by Louis Fowler
Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
As much as I want to tell you what a well-acted, ably directed drama Beautiful Boy is — and it is — any compliments I might have for it get lost in the jaw-dropping message of the movie: that we should feel sorry for the parents of school-shooters because, you know, they’re people too. It’s really self-serving when you think about it, especially living so close to Columbine; there are actual parents who are grieving over the deaths of their innocent children, children whose only mistake was going to school, and this movie wants us to see not only the shooter’s side, but the parents’ as well? That’s an enormous disconnect that takes too much of a suspension of disbelief, even for me. But, really, isn’t it just another symptom of a society where everyone, no matter how dastardly their deeds, needs to be a victim at all times? Those complaints aside, Beautiful Boy is ... a well-acted and ably directed movie.
I really wanted to like South of Heaven because it looked so damn cool. It felt so damn cool. But, like most things that are labeled cool, there’s not much long-lasting value to the product because once you mature, you can see it for what it really is: a hollow exercise in style. Heaven is extremely stylized and retro-fitted in a way that would make Frank Miller green-screened with envy. Navy boy Roy comes home to see his brother Dale and to finish his novel. After no more than five minutes, is he brutally beaten by two thugs in seersuckers, and with good reason: Dale and a psycho partner have kidnapped a mobster's daughter and are holding her for ransom. Through a series of even worse beatings, Roy becomes a deformed, shadowy vigilante hell-bent on justice. I type that out and, of course, it sounds cool, but for some reason, on the screen, it just becomes tiring. Being cool is hard work.
I have been pretty outspoken about my intense hatred of all things Seth MacFarlane and his animated shows Family Guy and American Dad, both just excuses to make racist and misogynist jokes under the banner of “satire,” which is always the coward’s way out in the current world of comedy. However, I have to admit that the least offensive of his programs is The Cleveland Show, mostly due to the likability of the title character. Oh sure, women are still the butt of jokes and anytime a minority — be it black, fat or handicapped, whatever — can be pushed down a flight of stairs, it's gonna happen. But with The Cleveland Show it feels different … it feels like they are trying to make an actual joke, not just fodder for a cruel sight-gag in the Family Guy tradition. It just feels like it tries harder. Would I watch it on TV? No. But reviewing the DVDs was not as painful as I was expecting.