New to DVD This Week


“Unknown,” stars everybody’s favorite “hang-dog” tough guy, Liam Neeson.  The film is contrived, silly and completely improbable…but I liked it. Neeson plays Dr. Martin Harris, who has just arrived in Berlin to attend an important conference.  Soon after, his taxi crashes into the water and, four days later, Harris emerges from a coma.  He finds that his identity has been usurped.  Another man, claiming to be Harris, has taken his place at the conference, not to mention his hotel room, and even Harris’ own wife claims not to know who he is. If you think about the screenplay of “Unknown” for five minutes, you will see it has more holes than the proverbial slice of Swiss cheese.  I am willing to allow that this was part of the fun.  What worked for me is that “Unknown” seemed to revel in its improbabilities so thoroughly I could not help but enjoy it, despite knowing better.


Why? Because.  These two words sum up what is wrong with the premise of “The Adjustment Bureau,” starring Matt Damon.  Simply put, there is no compelling motivation driving the story.  The titular bureau, you see, are these men in overcoats and hats who control our destinies.  According to the Adjustment Bureau we do not have free will, only the illusion of free will. When Damon’s character falls for a very attractive up and coming dancer, played by Emily Blunt, this, for some unexplained reason, violates the bureau’s plan, and they want to keep the two of them apart. So then the burning dramatic question (yawn) is will love conquer all?  It’s a big budget Hollywood movie with a star, so you can just take it from there. It is too bad that the Adjustment Bureau could not have altered the fate of its own script.


If you have seen the trailer for the comedy “Cedar Rapids” then you do not have to see the movie.  I knew exactly what was going to happen, with one exception, from having seen the film’s trailer. The main character, Tim Lippe (Ed Helms), is a naïve, repressed Wisconsin insurance agent who has to represent his insurance company at a convention in the big time: Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Yes, Tim is out of his league, but it’s a reasonable bet that by film’s end he will learn to loosen up, and grow, with the help of various eccentric characters he meets along the way.  If you have seen actor John C. Reilly play one of his loud, raucous, wacky characters (“Cyrus,” “Taladega Nights,” “Walk Hard”), then you can also live a good and full life without seeing “Cedar Rapids.”  Reilly is not the main character, but rather a nutty side character.  In real world terms, Reilly represents the indie film cliché of the higher profile actor who has decided to be in a low budget indie because he most likely found the script just too endearing to pass up.  God only knows why.


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on June 21, 2011, in Now on DVD. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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