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'Valhalla Rising,' 'Sugar Boxx' not worth the rental

Date: 3/7/2011

March 7, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

Spoiler alert for this edition of the DVD review column: both of these new releases are not worth your time.

Valhalla Rising

Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn is an up and coming filmmaker on the international scene and other critics have praised this art house film as a cult film in the making.

I've watched a lot of cult films and my share of art house films and all I can say is that Refn's film has a long way to go to measure up to the best in either genre.

Set in 1000 A.D., the film centers on an enigmatic prisoner held by a Viking clan and used as a fighter. One Eye, as he is known, doesn't speak, but is the champion at the fights that earn his captors money.

He hates them and manages to kill all of the tribe while escaping, with the exception of a boy, who had been charged to take care of him. After his escape, One Eye and the boy join up with a group of Vikings headed to the Crusades. Instead of the Middle East, they wind up in North America, where things don't go very well.

I thought Vikings were amazing mariners — not this bunch.

Refn's film is full of long, long shots of rugged landscapes or dirty actors clad in skins reciting pithy dialogue. It's a pretentious piece of claptrap. The glacier-like pacing of the film is punctuated by scenes of graphic violence. I've not seen a disemboweling in a movie for a long time — joy!

I'm sure the film was about something and had some deep inner meaning, but it wasn't apparent to me.

Sugar Boxx

This is what "Grindhouse" — the loving and entertaining recreation of 1970s drive-in movies — has brought about. Now, people like me will have to suffer through low-budget "homages" to independent fare from 35 years ago.

I would much rather watch the originals. Thanks goodness, they are now on DVD.

This particular film tackles one of the most controversial genres: the women in prison movies. It is next to impossible to craft a type of production that would have the potential for as much exploitation as the women in prison movies.

It is also next to impossible to defend the films — which date all the way back to the 1930s, but really didn't come into their own until the 1960s.

Despite the distinct lack of political correctness, women in prison films have always found an audience and I'm sure when "Sugar Boxx" pops up at a Red Box, it will also be a high renter.

Set in 1975 — although there are no indicators of a particular time — Genevieve Anderson stars as an investigative reporter who goes undercover at a notorious women's prison. All of the plot points and cliches of the genre are trotted out.

According to the making-of feature, this is all supposed to be amusing and hip. It's not. It's cheap, style-less and tawdry.

The movie also commits the unforgivable sin of being boring.

Pass this one up.

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