New on DVD: Love, Dragons, and Toe Thumbs
Tilda Swinton Shines in the Best of New Releases
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
The one big new release on DVD and Blu-ray is "Jonah Hex" but it won't cast a spell on you.
"Jonah Hex" had potential… on paper. The western comic by writer John Albano and artist Tony DeZuniga served up a cynical, wisecracking Civil War vet who becomes a bounty hunter. A run in with commanding officer Quentin Trumball (John Malkovich) prompts Trumball to kill Hex's family and to brand Hex with a "QT" on face. When Hex tries to remove the mark, he scars his face even more severely. Near death, Hex is taken in by Native Americans and he ends up being brought back to life… sort of. He has a physical presence among the living but can also visit the other side, allowing him to temporarily resurrect and communicate with the dead. He also becomes a reluctant protector and avenger for the innocent. Cool idea right? It worked in the comic but not so much in the movie. Josh Brolin was a good choice for Hex and having him square off with Malkovich could have been fun. But there is no fun to be found anywhere in this deathly dull film. Plus you have Megan Fox showing a lot of cleavage but still no talent. An inflatable doll would have been as expressive as her and you wouldn't have to CGI-out any toe thumbs. Clocking in at a mere 81 minutes, it feels like an eternity. Read the comic.
Going from the ridiculous to the sublime… "I Am Love" comes out today on DVD and Blu-ray. It may be too arty for some tastes but if you are willing to be challenged by a film of exquisite beauty, then try this one. The magnificent Tilda Swinton shines as a woman who discovers a whole new emotional life through a young lover who happens to be a chef. His food leads to a sensual awakening for this pampered matriarch of a wealthy Italian family. In fact there is one scene – a moment of pure, unadulterated food porn – that is transcendent. The film calls to mind the old Douglas Sirk melodramas of the 40s and 50s. The bonus features are routine with commentary tracks and interviews with director Luca Guadagnino and star Tilda Swinton, as well as some behind the scenes material. I highly recommend this sumptuous feast served up with supreme elegance and flawless style. Just talking about it makes me hungry for another viewing.
An older title making its way to Blu-ray is the 2007 Wes Anderson film, "The Darjeeling Limited." This new edition comes from the venerable Criterion Collection. The supplemental features include audio commentary with director Wes Anderson and co-screenwriters Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman; a documentary feature by Barry Braverman; deleted scene and two alternate takes and more. The disc also includes an illustrated booklet containing Richard Brody's essay "Voyage to India." The film follows three brothers on a journey to India as they try to shed some emotional baggage. Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and Adrien Brody are charming as the brothers in a supremely dysfunctional family. A delightful film from Anderson.
Anthony Hopkins has always been one of my favorite actors although he rarely finds a film to showcase his abilities. I remember seeing him in "Equus" on stage and sitting on the very edge of my seat for two hours, amazed at the ferocity of his acting. Two films new to Blu-ray do little to challenge his skill but they are fun reminders of what he might be capable of. In "Magic" (1978) he plays a ventriloquist who goes bonkers and in "Red Dragon" (2002) he reprises his Oscar-winning role as Hannibal Lecter.
And some quick notes for what's new on Blu-ray: Fanny Ardant stars as the famous opera singer in "Callas Forever;" there is an "extreme" re-release "The Hangover" with a "never-before-seen" 28-page wedding album featuring missing photos from the infamous Vegas trip; and the flawed but occasionally brilliant "Three Kings" arrives.
And one last note, coming out all by itself on October 15 is the animated film "How to Train Your Dragon." In a very slim year for animation (even with "Toy Story 3" making an appearance), this film proved enjoyable. Good voice casting (Jay Baruchel, Craig Ferguson, Gerard Butler, Kristen Wiig, America Ferrera) helps make enjoyable this tale of a young boy who befriends an enemy dragon. Although forced upon us in 3D, the CGI animation was not annoying, and the dragons and humans were quite charming. The story, suitable for all ages, is set long ago in Viking times when a village was besieged by regular attacks by dragons. Young Hiccup wants to join the fight but is deemed too young and incompetent. But he's an inventive young lad and he sets out to capture the fearsome Night Fury dragon that terrorizes his village. But when he tracks down the beast he finds him not so terrifying. Of course you get a message thrown in – this time about ignorance, prejudice, intolerance, and fear of the unknown. But the message isn't hammered home too hard. Plus how can you resist dragons. I know I can't.
And that's it for this week. Happy viewing.