Happy Tuesday, and welcome to our weekly column highlighting some of the most interesting new DVD and Blu-Ray releases of the week. You can ourchase all the following picks through Amazon, and if you click through the images below to get to the Amazon links, you’ll be helping out your buddies at Daily Grindhouse too. Win-win!
Okay, this week is a huge one, so let’s get right down to business…
Unquestionably a technological advancement and a true immersive experience for those of us who saw this on the big screen, GRAVITY was one of the highlights of movies in 2013. Because of the current opinions-before-understanding climate of movie conversations, GRAVITY has developed some harsh critics. My understanding is they think the story is spare and the characters under-developed. Well, welcome to movies, where form dictates storytelling, not the other way around. Would you want to watch a Harold fucking Pinter play going on up there? GRAVITY is nearly-pure visual storytelling; a lesson in showing, not telling, hence the fact that no one is arguing down the achievements of director Alfonso Cuarón, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, or their brilliant effects team. This may not be my single favorite movie of 2013 either, but I see no reason to tear down something objectively excellent just to champion something subjectively better. Also, guys, we really need to keep encouraging Sandra Bullock to make watchable movies. It doesn’t happen too often but it happened here, and that’s something remarkable in its own right.
Part reptile. Part machine. It’s RoboCroc. As you know, there’s a lot of controversy around this movie. Most people resent its very existence, because it feels like a money-grab and besides, Peter Weller was such a perfect RoboCroc the first time around. And sure, this SyFy movie could use some of the deranged humor that made 1988’s ROBOCROC such a delight, but in the end, you know, aw hell. Here’s a cyborg crocodile attacking a helicopter…
THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013)
Didn’t see it. Should I? I mean, I’ve already seen one THOR movie, do I really need to see another one?
Can’t wait to see this one, which I unfortunately missed during its theatrical run. Alexander Payne is an unusual filmmaker, one of seemingly contradictory talents, a blend of a humanist and a satirist. He gives the most interesting roles to the most unlikely and/or underestimated talents. NEBRASKA features supreme character actors Bruce Dern and Stacy Keach, comedians Will Forte and Bob Odenkirk, and also June Squibb, who played Nicholson’s wife in Payne’s ABOUT SCHMIDT. It’s also in black and white, which remains an appealing look to me. I’ve heard nothing but good things.
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (2013)
Another critical favorite from 2013, BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR is based on a French graphic novel by Julie Maroh. It’s about the sexual relationship between two girls as they grow into women. Did you know that not all comics have to do with Thor? This movie has been reverently praised and ended up on just about every critical top ten list there is, aside from mine, since I haven’t seen it yet. Now there’s a homework assignment.
KING OF THE HILL (1993)
This lesser-known, under-seen Steven Soderbergh film came after his breakthrough with SEX, LIES & VIDEOTAPE but before becoming a ‘big-name’ director with his critical and mainstream successes with OUT OF SIGHT, THE LIMEY, and TRAFFIC. This was an interesting period when Soderbergh experimented with multiple styles and genres, although that’s really been a constant of his filmmaking career. It’s just that nowadays he has a bigger stage — in the 1990s, not as many people got to see KAFKA, KING OF THE HILL, THE UNDERNEATH, GRAY’S ANATOMY, and SCHIZOPOLIS. I’m one of them, having only become a fan with OUT OF SIGHT and then having little chance too catch up on what I’d missed. A Criterion release is, as always, a perfect occasion to become reacquainted with an old favorite and an ideal occasion to be introduced to a worthy film you may be seeing for the first time. KING OF THE HILL is a coming-of-age drama set in Depression-era Missouri. The cast includes Karen Allen and Lauryn Hill, which is not something any other movie can say.
I’m honestly unfamiliar with TESS, Roman Polanski’s adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s 1891 novel Tess Of The d’Urbervilles. It’s a lesser-known Polanski film, and the more I read about Polanski, the more I’ve been reluctant to delve further into that filmography. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become less of a judge-the-art-not-the-artist sort than I used to be. That’s an easier position to take as a younger person because it’s easier to miss the fact that this position has implicit implications: That CHINATOWN or ROSEMARY’S BABY are more important to me than my personal code of ethics. I’m less inclined to justify that than I used to be. It is, admittedly, a slippery slope. The film was highly-regarded as a graceful transposition of Hardy’s novel to film, and it represents the final work of cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth (2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE.) By putting this film out, the consistently-wonderful Criterion Collection has presented me with a bit of a conundrum.
MUSCLE SHOALS (2013)
Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Alabama, which began as an offshoot of the FAME Studio, is a place where some of the greatest soul and R&B artists in our country’s history recorded many of their greatest records. This documentary features reminiscences from Clarence Carter, Jimmy Cliff, Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge, and Candi Staton, among many others, and younger aficionados such as Bono and Alicia Keys provide context. Haven’t seen the film but guarantee sight-unseen the soundtrack is killer.
ADVENTURE TIME: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON
Created by animator Pendleton Ward, Adventure Time is a cartoon equally inspired by the fantasy genre and by video games. Finn the human and Jake the dog are the rambunctious main characters, surrounded by a supporting cast including Princess Bubblegum, Lumpy Space Princess, Lady Rainicorn, Marcelline The Vampire Queen, BMO, Tree Trunks, The Ice King, and Starchie The Grave-Digger (the last two are voiced by Tom Kenny of Mr. Show and SpongeBob fame.) The show is endlessly creative, really impressive in its unique storylines and smartly-stupid humor. Children of the 1980s adore it as much as the children of today currently do. I have a lot of fun watching it with my niece, who would want you to know that it isn’t just for boys. Girls can watch it too.
THE SHADOW (1994)
This is the movie Sam Raimi wanted to make before he ended up making DARKMAN instead. Russell Mulcahy is no Sam Raimi but he’s a really solid genre director in his own right. (RAZORBACK? HIGHHLANDER? RICOCHET? Come on!) It’s really too bad that former Shadow Alec Baldwin is now retired from public life, because now we can’t ask him over and over to reprise the role to bring us a darker, older Shadow. Then again, maybe he retired from public life in order to become The Shadow for real…
What better cover for a costumed crimefighter than a retired public personality? I’ll tell you, this city could use a hero right about now, and it can’t be me, because I’m too busy watching movies. On that note, I’m going to watch some movies. See you here next week!
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