On The Shelf (1.27.09)
That means there must be new DVDs and BluRay releases on the shelves of your local stores today, and I must be gettin' my butt out of the house so I can pick up an armful of stuff later today.
I'm trying to get all of my relationships with the various DVD companies sorted out so I can bring you advance looks at these titles, but for now, I'm pretty much down to one or two vendors who are still working with me, and the rest, I'm buying just like you guys. So don't think this is just me shilling for people who sent me free stuff. Far from it. I'm a DVD junkie, and even if I didn't write for any website at all, there's still a stack of titles I'd be interested in this morning. It's just how I'm wired.
"Warner Bros. Romance Classics Collection"
"As for you, Troy Donahue/I know what you wanna do..."
That line from "Grease" was the introduction for most of my generation to the existence of Troy Donahue, and since most of his films have slipped into obscurity, it's not like you can really fault us for not being more familiar with what he did. One of the reasons I think Warner Bros. is the best home video company in the business is because of the depth of their catalog, and another is because they actually reach into those deep shelves and produce box sets full of titles that might otherwise never be seen again.
I don't know that I'm chomping at the bit for any one specific title here, but I always pick up the Warner collections knowing that I'll get an assortment of things that will most likely yield at least one gem. Will it be "Palm Springs Weekend," "Parrish," "Rome Adventure," or "Susan Slade"? Guess I'll have to weigh in once I've actually worked my way through this one.
"Goodbye Mr. Chips"
"Far From The Madding Crowd"
"The Yellow Rolls-Royce"
See what I mean about Warner? All of these are catalog titles that are hitting DVD for the first time today. There's an earlier "Waterloo Bridge" that came out as part of a "Forbidden Hollywood" collection earlier, I believe, but this one's new to disc. I am particularly interested in "Cannery Row," which plays far stranger in the memory of my one viewing at the age of 12, and "Far From The Madding Crowd," with young badass Terrence Stamp and Julie Christie back when she was omygodbeautiful, and not merely beautiful, like now.
"Vicki Christina Barcelona"
Here's what I wrote when I put this film on my list of my ten favorite films of 2008:
"6. 'Vicky Christina Barcelona'
The year's most sensual film, and a textbook definition of what I wish romantic comedies aspired to, Woody Allen's latest is intoxicating and seemingly effortless. I've been more and more impressed with Penelope Cruz over the last few years, and 'Volver' landed very high on my list the year it came out. She's gained a real power as a performer as she's gotten older, and she's one of those actresses who seems to be getting more beautiful as age has its way with her. The main storyline of the film is about two friends (Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johansson) spending a summer in Spain, but for me, what really kept this film active in my thoughts since seeing it is the relationship between Javier Bardem and Cruz. They've got a very clearly defined tension between them: he's the artist, and she's the muse. But she wants to be the artist, too, and that frustration on her part is what makes everything between them so explosive. As a man married to a fiery Latina woman who motivates me to work my ass off, the movie alternately made me cringe and cheer, and it proves to me that Allen's a long way from finished with his amazing career."
I'm going to have to get this one on BluRay. No two ways about it.
I didn't catch up with this one until I was en route to London to visit the set of Guy Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes," and I'm sorry now that I missed it theatrically. I think this is the most controlled thing that Ritchie's made so far, and it reminds me why I enjoyed his work in the first place. As soon as I see the BluRay, I'll have a full review of this one here.
"In Bruges" (BluRay)
Here's another movie I want to revisit, a low-key charmer that has lasting power. It's really hung with me in the months since I saw it, and I think the chemistry between Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson is pretty spectacular. Great and weird and unapologetic. It's been on video for a few months, but I guess Universal's finally getting it out on BluRay as well.
"The Sidney Poitier Collection"
The only one of these four films I've even heard of is "A Patch Of Blue," but again... that's why I love these collections. So many catalog titles end up finding their way to release only because of box sets that I feel like I have to support them when they're released.
"Lakeview Terrace" (BluRay)
Neil LaBute is never going to be the director I expected when I saw his first film, "In The Company Of Men," and accepting that has caused me to finally ease up on his movies. I think I thought this guy was going to be making important, essential cinema, but instead, he seems to be making idly provocative mainstream junk. This movie, a basic neighbor-from-hell riff with a bit of race baiting thrown in for subtext, features entirely okay performances from Patrick Wilson, Sam Jackson, and Kerry Washington, but you'll be hard-pressed to describe it two weeks after seeing it.
"Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired"
I find it sort of disturbing how much the mere mention of Polanski's name inspires heated diatribes from people. It's impossible to review a film of his without the conversation degenerating into people screaming about his past sins. One of the reasons I'm so grossed out by that conversation every single time is because of how much misinformation there is about what exactly he did and what was done to him. This film is a must-see for anyone who wants to have that conversation. If they like actually knowing what they're talking about, that is. You can feel free to hate Polanski, but until you know the truth, it seems insane to get worked up about hmi, one way or another.
"Hulk Vs." (BluRay)
I don't think any of the direct-to-video Marvel animated films have been great so far, but they've all been at least decent, and the promise of a double-feature of "Hulk Vs Wolverine" and "Hulk Vs Thor" is enough to guarantee that this one ends up in the house for a Daddy/Toshi afternoon soon.
"Pride And Glory"
Missed it. Curious.
Missed it. Perversely curious.
"The Secret Policeman's Balls"
What an amazing treasure trove of live comedy and music performances from over the years. If you're a Monty Python fan or if you like any major English pop band from the last 20 years, this three disc collections brings together five previously released editions of the "Secret Policeman's Ball" along with bonus footage, and since it's Shout! Factory, you know it's going to be put together with savvy and care. These guys couldn't half-ass a disc if they tried. Can't wait to pick one up and see exactly what's included.
"The Pink Panther" (BluRay)
The real one, I might add. Peter Sellers. The only Clouseau.
There are no other "Pink Panther" films in this dojo.
"Dead & Buried" (BluRay)
This is great news. And this one actually showed up here at the house for review. It's a real pleasure to see Blue Underground putting out titles like this one and "The Final Countdown" right off the bat, titles that we waited and waited for on DVD, but that are kicking off this new format. I really like Gary Sherman horror films. I think the guy's good at what he does. Not the best ever. Not a genius. But a really solid and interesting filmmaker who happened to work in horror. "Dead & Buried" is a John Carpenter-esque film from when I was eleven years old. I bought the novelization for the movie first, and then I used that to convince my parents to let me see the film in the theater. My mom was the one that came with me to see most of the really bizarre crazy stuff I wanted to see, and I credit her with having more patience for my tastes than she was required to have. A small town has a secret. Some crazy slashery stuff happens. Recognizable character actors loom in and out of the film. James Fiorentino plays Sheriff Brody, basically. Does well enough. And the gore? Oh, sure. Early Stan Winston stuff, no less. Dan O'Bannon of "Alien" fame (along with producer Ron Shussett, also of "Alien" fame) is the screenwriter, and he's on his game here. It's a creepy bit of business, and this presentation, it's the best looking I've ever seen the film. A trio of behind-the-scenes featurettes pad out the special features, but it's just amazing to me that I have a BluRay of this one at all. Crazy.
"The Stewardesses 3-D: 40th Anniversary Edition"
"42nd Street Forever, Vol. 4"
"Nightmare In Wax/Blood In Dracula's Castle"
I make no apologies for my love of exploitation fare. I am perfectly capable of enjoying an arthouse film or classic foreign cinema, but I am also delighted to get my hands on some completely insane slasher trash or a 3-D softcore '70s film or a collection of post-Bruce Lee kung-fu movies. I've already seen and reviewed the latest "42nd Street Forever" disc, which is two hours of grindhouse trailers and just about as much fun as you can have with a DVD, but I'll be working my way through the rest of these over the next week or two, enjoying every single lunatic second.
"The Lucky Ones"
I'll see this for one reason: it's Neil Burger, who have I have faith in. But I can't take these earnest Iraq dramas, and I have yet to see one that really worked as a complete film. Let's see if this can shake that trend.
"Groundhog Day" (BluRay)
One of the best comedies of the '90s finally gets the high-def treatment. I'll have a review soon, but really, what is there to say? Bill Murray at his best, Harold Ramis working with the best script of his career, and a premise that just pays off over and over.
"The Secret Of The Magic Gourd"
This just plain looks crazy. Financed by Disney for the Asian theatrical market, it's going straight to video here. I've seen a trailer, and it really is an adventure involving a young boy and his magical talking gourd. I have a feeling this could be a cult item for adults who have some magical fungi of their own.
"The Rocker" (BluRay)
Rainn Wilson tries as hard as he can, but he can't really make this one work. The story of a drummer for a heavy metal band who got thrown out on the eve of them signing their big deal, this is basically a loser-makes-good story, and Wilson's fine. The supporting cast, including the adorable Emma Stone, also tries their best. The tone is all over the place, and the film makes the mistake of aiming for the heartstrings when its greatest strengths are the more absurd moments. Not awful, but it's close.
"Any Given Sunday" (BluRay)
"The Bourne Trilogy" (BluRay)
We're going to see a lot of this, double-dips in high-def, and that's fine by me. I've got the "Bourne" BluRay box here now, and spent some of last night watching favorite moments from all three of the films. "Zodiac" is a must-buy for me, and I can't wait to see how that film's amazing cinematography looks on BluRay. It was already amazing on regular DVD, and if they went right from a high-def source, it could easily be one of the reference discs in my library.
That's it for this week. Decent batch of stuff, and as the year wears on, the weeks will just get more and more packed, and we'll be here every week to point out what's worth your attention and what's not. See you then.