It may not be easy being Uwe Boll, but it must be fun. I conclude this only after having met the guy (and gotten on his emailing list, which is not recommended—you get multiple spammy missives about All Things Uwe every freakin’ day). He’s disarmingly friendly, boundlessly energetic, a fanboy-turned-maker who thinks large and has the entrepreneurial skills to pull off his ideas in the real entertainment-biz world. Who else could have cobbled together funding for so many modest-to-fairly-big-budget features without any major Hollywood studio backing whatsoever? Not to mention his talents as an ebullient self-promoter, one who seizes on bad press (of which he gets plenty) as a license for public pugnaciousness.
OK, so he’s more hack than artiste. But for my money, such widely dissed movies as House of the Dead and Alone in the Dark are no worse than most of the fantasy action junk that occupies multiplexes these days, and in some aspects better. At least they’re fast-paced, lively and unpretentious. As opposed to, say, the bloated, elephantine, humorless and overlong ouevre of genre champ Michael Bay (whom Boll, in a typical stunt, recently challenged to a boxing match—like the ones he’s previously fought and won against some over-confident online film critics). Gamers seem to particularly loathe him for "ruining" movie adaptations of several popular video games. But c’mon: Who’s made a good movie out of a video game? Ever?
Actually, Uwe now has….almost. Postal, which opens at the Roxie this Friday, has struggled to find bookings (it debuted at film festivals nearly a year ago) and has predictably earned the scorn of most U.S. reviewers in its limited exposure so far. It’s deliberately tasteless, somewhat juvenile, and not as funny as one would like it to be. All of Team America and that getting-stoned-with-the-Prez scene in the new Harold & Kumar movie were funnier in bad-taste-spoofing our surreal post-9/11 world. Postal isn’t clever so much as wildly energetic, colorful and simply rude. It’s not exactly good, but it does earn many a point for sheer gumption. I liked its, er, esprit—perhaps in precise opposition to the many offended reviewers more intent on Boll-bashing than ever now that he’s made a game adaptation with actual relevant political satire. The horror!
This live-action cartoon stars the excellent Zack Ward as "Dude," a luckless trailer park denizen with an enormously fat cheating spouse (Jodie Stewart). Desperate to improve his lot, he turns to Uncle Dave (ex-Kid in the Hall Dave Foley, who gamely gives full monty here), leader of a New Agey apocalyptic cult whose main goal seems to be providing him with Playboy Bunny-type "worshippers." Dave is in deep trouble with the IRS, so he proposes a theft scheme with his nephew. Alas, cash-strapped minions of Osama bin Laden (Larry Thomas) have already had the same idea. Ridiculous mayhem ensues.
With the participation of Verne Troyer, Michael Pare, onetime Cassavetes collaborator Seymour Cassel, as well as jokes riffing on gratuitous child imperilment, motivational seminars, handicapped panhandlers, et al., Postal recalls scattershot 1960s comedies in which the kitchen sink was duly tossed in, every holy cow deflowered. Those movies ranged from superb (The President’s Analyst) to trying-hard (The Loved One, Lord Love a Duck) to horribly labored (John Goldfarb, Please Come Home!). But all had a certain over-the-top daring. Postal has it too.
Boll doesn’t spare himself from satire: The German director is seen here presiding over a Third Reich-themed amusement park, cheerfully admitting his are indeed "funded by Nazi gold." But if the humor is too often simply lowbrow (involving the usual bodily secretions, unattractive nudity, etc.) and too seldom genuinely inspired (though there are a few hilarious exceptions), this lampoon of 21st-century fanaticism in all its forms—from gun-crazy to tree-hugging—keeps you entertained wondering just what target it will launch a grenade at next. When a filmmaker is having this much fun, it’s hard not to join in. Even if you feel a little guilty the morning after.
Critics from the Bay Area and beyond weigh in on the weekend's openings.
Kelly Reichardt creates a moving meditation on open space with 'Meek's Cutoff.'
A collection of Dave Kehr's analytical, entertaining pieces from 30-plus years ago offers critical enlightenment for a short-form era.
Resnais remains elusive and detached, his films beautiful abstracts of intellectual rather than emotional impact.
Maren Ade’s second feature is striking for what it doesn't do as it follows ordinary lives through a failing relationship.
Hirokazu Kore-eda's Air Doll is a conceptual gamble pulled off with a master’s grace and subtlety.
Ondine finds Neil Jordan back on personal terra firma with a story (his own, in conception and screenplay) that sits exactly on the thin line separating reality and fantasy.
The documentary chronicles several large-scale pranks devised in the hopes of fooling corporate/government event attendees and/or the media.