Smile Politely

From the Box is back in action

Back From the Box with New-ish DVDs

You may or may not have noticed that I disappeared from the Smile Politely premises sometime around September of this year. A new job and grad school applications have been distracting me from any sort of column-writing duties, though I somehow have managed to watch about thirty films and get way too into fantasy football in the meantime.

I’m a little behind on the new releases as a result of all this other stuff I’ve been doing — which, you must admit, with the exception of fantasy football, is a little higher up on the priority scale than evaluating The Ugly Truth‘s special features. Bear with me, then, as I go over some new releases from the last few weeks and the new ones from this week.

New Releases From the Box

Star Trek (November 17)

The world’s longest retcon (i.e., “retroactive continuity” — geek speek for making shit up to fix your mistakes) is out on DVD. I saw it three times in the theaters; you can pretty much guess my opinion of the film from that. If pressed to find flaws, I’d point to the first sentence of this paragraph: the film, because of the franchise’s avid fan base, spends far too long saying “this is like the old stuff, but different, and here’s how.” Fair enough, but I would have been happy with any decent film, and maybe happier with one that didn’t spend so long trying to explain itself to the fans. I appreciate that I’m being catered to, but I am not a close-minded moron. Though I can’t speak for other Trekkies. (No, I will not call us Trekkers. That is stupid.)

Funny People (November 24)

This was one of Universal’s monumental disasters over the summer. The studio really rolled the dice with its summer tentpoles, releasing comedies and adult crime dramas (e.g., Land of the Lost, Bruno, Public Enemies) instead of superhero blockbusters. Disaster or not, though, I rather enjoyed Funny People. Sure, Judd Apatow’s typically on the conservative side familial politics are in full swing here, but damn if it isn’t funny. The film’s true failing, as everyone will tell you, is the sappiness. Trying hard to strike the so-sincere-it-hurts chord, as he did in his television shows Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared, Apatow misses the mark, leading to a few tedious moments of nigh-insufferable sentimentality. But throughout, the maudlin moments are broken up with the irresistible humor of Seth Rogen, et. al., plus a toned-down Adam Sandler, who manages to be funny. If you liked Apatow’s previous comedies, this isn’t enough of a departure that you should be scared off.

Four Christmases (November 24)

The studio sat on this one for a year, waiting to release it on DVD until the holidays rolled around again. Shrewd marketing, for two reasons: (1) a Christmas movie obviously sells better during the Christmas season, and (2) this movie was terribly unfunny and dull — perhaps they were hoping that consumers will have forgotten about it in the intervening year. But, like I said, terrible. Don’t bother.

Terminator: Salvation (December 1)

This film got some hate when it was released to theaters, after some initial positive buzz when its trailer was released. Without reading any reviews, I can kind of see why people might judge this film harshly: with all the plot holes of a Star Trek or Wanted but without any of their carefree humor or camp, Terminator: Salvation almost crumbles under its own weightiness. But in a summer crammed with overlong, willfully brainless shit like G.I. Joe and Transformers: Rise of the Fallen, Terminator: Salvation is, well, a Terminator movie: obvious, derivative, and so, so much fun. Equal parts Mad Max and Battlestar Galactica (the new one), the latest—and I hope not last—entry in the Terminator series is a wonderful and even exciting diversion.

Next Week on From the Box

Liberals hate Twilight, conservatives hate Harry Potter, and right now they’re both competing for the position of Blockbuster Film Series that Appeals to Me Least. Harry Potter 5 managed to keep my attention, but will its follow-up follow suit? Also, Johnny Depp is not English and/or wacky in Public Enemies, so how could it possibly be any good? Is he rediscovering the actually-acting bug? Find the answers to these questions in next week’s article.

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