Tuesday, May 12, 2009

DVD Picks of the Week: May 12th, 2009

Welcome to yet another Tuesday full of excellent DVD/Blu-ray releases. I really have nothing to say in this introduction other than the fact that Tuesday May 12 is a very badass day, so let's begin.

Taken [1-Disc Extended][2-Disc Extended][Blu-ray Extended]

What else can be said about Taken that I didn't already say in my January review of the film? Not much, that's what. What we have here is the slightly extended cut of the Luc Besson produced and Pierre Morel directed non-stop action film starring Liam Neeson. I gotta say I love the cover art for the 2-disc edition making it a must buy on that alone. All black, orange font, a man in shadows and of course the quote "I will find you. I will kill you.", one that should become cult status. This film is a thriller. One of the most enjoyable films of the year (even though I saw the extended cut first back in November). Comparing this to the theatrical version that stampeded through theaters this past winter might prove tough to the naked eye. Those that look close enough will find that they removed a few moments of extra brutality, such as a few extra shots of a gun, something that I felt gave extra emotional emphasis to the character of Neeson on is rampage through France in search to find his daughter. Grab this film, gather the friends and family around the television, and get ready to enjoy an ass kicking time.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans [DVD][Blu-ray]

A film that came out a week prior to the one mentioned above was this third film in the Underworld trilogy. There's no Kate Beckinsale to be had as this film works as a prequel to the first two in the series. Still, I found it to be a rather enjoyable experience, held together by some good action and the performances of Michael Sheen and Bill Nighy. It isn't the worst in the series, I'll give that title to the second film. But it isn't the best either. It's not perfect, some of the special effects work is sort of sloppy, but it was probably the best a fan of vampires and werewolves could expect out of the studio in January. This is mostly for serious fans of the genre or series only. It answers questions one might have and proves to be an entertaining film to watch. Fans can also grab the Underworld trilogy on Blu-ray or DVD if they want to pick up all three films at once.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly [Blu-ray]

I shouldn't have to say too much to get you to want to purchase the grandfather of all spaghetti westerns. Whether you actually prefer this film or another one of Sergio Leone's (or another director -- let's not forget more had a hand in the shaping of the genre) is besides the question. Nothing compares to this epic western starring Clint Eastwood, one of film's most original badasses. What it all comes down to here is Leone's signature and stylistic directing, Ennio Morricone's absolutely majestic score, and the performances of Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach. This is one of the most important films in the history of the medium. I'll direct you to a review by the great DVDBeaver as to whether the transfer is worthy or not. All I can tell you is that the film is sure worthy of a purchase and multiple viewings.

Wise Blood [Criterion DVD]

Here's one I've been waiting to see. Criterion releases another film from the great John Huston, the man who brought you The Maltese Falcon and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, as #470 in its collection of films. This is the film adaptation of the legendary novel from Flannery O’Connor. This film stars Brad Dourif as a man straight out of the army attempting to open the first Church Without Christ in the small town of Taulkinham. I'm itching to get my hands on this film and DVD. Watch the trailer below to form your own reaction to the film.

Fargo [Blu-ray]

I've got to thank this release for reminding me to watch this film again! It's one of the classic films from the Coen Brothers, but then again, what films of theirs aren't classics? Okay, fine, Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers aren't exactly masterpieces, but every great artist deserves a pass or two. Fargo strikes me as one of the funniest of the neo-noirs as it is a rather dark film, set amongst characters that aren't exactly in good light, but the majority of the film takes place with all this bright, white snow around. It's just the complete opposite of most inside the genre, and that's why I love the Coens, they aren't afraid to be strange and irregular.

Alexander Korda's Private Lives [Criterion Eclipse Series]

The Eclipse Series, a side project of the Criterion Collection, began with a set of early Ingmar Bergman films. The idea of the set is to introduce people to a director or a part of a director's life. The packages are on the cheaper side (the films average out to roughly $10 per here) and no extras are included to guarantee an affordable set. I haven't actually seen any films by Alexander Korda, but the ones included here do sound rather neat. You get: The Private Life of Henry VIII, The Rise of Catherine The Great, The Private Life of Don Juan, and Rembrandt. Apparently Korda became one of the most important directors in the British film industry. His films often dealt with historical significance and mythical distinction. These particular films star the likes of Charles Laughton, the director of one of my favorite films of all time, The Night of the Hunter, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. This is certainly a set to keep an eye on.

Ultimate Westerns Collection [DVD Box Set]

Oh good gravy, look at the size of that thing. For just over $100 you get 13 great western films spanning 20 discs. Included in the collection are classics such as Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, The Big Trail, The Magnificent Seven, Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. For the complete list of films and what the set actually includes, click the link above the photo. It's actually a rather solid deal if you have the cash to plunk down on a bunch of westerns. The problem I foresee is that so many people who are already fans of westerns own most of these special editions. I already have five of these titles myself. That might keep people from buying this hefty sized set. Otherwise, as a starter set, this ain't bad.

Now, without further delay, here's the rest of the stuff from today.

What else comes out this week:

What to stay away from:
It wasn't such an easy choice this week. Nothing was so idiotic that it absolutely stood out in my mind as something that people should keep themselves safe from. So I'm just gonna pick this even though I don't know what it is. Seth MacFarlane's Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy. Seth MacFarlane is hardly funny anymore.

Wow, this was a more than great weak. Just look at how many "relevant" titles I listed in the quick hit section. There has got to be at least one thing for everyone to enjoy this week. Next Tuesday looks busy as hell. Troma unleashes an uncut version of The Last Horror Film on its new special edition label and The Friends of Eddie Coyle, a film starring the amazing Robert Mitchum, gets released by Criterion. Add in The Machinist on Blu-ray and you've got yourself a pretty sweet week.

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