September 25, 2007

DVD Pick of the Week: A Bug Gets Knocked Up

Welcome back to the one and only place you need to go to find the choicest picks of the weeks DVD releases. Here, you will only find the cream of the crop, the titles that need to find themselves into your collection. Well, not really, but you will find the top title(s) based on my personal tastes which will actively find ways to diverge with the mainstream. Although, my tastes generally run to the mainstream with these picks. Why is that? I don't know. Maybe I should try making some more esoteric picks. Perhaps this week will be it, if you read the title, I am sure you have already formulated some ideas on taste. Anyway, read on for this week's spotlighted titles.

As I looked this weeks release list, I found a number of titles that I would like to get my grubby hands on. However, there was not one, but two titles that rose to the top almost instantaneously. Two movies that were on the big screen earlier this year that captured my mind and my heart. It is not that they are the greatest films ever to grace the silver screen, but I really liked both of them and feel that everyone should give them a shot.

First up is Bug. It is based on a stage play by Tracy Letts, who also wrote the screenplay, and is directed by Oscar winner William Friedkin (The Exorcist). It is a lean, tension-filled work that keeps its setting limited, almost entirely set inside the motel room. It builds its tension slowly. Awkward conversation between the two damaged leads builds to their frantic, panic-filled monologues of paranoid conspiracy theories that make little real sense to us, but are frightening nonetheless. To the two of them, it is perfectly sound logic. The screenplay really builds from the moment the two main characters meet through to the frenzied madness where they end up. Every step taken is borne organically out of their conversations, Peter's (Michael Shannon) ever-increasing bug talk to Agnes (Ashley Judd) eating it up.

The lead performances are simply incredible. Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon completely sell their roles, with Shannon reprising the role he filled in the stage play. I was completely involved with Agnes and Peter; Ashley and Michael no longer existed. They threw themselves into their roles with reckless abandon. They believed in the characters they were portraying and the emotions that play out are genuine, and they are very scary.

The special edition DVD release includes: Feature Commentary with Director William Friedkin, "BUG: An Introduction" Featurette, and A Discussion with William Friedkin.

The other film at the top of the prime cut list is the Judd Apatow production of Knocked Up. What I like about this movie is that it has a sense of reality to it. You may know people like those in the movie, you may identify with people in the movie or at least elements of those people, but the pieces are there to draw you in. It is something that Apatow has been doing his entire career — go back and watch 40 Year Old Virgin or his television projects Freaks & Geeks and Undeclared. Watch them and you will find a lot to laugh at, lots of comedy, but also a lot of truth. It is truth that is grounded in the real world, and delivered in a believable fashion, one that has a reality to it, just a slight step removed from the real.

Knocked Up is very funny, very touching, and a film that hits all the right marks. It is laced with raunchy comedy, and heart-warming moments. The screenplay is a thing of beauty, taking what could be considered a trite plot and giving it something special. It is so much more than the crass comedy or the one-night stand plot; it is about characters encountering that life-changing event and the ways that they deal and cope and grow as people. Yes, it is a comedy, and an absolutely hilarious one at that, but the drama is equal to the comedy.

This film is being released in three different flavors: R-rated Theatrical Version, Unrated Edition, 2-Disk Unrated Edition. Each release comes with a different set of extras. The base is the rated edition, the unrated edition adds a few more, and the two disk edition adds an entire second disk. You will find deleted scenes, a gag reel, featurettes, extended and deleted scenes, and a lot more. I plan on the two disk unrated edition.

Also out this week:
  • The Unit: Season 2. I did not see much of the second season, but there is no denying that the show is good. It just happened to fall in a busy time slot for me.
  • Next. This is mentioned as a warning, should you be tempted to buy this, don't. At most, make it a rental. It is not a good movie.
  • My Name is Earl: Season Two. This series is a lot of fun, and heads up the great NBC Thursday line-up. This is definitely worth your time.
  • Black Book. Paul Verhoeven returns to the director's chair and delivers this well received drama. I missed it on the big screen, now is my time to catch up.
  • The Bronx is Burning. Not a big Yankees fan, but this ESPN series looks really good.
  • Voltron, Defender of the Universe: Vol. 4. When I was a kid, this is a show that I loved. Yet, I haven't gotten any of these volumes yet.
  • From Beyond the Grave. An anthology film featuring Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasance, surrounding a shop and the fates of the customers who try to cheat the owner.
  • Night of the Demons 2. I've been waiting to see this again for a long time. I have the first one, but remember enjoying the second one even more.
  • The TV Set. David Duchovny stars in this feature about the development of a pilot. The clips I have seen look pretty good.
  • Chalk. Narrowly missed seeing this Morgan Spurlock production in the theater. It is a mockumentary that follows young teachers as they navigate the treacherous waters.
  • Spider Baby. Lon Chaney Jr. and a young Sid Haig? Regressed cannibal kids? Sounds good to me.
  • The Stendahl Syndrome. A special edition of this Dario Argento films from the 1990s.
  • Twisted Terror Collection (Deadly Friend / Dr. Giggles / Eyes of a Stranger / From Beyond the Grave / The Hand / Someone's Watching Me). A collection of B level horror features. Actually, not a bad deal if you are interested in at least half of these films over buying them individually.
  • Witchblade: Vol. 1. A new anime series based on the comic book which also spawned a short lived, but actually pretty good television series. Looks pretty good.
  • Cujo: 25th Anniversary Edition. Would you believe this is a quarter century old?
  • Deadly Friend. One of the lesser Wes Craven features. I know I saw this at one point, but don't recall any details.
  • Babel: Two Disk Special Edition. An Oscar nominee gets a new edition with a host of new extras. Not sure I feel the need to upgrade, but here it is.
  • Twisted Sister: A Twisted Christmas - Live. The CD was fun, I suspect the live versions will be as well.
  • Dr. Giggles. Larry Drake as a killer doctor, how can you go wrong?
  • Suspiria: 2 Disk Special Edition. A definite horror classic. This is a wonderful film from Dario Argento, and features one of the best kills ever filmed.
  • Eaten Alive: 2 Disk Special Edition. Tobe Hooper's cannibal movie. It followed Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
  • Demons. Lamberto Bava's creatures in a movie theater. My kind of movie.
  • Demons 2. Bava's second round of battling creatures.
  • The Cat O' Nine Tails. An Argento that I have not yet seen.
  • Reeker. I just like the title. A creature hunts down some campers.
  • Macbeth. Shakespeare moved into gangland. Could be terrible, could be fascinating.
  • Alone in the Dark: Unrated Director's Cut. Does anyone really need this?

That wraps up this week's lengthy list.


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