A weekly round-up of new releases on home video includes 'Hurt Locker,' 'Moon,' 'In The Loop'
Plus 'The Simpsons' and Fellini go high-def
Welcome to the DVD & Games Forecast.
Last week may have been a little slow, but this week more than makes up for it. Holy cow, if you've got good taste in movies, you're going to be broke by Wednesday morning. The featured titles this week represent one of the strongest single week line-ups in months. Lots to cover, so let's get right to it.
THIS WEEK'S FEATURED TITLES:
At this point, "The Hurt Locker" may well be the most-discussed film from 2009 that no one's seen. Hopefully that will change with it coming out on DVD and BluRay this week. It's a fairly intimate film, and I don't think it's going to hurt the movie at all if people see it at home. It's almost the opposite of its primary Oscar competition, "Avatar," a character-driven drama set in the real world, complex and political. The notion of a lead character who is addicted to the adrenaline of war is difficult for either liberals or conservatives to turn into a simple symbol, which automatically makes it one of the most interesting of the modern war films. Kathryn Bigelow has always been a director of tremendous style, but with this film, she finally became an important one as well.
Although I may not have been quite as in love with this SF film as some of my peers, I think it's smart and admirable stuff. Sam Rockwell gives a couple of strong performances as an astronaut who is nearing the end of a three-year-tour working a largely automated lunar mining station. As some strange events start to unfold, he begins to question the nature of his job and even his reality, and eventually the film becomes a brain-bending trip. The most impressive thing about the film is how much director Duncan Jones pulled off on a limited budget. It's a major announcement for him as a filmmaker, and I look forward to whatever he does next.
I'm a little baffled by the decision by Fox to skip seasons 13-19 in their release schedule of "The Simpsons" on DVD. I guess it's to tie in with the 20th anniversary of the show, but I just hope they plan to go back and keep releasing the other seasons, otherwise my extreme DVD collecting OCD will cause my head to cave in. It's cool that they're starting to actually produce episodes in HD and that they're finally releasing the series on BluRay, and I always love the extras they include for this series. I haven't watched the last few seasons on the air, mainly because I watch very little TV when it actually airs, so for the first time, this box will be all new for me instead of me revisiting episodes. This was the first season of the show produced after "The Simpsons Movie," and many fans felt that re-energized the show. Even the worst of the Simpsons is better than most show's best moments, though, so I look forward to digging in as soon as I pick this up.
My pick for #10 on my list of the ten best films of 2009. Here's what I wrote when I published that list:
Armando Iannucci is one of the great unsung heroes of modern British comedy, at least on this side of the Atlantic, and I hope that the buzz success of "In The Loop" starts to change that. If you sit through this film and say at the end of it, "But no one really talks like that, and if they did, there's no way other professional people would put up with it," then I envy you your sheltered existence, and I wish the world worked the way you think it does. I have met many Malcolm Tuckers in my day, and Peter Capaldi gives such perfect, savage life to the character that you might be excused for thinking it's really who he is. This spin-off from the British comedy series "In The Thick Of It" may be set against the world of politics, but it could easily be set inside a billion-dollar corporation or a Hollywood studio. The point is that almost all power is a by-product of fear, and the people who are the most powerful are also those who are almost overwhelmed by a deep and yawning panic about their place in the world. It is an ugly mirror that this movie holds up to us, but a hilarious one all the same.
Forget Rob Marshall's "Nine" and just head straight to the source, Federico Fellini's autobiographical trip through his own creativity and inspiration. Director Guido (Marcello Mastroianni) finds himself desperate for some release after his last big hit, but constantly barraged by people wanting more from him. As he tries to come up with an idea for his next film, he ends up adrift in memories of the women who shaped him into the man he is. It is a beautiful, seductive film, and I'm eager to see how it looks on BluRay. I've only ever seen it on the bigscreen, and every print I've seen of it was worn and faded. I don't love every film Fellini made, but the ones I do love speak to me on a near-chemical level, and of those, "8 1/2" may well be the one I love the most.
"The Brothers Bloom" (BluRay/DVD)
Rian Johnson's second film is a daffy confection, a con man movie about brotherly love anchored by a wonderful performance by Rachel Weisz. I'm really surprised by how completely the critical community failed Johnson on this one, and I think part of it is that people don't know what to do with screwball comedy these days. I found the film charming from end-to-end, and it's got a gorgeous pop look that is perfectly suited to BluRay. I actually saw the film way back in 2008, so I'm curious to finally revisit it, and I look forward to showing to people who I know missed it in theaters.
You don't have to be a sports freak to understand this film. Anyone who spends time around people who are manic about film or television or music or anything probably knows people like Patton Oswalt's character here, a guy whose whole identity is wrapped up in the sports team he supports. When I read stories about people who get depressed because they'll never travel to Pandora after seeing "Avatar" for the eleventh time, I have to wonder what kind of life they're living that would make them wish for a life on a fictional planet over whatever reality they currently experience. When escapism becomes everything to someone, a line is crossed, and that's the subject of Robert Siegel's small, dark picture. Oswalt, a blisteringly funny stand-up comic, taps into a wellspring of sadness and fury with his performance here, and the film packs a bitter punch that lingers.
ALSO ON BLURAY:
I love the Alan Parker original and I am willing to admit a shameless addiction to the series in the '80s, so I find myself compulsively drawn to check out the remake of "Fame" (BluRay/DVD), even though it barely made a blip when it was released. I'm curious to see what Rob Zombie did to his film with the director's cut of "Halloween II" (BluRay/DVD). I wasn't a fan of either of his "Halloween" films, but I keep hoping his love of horror films is going to manifest into a genuinely scary and affecting experience one of these days. I've never seen a Tyler Perry film, but Taraji P. Henson might get me to check out "I Can Do Bad All By Myself" (BluRay/DVD) this week. Sony's putting out both "Cliffhanger" (BluRay) and "The Last Action Hero" (BluRay) this week, and although I don't think either film is great, I'm interested in revisiting both of them. I want to see that amazing opening sequence in the Stallone film, maybe the best thing Renny Harlin ever shot, and I'm curious to see if I finally connect with McTiernan's parody of '80s films, because I really didn't when it came out. Guillermo Arriaga has written a number of films I've really liked, but he had a major falling out with director Alejandro Innaritu and now he's finally made his debut as a feature director with "The Burning Plain" (BluRay/DVD), and I want to see what he brings to the table working on his own. It's going to be a blast to finally revisit the kung-fu peacenik film "Billy Jack" (BluRay), one of the most preposterous hits of the '70s. I can't honestly say I like the film, but I am endlessly entertained by it.
ALSO ON DVD:
Last year's winner of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, "Departures" is a gentle and touching film about a cellist who needs work, so he ends up taking a gig getting corpses ready for funerals. I wrote last week about how much I loved "Passing Strange," Spike Lee's film of the final performances of the award-winning musical, and I sincerely hope people give it a chance since it really didn't get any traction at all in limited release. I know '80s slasher films aren't good for me, but god help me, I'm still going to revisit "The House On Sorority Row" for the first time since I was a kid. There's one reason I will be picking up the "Urban Action Collection" post-haste, and that reason is called "Black Belt Jones," damn it. I've heard enough good about the indie titles"Amreeka," "Goliath," "You The Living," and "Tru Loved" that I feel compelled to check them out, and I saw a strong trailer for "A l'Aventure" that made me interested. It's been a while since I saw the early Tom Berenger film "In Praise Of Older Women," but I don't remember anything about it at all. It's one of those cases where I feel like I have to see it again now just to remind myself what it was in the first place.
NEXT WEEK: Both "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia" hit BluRay. I plan to celebrate by hanging out half-naked with Alfred Molina and throwing firecrackers at people. Join me, won't you?
The DVD & Games Forecast runs every Tuesday here on Motion/Captured.
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