California Literary Review

The Fourth Wall

A Film and Television Blog

William’s Weekly DVD Heist: 3-16-10

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March 16th, 2010 at 3:29 am

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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 16th, 2010

PRIMARY OBJECTIVE:

The Princess and The Frog (DVD/Blu-Ray)

DVD Cover: The Princess and the Frog

Confession time: I did not see the Academy Award-nominated The Princess and The Frog. In my defense, the reason was because I refused to the see the film in a theater filled with children, and midnight screenings were scarce. But this critically-acclaimed attempt to revive Disney 2-D animation has nevertheless excited me since it was announced something-something years ago, and Disney’s other 2-D Blu-Ray releases – Sleeping Beauty, Pinnochio and the prologue to Enchanted – are stunning jewels in high-definition. I literally can’t wait until this arrives at my doorstep tomorrow, so I can geek out about a Disney Princess movie in the privacy of my own home… which I have ironically just told the world about.

God damn it…

HIGH PRIORITY:

“Breaking Bad: The Complete First and Second Seasons” (Blu-Ray)

DVD Cover: Breaking Bad Season 1

DVD Cover: Breaking Bad Season 2

Vince Gilligan, one of the more freakishly talented writers of “The X-Files,” created this lauded AMC original series starring “Malcolm in the Middle’s” Bryan Cranston as a high school chemistry teacher who turns to a life of crime to provide for his family after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. I haven’t seen much of this series, partially because I saw how lovingly it has been produced and I wanted to see it in Blu-Ray. Well, the first and second seasons are now available in high definition to suit my hoity-toity needs.

Broken Embraces (DVD/Blu-Ray)

DVD Cover: Broken Embraces

Pedro Almodovar’s latest love note to Penelope Cruz reaches DVD and Blu-Ray this week, and film geeks everywhere are likely to rejoice… except for me, because I’ve never been a big fan of his work. But everyone else on the planet is, and I don’t actually think he’s a “bad” filmmaker (his work has just never reached me on an emotional level, but admittedly I haven’t seen all of his films), so out of respect for his  body of work and many admirers, you should probably take a look at Broken Embraces at some point.

Dillinger is Dead (DVD)

DVD Cover: Dillinger is Dead

Considered by many to be Italian director Marco Ferreri’s masterpiece, Dillinger is Dead nevertheless is an obscure film that gets the full Criterion treatment this week. The film tells the story of a man over the course of an evening who finds a revolver wrapped in a newspaper that declares “Dillinger is Dead.” Relatively plotless yet nevertheless highly controversial for what does transpire, as always I feel obligated to recommend a Criterion release on sheer principle, but Dillinger is Dead is definitely not for everyone.

Fallen Angels (Blu-Ray)

DVD Cover: Fallen Angels

Wong Kar-Wai’s Fallen Angels was originally conceived as a third storyline for The Chungking Express, and it covers very similar ground as a result, but stands on its own as one of his many classics. As always, Wong Kar-Wai is one of cinema’s great talents and the release of any of his beautiful films on Blu-Ray is something of an event. (Oh crap, I just realized I never bought the Criterion release of Chungking Express! Film critic’s license: Revoked!)

“Mystery Science Theater 3000: XVII” (The Crawling Eye/The Beatniks/The Final Sacrifice/Blood Waters of Dr. Z) (DVD)

DVD Cover: Mystery Science Theater 3000 17

I grew up watching “Mystery Science Theater 3000” religiously and credit the series for helping define my sense of humor and introducing me to many films that would otherwise never be screened in primetime. As I get older and rewatch the series I find myself struck by how many of the films they screened actually have admirable qualities (Danger: Diabolik and many of Corman’s earlier, more interesting films like Teenage Caveman and It Conquered the World come to mind), but the tone of the series is so light and fluffy that it’s hard to take any of their good natured ribbing too seriously. Mercifully, this box set comes with a decent helping of the Joel Robinson episodes, which on the whole had superior sketch material intercut with the films themselves, and even the very first Comedy Central episode The Crawling Eye. Every MST3K set is a must own and this set is no exception, coming with a decent arrangement of bonus material.

“South Park: The Complete 13th Season” (DVD/Blu-Ray)

DVD Cover: South Park The Complete 13th Season

Something of a hit or miss season of the justifiably-acclaimed series, in which some episodes – like “The Coon” and “Pinewood Derby” – probably seemed like better ideas on paper. Still, series highlights abound, like “The ‘F’ Word,” a brilliantly comic examination on the tendency of language to evolve rapidly (that Sarah Palin really needs to watch immediately), “Whale Whores,” which takes eco-terrorists down a peg while placing every activist’s values in broader context, and “Margaritaville,” probably the most poignant examination of the recent economic crisis yet filmed. And they’re really, really funny, so “South Park: The Complete 13th Season” has that going for it too.

The Vengeance Trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance/Oldboy/Lady Vengeance) (DVD/Blu-Ray)

DVD Cover: The Vengeance Trilogy

Chan-wook Park’s acclaimed trilogy of revenge thrillers comes to Blu-Ray in a new box set. Oldboy has received its fair share of critical acclaim but this would be a perfect occasion to familiarize yourselves with the director’s other films as well. Sadly, the previous Blu-Ray release of Oldboy had a less-than-stellar transfer, so let’s hope that it has been remastered for this set and that the other films meet our (really rather reasonable) expectations of technical quality.

The Wizard of Oz (Blu-Ray)

DVD Cover: The Wizard of Oz

Previously released on Blu-Ray in a ridiculously expensive box set and a three-disc special edition that was really for hardcore Oz-enthusiasts only, this week brings the first disc of The Wizard of Oz to Blu-Ray all by its lonesome for a reasonable price… and it’s a fantastic bargain. The film has an astounding transfer and this disc alone has a large cross-section of special features. This is the only Wizard of Oz on Blu-Ray that you really need. If you actually wanted the rest of the box sets then you’ve probably bought them already.

LOW PRIORITY:

Armored (DVD/Blu-Ray)

DVD Cover: Armored

This was the film that supposedly got director Nimrod Antal the gig directing the highly-anticipated new Predator sequel. It’s got a pretty big cast for a low-budget action film about an armored car heist gone very, very wrong and received mixed-to-positive reviews. Pretty much the definition of a rental.

Astro Boy (DVD/Blu-Ray)

DVD Cover: Astro Boy

Astro Boy flew through theaters so quickly you’d think he had rockets in his feet. Oh wait… Anyway, the animation quality looks fine and the cast is decent, but the general consensus was that the film was pretty forgettable, but not particularly bad. If you can’t find The Princess and the Frog at your rental establishment of choice this week, Astro Boy is probably a pretty fair substitute for your kids.

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (DVD/Blu-Ray)

DVD Cover: Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

Directed by “The Office’s” John Krasinski, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men almost completely slipped under my radar until the surprisingly funny trailer popped up on the In the Loop DVD. Of course, all the funny stuff could be in the trailer, but this adaptation of the short stories of David Foster Wallace could be worth a rental if the book’s unseen narrator hasn’t been shoehorned too awkwardly into the film’s narrative (which has been the death of other book adaptations, like Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil).

The Fourth Kind (DVD/Blu-Ray)

DVD Cover: The The Fourth Kind

Shortly after the success of the home video-infused horror blockbuster Paranormal Activity, this Milla Jovovich vehicle popped inauspiciously into theaters, mixing “real” interview footage of apparent alien abductees with dramatic re-enactments. Since all the “Based on a True Story” elements were completely fake, it feels like the filmmakers were unable to commit to making either a mockumentary or a narrative feature. I keep hearing that it was an under-rated genre exercise, so maybe it’s worth a rental if you’re not terribly choosey.

Pontypool (DVD/Blu-Ray)

DVD Cover: Pontypool

This Canadian horror film has a neat premise, you have to give them that. A radio station in the community of Pontypool, Ontario begins to report on a wave of violence spreading through the city like a plague and swiftly learn that it’s spread verbally, via the spoken word. They find themselves trapped in their station, unable to warn the world. Canada has a pretty good track record with horror films (Ginger Snaps, the complete works of David Cronenberg), and the word of mouth is strong.

LEAVE IT BEHIND:

Did You Hear About the Morgans? (DVD/Blu-Ray)

DVD Cover: Did You Hear About the Morgans

I did hear about the Morgans, actually. I heard that it sucked. The solid high concept of a married couple on the rocks who are forced to stay together after they witness a murder and are placed in Witness Protection seems like a good idea, but it appears to devolve into a series of tired City Slickers gags when these “big city” types are sent to… GASP!!!… the country?!?!?! It’s hard to imagine anyone getting too excited about a romantic comedy that doesn’t seem to have much in the way of comedy… or romance, for that matter. And for the record, if anybody has heard about the Morgans it means that the U.S. Marshals aren’t doing their jobs properly, so even the title is problematic.

Ninja Assassin (DVD/Blu-Ray)

DVD Cover: Ninja Assassin

I got hijacked into seeing Ninja Assassin in theaters and you know what? It’s not very good. On one hand it’s nice to see an action movie that embraces its R-rating with blood-splattering, limb-chopping action sequences, but the film somehow manages to be interminable anyway. The plot doesn’t kick in for about 45 minutes, and once it does it’s a bunch of nonsense that completely falls apart if you ask a single question about the events unfolding onscreen. None of this is the fault of Rain, who proves himself a charismatic leading man. I blame director James McTeigue (who didn’t do V for Vendetta any favors either) and “Babylon Five’s” J. Michael Straczynski, who is occasionally a better writer than this.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon (DVD/Blu-Ray)

DVD Cover: Twilight Saga New Moon

If you waited in line to pick this sucker up at midnight and consider this the “Must Own” DVD of the week, then it doesn’t matter what I have to say about New Moon. If you aren’t an obsessed fangirl (not that being an obessed fan-anything is the worst thing in the world of course; it’s just indicative of a separate mindset), then you probably find the series as dull as the rest of us and cross yourselves whenever you pass it by.

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