Friday, April 30, 2010

Quick DVD Reviews

Torso (1973)
Italian director Sergio Martino’s tense film is a mini masterpiece of the Giallo world. Perhaps, it is not much more than a collection of set pieces, but those set pieces are incredibly striking. Martino knows how to build suspense, as evidence by the ‘kill’ in the forest. I think this must have been a very influential film for both the slasher genre, and any thriller with a cat and mouse element. It’s worth seeking out and the Blue Underground disc I rented had a terrific print, with a good dub. Grade: A-

Whip It
I am no fan of Drew Barrymore, but there were enough interesting cast members here for me to give it a try. It’s not exactly Citizen Kane, but Barrymore didn’t embarrass herself (although she was the weakest element on screen). I get a bit creeped out by Ellen Page’s Dorian Gray looks, but she can certainly act. Daniel Stern and Marcia Gay Harden were the real standouts for me, and I thought it was sooo great to see Juliette Lewis again. Overall, the movie struggle to find the proper tone, and I wish Barrymore had avoided throwing so much dumb humour into a ‘Coming of Age’ story (or is it the other way around). Nothing groundbreaking (or even memorable), but worth a rental. Grade: B-

Sherlock Holmes
Guy Ritchie finally found the right mix of style and substance. Of course, I don’t think this movie would have been much without Downey Jr. and Law but Ritchie was smart enough to take a back seat to the performers. Story wise, I feel that … well, it doesn’t really matter. Butch and Sundance proved that chemistry really trumps everything else. This is first and foremost a buddy movie and my fingers are crossed that the two main stars come back for a least one more round. Grade: B+

District 9
I wish I had seen this one before all of the hype. It just didn’t live up to expectations and I imagine my criticisms are nothing new. The concept is superb and the pseudo-documentary style format works very well. I can even live with the transition into a more traditional narrative, as it was a natural progression while following the protagonist. The real issue is with the final act, a typical overly long Hollywood ‘Shoot ‘Em Up’ battle that is so out of place that I think part of the director's credit should go to Stud E. O. Entterphearence. Like so many films - the execution could not keep up to the concept. Grade: B

Witchfinder General
I can’t believe that American International rechristened this one The Conqueror Worm for its US release, as this is such an awesome title. The long delayed DVD released actually occurred back in 2007, but I just got around to watching it last night. For a low budget period piece, this is a nasty little thing. Vincent Price is magnetic as Matthew Hopkins, the self appointed Witchfinder General. The story spins its wheels a bit, but I was happy to spend a bit of time in the Cromwell-era muck. It may come across as dated (nothing is really shocking in today’s world of torture porn) but it is quite a unique film and a must see for fans of both Price and classic British horror. Grade: B


Dr. Retro said...

Thanks for the reviews. Now I'll have to see Sherlock Holmes sooner as opposed to later. I've always liked the character.

Scott M said...

It may rub Holmes purists the wrong way but, as a purely performance driven piece, it is a lot of fun.

GarBut said...

TORSO is terrific. So many great ideas, a personal fave being the key in the doorlock falling onto the slip of paper.