Welcome to the Home Entertainment Forecast for September 8, 2009.
It’s a huge week. No other way to put it.
I’ll never really write about everything, because no one does. You guys want me to be a filter at some level. That’s why you read this blog in addition to whatever else you read. You can find great sources that just list everything coming without any information or opinion, but that’s not what this is.
In writing this column, covering each week’s home entertainment, I’m considering hours spent. Games, movies, TV on DVD… on BluRay or regular DVD… you’ve only got so much time and money to spend, and both are precious. So when you’ve got this much product flooding shelves in one week, it’s particularly important to help filter through what’s new.
THE BEST OF THE BUNCH
I’ve never owned or played one of the “Guitar Hero” or “Rock Band” games, and it’s not a philosophical thing. I was at a friend’s house one time and I tried two songs. And that’s it. That was over a year ago, and I thought it was okay. Nothing I needed to do again.
Yet I’m rabid at the idea of getting “The Beatles: Rock Band” in the house. I want to play. I want to own it. I want to master it. I am practically hypnotized at the idea of it. If I drop $250 on the whole peripherals bundle package for the PS3, my wife will punch me in the face while I sleep. There’s no way. Perhaps Santa will have mercy on me this year.
[more after the jump]
Everything I’ve read about this 45 song game sounds amazing. You play your way through the evolution of the Beatles, moving from era to era, venue to venue, from the small Amsterdam clubs at the start to the rooftop goodbye concert at the end. Shea Stadium. The Ed Sullivan Show. You play these historic gigs, play the songs to those crowds. And the game’s packed with new archival footage and all sorts of Easter eggs for fans. I know the song selection’s a wee bit of a tease, but the album-by-album downloadable content should shore that up next year. In the meantime, this, paired with the release of the remastered CDs today as well (another thing I’ll have to ask Santa for) sounds like an expertly designed experience that’s poised to make The Beatles the kings of mainstream pop culture all over again. This game is available for PS3, XBox 360, and the Wii.
As far as catalog titles on BluRay, it’s one of those wallet-busting weeks. There’s “Requiem For A Dream,” Darren Aronofsky’s fevered meditation on all the ways we allow ourselves to be controlled in this life, all the ways we surrender to addiction. It’s a devastating film, one of the hardest I’ve ever sat through theatrically, because it never flinches from the yawning horror of its subject matter. And Matthew Libatique’s photography is absolutely the reason you have a high-def system in your house if you’re a film fan. That’s the point, isn’t it? The movies I love… the moments I love… so often, it’s because of the way someone captures a slice of the world, because of the image. This is, after all, film we’re talking about. As fans of a visual art, don’t we theoretically want to have the films available in the best reproduction of what was originally photographed? Case in point: “The New World: The Extended Cut,” Terrence Malick’s gorgeous and funereal look at the Pocohontas story. I love the movie, I think there are some amazing performances in it, and I think narratively, it makes some brave leaps that pay off in this re-cut version by Malick. But more than anything, pick it up because of the work by Emanuel Lubezki, the brilliant cinematographer. Unleashed like this, by a guy like Malick who is as focused on capturing a sort of hallucinatory 3D view of the natural world, Lubezki’s work is museum-quality gorgeous, start to finish.
Other BluRay titles this week include the ridiculously fun “Silverado,” which does indeed look amazing in this format. When I first saw this in the theater, I was young, and for whatever reason, I was going through a period where I was busy actively rejecting the Western in front of pretty much any other genre. I couldn’t be bothered with Westerns. I liked Lawrence Kasdan, though, and I liked a lot of the cast, and so I went, and for the most part, I liked it. Haven’t seen it since. Watched it again this past week, and I’m a convert. “Silverado” is fairly great, and Kasdan was still in “Raiders”/”Big Chill”/”Empire” fighting weight when he made it. I think F. Gary Gray’s “Friday” is one of the great movies of the ’90s. And I’m not kidding, and I’m not just being provocative. I think it’s a perfectly executed character comedy with a great cast that hits on all levels. Chris Tucker’s Smokey is a fantastic foil for Ice Cube’s Chris, and John Wotherspoon as Cube’s dad is a different level of fantastic. I can’t wait to own this BluRay version. I don’t think I’ve ever picked up a home video copy of “Dead Calm” over the years, so I’m not getting double-dipped when I go buy this. I love this little Phil Noyce thriller, and it’s amazing looking at Nicole Kidman here. She’s very raw and honest in her work in this character-driven thriller set on a boat that’s become disabled in the middle of the ocean. Just the setting is a nightmare, but you introduce a wild card like Billy Zane in to the mix, and it’s a very simple recipe, executed perfectly.
On regular DVD, Criterion continues to kick ass, this week adding David Mamet’s “Homicide” and Masaki Kobayashi’s “The Human Condition” to their roster. I love the Mamet film. It’s smart, demanding entertainment, and even all this time later, after not seeing it since it first played theaters, I remember that it left bruises. It’s ostensibly a detective story, but it’s really about so much more, and more than any other Mamet film, I think the things going on in his trademark ellipses are honest and heartbreaking. I’ve never seen the three movies that make up Kobayashi’s “The Human Condition,” and I’m not sure I’ll have nine and a half hours anytime soon to spend with it, but when I do, I’m sure I’m in for a treat. I love “Kwaidan,” a ghost story that Kobyashi directed, which I first saw on a Criterion laserdisc release back in 1991 or so. Great stuff. These three films appear to be his life’s major work, and that’s all I need to know to be interested.
Also on DVD this week, and not to be missed, are a Jacques Demy film called “Model Shop” starring Gary Lockwood and Anouk Aimee, sneaking into release via the SPHE “Martini Movies” line, as well as the stop-motion animation cult classic “Mad Monster Party,” and Carlos Reygadas’s “Silent Light,” a much-lauded art film that deals with issues of faith and love in a Mexican Mennonite community. If you know Demy’s work, like “The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg,” then you know why it’s nice to get a new, less-remembered film of his out on video. I had no idea there was a sequel to “Lola,” his 1961 debut, but now I feel like I have to see this. I grew up watching “Mad Monster Party” every time it was on TV. The real reason to revisit this Rankin-Bass production about Frankenstein and Dracula and the Mummy and other famous monsters all getting together for a bash is because it represents the sole produced screenplay by Harvey Kurtzman, one of the great minds in comic books of all time. And “Silent Light” is a devastating, but difficult movie, a film that I found deeply introspective, a film that almost works as a mirror, as whatever judgment you bring to what you’re watching could radically alter the movie for you. It’s a powerful, crushingly sad film.
Also available this week on BluRay:
“The Office: Season Five” (also available on DVD) and “Fringe: Season One” (also available on DVD) are both on shelves today. I like “The Office” a lot, and at some point, I may pick up “Fringe” to try and catch up, and if I do, I would imagine BluRay is the only way I’d do it.
I haven’t seen the documentary “Valentino: The Last Emperor” (also available on DVD) or the Neveldine/Taylor sequel-without-an-equal “Crank 2: High Voltage”(also available on DVD), but I’m curious about both. I was accused of “not getting it” when I didn’t like “Gamer” last week, but I did like their first movie somewhat. I thought it was fun and deranged and filthy. And I hear the sequel is that formula, turned all the way up. Fair enough. I’m a huge fan of George Romero’s “Creepshow” and look forward to checking out the film’s garish pop-cartoon palette in high def. I watched “The Quick And The Dead” when they sent it, and I liked Raimi’s manic gunfight choreography a lot, but not nearly as much as Gene Hackman’s sad, hollow, evil gunslinger, a great late-career rally from this legendary character actor.
I know it’s inevitable I’ll someday revisit “The Postman,” Kevin Costner’s disastrous adaptation of David Brin’s post-apocalyptic novel, but I’m not sure I’m ready yet. I’ll check out “Freddy Vs. Jason” and “Menace II Society” if I find them at the right price. And I’m looking forward to finally seeing “Sleep Dealer” (also available on DVD), a Mexican SF film shot on a micro-budget. Knowing me, I’ll end up buying the Sylvester Stallone arm-wrestling movie “Over The Top” before any of them, though. Because, come on… it’s “Over The Top,” damn it.
Also available this week on DVD:
I didn’t see “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” when it aired on HBO, but I’m going to absolutely watch it out of respect to Anthony Minghella. It represents his last completed work before his untimely passing, and I really do miss knowing that there was always something new on the way from him. I think he was a world-class filmmaker, a really welcome presence in that sweet spot between craven Hollywood and the awards-driven indie world. I like the SPHE “Martini Movies” label, and I’ll have to look for some sort of deal when I go pick up “The Pursuit Of Happiness,” “Summertree,” “The Buttercup Chain,” and “Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing.” Those are all for Daddy, but for Toshi, I’m looking forward to sharing “Bedknobs And Broomsticks” with him soon. That’s a perfect one for him right now, with the combination of animation and live-action being a particularly appealing fantasy world for a four-year-old. Reality sort of is a cartoon to him right now anyway. I trust the Film Movement’s taste implicitly, so if they’re putting out “The Country Teacher,” that’s reason enough for me to watch it. Same thing with Criterion, who releases “That Hamilton Woman” today, and Dragon Dynasty who are putting out “Battle Of The Warrior”. That’s why those labels have endured… they put out a steady stream of titles that deliver on their promise, even if you’ve never seen them before. And for TV comedy fans, you can sample “Parks And Recreation: Season One,” “Groucho Marx: You Bet Your Life Collection,” or “Important Things With Demetri Martin: Season One,” which covers a lot of comic ground when considered as a group like that.
Also available this week in games:
One of those weeks where it looks like everyone gets serviced. A racing game, “Dirt 2” (XBOX 360, Wii, PC, PSP, PS3, DS), the self-explanatory “Mini-Ninjas” (XBOX 360, PC, PS3, DS, Wii), aerial dogfight simulator “IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds Of Prey” (PS3, XBOX 360), wicked sword-swinging fun “Muramasa: The Demon Blade” (Wii), or the grab-bag of genre-conforming fare like “Darkest Of Days” (PC, XBOX 360), “Fallen Earth” (PC), “Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days” (PSP), “Trine” (PS3), and “Raiden IV” (XBOX 360). I don’t think there’s anything there I’m absolutely compelled to pick up… but that’s going to change starting next week.
NEXT WEEK: “Wolverine: X-Men Origins” on BluRay, “Fear Itself” on DVD, as well as “Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2,” “Wet,” and the much-anticipated “Scribblenauts.”
The Home Entertainment Forecast appears here every Tuesday.
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