If you are a John Wayne fan, this week is going to make you very, very happy, and very, very poor. The studios have gotten together and agreed to release all manner of The Duke's films in various formats in honor of what would have been Wayne's 100th birthday. There are single disk, special edition, ultimate edition, double feature, and box sets of movies. There is some cross pollination in the sets, so you will want to pay attention to that when you take a look at their contents. In addition to that, there are new James Bond releases and a whole host of other movies, all competing for the extra green in your wallet.
With all of those releases, I was still able to pare it down to a single most desired release. This week's winner in that regard is Apocalypto, Mel Gibson's violent Mayan chase movie. If you are looking for a shot of pure adrenalin, this movie is sure to do it.
It opens sedately enough, with our main character, Jaguar Paw, out with a hunting party. We get a look at life in the village, but that does not last long, as they are invaded and taken into slavery. Jaguar Paw is able to escape, and is chased through the jungle by his captors seeking to separate him from his life. It is a visceral experience. It is not one that goes deep into the Mayan culture, although you do get a glimpse of the civilization as they begin to fall apart. Clocking in at nearly two hours and twenty minutes, it moves briskly. It is fast-paced and never boring. Mel has crafted an action film that delivers. If you are looking for an historical drama about the Mayan civilization, you would be better served looking elsewhere. Which brings me to the idea of accuracy. I have no idea how much went into the accuracy of the setting, but I would like to think that they made every effort to make it as real as they could.
The acting was amazing. A cast of nobodies with limited dialogue (subtitled no less) were able to convey a wide array of emotion. I can honestly say that I was gripped by Jaguar Paw's journey — his display of determination was inspiring. In addition to that you have to watch the other characters and the subtle expressions they use to display emotion, which so greatly enhances the impact of the film.
The DVD includes commentary with Gibson and co-writer Farhad Safinia, a making of documentary, and a deleted scene with commentary.
Also out this week:
- Scrubs: The Complete Fifth Season. I love this series. It is funny, quirky, heartfelt, and always entertaining.
- Letters From Iwo Jima. Absolutely amazing film, powerful, moving, beautifully shot, and greatly acted.
- Letters From Iwo Jima/Flags of Our Father: Five Disk Conmemorative Edition. This is the set to get, especially if you passed on the initial Flags release.
- Roots: 30th Anniversary Collection. This set contains the entire remastered mini series.
- The Third Man: 2 Disk Criterion Collection. Criterion has gone back and remastered this classic film and added a second disk of extra material.
- The Good German. George Clooney's latest film never played around here, but I look forward to seeing it.
- Wrestlemania 23. Haven't watched much wrestling lately, but heard there were some good matches at this event.
- Ball of Fire. Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck star in this screwball comedy. I have heard good things about this, and this is its first release on DVD.
- Venus. Peter O'Toole's Oscar nominated role arrives on DVD.
- Afro Samurai. Released in two versions, the TV cut and the Director's cut, this anime series featuring the voice of Samuel L. Jackson arrives on disk. Looking forward to seeing this.
- Epic Movie. This is here as a warning, nothing more. Do not see this movie.
- Kitchen Confidential: The Complete Series. I liked this show, despite it only lasting a few weeks. Gotta love the DVD age for things like this.
- Scarface (1932). Previously only available in the Pacino Scarface box set, it is now available on its own.
- Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker. This was a mediocre James Bond/Spy Kids kind of movie that is not without its charms, but is a little flat in the end.
- Black Lagoon. New anime action series that looks pretty cool.
- Gary Cooper: MGM Movie Legends Collection: The Cowboy and the Lady, The Real Glory, Vera Cruz, The Winning of Barbara Worth. A nice looking collection of Cooper classics.
- The 40 Year Old Virgin: Unrated 2 Disk Double Your Pleasure Edition. This movie was hilarious, I can only imagine what is included in the extra material.
- The Peter Sellers Giftset: The Pink Panther, What's New, Pussycat?, The Party, Casino Royale). Another good looking boxset out this week.
- Dark Corners. Thora Birch stars in this psychological horror/thriller.
- Porky's: The One Size Fits All Edition. Another in a line of movies with stupid tag lines for names.
This week brings another round of James Bond remasters:
- From Russia With Love. One of my favorites, features a great fight on a train.
- You Only Live Twice. Cannot recall if I saw this one.
- The World is Not Enough. Robert Carlysle as a bad guy in this over the top Brosnan outing.
- The Living Daylights. Timothy Dalton's disappointment.
- Moonraker. Roger Moore in space, and the return of Jaws!
- The Man with the Golden Gun. Roger Moore versus Christopher Lee.
Here is a partial listing of the John Wayne releases, I started getting tired of listing all of the titles, but here is a big list of them:
- Rio Bravo: Two Disk Ultimate Edition
- Rio Bravo: Two Disc Special Edition. Not sure what the difference is between the two editions. Still, excellent film that inspired John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13.
- True Grit: Special Collector's Edition
- The Cowboys: Deluxe Edition
- She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
- Fort Apache
- The Were Expendable
- The Searchers
- The Green Berets
- The Wings of Eagles
- Operation Pacific
- The Long Voyage
- The Train Robbers
- Flying Leathernecks
- 3 Godfathers
- Back to Bataan
- Ride Him, Cowboy
- The John Wayne Adventure Collection: The High and the Mighty, In Harms Way, Island in the Sky, Hatari!, Donovans Reef
- The John Wayne Western Collection: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, True Grit, Hindo, McLintock!, Big Jake, The Shootist, Rio Lobo, The Sons of Katie Elder, El Dorado)
- The John Wayne Century Collection: Big Jake, Donovan's Reef, El Dorado, Hatari!, Hondo, In Harm's Way, Island in the Sky, McLintock!, Rio Lobo, The High and Mighty, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Sons of Katie Elder, True Grit, The Shootist, The Quiet Man
- The John Wayne Film Collection: Without Reservations, Allegheny Uprising, Tycoon, Reunion in France, Big Jim McLain Trouble Along the Way
So, what are you checking out this week?