As stylistically and thematically quirky as one might've anticipated, Eagle vs Shark casts Loren Horsley as Lily - a painfully withdrawn young woman who embarks upon a tentative relationship with an almost egregiously offbeat figure named Jarrod (Jermaine Clement). There's little doubt that Eagle vs Shark, despite the inclusion of several undeniably hilarious comedic bits, generally comes off as a low-key and almost downbeat drama, as filmmaker Taika Cohen places the emphasis on Lily's often cringeworthy efforts at ingratiating herself with Clement's Jarrod. Horsley's incredibly earnest performance ensures that the viewer can't help but sympathize with Lily's plight, yet there admittedly does reach a point at which her pursuit of Jarrod becomes something of a head-scratcher. A self-obsessed jerk, Jarrod hardly seems in the same league as Lily and there's just no shaking the feeling that she could do a whole lot better - although, to be fair, the inevitable (and anticipated) fake break-up does spur the character into making positive changes within her own life (ie she slowly-but-surely starts to come out of her shell). And as effective as Cohen's expectedly off-kilter directorial choices are - the filmmaker even includes a few animated interludes! - Eagle vs Shark's strongest attribute is undoubtedly Horsley's indelible turn as the exceedingly endearing central character (which ultimately ensures that it's not terribly difficult to envision Lily successfully placed within the context of a straight-forward, comparatively conventional piece of work).
Smart People (August 10/08)
Smart People casts Dennis Quaid as Lawrence Wetherhold, a curmudgeonly college professor whose grumpy sensibilities are softened after he starts dating a fetching doctor (Sarah Jessica Parker's Chuck) following a back injury. The coupling inevitably affects Lawrence's relationship with his kids (Ellen Page's Vanessa and Ashton Holmes' James) and even brings him closer to his estranged adopted brother (Thomas Haden Church's Chuck). Director Noam Murro - working from Mark Poirier's screenplay - has infused Smart People with a laid-back, almost egregiously slow-paced vibe that admittedly does take some getting used to, yet there's little doubt that the stellar performances go a long way towards holding one's interest. Quaid is particularly good in a role that's certainly a far cry from his effortlessly charismatic persona, though it's impossible to deny the effectiveness of the supporting cast's uniformly strong work. Murro's increasingly militant efforts at sustaining a low-key tone proves detrimental to the movie's overall success, however, as the unapologetically plotless atmosphere and relentless barrage of sensitive folk songs might just be a little too much for certain viewers to handle. Still, Smart People remains a watchable piece of work that succeeds more as an actor's showcase than as a fully-realized, consistently compelling film.
About the DVDs: Eagle vs Shark and Smart People arrive on DVD courtesy of Buena Vista Home Entertainment, armed with anamorphically enhanced transfers and a plethora of bonus features (Eagle vs Shark: deleted scenes, outtakes, a commentary track, and a music video; Smart People: deleted scenes, interviews, outtakes, and a commentary track).