Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Southland Tales

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
2 out of 10
Extras Rating:
4 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: R

Starring:
Dwayne Johnson as Boxer Santaros / Jericho Kane
Seann William Scott as Roland Taverner / Ronald Taverner
Sarah Michelle Gellar as Krysta Now / Krysta Kapowski
Mandy Moore as Madeline Frost Santaros
Justin Timberlake as Private Pilot Abilene
Nora Dunn as Cyndi Pinziki
John Larroquette as Vaughn Smallhouse
Ling Bai as Serpentine (as Bai Ling)
Jon Lovitz as Bart Bookman
Holmes Osborne as Senator Bobby Frost
Cheri Oteri as Zora Carmichaels
Amy Poehler as Veronica Mung / Dream
Lou Taylor Pucci as Martin Kefauver
Miranda Richardson as Nana Mae Frost
Wallace Shawn as Baron Von Westphalen

Special Features:
"USIDent TV: Surveilling the Southland" Featurette
"This is the Way the World Ends" Animated Short

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.40:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish and French Subtitles
Running Time: 144 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following is from the DVD description:

"'Southland Tales' is an ensemble piece set in the futuristic landscape of Los Angeles as it stands on the brink of social, economic and environmental disaster. Boxer Santaros is an action star who's stricken with amnesia. His life intertwines with Krysta Now, an adult film star developing her own reality television project, and David Clark, a Hermosa Beach police officer who holds the key to a vast conspiracy."

"Southland Tales" is rated R for language, violence, sexual material and some drug content.

Mini Review:
I really wanted to like "Southland Tales." Honest. I love the cast, I enjoyed "Donnie Darko," and the premise of the film sounded interesting. But as I watched this film, it got weirder and weirder and harder to follow. I thought, "Maybe I'm just not getting it", but I got more lost. I thought, "Maybe there will be a payoff at the end that will explain everything", so I stuck it out longer. By the end I was convinced I had just seen one of the worst movies I had ever encountered. It's the kind of movie you would get if you gave a Hollywood liberal who was out of touch with reality a large budget, a big cast, and a bunch of special effects. You get an incoherent piece of film that takes potshots at the Bush administration, the war on terror, Hollywood, porn, and alternative energy while portraying L.A. as the center of the universe. All the while everyone involved is convinced they're taking part in high art and if you don't understand it, well, you must be an idiot.

"Southland Tales" is a failure on almost every level. As a story, it doesn't have any sort of coherent narrative. You don't follow who the characters are, you don't understand why they're doing what they're doing, and you can't really explain anything you see on the screen. (In fact, a number of the actors say they don't understand the script in the bonus features and these are the people that have the writer directing them. You think you'll fare better?) "Southland Tales" can't seem to find what genre it wants to be, either. Kelly calls it political satire, but it's a bit hard to tell what point he's trying to make. He calls it a comedy, but it's not funny despite the huge infusion of "Saturday Night Live" cast. He calls it a musical, but there's just one song. It tries to be a drama but there's just too much weirdness for it to succeed there.

And weirdness is one thing this film has in spades. You get to see a CGI Hummer-like vehicle have rather graphic sex with another Hummer. You see the psychic from "Poltergeist" team up with the guy from "Princess Bride" and Booger from "Revenge of the Nerds" to create an alternative energy source. You see Sarah Michelle Gellar as a porn star that never actually does any porn. You see The Rock act like a frightened child while ranting about his 'screenplay'. You hear talk of the world ending but never really see it end. You see Kevin Smith in old age makeup talking about time travel. You see the Highlander getting his butt kicked by the diminutive Cheri Oteri. I could go on and on. It just freakin' weird, man. I don't know what hallucinogens Kelly was on while creating this, but they were apparently rather potent.

I honestly can't think of who to recommend this film to. "Southland Tales" is just too incoherent for most audiences to enjoy. It's a major train wreck. Maybe people that enjoy watching train wrecks will enjoy it. Maybe the relatives of the actors would want to watch it. Maybe the most die hard Richard Kelly fans will want to view it. But seriously, Kelly needs to get away from Hollywood for a while and get his head on straight before anyone else invests in another one of his films.

I hoped the bonus features would explain the movie more to me, but I had no luck there. You just get the usual offerings of cast and crew interviews, behind the scenes footage, and other such stuff. You get very little insight into the story. In fact, the animated short "This is How The World Ends" only further contributes to the weirdness. We're treated to a crudely drawn Flash animation octopus telling his grandkid about how humans killed themselves. Inspiring. There's nothing else here like a commentary, deleted scenes, or other standard extra.

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