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Three Dramas from Anchor Bay

According to Greta (January 18/10)

Featuring an impressive performance from Hilary Duff, According to Greta follows rebellious teen Greta (Duff) as she's forced to spend her summer within a sleepy New Jersey town with her grandparents (Ellen Burstyn's Katherine and Michael Murphy's Joseph). Greta's distaste (and flat-out disgust) for her less-than-exciting surroundings is reflected in her increasingly antisocial behavior, yet the character inevitably begins to soften as she grows closer to Katherine and Joseph and even starts dating a kind-hearted local (Evan Ross' Julie). It goes without saying that According to Greta's eye-rollingly familiar premise - coupled with the protagonist's almost unreasonably sarcastic and sassy demeanor - results in an opening half hour that's nothing short of disastrous, with the completely predictable atmosphere often threatening to negate the genuinely strong work from the various performers. There's little doubt, however, that the movie's unabashedly deliberate pace plays a significant role in its slow-but-steady turnabout, as director Nancy Bardawil - working from Michael Gilvary's screenplay - does a nice job of developing the film's laid-back landscape to such an extent that Greta essentially becomes compelling by association. Duff's unexpectedly strong work ensures that her character's relationship with Ross' Julie is substantially more intriguing than one might've initially suspected, with the inclusion of several progressively poignant moments and a thoroughly satisfying conclusion cementing According to Greta's impressive transformation from bottom-of-the-barrel teen drama to surprisingly engrossing character study.

out of

Jimmy and Judy (October 19/09)

Though it boasts an almost unwatchable opening half hour, Jimmy and Judy ultimately establishes itself as a marginally entertaining first-person drama that benefits substantially from the two leads' compelling work. The storyline follows a couple of misfits (Edward Furlong's Jimmy and Rachael Bella's Judy) as they embark on a violent road trip after Jimmy accidentally kills a cop, with the bulk of the proceedings subsequently detailing their efforts to reach a fabled redneck compound (where they'll supposedly be surrounded by like-minded anarchists). There's little doubt that Jimmy and Judy's central visual conceit - the entire film has been shot entirely from the perspective of the two central characters - proves effective at holding the viewer at arm's length at the outset, with Furlong's almost aggressively obnoxious work as Jimmy initially exacerbating the movie's low-rent sensibilities. It's not until Jimmy and Judy begin to get to know one another (and eventually start to fall in love) that the film starts to become more than just an aimless exercise in audaciousness, as the palpable chemistry between the two stars infuses the narrative with an authenticity and sweetness that becomes progressively difficult to resist. The amiable atmosphere persists right up until the eponymous couple are forced to go on the run, after which point the increased emphasis on sleaziness slowly but surely drains Jimmy and Judy of its energy - thus signaling the movie's shift from likeable romance to tedious lovers-on-the-run thriller. And although William Sadler's short-lived turn as the aforementioned redneck compound's intense yet charismatic leader temporarily alleviates the stagnant vibe, there's simply no getting around the pervasively uneven nature of the film's structure - which effectively cements its place as an intriguing yet hopelessly uneven endeavor.

out of

The Stone Boy (January 21/10)

Well intentioned yet pervasively dull, The Stone Boy follows farmers Joe (Robert Duvall) and Ruth Hillerman (Glenn Close) as they attempt to cope with the accidental death of their teenage son (Dean Cain's Eugene) at the hands of 12-year-old Arnold (Jason Presson) - with the movie also emphasizing the impact that the tragedy has on several periphery family members (including Frederic Forrest's sleazy Uncle Andy and Wilford Brimley's kind-hearted Grandpa George). It's clear right from the get-go that Christopher Cain is in absolutely no hurry to tell this story, as the director has infused The Stone Boy with an almost achingly deliberate pace that does prove effective at establishing the film's very specific locale, admittedly - yet there's little doubt that the laid-back atmosphere, when combined with the uniformly subdued performances and the less-than-eventful nature of Gina Berriault's script, effectively ensures that the viewer's efforts at forming any kind of emotional attachment to the characters fall flat virtually from start to finish. The movie's problems are exacerbated by a sporadic emphasis on elements that couldn't possibly be less interesting (ie Uncle Andy's less-than-savory extracurricular activities), and although the narrative has been peppered with a handful of undeniably poignant moments (ie Arnold finally breaks down over his unwitting role in his brother's death), The Stone Boy's inability to hold the viewer's interest on a consistent basis ultimately negates its positive attributes.

out of

About the DVDs: All three films arrive on DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment, and although The Stone Boy comes up empty in terms of bonus features, According to Greta and Jimmy and Judy boast a smattering of supplemental materials.
© David Nusair