Media | DVD Releases | Blog | Store| February 26, 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 25, 2008


Pick of the Week


The Darjeeling Limited
Wes Anderson's newest film. Need I say more than that? I would hope not. Every movie he creates is a home run, always capturing something ineffable -- something I can't articulate. His melancholy observations are often mislabeled "quirky," but I disagree. Some of his characters may be quirky, but the films themselves don't deserve that label.

The latest film in his growing oeuvre is about three brothers, all three damaged by grief, taking a spiritual journey on a train through India. It's full of Anderson's trademark wry observations, slow-motion shots and use of color. And of course the soundtrack is perfectly matched, notably lacking a written score and instead borrowing all the music from Indian cinema.

The film is comprised of small, sublime moments, and describing them woud take away from the magic of the film. It's an incredibly touching journey, one I strongly recommend taking.


Also out this week


30 Days of Night
Based on a graphic novel, 30 Days has a fiendishly clever premise: an Alaskan town completely cut off from the outside world is attacked by vampires during the month when the sun never rises. The sheriff, whose job up to this point has been settling minor disputes between the kinds of staunch individualists who would make such a wasteland their home, must protect a small band of survivors until the sun rises again.

There are a lot of things to like about this movie. The bleak setting, the fairly unique take on the tired vampire genre, the casting, and the cinematography all set this apart. The initial attack sequence is fantastic, and probably worth the price of admission by itself. That said, the film does have problems. The pacing is all over the place, and the tired cliché of man and ex-wife thrust into life-threatening situation and forced to reconcile takes up way too much screen-time. I've never read the original comic, but I'm told that a key subplot involving in-fighting among the vampire pack was cut in the screen version, even though it might have perked up the slower sections of the film.

Overall, though, I'd say anyone who isn't completely over the vampire on film should give this one a look.


Beowulf
Digital Angelina Jolie, practically naked and purring sensuously? Yes please. I'd uncanny her valley any day. Oh yeah, there's also a bunch of nonsense about a shirtless CG dude fighting a monster. Fast-forward through that filler, adapted by Neil Gaiman and Roger Avery from an Olde English epic poem, to get to the Jolie parts.


Day Zero
Three young men are drafted to fight in the Iraq war and given thirty days to report for duty. A great idea for a movie, and casting Elijah Wood is always a good sign, but my moles tell me that this film is jumbled mess and a lost opportunity. The discussions that the film's premise will inevitably spark are probably going to be more interesting than the film itself.


Death at a Funeral
A Frank Oz-directed farce mixing black comedy with over-the-top slapstick. Notable for GameSpite readers is the presence of Alan Tudyk, better known to most of you as Firefly's Wash... but the film also includes Peter Dinklage, who is pretty much always fantastic.


Goya's Ghost
Is there any genre that can go wrong more spectacularly than the sweeping historical epic? Natalie Portman, who learned from this film's failure and is currently promoting her new historical epic in a manner sure to put butts in the seats, co-stars as a frequent model for Goya's paintings who finds herself accused of heresy by the Spanish inquisition. While she is raped and tortured in a Spanish prison, Goya politely asks that she be released. Her subplot might make an interesting focus for the film, perhaps mirroring our own society's current debate on the ethics of torture, but it's only one disjointed aspect of this muddled mess of a film.


Silk
More evidence that using the words "sweeping" and "historical" when describing a film can be a bad omen, Silk is about an earnest young man in the silk trade who must travel to Japan and away from his beloved in order to find silkworm eggs not infected with the disease ravaging European stocks. He engages in adventure and romance in the forbidden far east, all the while feeling guilty about his wife back home, the lovely (and, in this movie, frequently unclothed) Keira Knightley.


Slipstream
A bizarre and surreal exploration of an artist's mind. In this case, it's Anthony Hopkins who stars as the screenwriter who lives both in the "real" world and in his own interior world. Additionally, he also wrote, directed, and scored the film. In Hopkin's film, the main character is a dying man who confuses his fictional characters with real people, and sees them interact. There is no narrative line through the film, the audience is meant to be as disoriented and confused as the protagonist.


Them
A French haunted house movie that understands that sometimes the scariest boogeymen are the ones we don't see.


Blu's Clues


I survived the format war, and all I got was this week's underwhelming HD releases. 30 Days of Night is a nice weekend rental, but I'd like to see more catalog titles making the leap to HD. Beowulf is only on HD-DVD this week, but don't rush out and buy it, as a Blu-ray re-release of it, as well as all the other notable HD DVD exclusives, is inevitable.


Shopping


I want to remind you can buy all of the titles discussed in the column, as well as thousands more, from my Amazon store. Every month a portion of the proceeds will go to charity. For February, I will use a minimum of 25% of my Amazon commissions to buy something from the Oakland, California hospital's Child's Play Amazon wishlist.

DVD | The Darjeeling Limited | 30 Days of Night | Beowulf (Unrated Director's Cut | Day Zero | Death at a Funeral | Goya's Ghosts | Silk | Slipstream | Them

Blu-ray | 30 Days of Night | Initial D | Justice League: New Frontier | Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same | To Kill a King


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. Blu-ray is the only choice for a true high definition optical disc format, as HD DVD has gone the way of Betamax. When man comes up against something he can't destroy, he destroys himself instead. Visit the Talking Time Forum to discuss video games, movies, books, and more. Thanks for reading!