Welcome back! Well, to some of you, anyway. To the rest of you, glad you decided to stop by and I hope this humble column helps you navigate the stacks of new releases each week. My goal is to point you toward titles of interest and warn you away from those films that seek to do nothing but leech away your time and give you nothing in return.
Full disclosure: I have not seen many of these titles, and what follows are not necessarily reviews, but opinions based upon what I know of the titles I pluck from the new release lists I peruse. The opinions I give based on the new releases are my own, and my recommendations are based on my personal interest. In any case, I hope you enjoy and perhaps find something you like or a title to point me towards.
This week's release list is notable in that it contains four films from my best of the year list (spanning 22 films), including one from the top five.
Moon (also Blu-ray). Moon is the sort of film that sneaks up on you, draws you in, makes you interested, and then is over. It is not an action film, it is not a fast-paced film, it is one that allows the story to slowly unfold over the course of its run time, seeping into your brain, all the while making you curious as to where it is going or what the meaning of it all is. It is the big screen debut of director Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie), based on his own story. It is an intelligent science fiction film crafted by a man with a vision. It does not hurt that the film contains a standout performance from Sam Rockwell (# 5 on my 2009 movie list).
The Hurt Locker (also Blu-ray). Helmed by Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker puts us down on the streets with the soldiers on the front line, with the soldiers risking their lives day in and day out. This is a movie that needs to be seen. It is a first rate movie that delivers on emotional and technical levels. It is thrilling to watch the bombs being defused, watching James (Jeremy Renner) search for answers, watching the difficulty with which the answers come, or don't come. Renner delivers an incredible performance, allowing the internal conflict play out on his face, subtle and very effective (# 11 on my 2009 movie list).
In the Loop (also Blu-ray). I have not had the opportunity to see this movie, but it has had a lot of positive buzz surrounding it. I actually know very little aside from the fact it is supposed to be pretty funny and is a political satire about the President and the Prime Minister being interested in a war. Hopefully I will be able to catch up with this soon.
8 1/2 (Blu-ray). Hot on the heels of Nine comes the film that helped inspire it arriving on Blu-ray from Criterion. I know I have seen this film but it has been a long time and I do not recall the details. The Fellini film is partially autobiographical and centers on a director who retreats when he is having problems coming up with what his next film will be.
Halloween II (2009, also Blu-ray). I freely admit that I am in the minority who like this film, but I will not back down. Rob Zombie digs into the characters' psychology, smashing their perceived reality to bits with a healthy dose of gritty, bloody brutality. It is a marriage that works. It may well be an abusive relationship, but this is what helps build a challenging horror film. I love how he crafted this world and the way he plunges us right into the darkness. It is a world from which there is no escape — you can try, but you will not survive. He brings a style and sensibility that is all his own. Whether you are bludgeoned by the brutality or swayed by the psychology, you will walk away with an opinion. For better or for worse, he will draw an emotion out of you (# 22 on my 2009 movie list).
The Simpsons: The Complete 20th Season (also Blu-ray). Who would have guessed this series would have lasted this long? At this point you know whether you like it or not and whether you want this. My sole job with this listing is to remind you it is there.
The Brothers Bloom (also Blu-ray). Previously available as a Netflix exclusive, it is now available to be owned, and it should be. At its basest, The Brothers Bloom is a con-man movie. It is about playing the con and taking it all the way, selling it on your way to the "perfect" con. What makes this con-man movie stand out is the unique vision that Rian Johnson brings to the tale. It has a very realistic feel to it, although it also exists in a distinctly fantasy-flavored world. The movie is bubbling with a bouncy kinetic energy that is hard not to get into. It transcends the con-man tale to tell a story about the people involved (# 10 on my 2009 film list).
Post Grad (also Blu-ray). Alexis Bledel and Zach Gilford star in this borderline snoozer that would have played better as a sitcom. It is the travails of a college grad negotiating the job market and unrequited love. Wasted cast members include Carol Burnett, Michael Keaton, and Jane Lynch.
Last Action Hero (Blu-ray). Finally may be able to get my hands on this! It is corny, cheesy, and not very good, but I like it. I avoided the DVD as I could only find the MAR (Modified Aspect Ratio) version. Blu-ray will assuredly have the proper aspect ratio, plus it will look better!
Big Fan. I have heard a lot of good things about this Patton Oswalt film. Oswalt stars as the Giants' biggest fan who must deal with more than anticipated when he is beaten up by his favorite player. It is from the screenwriter of The Wrestler, so I am expecting (hoping?) that this turns out to be a winner.