April 7, 2009

DVD Pick of the Week: Doubt

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.

Doubt (also Blu-ray). This is a powerful film that will make you think about the way you approach everyday situations, not to mention its ability to force you attempt to come up with a conclusion to the events of the film yourself. What happened? It could go in any number of directions, it could be easy to come up with what happened, but, are you sure? This excellent film is bolstered by excellent performances and a first rate script.

Bedtime Stories (also Blu-ray). This is a family Disney film, and being such it is pretty easy to tell where it is going to end up. The best thing to do with this type of film is to just enjoy it for what it is, safe family entertainment. When viewing from this perspective, I found it rather easy to enjoy. It is not great by any stretch, but it is not bad in any offensive manner. It is the kind of movie that is competently made and has such a sweet disposition that kicking it and dragging it down seems to be a useless exercise in cinematic elitism. It is true that the story does not explain how anything happens, characters do not have terribly strong arcs, or are underused, but overall it is a simple, smile inducing film that people of any age can enjoy.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (also Blu-ray). Well made does not equal good. The tech side is fine, but this is not a good movie. The cause of this can be primarily attributed to a script that forgot to give its characters brains and forgot to marry a message with a plot. Fortunately, the 1951 film is still there to be enjoyed, and it is even included in the three disk release of the film.

The Tale of Despereaux (also Blu-ray). Mildly enjoyable adaptation features nice animation, but feels like it is moving at a snails pace. It is perfectly safe, perhaps even worthwhile, for youngsters, but it is not one I foresee revisiting all that often.

Yes Man (also Blu-ray). Not one of Carrey's best, but it does provide a bit of fun, provided you just go along with it. Some movies warrant, demand, or deserve personal involvement, but this is not one of them. It has its place and I enjoyed most of it, but it will not really entice you to think too hard. My biggest thought was when the shoe would drop and the "say yes" experiment would crumble like a house of cards.

Pre-Code Hollywood Collection (The Cheat / Merrily We Go to Hell / Hot
Saturday / Torch Singer / Murder at the Vanities / Search for Beauty). I am not familiar with any of these films, but I am interested in films from the pre-code era. This set of Universal Studios features were made prior to the 1934 implementation of the Code, which dictated what could or could not be in a film. This era was the Wild West where filmmakers could tackle any subject in any manner they chose.

American History X (Blu-ray). Arriving on high definition for the first time is this powerful film starring Edward Norton as a white supremacist. Fascinating film that will hold your attention and also contains one of the most cringe-inducing scenes of implied violence I have ever seen.

The Wedding Singer (Blu-ray). One of Adam Sandler's finest turns on the big screen arrives on high definition. Sandler plays a wedding singer with some personal issues, especially when he falls for a woman whose wedding he is helping plan.

Point of No Return (Blu-ray). This American remake of La Femme Nikita is more or less successful. It is clearly not the same film, but it it still an effective action/thriller. I wonder what it will look like in high definition?

Above the Law (Blu-ray). The first of a string of successful Steven Seagal action vehicles comes to Blu-ray. I always loved these early films in Seagal's career, plenty of action, lots of fighting, little bit of plot. This is what 80's action was all about.

Cleopatra: 75th Anniversary Edition. I have never seen this 1934 feature, but it is a Cecil B. DeMille production, meaning it should be worth the time.

Max Fleischer's Superman: 1941-1942. These early theatrical animated shorts have been remastered and will hopefully look great. I have only ever seen a few of these, but this looks like a good opportunity to check some more out.

House (2008). Unfortunately, House fails to really tie its tale together in a cohesive manner. It is a film that begs the audience to put the pieces together but does not give enough of the pieces to finish the puzzle. When the end finally arrives, the light goes on and I got what they were doing but was left shaking my head and wondering how much greater the impact could have been had the story made a little more sense. Too much is left on the audience to figure out how everything goes with everything else.

No Country for Old Men: 2 Disk Collector's Edition (also Blu-ray). Sometimes it pays to wait, it helps avoid double dipping on films you like. This set comes with the feature and a plethora of bonus material covering the production and promotion of this Oscar winning film from the Coen Brothers.

Donkey Punch. I have heard some positive things about this British thriller. It concerns a group of twenty-somethings partying on a boat until one of them dies in a freak accident. What happens next? Well, that is what I want to find out.


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