Sunday, September 7, 2008

Boll Goes "Postal" while Burns' "Violets" Wilt

The latest train wreck of a movie from bad boy Uwe Boll (shown near right) offers the same odd, can't-look-away fascination of an accident that unfurls before your eyes. With his recently-released-to-DVD POSTAL, Boll tries his hand at comedy -- and if you come back at me with the notion that all his movies are unintentional comedies, I must tell you that this one is intentional and consequently not as funny as other of his work. There are very few genuine laughs scattered along the way, though his cast is certainly game: Zack Ward to Dave Foley, Verne Troyer to J.K. Simmons (this is not as starry as the group he assembled for "In the Name of the King," however).

Since all of us learn on-the-job, this must be true for film directors, too. Boll "completists" will no doubt be more aware of the film knowledge this director has gained over the 17 years since he made his debut (German Fried Movie, which bears a one-star rating [out of 10] on the IMDB; with Postal, Boll has achieved nearly four out of ten on the same rating scale). When I returned this film to my local Blockbuster, the clerk asked if I'd liked it. When I mentioned the director's name, "Ohmigod!" he exclaimed, "that guy made the worst movie I have ever seen in my life: Alone in the Dark." The reason Boll makes movies, the clerk informed me, is because he receives tax breaks. (And here I thought he was doing it for his art.) Boll is prolific, if nothing else: Two more of his movies are in post-production -- Stoic and Far Cry -- with two more in actual production -- Zombie Massacre and Sabotage 1943. Wow: Boll tackles horror and history in the same year. I can't wait.

When Ed Burns (shown above, far right) made his writing/directing/acting/producing debut in 1995 with "The Brothers McMullen," the out-of-scale praise the movie received seems to have paved the way for Burns to simply continue doing the same thing over and over (and perhaps leading the way toward our current spate of Apatow-driven movies about slacker-sloucher boy-men). Burns' acting talent has improved (as have his budgets, or at least how he puts the money to use) even if his writing and directing have remained all-too generic. His latest endeavor, which has gone straight to DVD, is something called PURPLE VIOLETS (a meaningless title until you reach the film's end -- at which point it simply looks lazy).

Again, this is a story about New York men and women and how they manage relationships. Burns has assembled a bright, talented cast (this may be his best ever: Selma Blair, Patrick Wilson, Debra Messing, Elizabeth Reaser, Donal Logue, Dennis Farina and Burns himself) and then given them so-so dialog and situations, which they handle with as much flair as can be mustered. (Messing is particularly adept at projecting hurt, anger and wry humor as the facade of a woman who can no longer trust.) Burns does seems to have gotten smarter about women over the course of his filmmaking, and there's less glorification of the male as "cad." But this film, as does his others, spends its time either going nowhere or into conclusions that are utterly expected. I've now seen all of Burns' work except The Groomsmen, which I've heard is one of his better endeavors. We live in hope, so we'll add this one to our online queue.

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