California Literary Review

The Fourth Wall

A Film and Television Blog

William’s Weekly DVD Heist: 3-30-10

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March 30th, 2010 at 12:16 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.

It’s actually a pretty weak offering for DVD and Blu-Ray releases this week, but of course all is forgiven because of the illustrious and long-awaited release of our Primary Objective this week!

March 30th, 2010

PRIMARY OBJECTIVE:

Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (DVD/Blu-Ray)

DVD Cover: Alvin and The Chipmunks The Squeakquel

Hot on the heels – or shall we say paws – of Alvin & The Chipmunks comes the greatest squeakquel ever made, which at last introduces the Chipettes into the modern mythology, much as The Dark Knight reintroduced an iconic new Joker into the pop culture lexicon. Betty Thomas, by now the most financially successful female director in history (take that, Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar!) crafts her most poignant tale yet in this heartwarming, and surprisingly suspenseful, continuation of the first sensational Chipmunks which through a series of twists and turns too elegant and complicated to list here ends in… Now stick with me for a moment… a “Battle”… of the “Bands.” The ending is as surprising as it is politically charged. A must purchase if ever there was one.

Happy April Fools Day, incidentally. (I now it’s early, but I celebrate all week.)

HIGH PRIORITY:

The Baader Meinhof Complex (DVD/Blu-Ray)

DVD Cover: The Baader Meinhof Complex

This acclaimed but completely under-the-radar drama about the German terrorists The Red Army Faction (RAF for short), who in the 1970’s committed a series of violent acts from assassinations to bombings in an effort to fight against what they perceived as the new face of fascism, i.e. American imperialism supported by German politicians with Nazi pasts. I missed this in theaters but I’ve heard nothing but good things.

Collateral (Blu-Ray)

DVD Cover: Collateral

With the exception of Public Enemies, just about everything Michael Mann has directed is (in the eyes of this critic) a must own. This truly remarkable crime story about a mild-mannered cab driver (Jamie Foxx, rightfully Oscar-nominated for his role) who finds himself chauffeuring a hitman around Los Angeles on what turns out to be a very eventful night. Said hitman is played by Tom Cruise, who turns in yet another fantastic performance that nobody gave him any credit for. Mann shot Collateral on digital video and was one of the first directors to embrace its inherent look rather than try to force DV to look like film. The resulting digital noise can be likened to film grain (if you enjoy the film noir aspects of the story), or can be likened to, well, distracting digital noise. Although this Blu-Ray shouldn’t be as pristine as many other digital films on the market, it also promises (according to early reviews) to be faithful to Mann’s intent… which was to make a great movie on digital video… and in which he succeeded.

An Education (DVD/Blu-Ray)

DVD Cover: An Education

Lone Sherfig’s wonderful film, nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards, had a witty, Oscar-nominated script by Nick Hornby (adapted from Lynn Barber’s memoirs), a perfect starring role for Oscar-nominee Carey Mulligan, and fantastic supporting performances from the likes of Alfred Molina, Peter Sarsgaard, Olivia Williams, Emma Thompson and Rosamund Pike. It was also… a little creepy, in that it’s a story of a teenaged girl (Mulligan) falling for a significantly older man (Sarsgaard) at a time (the 1950’s) when that sort of thing was a little less frowned upon. It’s wonderful, but in a modern cultural context it’s also a little head-scratching to boot.

The Killer (DVD/Blu-Ray)

DVD Cover: The Killer

The Killer was probably the film that got John Woo noticed around the world, even though he’d been directing great flicks like Last Hurrah for Chivalry and A Better Tomorrow Part I and II for years by the time this practically Shakespearean action movie finally came out in 1989. Chow Yun Fat plays Ah Jong, an incredibly talented hitman who accidentally blinds an innocent young singer (Sally Yeh) on the job. Afterwards he falls in love with her, but keeps his deadly and dangerous job to help pay for her eye surgery. He ends up in one of Woo’s classic and complicated male bonding relationships with the detective investigating his crimes (Danny Lee). This may not be Woo’s must sumptuous film from a photographic perspective (Red Cliff actually came out last week), but its arrival on Blu-Ray is a gift anyway. Here’s hoping Last Hurrah and the Better Tomorrows are on their way soon.

Sherlock Holmes (DVD/Blu-Ray)

DVD Cover: Sherlock Holmes

Guy Ritchie made quite a comeback directing this clever take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, played with glee by Robert Downey, Jr. …So what if he’s not actually British? If you can get past the street fighting Holmes suddenly excels at in this handsome production you’ll find a lot to like in Sherlock Holmes, even if though it ends on a very odd dramatic beat. Absolutely worth your time, and one of the few blockbusters from 2009 that managed to entertain without insulting the audience’s intelligence (I’m looking at you, everyone…).

LOW PRIORITY:

Smash Cut (DVD)

DVD Cover: Smash Cut

This Straight-to-DVD horror flick (boy, “Straight-to-Video” was so much more fun to say) features charismatic porn star Sasha Grey in a less classy role than her first mainstream performance starring in Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience (she was good, the movie was not). This film from Lee Demarbre, who also directed Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter, is about a critically panned horror film director who ends up striving for realism by using actual murder victims. Frankly, it’s been done, but Demarbre’s a guy with a sense of humor and Sasha Grey can really elevate a film if given half a chance. For horror fans, it might make a good rental. Then again, it might also suck. You’ve been warned.

Weapons of Self Destruction (DVD)

DVD Cover: Weapons of Self Destruction

Robin Williams… doing standup. I like Robin Williams, and in fact I still think his performance in last year’s World’s Greatest Dad was the best of the year, and probably the finest work of his career, but I’m a little sick of him being “funny.” If you’re not, this is a rental. If you are… Just rent World’s Greatest Dad.

LEAVE IT BEHIND:

“Steven Seagal Lawman: Season 1” (DVD)

DVD Cover: Steven Seagal Lawman Season One

If the title and conceit of this reality series – which showcases action hero Seagal’s little-known career in actual law enforcement – elicits fits of giggly glee then you’re in for something of a disappointment, just like I was. I didn’t get to watch too many episodes of “Steven Seagal Lawman,” but each of them was standard reality television fare, with none of the charm that probably would have come from a fictional take on the same concept.

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