Movie Quick Hits: Reviews of The Beaver, Colombiana & more

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We can’t write 500 words on everything, so here are bite-sized portions of recently seen independent and foreign releases, as well as films new to DVD. Even though they slipped through the cracks, these films still warrant your attention.

The Beaver (dir. Jodie Foster; starring Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster and Anton Yelchin)

I have always been a Mel Gibson fan. I realize that he is not a model citizen, but whenever I see him in a film, I am usually intrigued. In The Beaver, he gives one of his strongest performances. A surprisingly tender look at mental illness, it feels realistic, despite its fantasy trappings. If you generally enjoy Mel Gibson (as an actor), this is a film you should see. Grade: B+

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray

Colombiana (dir. Olivier Megaton; starring Zoe Saldana)

Sure, Zoe Saldana can kick some ass, but this movie is solid-rock stupid. An example: In a scene early in the movie, a man with a young girl shoots up an innocent moving car in plain daylight to prove a point. While there were dozens of pedestrians and stander-bys around and we hear a cop car come along, the man stands with the girl to try and teach her a lesson literally for a few minutes. And then they simply walk away as if nothing happened. Another example: The young girl in the film idealizes Xena: Warrior Princess, even though the film tells us that it is taking place in 1992. Xena premiered in 1995. Grade: D-

Now in theaters

Final Destination 5 (dir. Steven Quale)

Of course it isn’t the most subtle film out there, but there are enough surprises (especially with a fantastically clever ending) to keep the series fresh and fun. It plays like a game for an attentive viewer of “what can go wrong” and this contract keeps it interesting. Also, one of the best title sequences I have seen. I probably don’t need any more of these films, but I have to admit that this one was a good time. Grade: B-

Now in theaters

Limitless (dir. Neil Burger; starring Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro)

Sickeningly slick thriller that runs out of steam after the initial set-up. Neil Burger does about as much he can with the material, and his directing style makes the film watchable, amongst its flaws. Does little to build upon drug and quick-rise-hard-fall films (think: Wall Street + Blow with a little Fight Club style thrown in) and that makes it pretty predictable along the way. Grade: C+

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray

Of Gods and Men (dir. Xavier Beauvois; France)

A slow, powerful film following a group of monks in Algeria under the threat of local rebels and civil war. Most of the film is silent, watching the monks on their day to day tasks and singing religious chants. Still, it manages to build tension throughout and present a number of difficult philosophical ideas. An especially strong final scene leaves you with a lot to think about while the credits roll. Grade: B+

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray

Take Me Home Tonight (dir. Michael Dowse; starring Topher Grace)

A nostalgic look at 1980’s teen party comedies that doesn’t come together as well as any of the films it aspires to be. A decent cast and a few good laughs, but completely predictable and it cuts a lot of corners that could have taken it to naturally darker places. Has the gimmick of being set in the 80’s, but doesn’t use it strongly enough to evoke a lot of comedy — this film could have been set in any era with few changes. Grade: C-

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray

We Are What We Are (dir. Jorge Michel Grau; Mexico)

What could have been a decent family drama about following in your father’s footsteps is strengthened with the inclusion of a modern cannibal twist. A surprisingly quiet horror film that lacks a lot of scares and tension, but with its realistic foothold it plays quite well. Gives just enough of a kick at the end to satisfy the blood-thirsty. Grade: B

Available on DVD

tags: Colombiana, final destination 5, Limitless, of gods and men, Take Me Home Tonight, the beaver, we are what we are

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