WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 45

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 45th WWW:

1) Henry Poole is Here:
I've seen this described as a black comedy, but I think it's more of an independent dramatic film with healthy amounts of comic relief masking the more serious subject matter. From the start, it's clear that something weighs heavy on Luke Wilson's titular Poole. He's willing to pay any price for the home he grew up in, but as the family living there isn't willing to sell, a real estate agent convinces him to buy another house in the same neighborhood. As he goes through a bleak existence, barely decorating and talking about not being around long, you begin to suspect he's either contemplating suicide, or dying. Radha Mitchell plays a single mother who lives next door with her daughter, who refuses to speak. The little girl tends to walk around with a tape recorder, and after a few encounters of curiosity with her new neighbor, Poole begins to get through to her. Meanwhile, Poole discovers the hispanic woman who lives in the house on the other side of him in his backyard, praying to a stain on the wall. Is it the image of the Lord? Poole is skeptical. She brings in a priest played by George Lopez to check its authenticity, especially when the visage seems to have tears of blood. And when people start getting healed after touching the wall, from the friendly checkout girl no longer needing glasses to Mitchell's mute daughter talking again, everyone believes in the miracle, everyone except for the one man who needs a miracle the most. In the end, it's a nice character study about people and the power of faith, whether you believe in a higher power or just the power of positive thinking. The performances are all very enjoyable, and I came away from the experience with a good feeling.

2) Banlieue 13: Ultimatum:
David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli, those French guys who made Parkour famous in the original B13, return for another bout of freerunning in opposition to corrupt officials. As the opening text tells us, the government has changed after the events of the first movie, but little else. Belle's Leito is still stirring up trouble, blowing up walls and running from the police in the ghetto for which the film is named. Outside those walls, the wealthy and well-off enjoy their lives with little regard for the problems in the gritty streets. Leito's friend from the first film, Raffaelli's Damien Tomaso, is still the same super cop he was in the original, perhaps moreso. We catch up to him on a way undercover operation to take down a drug smuggling operation. Things are smooth and coordinated, until the inevitable wrinkle that forces him to break out the parkour and some sweet martial arts, protecting a priceless painting while taking down thugs. Jackie Chan would be impressed. When a greedy developer wants to destroy part of B13, he frames one of the gangs there for the murder of some police officers, who were actually taken out by corrupt members of their own force. Leito gets his hands on a video showing the true killers, while Tomaso finds himself behind bars, framed for drug possession to keep him out of the way. Of course, this is exactly the thing to set him into action and call his old friend for help, and the formidable dynamic duo of leaps and kicks is back. There's even a tattooed female fighter in the fray before it's all over Some of the sequences aren't as impressive as the original, perhaps because the novelty has worn off, and some of the shots seem less authentic. There's also more fight scenes than Parkour scenes, but they're good fight scenes, and very stylish. There’s a lot more Parkour in the deleted and extended scenes of the DVD, too. The appeal of these films is that these stunt guys are really doing most of these moves, a la Jackie Chan, though the villain here is a bit more formulaic, and I was a little confused by one detail in the ending. If you liked the original, you might not like this quite as much, but you'll still like it. I gave this one four stars as opposed to the five I gave the original. And if you haven't seen the first one yet, then run, jump, swing, and leap to your nearest video store or computer, and let no obstacle stand in your way.

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



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