DVD Mini-Reviews: The Dark Knight Returns: Part 1, Nobody Walks, Smashed

While I haven’t been making it to the theater as much lately, I have been catching up on last year’s DVDs. Here’s another batch of mini-reviews for recent releases:

The Dark Knight Returns: Part 1 [2012]
The Dark Knight Returns: Part 1 [dir. Jay Oliva]
If you thought The Dark Knight Rises featured an old and broken down Batman, wait till you see The Dark Knight Returns: Part 1. From the very first scene, Batman (voiced to perfection by Peter Weller) is near unrecognizable. Now donning withered, gray hair, Bruce Wayne is retired and trying to keep a low profile. It has been ten years since Batman last made an appearance, and now Gotham is rampant with crime and debauchery once again. The return of the maniacal Two Face — now with a completely reconstructed face — convinces Bruce to bring out the black cape and try to save Gotham.

Outside of Two Face, the main villains of the film are the gang known as the Mutants. Their leader is an exceptionally large brute who gives Batman a real run for his money. He’s a worthwhile adversary, and there’s no guarantee that Bruce, now 55 years old, can match him blow-for-blow. He is aided by a newly introduced Robin — just how many of them are there?? — though this character isn’t fleshed out too much. Still, the conclusion sets up part two fantastically, and I can’t wait to get my hands on that DVD. 8/10

Nobody Walks [2012]
Nobody Walks [dir. Ry Russo-Young]
In this disappointing drama, Olivia Thirlby stars as Martine, a young artist who stays with a Silver Lake family in hopes of finishing her filmmaking project. Thirtysomething Peter (John Krasinski), a sound engineer and the father of the household, is helping her with the mixing, and he is instantly attracted to the young, carefree guest. The film quickly turns into a “will they or won’t they” drama, and this extends into the rest of the family. Peter’s wife, Julie (Rosemarie DeWitt), is a therapist who is tempted by one of her clients (Justin Kirk). Their 16-year-old daughter, Kolt (India Ennenga), is infatuated with Peter’s assistant, David (Rhys Wakefield), and he is more interested in the age-appropriate Martine. Oh, and there’s Marcello (Emanuele Secci), Kolt’s sleazy Italian language tutor who keeps hitting on her.

The film presents all of these potential relationships and flings in a hopelessly dull manner. None of the characters are given any real development, and none of them, save maybe Julie, are even remotely likable. This is due to an incredibly poor script (co-written by Lena Dunham, surprisingly) that gives the generally strong cast nothing to work with. I like most of the cast — especially Thirlby — but this is an incredible waste of their talents. The film’s brief 83-minute running time still manages to feel like a chore, and the end result is a pointless effort all around. 3/10

Smashed [2012]
Smashed [dir. James Ponsoldt]
Alcoholism is a tricky subject to portray in film, but Smashed offers an interesting perspective — what if an alcoholic attempts to get help, yet their significant other makes no effort to cease their own drinking? This is the case with Marie (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a school teacher who hits rock bottom and realizes she needs to get help, fast. It turns out that her colleague, Dave (Nick Offerman), has been sober for ten years, and he brings her to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. She finds a sponsor, Jenny (Octavia Spencer), and begins the road to recovery. However, this begins taking its toll on her marriage, as her husband, Charlie (Aaron Paul), has little interest in stopping his heavy-drinking ways.

The relationship between Marie and Charlie is believable, and the two talented young actors have good chemistry. Winstead, in particular, delivers an amazing performance, one that could very well be career-defining. Occasional bits of humor break up the bleakness — Offerman’s character has the line of the movie, natch — but this is a drama by all means. It’s a shame that this one flew under the radar last year, as it’s well worth seeing for the performances alone. 8/10

Have you guys seen any of these? What did you think of them?