Quantcast
Channel: Good Efficient Butchery
Viewing all articles
Browse latest Browse all 1212

On DVD/Blu-ray: ARMY OF ONE (2016); THE SEA OF TREES (2016); and ITHACA (2016)

0
0
ARMY OF ONE
(US - 2016)



The story of Gary Faulkner, the "Rocky Mountain Rambo" who took a series of trips to Pakistan armed with only a samurai sword after claiming God told him to capture Osama Bin Laden, has all the ingredients for an interesting film. It's a surprise then, that ARMY OF ONE--arriving on DVD/Blu-ray just a week and a half after debuting on VOD--fails so spectacularly. Directed by Larry Charles (BORAT, CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM) and written by Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman, the duo who scripted the entertaining Kevin Costner football movie DRAFT DAY, ARMY OF ONE hits a brick wall the moment Nicolas Cage opens his mouth. Faulkner, a pony-tailed stoner and part-time handyman with bad kidneys, is an eccentric character who's right up Cage's alley, but the actor sabotages the entire film by playing Faulkner as a nasally, screechy-voiced kook, when the real man's various talk show appearances in the wake of his bonkers pursuit showed him to be an affable, amusing, and occasionally even peculiarly charming oddball nothing like the freakish Bizarro Faulkner that Cage is playing here. Cage's grating, mannered, fingernails-on-a-blackboard performance is arguably the worst of his career, one straight out of a trainwreck ten-to-1:00 sketch on SNL. As soon as he speaks, every subsequent moment of ARMY OF ONE is excruciating.





God (Russell Brand, cast radically against type as "Russell Brand") first appears to Faulkner in 2004, during one of his dialysis treatments, prompting Faulkner to ask his nephrologist (Matthew Modine) for a $1000 loan to buy a boat to sail to Pakistan. When that doesn't work (the small boat capsizes and he ends up in Mexico), he tries to hang-glide into Pakistan and falls off a cliff, breaking his leg. He eventually gets to Pakistan and in 2010, thinks he's found Bin Laden, facing off against him in a swordfight in a cave, but it's all a trippy hallucination since he's gone weeks without a dialysis treatment. All the while, Faulkner is given moral support by his new girlfriend Marci (Wendi McLendon-Covey), who still has the Bon Jovi "Livin' on a Prayer" tramp stamp she got in high school and is now raising the special needs daughter of her dead junkie sister. Marci has made some bad decisions in her life, but she seems sane and entirely too level-headed to be falling for a doofus like Faulkner, or at least the doofus cartoon version of Faulkner that Cage is playing. The actor seems less interested in Faulkner as a character and more concerned with shaping this as his own BIG LEBOWSKI, and it fails on every level, be it slapstick, satire, or biopic. Charles, perhaps accustomed to the off-the-chain magic of Sacha Baron Cohen in BORAT and BRUNO, is content to let Cage run amok, making no attempt to rein him in at all, and the result is less Lebowski and more like a manic, talk-show Robin Williams at his most over-the-top. It's virtually unwatchable and while LEFT BEHIND is an easy pick for Cage's worst film, this might sting a little more because it had the ingredients to be something, and instead it falls victim to its star being in a self-indulgent mood and a director who's completely derelict in his duty. It's a career low for all, including reliable ringers like Paul Scheer and Will Sasso as Faulkner's buddies, and Denis O'Hare and Rainn Wilson as CIA agents on Faulkner's trail, taking time-outs to discuss Michael Dudikoff movies and defend Timothy Dalton-era 007. Dalton's a tragically underappreciated Bond, but not even that sentiment can save ARMY OF ONE. (R, 93 mins)




THE SEA OF TREES
(US - 2016)



Booed at Cannes and barely released by A24 on just 100 screens for a $20,000 box office take, Gus Van Sant's THE SEA OF TREES is the second 2016 movie (after the horror film THE FOREST) to be set in Japan's Aokigahara Forest. Located at the northwest base of Mount Fuji, Aokigahara is a place infamously known as "The Suicide Forest" and "The Sea of Trees," where an average of 100 people per year go to end their lives. The Japanese government forbids filming in the Aokigahara, so THE SEA OF TREES finds an acceptable substitute Suicide Forest in Massachusetts. Written by Chris Sparling (best known for writing high-concept enclosed-space thrillers like BURIED and ATM), THE SEA OF TREES is a maudlin and superficial drama that's completely schizophrenic in tone, a combination marital dysfunction story, a disease-of-the-week TV-movie, a survivalist adventure, and finally, a manipulative Nicholas Sparks-meets-Mitch Albom feelgood movie with a twist that any seasoned moviegoer will spot long before the main character does. Science professor Arthur Brennan (Matthew McConaughey) buys a one-way ticket to Tokyo with the intention of downing a handful of sleeping pills in the Suicide Forest. His plan to find a secluded spot and die peacefully is interrupted by the appearance of Takumi Nakamura (Ken Watanabe), a disheveled, confused man who says he's been lost in the forest for two days. As Arthur repeatedly tries and fails to get Takumi on a trail out of the forest, they're forced to survive the harsh elements and deal with injuries as they bond, Takumi selflessly listening to Arthur's long monologues about his failed marriage to Joan (Naomi Watts in flashbacks) and how her death led him to end his life in the the Sea of Trees. A slowly-paced character piece, THE SEA OF TREES gets good performances from the three stars, but it's a pretty tedious journey, especially once you figure out where this is headed with a big reveal that's a hoary cliche at this point, and even after that, when it just keeps getting more shamelessly manipulative by the moment. There had to be films more deserving of the booing this got at Cannes, as THE SEA OF TREES biggest crime is that it's plodding, simplistic, and obvious, but it's hardly the worst thing to come from the wildly erratic Van Sant. (PG-13, 111 mins)






ITHACA
(US - 2016)



After a seven-year absence from the big screen and without a big box office hit since 2001's KATE & LEOPOLD, Meg Ryan co-stars in and makes her directing debut with ITHACA, based on William Saroyen's 1943 novel The Human Comedy. That was the title of the original movie version, also released in 1943, which starred Mickey Rooney and was a contemporary, topical life-at-home WWII film of its time. Now, this new version is a dated nostalgia piece with no feeling for the time and place and absolutely nothing in the way of narrative drive whatsoever. However sincere and well-intentioned it may be, this is an astonishingly dull film that just never finds a spark or any sense of dramatic momentum on any level. With his older brother Marcus (Jack Quaid, Ryan's son with ex-husband Dennis Quaid) off at war and his father recently deceased, 14-year-old Homer (Alex Neuestaedter) is the man of the house, taking care of his little brother Ulysses (Spencer Howell) and getting a job as a telegram messenger to help out his still-grieving mom (Ryan). Mom still sees visions of Dad (executive producer Tom Hanks, a nice guy doing Ryan a kindness but opting to keep his name off the poster) hanging around the house, keeping an eye on the family he left behind. Homer gets a firsthand look at the war at home, with many of his telegram deliveries coming from the US government, informing parents, wives, and loved ones that their soldier has died in combat. Homer finds father figures in his bosses Tom (Hamish Linklater) and drunk old Willie (top-billed Sam Shepard), and, well, that's about it. Not much happens in ITHACA. Neuestaedter is certainly no Mickey Rooney, but it would be hard for any young actor to make something out of this. Ryan lets scenes linger long past the point of necessity, and it often feels like actors are uncomfortably sitting there waiting for her to say "Cut." There's no interesting arcs or even standard coming-of-age tropes in the script by Eric Jendresen, whose credits include writing a few episodes of the Hanks-produced BAND OF BROTHERS. ITHACA feels like Ryan and Hanks called in some favors from a bunch of old friends (the score was composed by John Mellencamp) and asked them to hang out with no clear endgame. Shepard has nothing to do but sit at his desk and look catatonic, and Hanks appears visibly lost in his few scenes, at one point just stopping and staring at Ryan in what I'm convinced is not character-based dismay. Running a brief 89 minutes but feeling like four hours, ITHACA, which went straight-to-VOD after two years on the shelf, misfires at every turn, a DOA adaptation of a beloved novel of its day, never connecting with the viewer on any emotional level and rendering it completely inert with its bargain-basement, would-be Norman Rockwell sense of forced homespun Americana. (PG, 89 mins)










Viewing all articles
Browse latest Browse all 1212

Latest Images

Trending Articles





Latest Images