Tuesday, April 21, 2009

DVD Picks of the Week: April 21, 2009

The trend of Oscar nominated and winning films continues here in this third week of April. Today is a good day for film and DVD hounds! Let's get to it. I present to you, new releases for April 21!

The Wrestler [DVD][Blu-ray]

What a way to kick off the week! The Wrestler was probably my second favorite film of 2008 behind the tremendous Slumdog Millionaire. Darren Aronofsky's directorial prowess is seen in full. Mickey Rourke's brutal and uncompromising performance as Randy "The Ram" Robinson will go down as one of the best performances to never win an Oscar. Sean Penn stole that award for his portrayal of Harvey Milk (a much deserved win, I must say), but Rourke won't be forgotten for the work and effort he put into this, his return to grace. Only the future knows if Rourke has another Oscar-inducing performance and role up his sleeve. Let's hope he does.

Frost/Nixon [DVD][Blu-ray]

You know it's a good week when two of your top 10 favorite films from the past year hit the shelves. Frost/Nixon was the first of the Oscar-worthy films that I saw. In most other years (save for this year and last year), Frank Langella's portrayal of Richard Nixon would earn him award after award. Unfortunately for him, he was met by the previously mentioned Mickey Rourke and Sean Penn. The same holds true for the film, which is one of Ron Howard's strongest efforts. For more on this film, check out my review here, written way back in December of 2008!

The Wages of Fear [Criterion Blu-ray]

Even though I'm unable to take advantage of the greatness that Blu-ray is, I'm not going to keep you out of the loop. The Wages of Fear, directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, is one of the most thrilling films I've ever seen. Clouzot's film deals with men transporting an urgent nitroglycerine shipment across a dangerous terrain without the proper safety equipment. The trip has the potential to be fatal and every second, bump and moment matters to the men in the cab of the truck. It's a truly gripping film that must benefit greatly from the crispness of Blu-ray. French film stars like Yves Montand steal the on screen show and give you something to care about. This is one of the greatest films of all time and more tense than most films Hollywood chocks out these days. It makes Speed look like child's play. The Criterion 2-disc edition is packed with extras and the new Blu-ray is no exception to this. It's a great film and a great package.

Hellraiser: Boxed Set [DVD/Blu-ray]

I am including this release in my entry for a few reasons. One is to discuss the actual state of bewilderment I am at the studio's decision to release this mess. For years fans of the great Hellraiser films have been calling for the special packaging that was released overseas to be given to them. And now, it apparently has. But has it been done properly? This boxed set includes the following: The previously released Anchor Bay special edition of Hellraiser, the previously released Anchor Bay special edition of Hellbound: Hellraiser II, and the newly released Hellraiser on Blu-ray. What. Why on earth would anyone actually need this set? Most true fans already own AT LEAST the first two films. Most true fans that wanted to probably already upgraded to Blu-ray for the first film. Aside from the special edition packaging, all this offers are three discs, two of them being of the same film, just in different formats. I seriously question the brains of those working on the development on these products. I am not exactly sure what films Anchor Bay holds the rights to in the Hellraiser series, but they could do better than this. I suppose if you own none of these films, or absolutely HAVE to have this packaging, this wouldn't be such a bad buy. That is if you want to own the first film on both standard DVD and Blu-ray. Hellraiser [Blu-ray] is released alone this week as well, if that's all you're interested in.

Sin City [Blu-ray]

As Blu-ray continues to succeed and grow, more and more titles will eventually get their dues on the new high-definition format. Today, a great and deserving title finally gets its American debut on Blu-ray. Sin City is the great graphic novel adaptation directed by Robert Rodriguez. The visual brilliance of this film surely looks stunning in Blu-ray and is something I can't wait to see with my own eyes. This seems like a no brainer to me.

Science is Fiction: 23 Films by Jean Painleve [Criterion DVD]

One of my favorite parts of presenting the new DVD releases of the week is discovering new films and names I haven't discovered yet myself. Jean Painleve happens to be one of those names. This new release from Criterion of 23 of his surreal short films grabbed my attention. Read this description, watch the Youtube video of Le Vampire below, and decide for yourself.
The director and animator Jean Painleve made art from the stuff of life, delving into the realms of mathematics, medicine, marine biology, and chemistry in search of imagery and ideas he could capture on film. The result of his intellectual exploration was not merely documentary, but poetry: his shorts offer lyrical, whimsical portraits of undulating sea life, human cells, and microscopic plant parts that seem alien in origin. This evocative collection includes 23 of Painleve’s shorts accompanied by an all new score from indie-rock band Yo La Tengo, as well as interviews with the filmmaker himself.

What else comes out this week: Caprica, X-Men Trilogy [Blu-ray], Notorious (Three-Disc Edition)/[Blu-ray], Laid to Rest (Unrated Director's Cut), Voyage of the Damned, I Dismember Mama, Dante 01, Arctic Tale [Blu-ray], Inside the Third Reich Box Set.

What to stay away from: Britney Spears: The Return of an Angel. There are some things in life that you just don't want to find out more about. This is one of them. Leave it at knowing this exists. This is a 57 minute "film" that "celebrates" the "revival" of Britney Spears. I will be forced to kill puppies if people keep abusing the great medium of DVD.

But whatever, this is a good week of films that should certainly distract college students from final papers and the working force from their families. Sit back, relax and grab one of these new releases for some serious enjoyment. This has been one of the strongest weeks in recent memory.

That's all for now. Until next week, when JCVD, Mr. Van Damme's self-reflective picture that proves he can act (as himself) hits shelves. It was one of the most surprising films of 2008 and I'm pumped to see it again. The Criterion Collection, which you can tell I love by now, also expands their collection with the release of a few more titles. So long!

No comments: