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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Jonas Åkerlund
Cast:
Matt Lucas, Nugget, James Caan, Juno Temple, Saffron Burrows, Johnny Knoxville, Dolph Lundgren, James Marsden, Billy Crystal
Writing Credits:
Chris Millis (and novel)

Synopsis:
Trapped in a seedy LA apartment, Franklin Franklin (Matt Lucas) has a dead landlord on the kitchen floor and is surrounded by eccentric neighbors: the stoner (Johnny Knoxville) the wanna-be stripper (Juno Temple) and the artist (James Caan). To add to his chaos, a drunk investigator (Billy Crystal) is questioning him. But none of this fazes Franklin. He dreams of Switzerland, and waits each day for an envelope from his institutionalized brother. Then, one day the envelope doesn't come and Franklin becomes unhinged. Little does he know...his crazy brother has the secret that will set him free.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 96 min.
Price: $22.99
Release Date: 2/19/2013

Bonus:
• “Behind the Scenes” Featurette
• “How to Build a Gravity Bong” Featurette
• Previews


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RELATED REVIEWS


Small Apartments (2012)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 4, 2013)

Probably best known for his role on the sketch series Little Britain, Matt Lucas has also played supporting parts in hits like Bridesmaids and Alice in Wonderland. With 2012’s Small Apartments, Lucas gets his chance to play the lead, while also supported by a huge cast of stars.

Franklin Franklin (Lucas) lives in a seedy LA apartment and does little other than hang out with his dog and play the daily cassettes he receives from his brother Bernard (James Marsden), a patient in a mental institution. Franklin also needs to figure out what to do with the corpse of Mr. Olivetti (Peter Stormare), the superintendent of the apartment complex who Frankling killed.

Though pretty far-gone mentally, Franklin realizes he needs to do something with the body, so he returns Olivetti to his home and attempts to make the death look like a suicide. This fails miserably and sets fire investigator Burt Walnut (Billy Crystal) on his trail.

That synopsis might lead to the impression that Apartments follows a fairly clean narrative line, but that isn’t the case – not by a longshot. The film takes a loopy way to get where it wants to go, with plenty of characters – mostly Franklin’s neighbors – along for the ride.

Essentially, Apartments feels like a film you’d get if the Coen brothers mated with Michel Gondry. Take a little Big Lebowski here, mix with a little Eternal Sunshine there and voila - Small Apartments!

Though not devoid of entertainment value, most of the film doesn’t work. It seems so self-conscious in its quirkiness that it quickly becomes off-putting, and the elliptical way it explores its narrative doesn’t help. While I like films with atypical story-telling methods, in this case it feels like a crutch, as it seems to exist to cover up other deficits.

This technique also means the movie doesn’t have to do much to flesh out its characters. While Apartments attempts to deepen the roles as it goes, this doesn’t really succeed. Franklin and the others remain oddball losers until the end, when they’re magically cured of all – or most – of what ails them. (Well, except for the handful of dead characters, of course.)

This seems disingenuous at best. Much of the movie concerns the topic of self-help, and it turns a sneering eye at the subject as it depicts guru Dr. Sage Mennox (Dolph Lundgren) as a preening fraud. But then at the very end, the film embraces the simplest form of self-help notions and goes all Bobby McFerrin on us: think you’re happy and be happy!

Seriously? We go through all the ugliness and mental illness just to see a happy ending wrapped up with a big old bow? And we’re supposed to accept that?

Maybe not. In truth, I don’t know how literally we’re supposed to take all – or much – of Apartments. Given Franklin’s obvious mental illness – and the absurdity of his final scene – I suspect all or parts of the story may take place in his warped mind. Perhaps the finale should be viewed ala the conclusion to Brazil.

Honestly, however, I don’t care enough about Small Apartments to invest that much thought into its potential nuances. The movie has some moments – it’s hard to complain about its cast, and even Billy Crystal shows a pulse – but the film is too scattered and self-conscious for it to appeal to me.


The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus D

Small Apartments appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Expect a pretty mediocre presentation here.

Sharpness was erratic. Close-ups demonstrated fairly good clarity and delineation, but wider shots tended to gave the movie a somewhat mushy look. Shimmering and jaggies were minor, edge haloes were absent, and source flaws were non-existent.

The film’s palette usually opted for a garish orientation; the movie tended toward unattractive blues or greens. Within that design range, the colors seemed acceptable; they weren’t especially strong, but they seemed acceptable. Blacks tended to be somewhat inky, and shadows could be a bit flat. This wasn’t an ugly image, but it was lackluster.

As for the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, it remained pretty low-key. General ambience ruled the day, as little more exciting than that appeared. A surreal scene or two used the surrounds well, but those were rare. Most of the movie gave us general ambience and that was about it.

Audio quality seemed acceptable. Speech appeared natural and concise, as the lines always remained intelligible. Music seemed full and rich, while effects showed good accuracy. Nothing here stood out as particularly memorable, but the track was fine for a film of this sort.

When we shift to extras, we find two featurettes. Behind the Scenes goes for 18 minutes, 11 seconds and provides notes from director Jonas Åkerlund, writer Chris Millis, costume designer B., first AD Andy Coffing, key makeup Pamela Neil, production designer Jakob Durkoth, key grip Josh Linkey, location manager Bruce Boehner, director of photography Pär M. Ekberg, composer Per Gessle, and actors Matt Lucas, Amanda Plummer, James Marsden, Johnny Knoxville, David Koechner, Juno Temple, David Warshofsky, Billy Crystal, Peter Stormare, Dolph Lundgren, Rosie Perez, and DJ Qualls.

We learn about the source novel, story and characters, cast and performances, the shoot schedule, costumes and makeup, editing and Åkerlund’s style, sets and locations, cinematography and music. We learn a decent amount about the movie, but a lot of it seems self-congratulatory, so expect a lot of praise for all involved and everything about the project.

How to Build a Gravity Bong runs one minute, 18 seconds as it gives us info from Knoxville. He indeed teaches us how to create a cheap bong. If that works for you, have fun!

The disc opens with ads for Seven Psychopaths, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, Iron Man: Rise of the Technivore, Parker and Kill For Me. These also appear under Previews, but we don’t find a trailer for Apartments.

With an enormous cast of well-known actors, Small Apartments shows potential. However, it squanders this goodwill via its heavy-handed quirkiness, rambling narrative and ridiculous finale. The DVD presents decent picture and audio but lacks substantial bonus materials. I can’t find much to recommend here.

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