Debuting on DVD and Blu-ray this week: the Coen brothers’ True Grit, with Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld; the silly romantic comedy Just Go With It, starring Adam Sandler; the thriller Sanctum, by director Alister Grierson; plus a look at Blue Crush 2 and the final season of Stargate Universe.
The Western is alive and well once more, thanks to Joel and Ethan Coen.
Remaking the classic John Wayne film of the same name–which is based on the book by Charles Portis–the Coen brothers deal out their particular blend of dark humour and tense thrills with Jeff Bridges in the lead as Rooster Cogburn, a U.S. Marshal trying to help a young woman, the tough-as-nails Mattie, played by newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, avenge her father’s murder.
Josh Brolin co-stars as Tom Chaney, the murderer on the run, while Matt Damon plays a moderately disagreeable Texas ranger who has a tough time accepting Mattie on the hunt for the thief and lowlife.
This is a classic retelling of Portis’ original tale and like No Country For Old Men, the Coen brothers once again follow the source material religiously, from the story to the old fashioned dialogue.
From a filmmaking perspective, this is essentially the best western in decades, and it’s a powerful experience because the Coens invest the film with pathos, wit, and yes, of course, more than a little grit. What makes the film astounding though is the texture, and the way that the Coens have captured this era on film. It’s one thing to call a recreation of this era authentic, but quite another to feel like you’re living through another time period. Very few films have ever been successful at rooting the viewer in another time, but the Coen brothers do it with ease once more.
Finally, it’s worth spending some time praising the two leads, Bridges and Steinfeld, both of whom provide stunning performances as these two strangers who find commonality, despite their age differences, and every other obstacle in between. That Bridges could pull off this role is not surprising in the least, he’s one of this generation’s best actors, but Steinfeld has proven in this film that she could be a tremendous actress, since she’s already pretty astounding in her first big film.
There are probably only two reasons you might want to see Just Go With It: either you’re a guy, and the ads featuring Brooklyn Decker had you convinced the moment she appeared in a bikini, or you’re a fan of Adam Sandler and you’ll watch his films no matter what.
Either way, it’s hard to imagine any circumstance where you’re going finish this film happily after seeing director Dennis Dugan’s disaster that features the pleading title, Just Go With It.
Sandler stars as Danny, a plastic surgeon who is trying to woo a much younger woman, played by Decker. As he attempts to cover up for a lie that he got caught in, Danny is forced to pretend that he’s in the process of divorcing his wife, who actually happens to be his assistant, played here by Jennifer Aniston. As the lie mushrooms into even more lies, Danny and his friends, and his potential new love, will head to Hawaii for a trip that will likely change everything.
Speaking of the film’s pedigree, Just Go With It is clearly a dog under the direction of Dennis Dugan, who directed Grown Ups, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, and National Security, to name a few. If those are film you enjoyed, then perhaps you’ll enjoy Just Go With It, but critics have done nothing but slam the film, calling it “unfunny,” “predictable,” and even “depressing.”
Andrew Barker of Variety called the film “A puerile kiddie-comedy without the anarchic energy, and a schmaltzy romantic comedy without the sweetness.”
Although Scott Bowles of USA Today did note in his review, “When Adam Sandler isn’t making bathroom jokes or talking like a 2-year-old with a sinus infection, the guy can be disarming.”
If Universal Pictures can drill one thing into your head this week, it looks like they’re banking on the name dropping power of executive producer James Cameron to get you watching their latest release, Sanctum.
Forget director Alister Grierson, who up until now was really only known for one feature film, and forget about the actors, whoever they are; what you really need to remember is that a talented directed helped produce Sanctum.
The funny thing is, as anyone who has seen Transformers or Transformers 2 will tell you, producers can’t glue together a bad script, a terrible concept, or bad direction, so Universal may as well lie and tell you that the future King of England produced Sanctum because it’s essentially meaningless.
In this action-thriller, Richard Roxburgh stars as Frank, an expert diver who is trapped with his team of divers in the South Pacific’s Esa-ala Caves. Trying to survive with minimum supplies, and a group that includes two amateurs, the divers will have to try everything to escape what could become a watery grave if they’re not careful.
From a technical perspective, Sanctum is obviously nothing to laugh at. The film features Oscar-nominated filmmakers, including composer David Hirschfelder, and editor Mark Warner, and if you pick up the 3-D version, those effects come courtesy of Cameron’s film system that helped bring Avatar to life.
On the flip side though, the script was written by first-time screenwriter John Garvin and documentarian Andrew Wight, two people who essentially don’t have a history with action-thrillers, and the critical response proves that the script ruins what could be an otherwise tense thriller.
Glenn Kenny of MSN Movies wrote, “The rambling, staggering story line toggles clumsily between depictions of natural disasters and human error and/or treachery without ever hitting anything like a stride.”
One of the few critics to offer much praise for Sanctum, Peter Howell of the Toronto Star was willing to note, “For much of the film, and despite groan-worthy dialogue that often takes you right out of the picture, you’ll likely be holding your breath in genuine suspense.”
Director and producer Mike Elliot heads back to the surf for this direct-to-video sequel about a young girl who dreams of being a great surfer, following in the footsteps of her dearly departed mother.
Running away from her father and their Beverly Hills home at the age of 18, Dana, played by Sasha Jackson, heads to South Africa for the biggest waves at the world-renowned J-Bay. Little does Dana realize though, but she’s not really ready for the troubles, and the adventures, that wait, but with the help of at least one good friend, played by Sharni Vinson, she might see her dream become a reality.
Aiming to be a more authentic surfer girl movie, at least compared to the original film, Blue Crush 2 does work as an inspirational movie for younger girls, but any authenticity the film earns is dashed by the film’s Disney-esque music video style, and the girlish script. If you’re an adult, that means you can aim for bigger waves than Blue Crush 2.
SGU: Stargate Universe – The Complete Final Season
Starring: Robert Carlyle, Louis Ferreira, Brian J. Smith, Elyse Levesque, David Blue, Alaina Huffman, Jamil Walker Smith, Ming-Na
Aside from the demise of Dead Like Me, I’ve rarely been as upset by a show’s cancellation as when SyFy, the most idiotically named television channel in mankind’s history, decided they were done with Stargate Universe.
Taking the Stargate franchise in a new direction, Stargate Universe gave old and new fans something fresh to puzzle over. Instead of a team of soldiers fighting across the galaxy, SGU threw a group of military personnel together with a multitude of civilians, and looked at how sparks started flying as they tried to survive together on an ancient spaceship unstoppably travelling across the galaxy. At the same time, the group is trying to figure out where the ship is going, why a number of aliens have it out for them, and what will happen if they can’t gain control of the ship.
The second season started off with the crew fighting the Lucian Alliance, who were trying to seize control of the Destiny, but once that problem was overcome the group had a much bigger problem to deal with–namely the drone ships that preceeded the Destiny.
Taking the best opportunities they had to wrap up the series, the second and final season of SGU is not as compelling as it should have been, but the show still goes out with a blast of energy, style, and most importantly–which is what set it apart from the average television shows–thoughtful passion.
Although the Blu-ray of the second season is oddly not available yet, probably since a Blu-ray release of the “complete series” is being prepared, the DVD set includes a number of great extras, including commentaries on all episodes, interviews, and behind-the-scenes featurettes.