WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 33

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 33rd WWW:

1) Big Fan:
One of the special features on the DVD is a Q&A session with star Patton Oswalt and director Robert D. Siegel. One of the questions they faced was, “Why football?”, and the director ultimately admitted that the film could have dealt with any passionate fan base. It could have been about movie lovers or comic book geeks. And while Oswalt himself is a self-proclaimed comic book geek in real life, and knew nothing about football, he was still the perfect person to play Paul Aufiero, a man so passionate about football that even after his favorite player does something to him, he struggles with taking any action that would keep the guy from playing and hurt the team. It's a film about a very specific mental disorder, and the dangers of taking anything we love too seriously, as a means of avoiding real life. The film is billed as a comedy, and while there are funny moments, I'd classify it as a drama or a dark comedy. Aufiero is 36 and still lives at home with his mother, played brilliantly by Marcia Jean Kurtz. Their interactions felt very real, and one awkward conversation had me squirming. Paul is content to work in a parking garage and listen to sports radio all day, feverishly jotting down notes so he can call in later on and dispute a rival team's fan played by Michael Rapaport. If you pause the DVD, Paul's notes are an Easter egg of sorts, a collection of misspelled words that underscores his childlike nature. His sister is married. His brother is a lawyer married with children. He wants none of these things, which breaks his mother's heart. She has her own issues though, saving countless packets of soy sauce because “it's a sin to waste food”. It's very sad, and very real. Kevin Corrigan plays Paul's sole friend, just as passionate about the sport. In the end, while the film deals with football, it really can be applied to anything as the director admitted. It's about putting people on pedestals and finding out our idols might not be who we make them out to be. It's about our own delusions, and how we might react given the chance to meet someone famous. Corrigan shares his own story on the DVD about the first time he met Robert DeNiro, admitting he was too young and too nervous. Oswalt shares anecdotes about the comic book fans he sees each week when he hits the store on new comic book day. There is no eye contact, nor any physical contact between the store patrons. And he's not condemning that which he loves. He himself is leading a healthy life beyond his hobby, married with a child. In and of themselves, there's nothing wrong with the things we love, be they movies, sports, or comic books. We all enjoy different things. It's when we enjoy them to the exclusion of anything else in life that trouble arises, and within the shell we build for ourselves, our choices may defy logic out in the real world. You might expect an arc in Big Fan, but instead it's a portrait of an unchanging loser, and a sad one at that. I got a glimpse of some of Oswalt's dramatic talent on his Dollhouse guest appearances, and after Big Fan I wouldn't mind seeing him take on some other dramatic roles. After Big Fan, I think I'm a fan.

2) Dark Star:
If you're expecting Red Dwarf from this 1974 sci fi comedy, you'll be disappointed. I made the mistake of watching the uncut version first, and found myself horrendously bored at times. Dark Star tells the tale of four men in deep space, destroying uninhabited worlds to pave the way for colonization. The humor is subtle, and I didn't immediately realize it was meant to be a parody of sorts of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I added a star after watching the more streamlined director's cut, which eliminates many scenes of the four men just sitting around pushing buttons or coping with boredom. After twenty years in space, these guys are more than a bit stir crazy. One of the men brought an alien aboard, which looks like a giant beach ball with claws, and that leads to a fairly humorous sequence in which he chases the thing and ends up stuck in an elevator shaft. There's also some decent comedy with the A.I. on the ship, particularly the bombs which have personas of their own. The acting captain, on advice of the previous captain, who was cryogenically preserved after his seat blew up, reasons with a malfunctioning bomb through philosophy, getting it to question its own existence and whether data is reliable if all it has are its sensors. The film is low-budget and very dated looking, but can be appreciated for some of its concepts and for being one of John Carpenter's earliest projects.

3) Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron:
A few minutes in to this movie, I wasn't going to last. Was the whole thing going to be wild horses, albeit beautifully animated ones, galloping around to a Bryan Adams soundtrack while Matt Damon narrated? It was very kid friendly, and my simple initial impression of the movie isn't too far off. But I do enjoy good animation, as well as the vocal stylings of Bryan Adams, so I stuck with it, and gradually it became more than an animated music video. Spirit tells the tale of an untamed America, at a time when man was first encroaching on nature. The titular stallion grows up to lead his herd, but becomes separated from them when he meets the cavalry, and opts to let himself be captured in order to protect his mother and the other horses. The Americans are painted as insensitive, particularly James Cromwell as their leader, though he does get a great moment near the end of the film that fleshes him out as a “villain” who respects and honorable opponent. Spirit also befriends a Native American boy and falls in love with a pretty mare. So all the standard, traditional events are there, including more than one tearjerking moment. It's also a very inspirational movie, with determined glances and sweeping music in between the pop rock. Perhaps most impressive was the decision to not have the animals speak. Damon's voiceover tells us what Spirit was thinking or feeling at various points in his life story, but the horses themselves communicate through body language, facial expressions, and whinnying. It's a good movie to watch with your kids, or when your inner child could use a bit of brightness.

More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!



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