July 7, 2009

DVD Pick of the Week: Knowing

Welcome back! Well, to some of you, anyway. To the rest of you, glad you decided to stop by and I hope 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, but opinions based upon what I know of the titles I pluck from the new release lists I peruse. The opinions I give based on the new releases are my own, and my recommendations 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.

Knowing (also Blu-ray). As Knowing unfolded before me, I was drawn deeper and deeper into the tale. This is a movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat. There is a delicious slow burn quality permeating each frame. You are only given what you need to know, and even then it is barely enough. Knowing forces you to engage, to become involved, but it does so in such a way that you may not even be aware of it at first. The film centers on a series of numbers that seem to predict disasters, it is up to Nicolas Cage to figure out what the meaning behind them is. I know that sounds simple, but believe me, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to Knowing.

Push (also Blu-ray). This is a good movie. The action is well executed, and the film delivers, mostly, on its promise of a new world. It is not nearly as visionary as the advertising would want you to believe, but it has enough substance and verve to sustain it and probably a couple more films. Try it, you may be surprised. Push creates a world where people are born with all sorts of different abilities. All of these abilities appear to be the result of genetic experiments by the Nazis, with the goal of enhancing and weaponizing these abilities. When the war ended, the experiments continued, but were broken up into government run operations called Division. They would track and capture anyone found with an ability that that showed promise for further experiments. Sounds exciting, no? It has a little too much story for its own good, but it is certainly compelling.

Iron Maiden: Flight 666 (Blu-ray). This DVD was released about a month ago, with Best Buy getting the Blu-ray exclusively during this time. This covers the first leg of the band's massive world tour that focused exclusively (almost) on the music of the 1980's. This is a documentary as well as a concert release, with the concert comprising footage from each of the stops. I got to see this tour once on each leg, first in New Jersey at the IZOD Center and then again at Madison Square Garden.

Peanuts: 1960's Collection. This looks like a good collection of classic cartoons. This set includes A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown's All-Stars, It's the Great Pumpkin, You're in Love, He's Your Dog, It Was a Short Summer.

Night Train: (also Blu-ray). This mystery/thriller is sort of like Hitchcock put through a modern filter. The finished film is a compelling one, but certainly not up to the Master's best. It stars Danny Glover, Steve Zahn, and Leelee Sobieski as a trio who come face to face with something that could change their lives forever, but at what cost?

The Unborn (also Blu-ray). I wanted to like this movie. The trailer suggests a film that would have genuine scares and a plot that offers actual menace. The final film looks fine, but the tale is not all that interesting, and borderline nonsensical. The Unborn is a ghost story that feels like a remake of a Japanese horror film with a little bit of The Exorcist thrown in. Like so many J-horror adaptations, it does not work. There are some fundamental differences between J-horror and American horror making translations a tricky proposition at best, but when you start aping the remake style in an original film you do nothing but add another layer of complexity that is not needed. In this one, a girl is haunted by a creepy little boy who wishes her harm. To tell more would needlessly confuse.

Kath & Kim: Season One. Hopefully this series is a one and done type of show. This sitcom is laughless, grating, and annoying. Why anyone thought this was funny, or a suitable replacement for Scrubs, I will never know. Now, here is is on DVD, complete with Molly Shannon and Selma Blair and their self-involved attitudes. If you like this drivel, I wish you the best.

Grave of the Fireflies. This is an anime film that could just as easily be made live-action. It is based on a true story of survival during WWII. It is a powerful moving story that will most undoubtedly move you to tears. It is one of the most affecting stories I have ever seen. It has been unavailable for some time, but is now back on shelves.

Evil Bong 2: King Bong. From the deadly serious, to the decidedly not so serious. This is the latest release from Full Moon Pictures, and how can you go wrong with a title like that? I have not seen the first, although I am not sure it is necessary. What else do you need to know? I think the title pretty much says it all.


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