A look at this week's releases on DVD and BluRay, including 'Boogie Nights' and 'Magnolia'
Plus Gervais's 'Lying' and season five of 'Weeds'
Welcome to the DVD & Games Forecast.
This is a seriously slim week of new releases. There are a few highlights, but for the most part, it'll be a quick column.
THIS WEEK'S FEATURED TITLES:
"Weeds: The Complete Season Five" (BluRay/DVD)
There are a lot of television shows I find engaging and worth watching from start to finish, but for some reason, I've fallen out of the habit of actually watching them while they air. I prefer to pick things up as DVD or BluRay box sets and watch them in big gulps, and the option to do so has reset my viewing habits almost completely. I think "Lost" is the last series I feel the urge to really watch the moment it airs, and once that goes off, I'm not sure I'll ever get the habit back. "Weeds" is a show that has evolved radically over the course of its five years on the air, and the one thing that consistently keeps me coming back is Mary Louise Parker, who puts the mmmmmmmm in MILF. I never thought she was particularly ravishing when she was younger in films like "Grand Canyon," but these days, there is a world-weariness that she wears like armor that is practically intoxicating. Maybe it's my own age showing, but I find it compelling the way Nancy Botwin, her character on the show, is desperately trying to stay afloat, and the lengths she'll go to for her kids and her survival. The show's tone swings wildly between absurd comedy and bleak drama, and there are times it pulls it off beautifully and times it doesn't quite manage, but the show always has reach, and I like that they're willing to shift location, shift major characters, and shift focus as each season progresses. So often, TV is about maintaining a status quo, creating the illusion of real characters while making sure to keep them carefully locked in place. "Weeds" has literally burned the entire series to the ground, and I get the feeling they'd do it again if they felt like they had to, and so I look forward to whatever season five has to offer when I finally catch up with it this week.
"The Invention Of Lying" (BluRay/DVD)
I've written at length about this film here on the blog over the last year, and I'm pleased to see that Warner Bros. packed the BluRay with extra features, including the caveman prologue that was cut from the film. Fans of Gervais and his podcasts will enjoy the Karl Pilkington featurette, in which you get to see a head like an orange IN HIGH-DEFINITION! The movie is one of those comedies that gets better for me as I revisit it, where you're able to enjoy the performances and the structure even more. The transfer is gorgeous, so if all you're looking for is the film, it's been treated right, but for those who feel like they need a lot of extra features to justify a purchase, you'll be satisfied as well.
PT Anderson is one of the most visually acute filmmakers of his generation, and his collaborations with Robert Elswit, his cinematographer of choice, are textbook examples of using a film's visual style to underline and augment a film's thematic content. Plus they both look reeeeeeeal pretty on BluRay. These are demanding films to transfer, and New Line deserves credit for really nailing it.. "Magnolia" remains one of the most punishing films to sit through, intentionally so, that I've ever seen, and that Tom Cruise performance as Frank "TJ" Mackey is every bit as raw-nerve-awesome as I remember. "Boogie Nights" is, for me, like comfort food, a film I've seen so many times that I feel like it's almost hardwired into me at this point. The extra features here will look awfully familiar to anyone who already owns these titles, but the transfers are so impressive that I urge you to take the hit and make the purchase. Well worth it.
I am of very mixed mind on the idea of publically outing someone as gay. I think it is a private matter unless that person is a public figure setting policy that affects other gay people, and that's exactly who Kirby Dick goes after in this film. I don't think it lands every punch it throws, but it raises such a provocative and important question that I think the film becomes a must-see for anyone interested in the political process and how social change either does or doesn't happen within the system.
ALSO ON BLURAY:
I reviewed "Pandorum" (BluRay/DVD) the other day, and at the very least, it's worth a look for fans of SF, horror, or both. I don't think the same is true of "Whiteout" (BluRay/DVD), which is a film that should work based on its premise, but Dominic Sena is let down by a thin script. I honestly think Neveldine/Taylor are the most annoying hipster idiots working right now, and until they make a coherent film that is about more than hypersensation, I'm guessing crap like "Gamer" (BluRay/DVD) is all we'll get out of them. I respect Steven Soderbergh's "Che" (BluRay/Criterion) more than I actually like it, but I am curious about all the extras that have been used to fill out the long-in-the-works Criterion set. I first saw "Smokin' Aces" (BluRay) at Butt-Numb-A-Thon, and I think I was slipping in and out of consciousness at the time, so this recent viewing on BluRay was really nice. I think Joe Carnahan made a slick and stylish yeeee-haw of an action movie, and even if there's not much below the surface, the surface is pretty damn fine. The same is not true of the direct-to-video "Smokin' Aces 2: Assassin's Ball," (BluRay/DVD) which works overtime to try to summon the same manic energy as the first film, but to far less interesting results, and which makes grotesque use of real-life horror to try to imply that the film is about something. Finally, I'm a fan of the comic so I'd like to see "Artie Lange: Jack and Coke" (BluRay/DVD), but I'm not sure I'll be able to put the recent news of his suicide attempt out of my mind long enough to laugh. Maybe they should have delayed this one a bit.
ALSO ON DVD:
If you do not rush to the store today and buy 20 copies of William Shatner in "Kingdom Of The Spiders" (DVD), then perhaps you are not as cool as I thought you were. The eco-minded documentary "No Impact Man" (DVD) arrives today, and I hope in keeping with the film's theme the DVD is completely biodegradable and made of recycled paper. I haven't seen the special yet, but the CD version of "Aziz Ansari: Intimate Moments For A Sensual Evening" (DVD) is so funny I almost drove off the road listening to it the other day. Great, great set by one of the best comics working. I'm curious to check out the Eclipse release of "Chantal Ackerman In The Seventies" (DVD) because I know very little by the filmmaker, which is exactly the point of the Eclipse line in the first place. One of the many under-distributed Robert Altman films makes its DVD debut today with "Streamers" (DVD) actually being one of the ones that people should have seen but didn't, based on David Rabe's acclaimed play. And finally, Jonah Hill's got me interested in checking out "21 Jump Street: The Complete Season One" (DVD) if only to remind myself what it is that he'll be roasting when his film hits theaters next year.
ALSO IN GAMES:
"Dark Void." (XBOX360/PS3) That's pretty much it. I didn't really care for the demo, but if you're a fan of the Rocketeer and you want to scratch your "Mass Effect" itch and can't wait for next week, "Dark Void" should please you. So far, it's been a very slow spring for games, and I hope things start picking up soon.
NEXT WEEK: "This Is It," Rossellini's War Trilogy, and Alan Parker's original "Fame" on BluRay.
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