I Want My DVD: Tuesday, February 12, 2013

by admin February 12, 2013 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, February 12, 2013

James Bond is back for one of his best adventures ever.

As much as I enjoy the now 50-year-old James Bond franchise, I wouldn't classify most of them as great movies -- films that I might, for example, include on an annual Top Ten list. Fortunately, Skyfall isn't like most Bond movies. 007's 23rd outing is a wonderful piece of blockbuster entertainment, yes, but it also carries a strong emotional undercurrent, derived from the feature length face-off between Bond (played, once again, by Daniel Craig) and his mirror image, the terrorist-with-a-grudge Silva (Javier Bardem) with their respective mother figure -- Judi Dench's M -- caught in the middle. The movie also benefits from the welcome dash of humor that director Sam Mendes adds back into the franchise after Craig's more self-serious first two adventures. For a novice action director, Mendes (working with ace cinematographer Roger Deakins, who deserves -- but likely won't win -- the Oscar in two weeks) handles the big set-pieces expertly, with an extended scene set in a neon-bathed Shanghai skyscraper instantly joining the list of best Bond action sequences ever. Skyfall is so well-crafted and so much gosh darned fun, it's no wonder that it's the most successful 007 movie of all time, not to mention one of the best movies of 2012.
Extras: A 14-part making of documentary, two commentary tracks -- one from Mendes and the other with the franchise's producers -- and footage from the movie's London premiere.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Rather than entrusting his semi-autobiographical YA coming-of-age novel to Hollywood strangers, first-time filmmaker Stephen Chbosky wrote and directed the feature film version himself. That turned out to be a smart move, because even though Chbosky's inexperience results in some questionable creative choices (most notably a rushed final act that lobs in a grenade of a plot revelation that the film can't deal with in a substantive way), in its best moments, Perks is one of the most resonant and nuanced portraits of teenagedom since John Hughes's mid-'80s heyday. Despite being a tad too long in the tooth to play a 14-year-old, Logan Lerman is otherwise well cast as Chbosky's stand-in, an awkward, sensitive high school freshman who falls in with a gaggle of outcast upperclassmen (including Emma Watson and the movie's MVP, Ezra Miller) and has his mind, heart, wardrobe and musical tastes expanded. A modest hit in theaters, expect Perks to enjoy a long afterlife on DVD, where it will be discovered and re-discovered by new generations of teens... and their nostalgic parents.
Extras: Two audio commentaries -- one with Chbosky and his cast and the other with Chbosky solo -- deleted scenes, dailies and a making-of featurette.

The Man with the Iron Fists
After decades of funneling his love of cheesy kung fu flicks into his role as the leader of the hip hop collective, the Wu-Tang Clan, RZA finally got the chance to indulge his taste for chopsocky on the big screen. Co-written by Eli Roth and released under the "Quentin Tarantino Presents" banner, The Man with the Iron Fists is pure grindhouse in spirit -- in fact, it could have served as the first half of another Planet Terror/Death Proof-style double bill. Mixing old-school martial arts fisticuffs with contemporary special effects, RZA is clearly having a blast both in front of and behind the camera and doesn't allow pesky things like plot and character development to get in the way of the ass-kicking. In case you're curious, the story, such as it is, casts the singer/writer/director/actor (although I'm not entirely sure I'd classify what he's doing here as "acting") as the resident blacksmith of a small village in China that's suddenly invaded by a host of violence-prone visitors, including an aging European warrior -- and a connoisseur of Asian prostitutes -- played by Russell Crowe (much more at ease here than he was in the big-screen version of Les Miz). Iron Fists may ultimately amount to little more than a spirited second generation dub of authentic kung fu epics, but it's heart punches land in the right place.
Extras: Deleted scenes and three short featurettes.

Silent Hill: Revelation
Hands up all of you out there who remembered that they turned that spooky video game Silent Hill into a major motion picture about six years back. Now keep them up if you had any interest in seeing a sequel. Well, those of you with your hands still raised are in luck, because somebody finally got around to making a second chapter and... surprise! It's pretty much the exact same movie as its predecessor. Once again, an unsuspecting innocent (in this case, Adelaide Clemens as 18-year-old Heather Mason) leaves reality behind and wanders into the titular town, where all sorts of nightmarish creatures and confounding plot points await. The movie's video game origins are all too apparent in the long, tedious stretches where the characters movie from room to room where spooky shit happens around them. But at least in a game, you get to control their actions -- here you're a captive audience as they make one dumb decision after another. And while the film's ending leaves open the possibility of another movie, the terrible box office (a whopping $18 million) suggests that Silent Hill fans will have to turn to PlayStation and Xbox for their next Pyramid Head fix.
Extras: A single, lonely featurette.

Robot & Frank
A worthy, if uneven attempt to take the sci-fi genre in a more low-key, dramatic direction, this Sundance-approved indie takes place in the "near future" when robot helpers are a common presence in the office and at home. One of these electronic assistants is delivered to the domicile of elderly cat burglar Frank (Frank Langella), whose grown children (James Marsden and Liv Tyler) are worried that he's too old to be taking proper care of himself. At first royally pissed about this hunk of metal (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) in his midst, Frank adjusts to the idea when it becomes clear that the robot is a perfect accomplice in his late-life crime spree, which has aroused the suspicion of a local law enforcement (represented by Jeremy Sisto's affable, but dogged sheriff). The flowering friendship between the robot and Frank makes the first half a modest pleasure to watch; it's as if Ray Bradbury had written an episode of The Odd Couple. But the movie loses steam midway through as it enters more dramatic (and predictable) territory and even Langella's formidable acting skills can't rescue it from a mawkish conclusion. It would have made a fine half-hour short for a sci-fi anthology series like The Ray Bradbury Theater. Dragged out to feature length, it withers and dies.
Extras: A commentary track with director Jake Schreier and screenwriter Christopher Ford and a gallery of robot-themed movie posters.

Also on DVD:
An early '90s gem that boasts terrific performances from Lili Taylor and River Phoenix, Nancy Savoca's Dogfight finally arrives on DVD (complete with an audio commentary track from Savoca) via Warner Archive's manufactured-on-demand service. Also new from the Warner vault is the Richard Lester-helmed crime farce The Ritz and, speaking of Ray Bradbury, the 1969 adaptation of his classic short story collection, The Illustrated Man. In newer releases, the acclaimed documentary Bully arrives on DVD to freak parents out and make their kids say, "This is news?" In the run-up to the Oscar nominations, John Hawkes was widely favored to be one of the final five thanks to his role as a paraplegic poet in The Sessions. He wound up not making the cut (although his co-star Helen Hunt did qualify), but it's still worth catching up with the movie purely for his performance. The Belgian filmmaking team the Dardenne brothers return with their latest feature The Kid with a Bike, the downbeat story of a boy and his bicycle (as well as his absent dad) that nevertheless manages to be happier than many of the duo's movies. What happens when the female star of Revolution meets the female star of Arrow? The answer is Kill Me Now, a Katie Cassidy/Tracy Spiridakos collabo in which they play two roommates who become accomplices after killing an abusive ex. The Paris-set drama Our Paradise follows two minor criminals who become lovers and then accomplices. Finally, the inept horror movie Smiley slashes its way onto DVD, where its awfulness can be appreciated ridiculed for decades to come.




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