Tuesday, January 12, 2010

DVD Releases: January 12

Seven new releases coming your way this week – including a chance to catch up on one of the best films of 2009, as well as the definitive DVD release of one of 2008’s best. There are some other small treasures here for genre fans, but at least three of these should be skipped.

The Burning Plain **
Guillermo Arriaga had success with his first three screenplays for director Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu – Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel – and a more limited success with his screenplay for Tommy Lee Jones’ The Three Burials of Melquaides Estrada. With his directorial debut, The Burning Plain, he simply tries too hard. He takes the same fractured narrative structure that worked in the Gonzelez Innaritu movies, and applies it to this story where the past and present exist side by side. Charlize Theron does what she can in her role as a depressed woman, who cuts herself with a rock, and has sex with random men. Somehow this relates to the story of a teenage girl (Jennifer Lawrence also quite good) seeing her mother (Kim Basinger) have an affair, as well as the story of a young Mexican girl whose father died. You will most likely put the pieces of this movie together long before Arriaga spells it out for you. For my original review please see: http://davesmoviesite.blogspot.com/2009/10/movie-review-burning-plain.html

Che ****
Criterion gives Steven Soderbergh’s epic film Che the definitive, Blu Ray treatment with this release. This three film collection will contain both halves of Soderbergh’s epic. The first film is more of a standard Hollywood style biopic, showing us Che as he gets involved in the Cuban revolution, and how exactly they pulled it off, intercut with scenes of Che’s historic visit to the UN in the early 1960s. The second film traps Che in the Bolivian jungle, trying in vain to replicate the success of the Cuban revolution. Soderbergh’s film is powerful, brilliantly well made and anchored by one of the best performances of Benicio Del Toro’s career. A definitive must see if you missed it in theaters. For my original review please see: http://davesmoviesite.blogspot.com/2009/02/movie-review-che.html

Departures ** ½
Somehow this melancholy comedy from Japan won the best foreign language film Oscar last year. The movie, about a young cellist who loses his job in an orchestra and is stuck taking a job assisting an undertaker, which for some reason brings shame upon his family, is obvious, tedious and long. There are moments that are funny, moments that are touching, but overall, the film just never really comes together. The fact that they voted for this over such superior films as The Class, Waltz with Bashir and even The Baader Meinhof Complex (I assume Revanche was also better, but have yet to see it), shows just how stupid the Academy can be sometimes. For my original review please see: http://davesmoviesite.blogspot.com/2009/06/movie-review-departures.html

Fame **
An ill conceived idea, as this movie tries to replicate the success of the 1980s movie and TV show, about a group of teenagers and their four year trip through the New York School for the performing arts. Some many characters collide, that it is impossible to care about any of them, and the film just stacks one cliché on top of another. For my original review please see: http://davesmoviesite.blogspot.com/2009/09/movie-review-fame.html

Halloween 2 ***
I maybe the only critic in the world who actually liked Rob Zombie’s sequel to his own groundbreaking original remake. This time, he cannot do what made the first film so special – that is deconstruct the persona of Michael Myers – so he concentrates on his victims. Halloween II is a brutal, bloody, frightening film – one that wallows in human depravity for its entire running time, but does it all with style. I still think Rob Zombie is the best thing to happen to American horror in years. For my original review please see: http://davesmoviesite.blogspot.com/2009/08/movie-review-halloween-ii.html

The Hurt Locker ****
Kathryn Bigelow’s Iraq war film has become one of the frontrunners in this year’s Oscar race and with good reason. This almost unbearably intense film holds you on the edge of your seat for almost its entire running time, in its depiction of a bomb disposal unit in Iraq, led by cowboy Jeremy Renner who has become addicted to the danger all around him. The film drains the politics of the war from its field of view – it doesn’t matter to the soldiers why they are there, just that they are and that they want to get home alive. This is one of the best war films of all time, and one of the best films of the year. If you missed in theaters – and judging from its box office take most of you did – ensure you catch up with it now. For my original review please see: http://davesmoviesite.blogspot.com/2009/06/movie-review-hurt-locker.html

Moon *** ½
Duncan Jones, son of David Bowie, makes his directorial debut with this strange, intelligent science fiction drama starring Sam Rockwell as a man stuck by himself on a three year contract harvesting the moon for energy back on earth. His only companion is a robot with the voice of Kevin Spacey. An accident happens, and when Rockwell wakes up, he discovers that there is another him on board, and from there things only get weirder. Jones movie is sci-fi at its best – intelligent, insightful and entertaining. A must see for fans of the genre. For my original review please see: http://davesmoviesite.blogspot.com/2009/07/movie-review-moon.html

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