Tuesday, September 15, 2009

DVD Reviews (Surveillance, Duplicity, Delgo)

SURVEILLANCE (**1/2) - Starring Julia Ormond, Bill Pullman, Pell James, French Stewart, Michael Ironside, Kent Harper, Mac Miller, Ryan Simpkins and Cheri Oteri.
Directed by Jennifer Lynch.

It's been a long journey to her second film, but David's daughter makes a pretty decent, grimy little thriller that's better than it probably deserves to be.

Two FBI agents come to a small town to investigate some brutal murders. We know that two cops, a boyfriend-girlfriend team, and a family of four (mom, dad, son, daughter) were involved, and in the aftermath, we know that only one cop, the girlfriend, and the daughter are still alive. As the three relate what happened in three separate rooms, the truth slowly unfolds.

Lynch gets effective performances from unexpected sources. French Stewart, best known as the squinty-eyed one from 3rd Rock from the Sun, plays a chilling cop. He and his partner get off on shooting out tires of strangers driving through these parts, then terrorizing them with the good cop / bad cop routine. SNL vet Cheri Oteri plays exactly the kind of loving mother that Wes Craven would kill off halfway through. And for what he's supposed to do, Bill Pullman gets the quirks of his agent into Twin Peaks territory.

The ending's a little easier to guess than I would have liked.


DUPLICITY (**) - Starring Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Tom Wilkinson, and Paul Giamatti.
Directed by Tony Gilroy.

Ocean's 2.

This con-game featuring two ex-spies should have been better. The pedigree's there, the dialogue's there. What's missing? I never felt engaged with what the characters were doing nor did I care about their fate. I was more interested when Tom Wilkinson or Paul Giamatti was on-screen as either of the two unscrupulous CEO's, which is Problem #1. Problem #2 is that there are so many twists and turns and cons within cons that I stopped caring what the truth actually was.

It also doesn't help that the story's told out of order. Sometimes the lack of narrative order makes the movie better (Pulp Fiction, Memento, Once Upon A Time in the West, etc.) Not here.

Now Julia Roberts and Clive Owen can both hold the screen, and I noticed I did enjoy their scenes when they're just talking about side matters, but when it got back to the story, I didn't care. Because one or both of them could be lying and we won't know until the end what the case is.


DELGO (*1/2) - Starring the voices of Freddie Prinze Jr., Jennifer Love Hewitt, Chris Kattan, Anne Bancroft, Val Kilmer, Malcolm MacDowell, Eric Idle, Michael Clarke Duncan, Louis Gossett Jr., and Kelly Ripa.

I had no intention of ever seing this, but after the Avatar preview, I had to.

On one hand, it's a fairly generic war-story. Two different races live near each other. One evil instigator frames both sides for things to make them go to war so she can then assume the throne of one of the sides. But a boy from Team A (named Delgo) and a girl from Team B meet in secret and fall in love, and together they set out to expose her.

Its main problem is that its one attempt at humor is through Delgo's best friend voiced by Chris Kattan. It's a twitchy annoying Jar Jar type character.

As it's animated, both races are not human. One side looks like gelfings from The Dark Crystal, the other side look like the lizard race from Enemy Mine. One side has wings, the other side can use the Force with red rocks. Or something like that. The sides fight, it's all bloodless to keep a PG, but neither my 6-year-old nor 11-year-old liked it.

Must've been on the shelf for a while too. Didn't Anne Bancroft die about three years ago?

Come to think of it, the final big battle reminded me a lot of Attack of the Clones. So there's just three ways it reminded me of Star Wars to its detriment.

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