Welcome to the DVD & Games Forecast.
This isn't one of the big weeks of the year. There are a few big titles, but overall, it's sort of slow. Then again, with the home video landscape, it seems like slow weeks are the norm, and the big weeks are few and far between.
THIS WEEK'S FEATURED TITLES:
"Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths" (BluRay/DVD)
I'm not sure why Warner/DC's been so good at their animated superhero films, and so completely unable to get their live-action division working right. Whatever the case, I'm excited to check this one out. The Justice League finds themselves battling their own alternate selves from a parallel universe, and they find themselves at a disadvantage when they realize that the alternate-world versions of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are willing to kill to win the fight. There's also a "Spectre" short subject on the disc, and that's just as interesting to me as the feature. So far, these DC animated films have all been smart and well-produced, and I'm glad that they're at least doing something with the characters. At this point, maybe animation is the best option for this sort of group picture, since it seems to allow for experimentation in a way that a giant live-action film might not.
"The Informant!" (BluRay/DVD)
Steven Soderbergh's hilarious true story of a corporate stooge who turns government rat seems like it'll be a dry prospect when you read a description, but pretty much everything about the film works. Matt Damon's lead performance is one of the best of his career, layered and lunatic, and the supporting cast is a mix of stand-up icons playing it straight and interesting character actors working against type. It's a great-looking movie, and it's that rare comedy that demands that you actually think. It's rewarding, and a reminder of just how beautifully diverse Soderbergh is as a filmmaker.
"Heavy Rain" (PS3)
Even after playing the demo last week, I'm still not sure what I think of "Heavy Rain," a game that arrives on the PS3 with an avalanche of hype and some amazing reviews. It seems to me that the unusual control scheme actually leads to a greater sense of immersion, and the emotional content here is genuinely unsettling. There's an early moment where you lose your child in the mall that is upsetting and actually captures the panic and the nerve-jangling fear that comes from having that happen for even a moment. I think the entire argument about whether games are art to be a ridiculous one (hint: they are), but a game like "Heavy Rain" is going to make it much harder for the "con" side of the argument to keep a straight face during the conversation. You play four different characters, all interconnected in a search for the Origami Killer who has been murdering children in a rainy noir cityscape. The choices you make have real ramifications and, unlike many games, when you die in "Heavy Rain," you're dead, and the story moves on without you. It's all intriguing stuff, and I look forward to checking it out if I can ever scrape together a few free hours.
ALSO ON BLURAY:
I liked Richard Kelly's "The Box" (BluRay/DVD), based on the short story "Button, Button" by Richard Matheson, and actually think it may be my favorite of his films, but it's still going to be a frustrating ride for viewers who want everything sewn up by the end of a film. Frank Langella's performance as the man who makes a horrible offer to James Marsden and Cameron Diaz is the main reason to see the film, and genuinely unnerving. The BluRay is loaded with particularly well-done extra features, worth checking out if you enjoyed the film. I get the feeling we won't be seeing sequels to "Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" (BluRay/DVD), but it's a decent film for teens, dark without being gory, and with a strange and interesting supporting cast that tells the story of two teens who learn that vampires are real, and when one of them is changed, it leads to a rift that threatens them both. Nazi zombies? Sound good to you? If so, then "Dead Snow" (BluRay/DVD) is worth a look. I didn't love the film, but the second half has a pretty solid energy to it, and I have a feeling if you pick up a film about Nazi zombies, you're not really looking to see a film with a challenging narrative. Makes sense that they'd reissue George Romero's original "The Crazies" (BluRay) this week, and I haven't seen it since I was a teenager. I'm seeing the new one tonight, but I plan to take a trip back to check out Romero's film as soon as possible. Michael Sheen has made a career out of his work with writer Peter Morgan (who is actually adapting a novel by David Peace, who also wrote the source material for the "Red Riding" trilogy), and their latest collaboration is "The Damned United" (BluRay/DVD), a look at real-life figure Brian Clough, a controversial football coach. More than anything, it's an unconventional love story between Clough and his assistant coach, played by Timothy Spall in one of his best roles. Finally, two lower-budget horror films are out this week, the college-girls-in-peril "Sorority Row" (BluRay/DVD) and the Troma freak-show "Poultrygeist: Night Of The Chicken Dead". Consider yourself warned.
ALSO ON DVD:
I really like the documentary "The September Issue," which looks at a year in the life of Vogue magazine and it's difficult and iconic editor Anna Wintour. Her relationship with the magazine's art director is one of the most interesting I saw onscreen last year. On the other hand, I was shocked at how bad "Everybody's Fine" was, considering it stars Robert De Niro, Kate Beckinsale, and Sam Rockwell among others. It just doesn't work, and there are some baffling directorial choices that just don't work. I may not be familiar with the long-running Canadian comedy series, but I'm willing to give "Trailer Park Boys: Countdown To Liquor Day" a try to see if it makes me want to catch up on the show. Uma Thurman has been made inexplicably ugly on the cover of "Motherhood", which makes me very nervous about watching the movie. And speaking of ugly, I did my due diligence and watched "Superjail," a complete season of yet another Adult Swim cartoon that seems to exist primarily to be disgusting and strange without the benefit of any jokes. Criterion's got three new titles today, and I'm intrigued by Leo McCarey's "Make Way For Tomorrow - Criterion", a film about an elderly couple who have to move in with their children because they lose everything. Even though it's a film from the Depression, it sounds like something that speaks to the way we're living now, and since I've never seen it, I look forward to the chance thanks to this new release. Their new release today from the Eclipse series will make Anglophiles very happy, and "Eclipse Series 20 - George Bernard Shaw On Film: Major Barbara/Caesar and Cleopatra/Androcles and the Lion" sounds like a real treat for fans of Shaw's writing. Finally, they've got "Howard's End" coming out today, and considering how much hype there was for the film when it was first released, it almost feels like Criterion's rediscovering it with this release. It's a beautiful film, and I'm very curious to check out the transfer. The Australian animated film "$9.99" is like a "Short Cuts," a collection of inter-related short stories about people struggling to find some meaning in their lives, and the claymation style works to express the inner nature of the characters in an external way. I think it's time I just fess up that the work of Joe Swanberg is not for me, and "Alexander The Last" just confirms everything I don't like about his movies. It's slow, it's peopled with unlikeable characters, and even if there is something to exploring the way actors in love scenes deal with the feelings that such artificial intimacy creates, Swanberg's film doesn't do anything to illuminate the subject. I love WWII espionage thrillers, and I was sorry to have missed "Flame and Citron" during its limited theatrical run, so I plan to catch up with it soon. Finally, there's "Power Play," a film from the '70s starring David Hemmings, Donald Pleasance and Peter O'Toole as men caught up in a coup d'etat, ready to overthrow their government because they're so upset with the state of their nation. Never seen it. Never heard of it. But that cast? Count me in.
ALSO IN GAMES:
As expansion packs go, "Borderlands: The Secret Armory Of General Knoxx" (PC/PS3) sounds like a winner, a major chunk of DLC that promises, above all else, bigger guns. What more can you ask? I love the fact that "Endless Ocean: Blue World" (Wii) sounds like it's about exploration and simulation more than anything, and there's no "bad guys" or anything else... just scuba diving and reefs and fish you can photograph. Games like this intrigue me, and I think as graphics keep getting better, this sort of "virtual reality" title will become more and more common. RPG fans on either console have choices this week, with the release of "Last Rebellion" (PS3) and "Risen" (X360/PC), and for the kids, there's the oh-so-similiar-to-"Mario Kart" release of "Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing" (PS3/PC/X360/Wii/DS).
NEXT WEEK: Emmerich blows up the world real good in "2012," Miyazaki and Spike Jonze make lyrical films about childhood with "Ponyo" and "Where The Wild Things Are," and the original "Clash Of The Titans" arrives on BluRay.
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