Locke’s Redbox Picks of the Week

by | Sep 25th, 2010 | 7:29PM | Filed under: DVD Reviews, Movie Lists, Movies, Weekly redbox Picks

Recommended Smaller, Overlooked or Underrated Movies in the Redbox Kiosks

The ExperimentThe Experiment

A fictional spin on the infamous 1971 Stanford Experiment, this thriller amounts to an intense “act-off” between Adrien Brody and Forest Whitaker, as two men being paid to participate in a psychological test set in a prison–Brody’s pacifist as a prisoner, Whitaker’s momma’s boy as a guard. Naturally things quickly go Lord of the Flies on both sides of the bars. Whitaker is a little too quick to flip from milquetoast to power-mad “Crazy Forest Whitaker,” but Brody is always a treat with those sad, haunted eyes ever brooding inward. And the supporting cast includes good work from Cam Gigandet, Clifton Collins Jr., and Ethan Cohn. The “savage animal kingdom” parallels get laid on thick, but the situational drama stays nice and tense.

Stomp the Yard 2: HomecomingStomp the Yard 2: Homecoming

Okay, this sequel to the 2007 surprise hit about fraternity “step teams” battling it out at a traditionally black college is not going to win any awards for writing or acting–the plot and characters are standard, hokey, and very familiar. But the cliche melodrama is adequately and inoffensively laid out (Collins Pennie from Fame and TV’s Hawthorne just wants to step! And hang on to his girl! And help out his dad, Keith David! And not get killed over gambling debts!), and best of all it doesn’t detract from the movie’s real draw: the mesmerizing, dazzling, exhilarating step-dance battles.

The HuntedThe Hunted (Redbox Replay)

I remembered this 2003 thriller as a Fugitive knock-off by way of Rambo: First Blood, but a fresh viewing reveals a solid and gripping piece of work. Sure, Tommy Lee Jones is once again playing a lawman tracking down a killer, and like all good actors who garner acclaim, Benicio del Toro is shoehorned into an “action-flick” payday. But Jones’ character is far from infallible or invincible, and Del Toro’s always at his best in stoic silence. (Nice long stretches of the film are dialog-free.) Director William Friedkin may have seen his best days in the ’70s with The French Connection, The Exorcist, and Sorcerer, but he still has the cinematic grit and guts–and taste for violent tension–to make The Hunted a brutal and atmospheric cut above the usual.

City IslandCity Island

One of the easiest “unknown” recommendations out right now–a lot of folks will be very pleasantly surprised if they give City Island a whirl. As I said in my review, “This family dramedy starring a gruff-but-lovable Andy Garcia has just enough safely passionate idiosyncrasies to hit the sweet-and-sassy spot… An indie film with a sitcom heart about a family full of quirky secrets, City Island may not surprise, but it’ll certainly put up a smile. This is a good, old-fashioned tale told well, about a family that’s amusingly dysfunctional, but not so much so they can’t come back together for a love-conquers-all hug at the end.”

The LosersThe Losers

I’m often baffled why some action films are hits while similar-but-superior efforts go unrewarded. Is it all just about “stars” and brand-name toy franchises? Well, The Losers sports plenty of tomorrow’s big stars, including Zoe Saldana, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, and most entertainingly, Chris Evans. As I wrote before, it “throws some sweat-soaked, tough-guy swagger and destruction at you for 90 minutes and keeps it moving too fast and funny for the cool clichés to stick… When so many sexy, brainless, video-game action films fail to get the job done, it’s nice to see one that meets it’s less-than-lofty aspirations with exploitative, explosive skill.”

You can also check out my Picks from last week.

3 Responses to “Locke’s Redbox Picks of the Week”

  1. matphoto
    Posted on September 25, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    I’m not sure what you’re comparing ‘The Losers’ to (most likely other action films that I haven’t seen), but I didn’t find it very good at all even with low expectations. The contrasty, saturated style of shooting was distracting and it didn’t seem well thought out, even the action sequences. I think it should stay overlooked. ‘The Expendables’ was only slightly better. ‘Machete’ took them both down combined. Now that’s an action flick.

  2. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on September 25, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    No, I was thinking Expendables, Predators, A-Team, and yes even Machete (which I did like a lot in a sleazy, cheesy way). I don’t think The Losers is any sort of masterpiece, but in terms of reach and grasp–and especially for wry humor (always a big sell for me)–I feel it really hits a sweet spot. Of all the films I just listed, it’s the one I’d be most likely to pop into the DVD player on a lazy night when I was in the mood for some escapism. (Sigh, oh for the day when I had any time to watch anything “for fun.”) (The other exception being, of course, Kick-Ass, which I think is magnificent.)

    I just feel The Losers and its cast has a much more appealing, looser, “no-pressure” vibe. But as you can see, these days I tend to enjoy “action” films much more for their actors and characters than their action scenes. If The Losers has lame action scenes, I probably didn’t even notice–so many action scenes these days are just white visual noise for me–it’s what goes on in between that catch my attention and my fancy.

  3. matphoto
    Posted on September 25, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    I think it may be that my prior expectations combined with my initial response to the very early stages of these types of movies has a whole lot to do with how I end up receiving them. My low expectations for ‘The Losers’ were solidified very early on with the lame character intros combined with my distaste for the saturated visuals. On top of that, there are a million better ways for an action comedy to illicit an emotional response than blowing up a chopper full of kids. Leave that for a movie that tries to actually “say” something. So I admittedly may have been more inclined to dislike the movie after the first 20 mins. ‘The Expendables’ was pretty much the same minus the ‘losing me early on’ part, though it almost lost me at the end. On the other hand I was expecting a decent film from ‘Machete,’ and right away its visual style and action choreography solidified that stance for me. This initial interest in the film carried me through the parts at the end that got a bit over the top. Also a mexican guy chopping off a bunch of heads and then having his wife’s head chopped off is way more suitable for the genre than a group of kids dying. So in summary: ‘The Losers’ lost me, ‘The Expendables’ was just plain expendable, and ‘Machete’ was pure, violent action film goodness.