February 10, 2009

DVD Pick of the Week: Soul Men

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.

Full disclosure: I have not seen many of these titles and what follows are not necessarily reviews. It is my opinion based upon what I know of the titles I pluck from the new release lists that I peruse. The opinions I give based on the new releases are my own, and my recommendations upon them are based on my personal interest. In any case, I hope you enjoy and perhaps find something you like or a title to point me towards.

On a side note, I am on the verge of joining the Blu-ray revolution. By the time you read the time you read this, I could be in the possession of a brand new laptop equipped with said entertainment dynamo. That said, I am going to begin noting some Blu-ray releases in this column.

Soul Men (also Blu-ray). No, not original and far from perfect but it doesn't matter. This is one laugh-out-loud funny movie that had me in stitches. There is a certain sadness watching Bernie, but I am sure he would rather be remembered for the laughter he has given so many, so set the somber feelings aside and enjoy the ride. Seriously, Mac and Jackson are comedy gold. Profanity flows off their lips like poetry. Samuel L. Jackson's prowess with the f-bomb is legendary; combine his skills with Mac's and it is like learning the word for the first time. The insults and exclamations they hurl about will make you laugh and laugh some more. At the same time the profanity never overtakes the genuine feelings that develop over their journey.

Nights in Rodanthe (also Blu-ray). So, in the end, I have not become disillusioned completely with this film, there still is much to like (primarily those performances), but it is not a fulfilling movie. There is so much room for a solid story, so many holes that should have been filled before it unspooled on theater screens. Oh well, watch, enjoy, cry, try not to think about it too hard.

The Inauguration of Barack Obama on CNN. For those of you wanting to relive history in the making, this DVD will provide you the memory of what you saw, or a first hand look for those who had to work.

W. (also Blu-ray). So what makes W. interesting yet strangely hollow? This is the million dollar question and I cannot put my finger on it. The film was definitely interesting and most of the performances were fine, but there were stretches of the film that dragged, taxing my attention. In the end, it was good at not being what I expected and giving a different image of an unpopular figure, while also dragging it out to the point that I nearly stopped caring.

Amadeus (Blu-ray). Best picture winner and all around excellent drama, Amadeus is arriving on Blu-ray. If you have not seen this, you must. It truly is a great film with some very strong performances (not to mention the music, even if they use too many notes).

The Boondock Saints (Blu-ray). Cult action film blasts its way into high definition. This movie is really quite good, bloody, and distinctly memorable. It is about a pair of Irish brothers living in Boston who decide to clean the streets while being pursued by a decidedly off-kilter detective. Looking forward to seeing this again.

Frozen River (also Blu-ray). This drama looks to be quite fascinating as it deals with illegal immigration, but not in the usual location. It takes place on a Mohawk reservation bordering Canada. Melissa Leo plays a mother of two who has been abandoned by her husband and is need of money, so she turns to smuggling people across the border for money.

Donnie Darko (Blu-ray). I am not sure if this is the director's cut or the theatrical, but I have the feeling that it is going to look pretty darn good in high definition, even if the movie does defy explanation.

My Name is Bruce (also Blu-ray). I really want to see this, despite the bad buzz I have heard. I mean, seriously, it's Bruce "Ash" Campbell! The story sounds like The Three Amigos, bur so what. It stars Bruce Campbell! The movie never really got the release it deserved, or didn't, but it stars Bruce Campbell! Have I mentioned Bruce Campbell is in it?

Miracle at St. Anna (also Blu-ray). I really wanted to like this film more than I did. For what it's worth, there are some very good scenes. The battle sequences are powerful and well staged, and there is a very good flashback to when the four are still stateside and the rude welcome they get at an ice cream shop, where POWs are being treated as well as citizens. Then there is Omar Benson Miller; his performance as the childlike Train is great. He was a character I wanted to spend the most time with. This is an admirable effort that suffers from having way too much plot crammed in. Shave off the opening and closing and focus the central portion of the film and this could have been great. It is well worth seeing, just keep your expectations in check.

Raging Bull (Blu-ray). How can you go wrong with Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro? Especially a few decades back? You can't. Watch DeNiro hit the ring for this Oscar nominated drama that arrives in high definition.

Death Note II: The Last Name. The live action sequel based on the manga about a book that when names a written in it die. I have not seen anything related to this series, although I must admit to being completely interested in checking it out.

Blindness. This movie was very nearly my pick for the week, I just decided I wanted to laugh more. Fernando Meirelles may not be quite at the top of his game, but that is of no real consequence. The man knows how to construct a complex film. He shepherds the movie from a mere thriller or post-apocalyptic tale to something more complex, a look into human nature and how much we are dependent on society with its rules and expectations of behavior. I walked out knowing I liked it, but not quite knowing why. It takes a little time to digest, and as I did, I found myself really liking it. It may not be quite as brave as the commercials want you to believe, but there is no doubt that they put it all out there in making this film. The result is fascinating and just a bit disturbing.

Against the Dark. It's Steven Seagal against vampires, what else do you need to know?

Chocolate (also Blu-ray). This film comes from Thailand and has the creative team from Ong-Bak behind it. I know very little about it other than it is an action film with a female in the lead. That's all I need to know, I need to see this.

The Enforcer. Jet Li film from the early 1990's. I have read that this is the dubbed and edited version of the film, which would be a first for Dragon Dynasty releases. I do not believe it and am looking forward to seeing this movie again.

Street Fighter: Extreme Edition. Just in time for the new Street Fighter feature. This movie is not a very good one, and sadly the last screen appearance from Raul Julia (playing M. Bison). For some odd reason, I want to see this again, although I am not sure why.

Red Mist. I like the title, will I like the movie? Unknown. The story involves medical students, a cruel prank, an experimental procedure, and bloody revenge. What can possibly go wrong?


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