The documentary Bully arrives in theaters after much hullabaloo — it initially received a restricted rating from the Motion Picture Association of America due to the presence of a handful of curse words, sparking a social media campaign embraced by many celebrities — again confirming the marketing prowess of Harvey Weinstein. After unsuccessful attempts to reclassify the film as PG-13 Stateside, the mogul’s distribution company, the Weinstein Company, is releasing the movie unrated, and the AMC Theatres chain is allowing minors with a note from their parent or guardian to see the film — a reflective and affecting but still flawed cinematic entreaty which inveighs against teen-on-teen harassment.
Bully is constructed to elicit emotional response, for sure, and there’s an agonizing poignance to some of its pedestrian eloquence, which outstrips most scripted heartbreak. Yet for every illuminating interview tidbit and additional moment of discerning remove — as when director Lee Hirsch lingers on a near catatonic kid, allowing an audience the possibility of contemplating a seething future rage — Bully also seems to miss an opportunity to dig a bit deeper, psychologically, mainly because it doesn’t elicit explanations of mindset from those doing some of the bullying. This would crucially underscore the ineffectiveness and socially unacceptable nature of this behavior, show that this kind of acting out stems from its own type of trauma, and also illustrate that roles are often flipped later in life — with victims becoming victimizers, certainly emotionally if not physically. For the full, original review, from Screen International, click here. For more information on the film, click here. (The Weinstein Company, unrated, 98 minutes)
A generation or two ago, fantasy genre adventures like Wrath of the Titans still had some semblance of DNA connection to their B-picture forebears, the matinee serials that featured swashbuckling, sword-slinging heroes and backlot action shenanigans. Now, they’re just enormously budgeted machines, tent-pole franchises designed to necessarily wow with state-of-the-art digital wizardry and seemingly interchangeable heroes and circumstances. Such is the case with this inoffensive and slick if still rather middling upgrade over 2010’s Clash of the Titans, which ladles mythological spectacle on top of silly end-of-the-world boilerplate, and puts its characters through an effects laden steeplechase that squeezes out a few moments of synthetic bedazzlement that evaporate upon exiting from the theater. For the full, original review, from Screen International, click here. (Warner Bros., PG-13, 99 minutes)
For my latest DVD/Blu-ray column, over at ShockYa, I take a gander at the “Totally Irresponsible” version of Jonah Hill‘s bawdy The Sitter, the controversial first season of AMC’s The Killing, the documentary In the Garden of Sounds, a bunch of concert DVDs, a South African zombie flick, and more. Again, for the fun full read, click here.