December 19, 2007

DVD Pick of the Week: Stardust

The Christmas holiday is right around the corner, next Tuesday to be exact. That means that this week's batch of new releases will be the final round of fresh DVD titles that can be used as gifts. So, make sure you get out there and get the freshest titles for your loved ones. I know that I love to open up those familiar shaped packages to find a new shiny disk to add to the collection. Fortunately, this week brings its fair share of new titles to store shelves, and a number of highly desirable ones to boot.

Last week brought a pair of high profile titles in The Bourne Ultimatum and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Only one of those titles made its way to my shelves. Can you guess which one? Considering where I am and where you are, I cannot hear your answer. Let me just answer it for you, The Bourne Ultimatum was last week's winner. If you read this column regularly, you will likely have guessed based on last week's pick.

This week brings plenty of new movies to drool over. You will surely be making some last minute updates to your wish list once you have a gander at these goodies. There are a number that were in the running for this week's prestigious selection as Pick of the Week. After a long and hard battle in my mind, one of them stands tall. The king of the mountain is: Stardust.

"Why Stardust?" you ask. Well, after careful consideration, it seemed like the title that was most in need of the promotion. When it arrived in theaters during the weekend of August 10th it faced significant competition from the new Rush Hour 3 (which also happens to be reaching DVD this week), as well as the continued success of both The Bourne Ultimatum (on DVD last week) and The Simpsons Movie (another source of DVD competition this week). Not to mention the fact that fantasy does not seem to be a big seller unless the title contains words like Rings, Potter, or Narnia.

"Why should I care about Stardust?" you now ask. That answer is easy. Stardust is a wonderfully made fantasy adventure filled with action, romance, and comedy. It will draw comparisons to The Princess Bride due to its near perfect balance of said genres, yet it stands on its own. It is a breath of fresh air with its balanced juggling act of plot threads and tone. There is an easy flow that lulls the viewer into its enchanting spell. It is a wonderful alternative to the lame comedies, generic action, all too serious dramas that have been in theaters.

It has a strong cast which features Michell Pfeiffer, Robert DeNiro, Claire Danes, and a small role played by the great Peter O'Toole. It was directed by Matthew Vaughn who first made a splash with the Daniel Craig (Casino Royale) starring Brit-gangster film Layer Cake, from a story by Neil Gaiman (MirrorMask, Beowulf).

The DVD release features include a making of featurette, a blooper reel, and deleted scenes. It is not exactly a fully loaded release, but the film alone makes it a worthy addition.

Also out this week:
  • The Simpsons Movie. I admit that I have not been a big fan of recent seasons and had my doubts going into this. I am glad to report that the movie was fantastic and will make a great gift for that special someone. The DVD comes complete with multiple commentaries, featurettes, and deleted scenes. Very funny flick.
  • Blade Runner. This is finally available in remastered form (yes, there was the single disk released earlier this year, but this is the one we were all waiting for). It is available in a beautiful 5 disk set, containing all cuts of the film, and packaged in a numbered briefcase, a four disk set that is only missing the work print version, and a two disk set only containing the new Final Cut put together by director Ridley Scott.
  • Halloween. The new re-imagining from Rob Zombie works quite well. No, it is not great, and no it does not supersede the original. Still, it is an intriguing new look at the classic slasher icon that inspired countless clones. It is available in the theatrical cut and a new unrated cut. There are notable differences, be sure to check out my review.
  • Once. Here is a movie that I had hoped to see on the big screen but missed. I here it is a wonderful musical tale that delivers on all counts. Now is my chance to see it and see if it lives up to the reviews.
  • Underdog. Jason Lee takes on the role of the heroic dog in this enjoyable family flick. It is nothing terribly special and probably not worth adding to your collection (unless you have a child who loves it), but it is worth tossing in the queue for a rental.
  • Rush Hour 3. Easily the worst of the trio. They waited too long to make it and Christ Tucker proves to be supremely annoying and not the least bit funny. Even Jackie Chan looks tired and uninterested in being there.
  • The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, Vol. Two: The War Years. I never did watch any of these, but many seem to love them. Perhaps I should give it a shot?
  • National Treasure: Two Disk Collector's Edition. Just in time to help promote the sequel that is about to hit the big screen, here comes a special edition to suck your wallet dry.
  • Balls of Fury. Not a great movie by any stretch, but definitely funny. It benefits from a strong cast led by Christopher Walken, Dan Fogler, and James Hong. This martial arts comedy by way of table tennis has a focus and goes for it. Don't look for any redeeming message here.
  • The Last Legion. This would be epic starring Colin Firth went through theaters in the blink of an eye. Makes one wonder if it is truly worth seeing? Perhaps as a rental.
  • Hatchet. Here is another movie I wanted to see on the big screen. Unfortunately, it never came to my town. If reviews are to be believed, this will be a blast of old school horror. How can you go wrong with a film that has a title that is straight and to the point?
  • The Evil Dead: The Ultimate Edition. This was very nearly my top pick. Yes, a film that has received countless releases over the years. This edition finally puts the proper full frame ratio version back on the market. The Ultimate Edition is a three disk set with some new featurettes, wide and full screen versions of the film and a third disk of extras. It may be worth it for those wanting the full screen, or for those who never bought it before. This is a low budget horror classic.
  • Illegal Tender. This is straight up B grade material, but it really works. It has an infectious energy and has a bit more depth than one would expect. It also has Wanda DeJesus playing a tough as nails mother and Rick Gonzalez (television's Reaper) as her son who has to step up and take action. Definitely worth checking out.


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