arranges for secret meetings with dozens of suitors, who the legend suggests can break the curse if they accept her. James McAvoy plays the part of Max, a well-to-do gambler sent into the mansion as a possible suitor so he can capture a photo of Penelope. The only problem is that he finds himself falling for her.

Penelope is a funny film, with a few stand-out performances, including McAvoy and a few key scenes with the doll-eyed Ricci. While the story never aspires to greatness, winding its way through antics we have all seen before, it is a sweet film that will resonate with girls and dreamy-eyed adults.

The most terrifying thing about this dull, ridiculous film is that there are people out there, right now, contemplating watching it. Even now, the curse is spreading like some inane virus as the marketing team churns out vaguely haunting advertising that promises a scary ride. The truth is closer to what you get riding through one of the haunted houses where the mechanical monsters have burnt out light bulbs and stray wires sticking out.

Poor, ridiculous Joshua Jackson stars as Ben, on a working honeymoon in Tokyo with his new wife Jane, played by Rachael Taylor. Ben is a photographer who can’t stop taking pictures of his blushing bride, at least until they start noticing spirit trails, or unexplainable marks in nearly all of his photos. That’s after Jane sees a woman on the road and thinks she has somehow run her over, but then where did the body go?

What follows is 85 minutes of the suckiest horror you will ever see. There is literally not a scary frame in the whole film, unless of course you include the opening credits. The film’s total failure shouldn’t surprise anyone however since it is yet another “based on a much better Asian horror film” that has been remade by Hollywood with no attention to scripting, editing, or proper direction.

Meet Bill
Watching Meet Bill inevitably reminded me of Aaron Eckhart‘s winning performance in Thank You For Smoking, but this time out Eckhart’s role in a suite is as a lowly man who serves no purpose at work or at home. Marrying into a rich family, Bill has a pointless position at a bank, and no dreams except perhaps to open a donut store. When he finds out that his wife Jess, played by Elizabeth Banks, is cheating on him with a news anchorman, played by an under-used Timothy Olyphant, he starts a downward spiral that ends with him living in a tent on his brother’s lawn.

Logan Lerman and Jessica Alba co-star in this odd little comedy, that plays it safe with a relatively obvious plotline. Meet Bill lacks any real meat, or gut-wrenching laughs, but I was amused by Eckhart’s performance, as well as winning turns by Lerman and Alba.

Step Up 2: The Streets
Last up this week, for the dance fans out there, Step Up 2: The Streets arrives packed full of dance sequences crammed into a plotless tale of a new girl arriving at school and trying to find her way. Briana Evigan stars as Andie, an outsider at an arts school where she’s just too different to fit in. Robert Hoffman co-stars as Chase, the bad boy dancer who helps Andie pull together a new dance crew, which pays off in the final, gigantic, rain-soaked dance number.

Television arriving on DVD…

Season one of Saving Grace debuts on DVD this week, starring Holly Hunter, the show revolves around an angel who appears to Grace, telling her that she is going to go to Hell unless she turns over a new leaf and serves God. Grace drinks and smokes, sleeps around, and seems unlikely to change her ways, but she is also a detective and her first chat with her angel leads to more questions.

Also arriving this week is the complete ninth season of Dallas, which ran for fourteen season on television, and the complete series of Birds of Prey, a short-lived show about crime-fighting set of Batman-wannabes in the city of New Gotham.

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