Pickings for this week’s Movies You May Have Missed column are modest and I’m a lazy man so I’m essentially repurposing and expanding blurbs I already wrote for recent weekend forecasts. As always, this is not a comprehensive DVD release list. These are simply movies that may not have gotten their due in theaters, but are hitting DVD on Tuesday.
Big Man Japan (2007) ***
It’s Hancock (minus Will Smith and plus not sucking) meets Ultraman as a seemingly ordinary Japanese slacker is turned into a giant not-so-superhero in order to save Japan from evil and absurd monsters – extra emphasis on the word absurd. It turns out he’s one of a long line of such heroes, but unfortunately he’s not very good at what he does, his heart’s not really in it and no one seems to want him around. To make matters worse, he’s not so great as a father or husband either. Told in mock documentary style, Big Man Japan is an odd and sad little sci-fi comedy infused with the spirit and following the structure of a particularly strange monster fighting videogame. It ends with a fanciful climax straight out of an episode of Ultraman. This is a bizarre little movie that will probably be repellant to anyone who doesn’t find a way inside its strange bubble, but if you can get there it’s a fun ride. Recommended if you’re sick to death of ordinary superhero movies like I am or if you just have a thing for colossal Japanese dudes with blue underwear and Don King haircuts. You know who you are.
Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America (2007) ***
This practically homemade adventure epic (inspired by actual 11th century Norse incursions into the New World) sets the story of two Vikings stranded in Eastern Canada to the strains of modern Norwegian black metal. Written by, directed by and starring Tony Stone, Severed Ways is an ambitious piece of work that starts out a little like a goofy metal head fantasy come to life, but it slowly takes on a contemplative and meditative seriousness that threatens to remind you of something made by Werner Herzog. I have some issues with the aesthetics of the first half, particularly the camerawork done almost entirely in claustrophobic close-up with that annoying, choppy, high speed digital they use in football games, but at the same time I can’t quite stop thinking about it. If you’re in the mood for a strange, ruminative Viking adventure by way of Herzog or if you’re a fan of bands like Burzum, Morbid Angel and Dimmu Borgir, you might want to have a look at this. Even if you’re not, Tony Stone is someone to watch out for. Unfortunately, Severed Ways already played in New York and is only now opening in Los Angeles (at the Sunset 5). I have no idea if or when it will play in other cities, but it’s recommended with the above qualifications.