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Sony's March '08 Releases

My Kid Could Paint That (March 8/08)

My Kid Could Paint That is an awfully slight yet basically agreeable documentary following the exploits of Marla Olmstead, a four-year-old would-be painter who creates a stir within the art world after her work begins selling for thousands of dollars. Problems ensue after Marla's father is accused of helping his daughter with her artwork, which - not surprisingly - brings the interest in the precocious toddler's abstract paintings to a dead stop. There's little doubt that My Kid Could Paint That gets off to an almost disastrous start, as director Amir Bar-Lev devotes much of the film's opening half hour to dry blather from dull talking heads. Art-scene devotees might find some of this stuff interesting, admittedly, but casual viewers will surely find themselves growing impatient for something (anything) of note to transpire. The film improves immeasurably following the airing of a 60 Minutes episode in which Marla's abilities are called into question, with the controversy infusing the proceedings with several much-needed bursts of conflict (ie the Olmsteads find themselves forced to prove the authenticity of the paintings). Yet despite the inclusion of a few sporadically intriguing sequences, My Kid Could Paint That ultimately does feel too slight to warrant a feature-length effort - as evidenced by Bar-Lev's needlessly suspicious behavior towards the Olmsteads (ie he continues to distrust them long past the point where it makes sense, ensuring that he finally comes off as a sleazy opportunist).

out of

Outpost (March 9/08)

Outpost follows a group of varyingly-grizzled mercenaries - including rough-and-tumble leader DC (Ray Stevenson) - as they embark on a mission to an abandoned World War II bunker, where the men subsequently find themselves cornered by a veritable army of undead Nazi soldiers. The film's admittedly irresistible premise is ultimately rendered moot by the almost unreasonably deliberate pace, as it eventually becomes clear that the entire opening hour could've easily been compressed into a tightly-wound 15-minute chunk. Director Steve Barker - working from Rae Brunton's screenplay - primarily devotes the movie's first two-thirds to an endless series of sequences in which DC and his boys explore the bunker; problems ensue as it becomes increasingly clear that Barker and Brunton have little interest in developing these characters beyond their most superficial attributes, and it ultimately goes without saying that one winds up with virtually no rooting interest in their survival (ie with the exception of DC, these guys are basically interchangeable). And while Barker does a surprisingly decent job in infusing the proceedings with a distinctly spooky atmosphere, the film's interminable build-up eventually leads to a pay-off that's not even remotely worth it - with the filmmaker's penchant for cutting away during overtly gory moments certainly not helping matters.

out of

Pistol Whipped (March 5/08)

Though the film's not quite effective enough to warrant an entirely hearty recommendation, Pistol Whipped undeniably does continue the upward trend of Steven Seagal's career trajectory as of late (which kicked off with last year's better-than-expected Urban Justice). The tubby action star plays Matt, a disgraced ex-cop with a mountain of debt who's offered the chance to start over after a mysterious figure (Lance Henriksen) buys up his gambling markers. In exchange, Matt must assassinate a series of vicious underworld types - although, perhaps inevitably, the former police officer soon finds himself at the center of a massive conspiracy. Director Roel Reine - despite his penchant for ostentatious stylistic choices (ie a far-too-pronounced emphasis on slow motion) - has peppered Pistol Whipped with a number of surprisingly decent hand-to-hand fighting sequences, including one in which Seagal, echoing some of the best efforts of his early days, breaks a hapless goon's arm in half ("a severe talking to" is how he later describes the altercation). The almost egregiously slow nature of J.D. Zeik's screenplay ultimately does become the film's most insurmountable obstacle, however, as one can't help but grow impatient for the next action sequence (if the worst thing one can say about a Seagal flick is that it's too deliberately paced, one is admittedly in pretty good shape). That said, there's little doubt that Pistol Whipped contains what just might be the best line in a Seagal flick ever - as the big guy verbally smacks down a former co-worker by telling him, "if I want any lip out of you, I'll rip it off your fucking face."

out of

The Shepherd (March 9/08)

Though infused with several effective action sequences and an expectedly solid turn from star Jean-Claude Van Damme, The Shepherd is ultimately undone by the inclusion of several exceedingly questionable elements (with the uniformly amateurish performances only exacerbating matters). Van Damme plays Jack Robideaux, a rabbit-toting border agent who must overcome a series of professional and personal obstacles before he can take down a ruthless drug cartel. It's clear right off the bat that The Shepherd has been designed to resemble some of Van Damme's early efforts, as evidenced by its plethora of admittedly thrilling hand-to-hand fight scenes. Director Isaac Florentine initially stages such moments with a distinctly low-key and refreshingly simple sensibility, although one can't help but question his egregious use of slow-motion during the movie's final confrontation (it's almost as if another filmmaker took the reins during this pivotal sequence). Van Damme's superb work in the central role does carry the movie through a few less-than-enthralling stretches, yet it eventually does become impossible to overlook the film's increasingly negative attributes (ie the two bland, utterly forgettable villains). In the end, The Shepherd undoubtedly comes off as one of Van Damme's weaker efforts as of late - though it's hard not to admire the actor for his continued efforts at playing slightly more complex characters than genre counterparts such as Steven Seagal and Wesley Snipes.

out of

About the DVDs: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents all four films with anamorphically-enhanced transfers, and while The Shepherd comes up empty in terms of bonus features, Outpost and Pistol Whipped contain a smattering of deleted scenes (My Kid Could Paint That fares best, as it includes a commentary track and a pair of featurettes).
© David Nusair