November 17, 2009

DVD Pick of the Week: Star Trek (2009)

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.

Star Trek (2009)(also Blu-ray). Despite the fact that a number of this weeks challenges made a play for the top pick, the ultimate winner was an easy choice. Star Trek exceeded all of my expectations and delivered an absolutely fantastic cinematic experience. I saw it three times on the big screen and look forward to watching many more times on Blu-ray. Director JJ Abrams successfully updated the series without trying to erase our memories of the original. The casting is strong, the story interesting, and the pace is fast. It does not matter if you are a Trek fan or not, the movie is an absolute joy and not to be missed.

Fight Club (Blu-ray). It has been a long time coming, but it is finally here. David Fincher's film was a bust on the big screen, but has gathered quite the following on a variety of home video formats. It is now arriving in high definition and will hopefully look pretty darn good. It has been some time since I have seen the movie, but it is a great film with a gritty look and a kicker of an ending. Look forward to checking out this release.

Gone with the Wind (Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray). The latest classic to receive the big box treatment. It looks to be similar to the recent Wizard of Oz release. I cannot say I have ever been a big fan of the film, but it certainly has earned its place in history. Since I already own that big DVD release, I will pass on this release.

Farscape: The Complete Series. The series will also be released as individual seasons. This was a contender for the top pick spot, but although it lost, it still holds a special place in my heart. Farscape is, hands down, one of my all time favorite television shows. The show takes a cues from Buck Rogers as it centers on an astronaut lost in space. In this case he is on the other side of the universe, caught in a war and immediately becoming a fugitive. It has action, drama, thrills, comedy, romance, a little bit of everything. On top of that, it was a co-production with the Henson Company and involved great use of muppetry.

Leon the Professional (Blu-ray). Another new arrival on Blu-ray is an early Luc Besson helmed classic. This is a solid action film that has a story worth investing in and characters to care about. At the center is the relationship between a hit man and a young girl whose lost her family. The cast includes Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, and Natalie Portman in her first big screen appearance.

My Sister's Keeper (also Blu-ray).Manipulative? Check. Melodramatic? Check. Emotionally suspect? Check. Characters you want to comfort? Check. Characters you want to strangle? Check. Surprisingly effective? Check and check. This may have been better suited for the Hallmark channel, but it is still an effective film. It has some science fiction elements with a family essentially growing a child for parts and follows through into drama as the family begins to crumble under the strain of their decisions.

Galaxy Quest (Blu-ray). This may be the best thing Tim Allen has ever been involved in. It seems to have sprung from the old SNL skit where William Shatner told Trek fans to get a life. An alien race in trouble comes to the crew of a fictional television show to aid them in their battle. This is a fun movie that I really need to revisit. The cast also includes Alan Rickman and Sigourney Weaver. I also suspect it is not an accident that this arrives the same day as Star Trek (2009).

Bruno (also Blu-ray). Funnier than Borat? I think not. This film is interesting as Sacha Baron Cohen goes the extra mile to draw out a reaction. If nothing else, the man is brave and is trying things that no one else is. The problem is this time around it is more of an uncomfortable humor and makes me wonder if his brand of comedy has an expiration date.

Thirst. Chan Wook-Park is a fascinating film maker. I have seen four of his films and they have all been wonderful, with an increasingly fascinating look and a depth to match. This new film sees a failed experiment turn a man of the cloth into a vampire. I have not yet seen it, but the footage I have seen is quite interesting. I look forward to getting my hands on this.

Kevin Smith Box Set (Clerks, Chasing Amy, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) (Blu-ray). These films will also be available separately. I love these movies, although I am not sure how much they will benefit from HD. I mean, it is not like they are effects-laden films. Still, if you do not have them, these are fun movies.

Andy Barker, PI: The Complete Series. It is a shame that none of Andy Richter's series caught on. They have generally been quite good and Richter is a funny fellow. This one has him working as a part time investigator out of a strip mall. It did not last long. May be worth picking up.

Is Anybody There? (also Blu-ray). If you want to see an acting clinic, watch this and witness the work put in by Michael Caine. Caine plays a magician who moves into a group home for the elderly, where he strikes up a relationship with a young boy who is preoccupied with death., It really is quite good and deserves to be seen.

Franklyn (also Blu-ray). I remember seeing the trailer for this some time ago and really wanting to see it. It tells a story with a split narrative between modern day London and a future city and focuses on four people on a collision course. Yes, I know that is not much, but I do not want much detail. It does star Eva Green and has a guy in a cool looking mask.

Samurai Princess. The cover for this looks pretty cool and it is from the minds behind Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police, so it has that going for it. It centers on a young woman who is the only survivor of a group of woman who are attacked and raped. She turns herself into an android to go out and have her revenge. From what I understand the story is slight but the blood is plenty.

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