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Ballast [Blu-ray] [Import]

Micheal J. Smith , JimMyron Ross , Lance Hammer    Unrated   Blu-ray
1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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BALLAST - Blu-Ray Movie

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1.0 out of 5 stars Ballast? No, Deadweight. Jan. 13 2014
By Richard
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This is one of the worst films I've ever seen. It was obvious that whoever wrote it might have had a good idea but had very little ability to actually write. And, whoever directed or edited it should realize that abruptly cutting off a scene and jumping to another just doesn't work. The idea behind the story was a good one but it was worse than a grade school production. The one positive is that the "actors" were real people and not the usual glamourous Hollywood plastic actors. There is no way that this film should cost any more than $5 - it was worse than any $5 film I've bought in the cheapie bin at Wal-mart.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ballast -- something that gives stability Nov. 13 2009
By Westley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
"Ballast" is a small independent movie that was shot with primarily nonprofessional actors. Set in a rural area of the Mississippi Delta, the film focuses on Lawrence (Michael K. Smith, Sr.), a 30-something African-American man who lives on the same property as his twin brother. In the opening scene, a neighbor visits Lawrence, who is in a near catatonic state and won't respond; he's clearly experienced some kind of trauma. Slowly, we learn the back story and the relationships between the other characters who drift into the movie. This is a slice of life not often examined in movies - the realistic lives of poor African Americans in one of the most down-trodden areas of the country.

The movie is extremely low-key and slow paced. Likewise, the acting is often flat and doesn't always feel genuine (the extras show how the scenes were rehearsed and sometimes improved with the cast). However, "Ballast" overall does feel shockingly genuine, and even though it focuses on depressing issues the movie manages to be fairly uplifting without feeling manipulative. First-time director Lance Hammer has managed to tell an original American story that despite its pace is quite captivating. The film was nominated for and won various indie film awards, including a win at the Sundance Film Festival for Best Directing (Dramatic). "Ballast" reminded me a bit in tone and content of another recent indie hit, "Frozen River," and I think it will appeal to a similar audience.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adrift . . . Nov. 20 2009
By Ronald Scheer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Like the debris of Hurricane Katrina scattered in the fields of this rural Mississippi setting, the lives of the three central characters of this wonderful film have been shattered by forces beyond their control. A mother tries to rescue her boy from the dangerous influence of some nasty drug dealers, while a man reels from the suicide of his twin brother, who is also her ex-husband. Under grim winter skies, the emotional distances between them - anger, fear, distrust, lost hopes - verge on despair and then careen away from disaster, as the three tentatively reach out to a resolution that involves each other.

It's an alarming and saddening portrayal of lives slipping through safety nets and, by a kind of miracle of circumstances and determination, saving themselves, one day at a time. Filmmaker Lance Hammer uses hand-held cameras and an elliptical style of editing to heighten the urgency in the characters' situations. Performances are restrained and remarkable, especially JimMyron Ross, who plays the boy with a sullen silence that betrays the terror and confusion that his character is trying to hide. The DVD includes three improvisational scenes in which the actors explore their characters' relationships. Deserves every award it has won.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cliched Oct. 30 2011
By Karen Franklin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
I rented Ballast due to all of the awards and glowing reviews. But I found it so ridden with clichés, stereotypes and implausibilities that I couldn't even suspend disbelief, much less bring myself to rave about it.

The minimalist plot centers around three characters: Marlee (Tarra Riggs), the single mother with a history of drug addiction; her troubled son James (JimMyron Ross), who dabbles with drugs and guns; and the boy's catatonically depressed uncle Lawrence (Micheal J. Smith). Although the setting of a poverty-stricken African-American family in the Mississippi Delta is unusual in film, the central plot is entirely conventional: Lonely souls brought together by tragedy. But mostly, we get long, sad and bitter silences. Even an excellent performance by Riggs cannot overcome the lack of character development; none of these three are multi-dimensional enough to elicit audience connection.

What little action does occur is implausible. One moment, a gang of dangerous drug dealers is set to kill James over a $100 debt; the next, these rogues have mysteriously disappeared and are never seen again. Equally inexplicable is the ending. The film suddenly just ends, in mid-stride.

After finding myself so uncharacteristically at odds with the mainstream accolades, I scoured the reviews to find anyone whose take was remotely similar to mine. I finally found film critic Armond White's review in the New York Press, which hit the nail on the head by calling Ballast "an African-American indie film fantasy made for white liberals":

"You have to see through these ludicrous black phantoms to the actual white middle-class fantasies at the film's core.... Ballast demonstrates exactly how movies condition knee-jerk responses to black pathology.... It's simply another calling-card movie establishing the director's credentials.... African-American life is imprisoned by the art fallacies of Indie filmmaking, controlled by white liberal condescension."

Much as I wanted to like this movie, I couldn't. The two stars is for Riggs's acting. I hope the film gives the actors - especially Riggs -- much-deserved visibility for future success.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting in its simplicity Nov. 22 2009
By R. Gawlitta - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
"Ballast", writer/director Lance Hammer's low-budget Indie darling, is a slice of life, profound in it's realistic approach to simple, good people facing adversity. Without blabbing away the plot, our 3 central characters have their own individual issues, all of which collide and provide a new understanding among them. Marlee (the excellent Tarra Reed) shows great range of emotion; loving mother, scorned wife, a woman of integrity. Her young son, James, (JimMyron Ross), still craving the attention of an absent father, finds himself caught up in the naîve world of peer pressure and drugs. Lawrence (Michael J. Smith) is reeling over the suicide of his twin brother, James' father. Suspicion, confusion and mild deceit color the interaction of the three, leading to a sensible resolve. I'm glad I had the opportunity to rent the DVD, after all the awards it's received. The widescreen transfer is quite fine, showing a desolate landscape, which is a character in itself. The cinematography is quite fine. The fact that the story revolves around African-Americans is incidental; these characters could be of any color, since their issues are universal. Highly recommended!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This movie was weak. Jan. 14 2014
By Bannister McKenzie - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
I was shocked at how much positive feedback this movie received. The acting was okay, the character development missing and what was there was bleak boring and un realistic. The blue and grey filter over everything is overdone, I see it all the time. The fact this movie was directed by a white person is almost borderline racist, and I feel that the entire character relationships reflect how a white middle class, privileged person would view this subject matter. I look to a movie like Mississipi Burning which really dives into the subject matter and take a stance as well as tells a story. Or the the movie Fresh, which deals with a similar premise however the plot of both of those movies is thoughtful, and worthy of a movie. This movie's plot really disappointed me. It may be realism or minimalism or whatever it is supposed to defend itself by grabbing on to but the story was very shallow. I felt the romance between the brother and his own twin brothers babes mother was predictable. Again a disappointing movie all around, sorry.
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