Media | DVD Releases | Blog | Store| March 4, 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 March 3, 2008

Pick of the Week

Into the Wild
Based on a novel, Into the Wild is the true story of a young man who drops out of society. Living a seemingly perfect life, Christopher McCandless drops out of law school and picks up a few books on wilderness survival. He then travels to the most remote place he can reach and makes it his home.

The impulse to divest yourself of all of your baggage, both literally and figuratively, is one that most of us can relate to. Very few of us actually take that impulse to its ultimate, uncompromising conclusion. McCandless renamed himself Alexander Supertramp and went looking for a simple life of purity and living off the land. Alaska shrugs off such people like a dog shaking off a flea.

Also out this week

A thriller based on "anesthetic awareness," a condition in which you are awake but unable to communicate during surgery. Hayden Christensen narrates his thoughts being operated on by a doctor who may not wish him well. Twist after twist litter the short (less than 80 minutes) run-time, which could have been a good thing if they hadn't all been so predictable.

Eleven Men Out
Based on the title alone, I thought this was a football-themed (known as soccer in the U.S.) remake of Eight Men Out. As I'm a huge footie fan (and indifferent to baseball) I was pretty intrigued. Turns out the only inspiration this movie takes from the story of the Chicago Black Sox is the title.

In this Icelandic film, a pro footballer casually tells a journalist that he's gay. Rather than netting the magazine cover he was hoping for, he instead alienates his team-mates -- and the team's conservative ownership, which immediately kicks him off the squad. Not knowing what else to do with himself, he joins an amateur football team that already has a few gay men on the roster. His notoriety drives away the other straight players, but attracts other skilled gay footballers, and soon his amateur group is making a name for itself -- not only for their skill, but for the reactions of some of the other teams who don't want to play "the queers."

The formerly arrogant pro-footballer has to navigate the murky waters of his newfound image of himself. His son from the beauty queen he divorced doesn't react well to his father coming out in the national media; his former team is begging him to come back after the backlash they suffered from firing him; and he stumbles into his first gay relationship with a surprising amount of na´vete for a hot-shot pro athlete.

Coming-out stories are a frequent subject of gay cinema, and the underdog sports movie is beyond cliche at this point, but this movie's themes are universal.

Half Moon
Following the fall of Saddam Hussein, an aging musician gathers his sons and travels to Iraqi Kurdistan for a long-planned-for celebration, despite his own premonitions of disaster. Resolute in his purpose, the musician doesn't let anything, including callous border guards or his own sons' misgivings, keep him from his purpose. Shot in Iranian Kurdistan, featuring spoken Kurdish and Persian dialog with English subtitles.

An art film set in Mongolia. Which is to say, a slow, meandering exploration of the nomadic lifestyle, shot beautifully -- but likely too impenetrable for most film fans, myself included.

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium
Welcome to the second week in a row featuring a Natalie Portman release on home video. Natalie Portman has been directed by Luc Besson, George Lucas, Wes Anderson, Milos Forman, Mike Nichols, Anthony Minghella, Zach Braff... I could go on. There's a reason she's a go-to muse for a veritable who's who of auteur directors (and Zach Braff), but... this movie. This fucking movie.

Go rent Leon instead.

My Kid Could Paint That
If a kid paints abstract paintings as well as the masters, if her work is comparable to Kandinsky and Pollack, does this make the kid a genius? Or does it prove the emptiness of the abstract art movement?

If parents are getting rich selling a little girl's art for tens of thousands of dollars, and parading her through the media, is it exploitation?

And when 60 Minutes reports that the girl isn't even the artist, that the paintings are actually painted by the father, when the values of the work plummet and the family is made pariah in their own town, what should they do? Well, what they do is hire a documentary film maker to clear up their name. Along the way, the documentary tries to answer the questions posed by the artwork allegedly done by the little girl, as well as settle the art's authorship definitively.

Things We Lost in the Fire
Halle Berry loses her husband, played by David Duchovny, and in her grief turns to his best friend (Benicio del Toro playing a recovering drug addict on a downward spiral). Together they try to overcome the overwhelming grief of their loss.

101 Dalmations: Platinum
I wonder sometimes, which company or person was most responsible for my childhood. Was is George Lucas and the Star Wars films? Was it Nintendo and their iconic 8-bit creations? Or was it Disney, who used to be regarded the way Pixar is now: an animation studio capable of works of stunning quality? 101 Dalmations introduced the world to Cruella De Ville, a woman so evil she covets the fur of tiny puppies to make her coats.

101 Dalmations isn't Disney's best film, and the quality of the animation doesn't match that of the studio's golden age. It was produced in the wake of the financial failure of the very expensive Sleeping Beauty, and Disney was cutting costs wherever they could. The sketchy, angular style of the animation (made possible in part through the magic of Xerox) is a direct result of that cost cutting and would characterize Disney's output for some years afterwards. Still, 101 Dalmations remains towards the top of my list of Disney favorites, as I grew up watching and rewatching the "lesser" tier of Disney movies like Robin Hood, The Black Cauldron, and The Fox and the Hound. Strange to think that Disney fans used to point to those as the "bad" Disney animated features, as Disney has crapped out so many low-quality, direct to video sequels of their most beloved classics in search of a quick buck since then that it makes Black Cauldron look like Ratatouille.

101 Dalmations is a childhood classic worth introducing to your young relatives or revisiting yourself.

Blu Buy You

Ice Age is there to remind us that while CG movies may look really pretty in HD, the now bog-standard formula of hiring a bunch of names to voice some weaksauce kid's movie is sadly still common practice for Pixar's competitors. The resulting films are probably not worth investing in. Hey, Pixar, can we please have all of your movies on Blu-ray, like, yesterday?


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 March, I will continue to save up my commissions, and will use a minimum of 25% of my Amazon commissions to buy something from the Oakland, California hospital's Child's Play Amazon wishlist. I did not earn enough in February to make any deductions yet, so I wasn't able to make any purchases.

DVD | Into The Wild | Awake | Eleven Men Out | Half Moon | Khadak | Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium | My Kid Could Paint That | Things We Lost in the Fire | 101 Dalmations: Platinum

Blu-ray | Ice Age | Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium | The Rookie

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. Yeah, I was in the shit. Visit the Talking Time Forum to discuss video games, movies, books, and more. Thanks for reading!