Every week, dozens of DVDs and Blu-Rays are released unto the world, and in this economy it gets harder and harder to decide what to spend your money on. The Weekly DVD Heist is here to tell you what your primary objective is, determine the difference between high priority and low priority targets, and help you decide what to leave behind.
March 9th, 2010
Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone (DVD/Blu-Ray)
Japanese animation is renowned for its many giant robot stories, but Neon Genesis Evangelion elevated the genre to new heights by using giant robots and religious subtexts to tell the story of a boy with crippling (to the point of psychotic) depression. I watched the entire original series over a single weekend and couldn’t get to sleep for days afterwards because I was so bummed out, but the excellent balance of emotional manipulation and badass action sequences still feels unique in the world of science fiction. Now the series has been remade and condensed into a few high-definition DVD/Blu-Ray releases and supposedly the results are phenomenal. Although emotionally devastating this is one heartwrenching melodrama you may want to watch over and over again, unlike many of the rest of this week’s higher priority releases.
If you’re anything like me and every film critic I’ve talked to about this film, your reaction to hearing the title “Clownstrophobia” is this: “Why aren’t we watching that right now?” Good or bad (quite probably bad), the film is called Clownstrophobia, and we all need to respect that accomplishment and probably buy it sight unseen.
One more note on this: The cover features quotes from “HorrorSociety.com” and more importantly “Geraldine Winters,” the latter of which (incidentally) directed the film. If she doesn’t know how good the movie is then nobody does. Right? Right…?
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (DVD/Blu-Ray)
Hot off its two Oscar wins for Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay comes Precious, a fine weepy of a motion picture that veered a little too far into melodrama and racial stereotyping for my tastes. It’s a worthwhile picture that I recommend audiences seek out, but I was a little hesitant to make this a “high priority” since I can’t imagine even its staunchest supporters wanting to watch a film this emotionally wrenching over and over again. “Hey honey, what do you want to do tonight?” “I dunno, wanna just order a pizza and watch Precious again?” I can’t quite picture it.
The Stoning of Soraya M. (DVD/Blu-Ray)
This critically-acclaimed film condemning the Iranian legal system is about a woman who was falsely accused of adultery by her husband, who wished to marry a 14-year old girl instead. She was then stoned to death. Apparently this is a rather depressing day for DVD releases. Probably worth seeing at least once, but do you really want to see this so many times that it’s worth your while to purchase it outright? I’m bummed out just knowing that this story is true, let alone watching it dramatized…
Up in the Air (DVD/Blu-Ray)
Hot off of its no Oscar wins for anything comes Jason Reitman’s respected and really very good drama about connecting to others, set against the backdrop of the emotional turmoil generated by the current and just awful economy. Up in the Air may not have been the best film of the year but it’s hard to find terribly many flaws in the production: it’s a funny and touching film in which every performance feels award-worthy, and may go down as one of George Clooney’s finest performances. And yet somehow it didn’t really stick with me in the same way that other, arguably “lesser” films did in 2009. Absolutely worth your time, but like Precious and Soraya M. it may not be worth owning.
The Who: The Kids Are Alright (Blu-Ray)
Confession time… I’ve never see The Who: The Kids Are Alright, but I’ve never heard an unkind word spoken about this famed rockumentary about one of the greatest musical groups ever assembled. Well, now I have no excuse.
Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (DVD/Blu-Ray)
In nothing short of a miracle, renowned Hollywood ingrate/total @$$hole Troy Duffy was finally asked to write and direct a sequel to his cult favorite Boondock Saints, and the results are released on DVD today with the clever subtitle “All Saints Day.” Great, now we’ve got a third sequel called “The Saints Go Marching In” to look forward to. The first film had an undeniable charm to it but never felt like much more than a Quentin Tarantino rip-off with an Irish slant to it. I’m renting this one just to see Julie Benz take over the Willem Dafoe role from the original. If you’re a fan of the first movie you’ve probably pre-ordered this already.
Demonic Toys 2 (DVD)
Charles Band-produced movies used to be reliable lowbrow entertainment, but lately the brand of Band means less and less. I’m not completely turned off of Full Moon productions yet – not with the Puppet Master series finally refocusing on good old “marionettes killing Nazis in World War II,” anyway – and the fact that the latest film in the Demonic Toys franchise is directed by William Butler, the man who wrote Gingerdead Man 2: The Passion of the Crust, is a good sign that we may be in for something entertainingly bad… as opposed to just “bad” bad like the last entry in the franchise, the painfully terrible Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys.
Capitalism: A Love Story (DVD/Blu-Ray)
More of the same from Michael Moore, who in his latest film again makes cogent arguments in an unnecessarily self-congratulatory way that leaves him open to criticism that helps keep his documentaries away from the people who would actually benefit from seeing them. Though not his best work it’s still a strong documentary, but it’s hard to imagine too many of people needing to see it more than once.
Tremors: The Complete Series (DVD)
The original Tremors was a clever and remarkably well-made horror film that managed to be funny without ever quite earning the title “horror comedy.” But perhaps what made the film so particularly remarkable was the fact that pretty much all of its sequels were actually kind of excellent, particularly when compared to other straight-to-video sequels of its ilk. At some point Tremors spawned this TV series, which managed to retain the bemused tone of the films but had to struggle to find a plotline worth following that didn’t feel derivative. Not a terrible little series, but certainly for horror fans only.
LEAVE IT BEHIND:
Old Dogs (DVD/Blu-Ray)
In what may be the most universally reviled movie of 2010, John Travolta and Robin Williams team up to, if the cover is any indication, react with bemused indifference and icy acceptance to Seth Green’s obvious horror at having been adopted by a gorilla (respectively). So apparently they’re both jerks. Thank heavens that the Blu-Ray comes with a DVD and a Digital Copy of Old Dogs, so now you can regret three purchases for the price of one.
Planet 51 (DVD/Blu-Ray)
This Spanish(!) CGI-animated feature about an alien landing in a normal neighborhood and wreaking havoc is bolstered by the very clever premise that the planet he lands on isn’t Earth. It sounds like an “Outer Limits” episode (and actually was a “Twilight Zone” episode), but nevertheless this film managed to do rather poorly at the box office and receive a resounding critical reaming. I’m a little fascinated to watch it, knowing as I do now that it was originally produced in Spain: films made in foreign countries about America(ns) are often very telling about our current place in the global social context. Here’s a quote for your DVD cover: “It’s Dogville for children!”