Tuesday, November 16, 2010
I am still basking in the glow of the "Scott Pilgrim" DVD/Blu-ray release last week because all the new releases this week are crap. Thank goodness some old classics are getting reissues.
The studios are obviously gearing up for the holidays with all sorts of releases, reissues, special editions, etc. just in time for Christmas list-making. They are also continuing in their trend of trying to milk consumers for as much money as possible by releasing multiple editions of the same film. So back in April, the box office hit "Avatar" received a bare bones home video release on Earth Day. Now there is a "new" edition loaded with extras and bonus features, and then next year there will be a 3D Blu-ray for all the die-hard "Avatards."
Last night a fellow critic was talking about the Blu-ray release of "Avatar"and the bonus feature of a full-length documentary. I explained that having to watch a full length doc on "Avatar" was akin to having surgery without anesthesia and then being forced to watch a video of it after. No thank you! I did not like "Avatar" and I have no interest in any bonus features that prolong the agony of the 160 film. The film looked beautiful but the storytelling was formulaic and the plot was a rehash of "Fern Gully." Plus with such a trite tale, Cameron didn't need nearly three hours to simply deliver predictable clichés. I know the film delighted audiences and racked up big bucks at the box office but it bored me to distraction. So if you are a fan, this edition should make you happy until the 3D one comes out next year.
I have to admit that when I looked at the release schedule this week I almost nixed doing a column at all because so many of the films were so bad. Joining "Avatar" on the new release shelf this week are Robert Zemeckis' 3D "A Christmas Carol" with an animated Jim Carrey annoying us in multiple roles; M. Night Shymalan's atrocious big screen adaptation of "The Last Airbender;" a creepily animated Tom Hanks in multiple roles in "Polar Express;" and another 3D fiasco, the remake of "Clash of the Titans." Yuck! I wouldn't want any of these films tainting my DVD/Blu-ray shelf.
Fortunately, the studios are also reaching deep back in their archives and polishing off some true gems for Blu-ray re-issues. You can find Robert Mitchum's menacing preacher in "The Night of the Hunter;" Charlie Chaplin's comic genius in "Modern Times;" and Buster Keaton's deadpan brilliance in "Sherlock Jr./Three Ages." These are all classic well worth picking up and enjoying again. "The Night of the Hunter" is especially noteworthy as the only film directed by actor Charles Laughton. Mitchum is stunning, and the black and white photography is gorgeous.
Reaching not so far back in the vault, the studios are releasing some more recent films that are worth updating to Blu-Ray. At the top of this list would be "Casino Royale," the superb reboot of the James Bond franchise. The franchise is in limbo at the moment with a third film in discussion. Daniel Craig gave us a grittier more realistic Bond in a smartly packaged new film. Sean Connery is still my favorite Bond but Craig is right up there and a welcome relief from Roger Moore's caricature of Bond and Pierce Brosnan's smirking 007. You can also pick up Guy Ritchie's fun "Snatch" and the first two "Spider-Man" movies.
The only new film getting a DVD/Blu-ray release that is worth picking up is "The Kids are All Right." This intimate portrait of an oddly extended family is the latest film from indie filmmaker Lisa Cholodenko. The main attraction is the fine acting ensemble that includes Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo.