Thursday, September 21, 2006

New post at That's Thirty as well.

Two very different films are featured in this week's DVD column.

Beavis and Butt-head Do America

Ah, this film makes me nostalgic for those wonderful days in the 1990s when animation aimed at adults actually had originality and edge.

Nostalgic for Beavis and Butt-head? How long does it take for nostalgia to set in? Well "Beavis and Butt-head Do America" is 10 years old, but the decade has not dulled the film's satiric edge.

Once a staple of MTV, "Beavis and Butthead" showed what one could accomplish in limited animation given a clever concept, sharp writing and good vocal performances. B & B are two apparently unsupervised teenagers who are remarkably thick about everything else in the world except music videos. Their critique of the music they watch on MTV is as cutting as their behavior in the real world is dumb.

The premise of the feature film is to bring B&B out of their house, school and fast food jobs and into the country as a whole. When someone breaks into their home and steals their television set, they set out on a quest to find it.

They become implicated in the theft of a deadly viral weapon and are pursued by a FBI agent who orders cavity searches for everyone he encounters. They also may actually meet their fathers, although the four men are too dense to realize it.

The film is funny, although I readily admit that B&B's antics are an acquired taste.

The DVD features a pretty candid interview with B&B creator Mike Judge on the making of the film as well as a commentary by Judge and animation director Yvette Kaplan. It also has a useless bit called "The Smackdown," which features every scene in the film in which someone is getting slapped.

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Mountain Patrol: Kekexili

This 2004 Chinese film is the first production bearing the label of "National Geographic World Films," and although it is not a documentary, the story it presents is based on fact and was shot in Tibet where the real story took place.

Zhang Lei plays a Beijing journalist who comes to Tibet in 1996 to write a story on a group of civilians who are attempting to strop the poaching of the endangered Tibetan antelope that is prized for its pelts.

He gets more than just a story, though, as he is accepted in the volunteer group headed by Ri Tai (played by Duo Bujie). When the poachers murder one of Ri Tai's men, there is a new level of intensity brought to the effort to stop the poachers.

As the patrol travels further in the desolate Kekexili region, they are the victims of unforgiving weather and terrain. As they go deeper into the area, more about the group and their motivations is revealed as well.

Shot in Tibet, the film has a riveting look. It shows us a part of the world that few of us are ever going to see. Chaun Lu's direction is understated. He understands that the land and the challenges that go with it have a greater impact on the viewer than flashy editing or over-the-top performances ever could.

It's interesting to read the production journal about this film on the National Geographic web site for it ( as the filmmakers risked their health and lives making this movie in the high attitudes and the thin atmosphere of the Tibetan plains.

This is the kind of movie that is an antidote for the standard Hollywood fare that deadens our cinematic taste buds. Go rent it.

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