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MAGNOLIA

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Bobcat Goldthwait
Cast:
Joel Murray, Tara Lynne Barr, Mackenzie Brooke Smith, Melinda Page Hamilton, Rich McDonald
Writing Credits:
Bobcat Goldthwait

Tagline:
Taking out the trash, one jerk at a time.

Synopsis:
Frank (Joel Murray) has had enough of the downward spiral of American culture. Divorced, recently fired, and possibly terminally ill, Frank feels he has nothing left to live for. However, instead of taking his own life, he embarks on a killing spree with cohort Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), who shares his sense of rage and disenfranchisement, and together they embark on a nation-wide assault on our country s dumbest, most irritating celebrities.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$27.308 thousand on 13 screens.
Domestic Gross
$111.672 thousand.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 105 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 7/3/2012

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Bobcat Goldthwait and Actors Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr
• Deleted/Extended Scenes
• “Killing With Kindness” Featurette
• “Interview with Bobcat Goldthwait, Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr
• “HDNet: A Look at God Bless America” Featurette
• Outtakes
• Music Video
• Trailer and Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


God Bless America [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 29, 2012)

After he attained some fame in the 1980s as a squeaky-voiced stand-up comic, Bobcat Goldthwait seemed to vanish into the “where are they now?” file. However, a look at IMDB reminds us that Goldthwait may not have maintained a career as a star, but he’s worked consistently both in front of and behind the camera.

Goldthwait made his directorial debut with 1991’s Shakes the Clown, and he produces another dark comedy via 2011’s God Bless America. Frank (Joel Murray) lives a fairly solitary existence. He suffers from debilitating migraines – and also from the disgust he feels for modern culture. He finds himself pushed to the edge when he loses his job and can’t even get his bratty daughter Ava (Mackenzie Brooke Smith) to visit.

To add to the misery, Frank learns the cause of his migraines: a massive, inoperable brain tumor. Left with little but misery, Frank contemplates suicide but reconsiders and decides to take out his anger on others. He stalks Chloe (Maddie Hasson), the spoiled “princess” star of a reality TV series, and murders her.

This resonates with Chloe’s disaffected classmate Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) so she volunteers to become Robin to Frank’s Batman. The pair become a vigilante/crusader team, as they hit the road to enforce they personal rules of civility at gunpoint.

Back when I watched Shakes in 2000, I found it to be crass and without much entertainment value. I’d like to say that Goldthwait improved as a filmmaker since 1991’s Shakes, but based on what I see in Bless, I can’t offer that opinion.

Instead, Goldthwait produces the most wrong-headed movie I’ve seen in a long, long time. You want smugness? You’ll find plenty of it here, as the film exists for no reason other than to allow Goldthwait the chance to decry everything “bad” about society – and that appears to be “everything except for Alice Cooper”.

Maybe Bless doesn’t act as an extension of Goldthwait’s personal beliefs – maybe he just latched onto various issues/concepts as cannon fodder but the movie doesn’t directly reflect his own feelings. Somehow I doubt that, for Bless isn’t a film as much as it is a diatribe.

Imagine if someone adapted a bitter “I know everything” blog to the big screen and you’ll know what you get here. Bless frequently grinds to a halt so Frank and/or Roxy can give us their monologues about everything wrong with modern life. Goldthwait has no clue how to integrate these moments in a natural way; the narrative just stops so we can hear yet another rant about the woes of today’s world.

None of this brings anything fresh to the table. People have bemoaned the ills of “current day” for millennia, and Bless can’t manage any insight or cleverness. It simply picks on the lowest common denominator, which doesn’t take much effort. How difficult is it to parody bad reality TV or loudmouth talk show hosts? Not very. Bless aims low and doesn’t attempt anything that could be viewed as thought-provoking.

That’s largely because Goldthwait never attempts to get to the root cause. Rather than simply assail a culture, why not try to figure out what makes the crassness so popular? That never occurs. Bless acts as a 105-minute rampage in which Goldthwait tells us how stupid we are but he can’t dig into the subject with greater perception.

Never mind the hypocrisy on display here. Indeed, if Frank and Roxy displayed intellectual honesty, they’d have to kill themselves; I fail to see how they’re morally superior to the folks they murder. And of course, Goldthwait criticizes the graphic nature of modern media within the construct of a movie with a great deal of bloody violence. Within its first 150 seconds, we encounter a (fantasy) scene in which Frank slaughters an infant - this is a movie that wants to take a moral high ground?

It also lacks the slightest hint of logic. For one, if Frank hates modern media so much, why does he continue to watch bad TV and listen to grating talk radio? Has the guy never heard of DVDs and CDs? Why does Roxy lecture a guy about draft-dodging when he’s clearly too young to have been subject to the draft? How is it possible that Frank and Roxy stay in the same car and don’t disguise their identities but the cops never catch them? And if Frank wants to kill anyone who’s “just plain mean”, why not shoot Roxy? She’s by far the most horrible character in the picture.

Look, I get that Bless isn’t really meant to be taken literally. I understand that it’s essentially a smug fantasy in which its creator gets to rant and rave about everything wrong with society from his myopic point of view, and he doesn’t worry about its rampant lack of logic as long as he makes his intolerant point.

It all flops – and flops badly. Never mind that Bless feels derivative of many other movies; for instance, 2010’s Super demonstrated similar characters and themes. I wouldn’t mind the “been there, done that” feel if Bless had anything to say.

But it doesn’t offer anything other than pompous hypocrisy. It wants to attack overly opinionated people – when they don’t agree with it. It wants to assail violent culture – with its own scenes of graphic bloodshed. It wants to tell us all to be nice – with characters who hate and dismiss everything/everyone of a different mindset.

I’m all for social commentary if it has something thought-provoking to say. But Network this ain’t. Instead, God Bless America delivers a self-righteous rant disguised as a movie. If there’s anything positive to take from the experience, I missed it.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio C+/ Bonus B

God Bless America appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Though not great, the image was satisfying.

Sharpness was positive. A few shots could be a little soft, but the majority of the flick came across as accurate and concise. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes were absent. No source flaws materialized either.

Colors were fine. The movie opted for a natural palette that never dazzled but that seemed reasonably peppy. Blacks tended to be somewhat inky, though, and low-light shots were a bit on the mushy side. Despite some minor weaknesses, the picture was strong enough for a “B”.

I thought the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack was fairly average. Sound quality was generally good. Dialogue was natural and concise, and effects appeared reasonably accurate. Music showed nice clarity and range as well.

The soundfield was the track’s weakest link. It didn’t have much to do in terms of ambition and tended to go with general atmosphere. It seemed less impressive than one might expect since it has action elements, but the forward speakers dominated. They showed acceptable stereo spread at times but didn’t have a lot to add to the presentation, and the surrounds didn’t boast much material. This was a pretty mediocre mix.

When we shift to extras, we launch with an audio commentary from writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait and actors Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr. All three sit together to discuss the film’s origins, inspirations and influences, story/characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, camerawork and editing, and a few other production areas.

While not a great track, this one tends to work reasonably well. My main complaint is that too much of the piece just provides jokes, so we don’t find as much info as I’d like. Still, we learn a fair amount about the movie, and it goes down painlessly, so it’s a decent listen. Goldthwait even covers some of the complaints mentioned in my review; I don’t buy his explanations, but I was happy to get his side.

Deleted/Extended Scenes fill a total of five minutes. These consist entirely of TV segments not in the final film; we get a toddler-oriented version of Jersey Shore, a right-wing zealot and an extended take on Chloe’s birthday party planning. They’re consistent with the material in the movie, so they bring nothing new to the table.

In a similar vein, we locate two minutes, 29 seconds of Outtakes. It mixes goofs with some alternate takes/angles. As this kind of reel goes, it’s more interesting than most.

A featurette called Killing With Kindness runs 27 minutes, 34 seconds and provides notes from Goldthwait, Murray, Barr, cinematographer Bradley Stonesifer, and actors Jack Plotnick, Tony V, Bryce Johnson, Melinda Page Hamilton, and Joe Liss. “Kindness” looks at the project’s roots, story and themes, cast and characters, influences and inspirations, locations and camerawork, violence and effects. A fair amount of material from the commentary repeats here, but we get some good footage from the set, so that helps make it useful.

An Interview with Bobcat Goldthwait, Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr lasts 27 minutes, 42 seconds. Essentially they touch on the same topics discussed in the commentary and “Kindness”. A few new observations appear, but if you’re screened the prior two pieces, you’ll not find a lot of freshness here; on its own, it’s a good interview, but it just becomes redundant at this point.

After this we find another featurette. HDNet: A Look at God Bless America occupies four minutes, 54 seconds with notes from Goldthwait, Murray, and Barr. They offer a quick synopsis of the movie and we see a lot of shots from it. This delivers basic promotional material and nothing more.

Next comes a Music Video for “Roxy and Frank”. We see stills from the movie accompanied by an acoustic tune by Mike Carrano in which he encapsulates the song’s story. It’s not an awful tune, though it does sound like a lackluster acoustic Nirvana outtake. The video’s fairly forgettable.

The disc opens with ads for Marley, Take This Waltz, The Hunter and Apartment 143. These show up under Also From Magnolia Home Entertainment, and we get the trailer for Bless, too.

As a commentary on modern society, God Bless America could’ve delivered some incisive views. Instead, it drags itself down to the level of the culture it despises and suffers from rampant idiocy and hypocrisy. The Blu-ray delivers fairly good picture, average audio and a pretty useful set of supplements. This becomes a positive release for a brainless movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.5 Stars Number of Votes: 6
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