CHICAGO – “Drinking Buddies” director Joe Swanberg’s latest release of the same star wattage is “Happy Christmas,” an even lower-fi story than the Olivia Wilde beer comedy, steered even more by the casting that it was able to assemble. However, with this movie Swanberg doesn’t so much worry about having a story that could be confused with a more mainstream romantic comedy if it were to have a bigger budget.
Blu-Ray Review: Great Cast Cannot Save Deeply Flawed ‘Stone’
CHICAGO – There was a time when the union of two actors as accomplished as Robert De Niro and Edward Norton would make movie news headlines. And, to be fair, John Curran’s “Stone” was chosen to open the Chicago Internation Film Festival in large part due to the pedigree of its stars. But viewers are smarter than they used to be. They know now that a movie’s success is not solely dependent on the talent of its leads. And while De Niro and Norton are two of our best actors (and they are amply supported by two great female turns as well), “Stone” just doesn’t work.
Blu-Ray Rating: 2.5/5.0
The title of Curran’s semi-thriller refers to the nickname of Norton’s character, a con named Gerald Creeson who is up for parole and desperate to see the blue sky from more than just a prison yard. In fact, he’d like to see more than just sky as Stone also happens to have one of the hottest wives in the world, the lovely Lucetta (Milla Jovovich). Creeson talks a good game about redemption and seems to be honestly heading toward a second chance. Or is he? As with most parole situations, the question is if the convict is truly redeemed or merely manipulative.
The man tasked with answering that question is Jack Mabry (Robert De Niro), a bitter, angry fellow who seems beaten down by a life in a loveless marriage (to the great Frances Conroy). We know that the two have been miserable for decades because the film starts with a fascinating prologue in which Jack’s wife threatens to leave him and he essentially holds her captive through an even-greater threat. In thriller-speak, Jack is an easy target. He’s lonely, depressed, sullen, and listens to way too much religious radio.
Stone was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on January 18th, 2011
Photo credit: Anchor Bay Home Video
So, when Lucetta pays Jack a visit and seduces him in order to get Stone’s parole approved, the stage is set for a fascinating noir. But it never develops. “Stone” starts as a thriller that becomes less interesting as it goes along. Just as you expect it to take a twist or turn, it spins its wheels. I love movies that do something different but “Stone” doesn’t do anything much at all. It’s a film with a final act that doesn’t build enough on what came before — it merely fizzles out.
There are elements of “Stone” that work, especially on second viewing, and my initial review may have been a little harsh. I still think the finale is pretentious and messy but the strength of the cast carries the first two acts. The quartet, especially the movie-stealing Jovovich, do strong work here. They make it worth a rental on a snowy day, but it’s certainly not the home run we used to expect when powerhouses like Norton and De Niro shared a frame.
The lackluster Blu-ray release for “Stone” doesn’t help a second appraisal of the film. I was hoping for some insight via commentary or in-depth examination of the work but there’s just a measly making-of piece without much depth at all. The featurette runs barely over 6 minutes in length. Even the worst films of the year deserve more bonus material. As many problems as I had with “Stone,” it deserved better than this bare-bones treatment.
o Making Of