Media | DVD Releases | Blog | Store| February 12, 2008: Welcome to this week's highlighted home video releases, focused entirely on the American market. Sorry, rest of the world.

Roundup by VsRobot | Posted February 11, 2008

Pick of the Week

Gone Baby Gone
The last big-screen adaptation of a Dennis Lehane novel was directed by Clint Eastwood. Mystic River was universally lauded, even winning two Oscars. When I learned that Ben Affleck was adapting and directing Lehane, it seemed like a joke. Ben Affleck? Ben "Reindeer Games, Daredevil, Jersey Girl, and Surviving Christmas" Affleck?

It's not hard to forget that before all the terrible choices and laughable performances, Ben Affleck was once considered one of Hollywood's brightest young stars. Gone Baby Gone plays to the strengths of the actor he was. As a native Bostonian, he gets the feel and dialog of the city just right. The films milieu works as well here as it did in The Departed and reaffirms Boston as one of the great locations for crime thrillers. The insular nature of the city makes it ideal, especially for a story like the one portrayed here.

In Gone Baby Gone, a child is abducted. The child's aunt, frustrated at the police's inability to penetrate the darker underbellies of their Boston neighborhood, hires two local private investigators, Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro. This couple, more accustomed to tracking down married men on benders than kidnappers, initially find themselves in over their heads. But soon their connections to the more sordid aspects of Boston prove fruitful, and they begin bringing insight and information to the case that the police wouldn't have had otherwise.

Kenzie and Gennaro are our guides as the investigation continues, and the police procedural aspects of the film are very well done. Of course, the case takes a few very unexpected turns, and I wouldn't dream of spoiling anything here. Let me simply say that the questions raised by this film have stuck with me, and the final moment of the movie hit me like a truck. I'd give this film my highest recommendation, especially for fans of Mystic River or The Departed.

Also out this week

The Amateurs
Citizens of small-town America decide to pool their resources and make a porn film. Unfortunately, this film is aiming squarely at the Calendar Girls/Full Monty audience, so any hope the audience might harbor of maybe being able to take a peek at Lauren Graham's gilmore girls are completely dashed.

Batman & Mr. Freeze - SubZero / Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
When the execrable Batman Forever was released, all Batman fans had to hold onto was the work of Paul Dini. Mask of the Phantasm was the first, and probably best, of the Batman: The Animated Series spin-off films; now's it's newly repackaged with SubZero for a budget price. Grab it to help pass the time while waiting for The Dark Knight.

Becoming Jane
A fictionalized version of the author Jane Austen has a romance very much like those portrayed in her novels. I guess it worked for Shakespeare in Love, right?

The Bubble
Prequel to Bubble Boy? Sadly, no. How awesome would that be? Instead we get a gay take on Romeo and Juliet set in the not-at-all contentious Israeli/Palestine conflict.

Charlie Chan Collection Vol. 4
The Charlie Chan films are pretty interesting, historically. While Charlie Chan was a Chinese hero who was portrayed in positive light, the actual character of Chan was usually portrayed by a white man in make-up and has been criticized heavily for this, as well as for the stereotypical portrayal of Asian culture that usually surrounded him. The four movies in this set star Sidney Toler, taking over for the late Warner Oland, and are generally very popular with fans of the series.

In the Shadow of the Moon
Surviving crew members from the Apollo moon missions tell the story in their own words, interspersed with stunning footage restored from NASA's vaults. Heroin for space junkies.

Martian Child
Based on the book. John Cusack (here playing the "John Cusack" role, i.e. a sensitive guy who secretly knows how to have a good time) is a widowed science-fiction author who adopts a boy. Being a science-fiction author, he's naturally drawn to the kid, who claims to be a Martian and spends all day hiding in a box. His nonconformist attempts to connect to his nonconformist kid naturally raise the ire of the conformist adoption board, but if you think that conformity wins, you've never seen one of these movies before. Surprisingly for a film that spells out it's nonconformist message with big capital letters, they changed the character of the dad into a straight widower, when he was gay in the source material. I have a high tolerance for Cusack doing this kind of work, and that makes it a must-see for me even though I normally avoid movies this emotionally manipulative.

No Reservations
Catherine Zeta-Jones' master chef finds her perfect (if narrow) life upset when she inherits her late sister's young daughter and forms a rivalry with a brash new sous-chef in her kitchen. Will she find that there is more to life than work? Watch it and find out. (Spoiler: uh, yeah. Of course she does. Let me introduce you to a little thing called "genre"....)

Some Girls
College student Michael visits his girlfriend's family over the holiday break, and is confronted with her very strange relatives and her declaration that she doesn't love him. An early gem starring my favorite actress, Jennifer Connelly, new to DVD.

We Own the Night
Joaquin Phoenix manages a nightclub run by a Russian gangster who is being targeted by his brother and father, both NY city cops. While Phoenix's character just wants to manage the club, he is forced to take sides when his boss, who doesn't know of his family ties, asks him to join the drug trade while his family asks him to work undercover for the police.

High-Def Alert


The Amateurs | Becoming Jane | Gone Baby Gone | No Reservations | We Own the Night


The Amateurs

In Other News

A few weeks ago this very column covered the magnificent but somewhat controversial documentary ''The King of Kong. Much has been discussed about how the documentary portrays the film's de facto villain, Billy Mitchell. As a follow up, I found a fantastic interview while researching some of the movies for this column; it features both Billy Mitchell and the film makers giving their own respective version of several of the events that occurred in the film. You can read it at the The Onion AV Club, and while it probably won't change anyone's mind, it's great to see the film makers directly responding to Mitchell's complaints over how the documentary portrayed him.

For more information on, or to purchase, any of the movies I've covered, please visit my Amazon store. As a reminder, 25% of commissions I earn during the month of February will be used to buy things from Child's Play's Amazon wishlist for the Oakland, CA hospital.

Cover art courtesy of Amazon, where you can purchase any of these titles. Rent all of the movies covered in the column online at Netflix. The author of this column has no reservations with recommending Blu-ray to anyone interested in upgrading their home theater. Kids forgive, they don't judge, they turn the other cheek, and what do they get for it? Visit the Talking Time Forum to discuss video games, movies, books, and more. Thanks for reading!