June 24, 2008

DVD Pick of the Week: In Bruges

Welcome back! Well, to some of you, anyway. To the rest of you, glad you decided to stop by and I hope that this humble column helps you navigate the stacks of new releases each week. My goal is to point you toward titles of interest and warn you away from those films that seek to do nothing but leech away your time and give you nothing in return.

This week brings an strong selection of films that includes one of the best films of the year, a better than expected rom-com, low budget horror from overseas, a new movie based on a short-lived television series, an excellent family fantasy, a pre-historic epic, and more. I know there are a few here that I am looking forward to checking out, as well as some that I am eager to see for the first time. Read on and see if any strike your fancy.

In Bruges. One of the absolute best films of the year is now on DVD. It only received a limited release earlier this year, so I am sure that many of you have not yet seen it. Do yourself a favor and see it as soon as possible. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson star as hit men sent to Bruges following a hit gone wrong. This is a movie that has action, comedy, drama, romance, all in a package that makes sense. This is an absolutely wonderful film that needs to be seen as many as possible. (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs. Following the success of Bender's Big Score comes the second direct to video movie. Hopefully it will be at least in the same league as the first. However, when it comes right down to it, more Futurama is good Futurama. This is a show that should not have been cancelled in the first place. I am looking forward to checking this out. (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

10,000 BC. Here is a movie that, for all intents and purposes, should have been fun. There is no reason why it shouldn't have been fun. All of this begs the question: What went wrong? At what point did this old time epic fly off the rails into the realm of the also-rans? In other words, this movie is not all that good. You would be better off checking out the vastly better Apocalypto. (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

The Spiderwick Chronicles. If you are looking for a thrilling ride that the whole family can enjoy, this is going to be for you. It is magical, thrilling, scary, funny, and whatever else you want to feel. It was, honestly, as big a surprise to me as Bridge to Terabithia was last year, movies that target youngsters, but don't treat them like idiots. It is always a joy to discover a film that knows its audience and writes to their strengths. In other words, check this movie out! (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

Definitely, Maybe. Much better than I was expecting. It could probably have gone a step or two further, but it is not completely necessary. Strong performances, good characters, and good writing carry this film to a successful conclusion that satisfactorily wraps everything up. Writer/director Adam Brooks does a fine job of creating a compelling tale that avoids the expectations of the genre while still delivering a relatable experience. He has given us a film where there are no "bad guys," but where the inhabitants have their own desires and dreams which will converge and veer away from the others. It is well written and compelling. Definitely worth the time. (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

Persepolis. Uniquely crafted and involving tale of a time I know little about. This offers some insight into a time of revolution and repression. It also gives us a first hand account of what it was like to grow up in this period. Persepolis could just as easily have been live action, but the animation style, inspired by the graphic novel, is simply stunning. I may have been left a bit flat at the end, but there is no denying the film's appeal. Do yourself a favor and see this movie. (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

Man of a Thousand Faces. My knowledge of older films is definitely lacking, and this looks like one I would like to see. It is a biopic about Lon Chaney, whose life was cut short just after his first talkie. Chaney is portrayed by James Cagney. Sounds like a winner, no? (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

Charlie Bartlett. This movie combines the renegade spirit of Ferris Bueller's Day Off with a little of the aesthetic and psychiatry of Running With Scissors. The end result falls somewhere in between the two; while it does not rise to the level of Ferris Bueller, it is much more watchable and feels more real than Scissors. It features an engaging lead character and takes a look at the effects of prescription drugs and the ignored and alienated youth of the nation. the problem is the film's wild tone shifts hold it back from greatness. It does prove to be much more entertaining than might be expected. It is at times laugh out loud funny, at other times it takes a satirical bent, while other moments are pure drama. It is well worth your time, though; the positives well outweigh the negatives. (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

Honeydripper. The latest John Sayles film is set in Alabama during the 1950's and concerns a struggling juke joint that plans a blowout with a legendary guitar player in order to save the joint. It has a cast that includes Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Stacy Keach, and Mary Steenburgen. Looks good to me. (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

The Tattooist. Jason Behr stars in this horror film about a tattoo artist who unwittingly unleashes an evil spirit while learning the Samoan style of tatau. Hey, it may be a lesser title, but that sounds like some fun. (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

Hell's Ground. Hailed as the first splatter film from Pakistan. It follows the tried and true formula of a group of teens getting trapped in the woods with blood-thirsty creatures attacking them. They do have the addition of an ominous figure wearing a bloody burka. Could be interesting to say the least. (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

Gingerdead Man 2: The Passion of the Crust. How can you go wrong with a title like that? I've seen the first one and it was actually kind of fun, so long as you remember it has a budget around twenty bucks. This is a production of Charles Band and the legendary Full Moon Pictures, you know who you are if you like this sort of stuff. (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

The Wig. Korean horror film which has a terminal cancer patient returning home to spend her last days in more comfort. To help her blend in, she gets a wig. Guess what? The wig is haunted! I tell you, there is nothing that can't be haunted! (BUY, RENT, SKIP)

The Eye 3. The original Pang brothers film was quite good and definitely creepy. I never did see the sequel after I heard it wasn't that good, although I did see the remake earlier this year, and it wasn't half bad. Until I saw this title in the listing, I had no idea a third had even been made. (BUY, RENT, SKIP)


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