Welcome back! Well, to some of you, anyway. To the rest of you, glad you decided to stop by and I hope that this humble column helps you navigate the stacks of new releases each week. My goal is to point you towards 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. This week brings with it a selection of Oscar winners, nominees, and a variety of other, non-nominated flicks. Read on for the week's titles that are worthy of your consideration.
No Country for Old Men. The week's top choices are led by this four-time Oscar winner. It was number two on my top ten of 2007 list, and is well deserving of all the praise and awards it has collected. Joel and Ethan Coen directed this film from the script they wrote adapting Cormac McCarthy's novel. On the surface, the movie tells the story of a man who comes across a case filled with cash from a drug deal gone bad, takes it, and is pursued by a man intent on retrieving the lost cash. Yes, it is much more than that, but it needs to be discovered. Just watch as Josh Brolin tries to do good by his wife and Javier Bardem delivers one of the scariest villains to grace the screen in a long time.
Stargate SG-1: Ark of Truth. I remember enjoying the 1994 feature film, but when they decided to turn it into a television series, questions lingered. Well, I did not get to watch any of it until many years in, when the Sci Fi Channel picked it up from Showtime. I was immediately hooked. Well, it recently ended its ten-year run, yet it left some ongoing threads. Here is the first (of at least a few, I hope) direct-to-DVD movie that will address some of those threads and wrap up the Ori storyline. I'm looking forward to checking this out!
August Rush. Here is a movie that was received with decidedly mixed reactions when it hit the big screen. I fell to the side of loving it. There was something magical about this fairy tale story and the way that it used music to transcend normal life. It is the story of two musicians from different walks of life and the child that resulted from their union. He was left behind and now sets out on an adventure to find his parents. The tone takes some strange shifts, but it does not dampen the magic.
Bee Movie. Here is a movie that you love or loathe based on how much you like the comedy of Jerry Seinfeld. I liked the film; there was plenty to laugh at, however I cannot fully recommend it. You see, despite enjoying the comedy and laughing at the jokes, the message is not one that I approve of. It essentially says that if you conform to society and do what is expected of you, everything will be okay.
Tin Man. This mini-series from the Sci Fi Channel sought to give a new vision to the Wizard of Oz universe. It worked to an extent. There were moments of boredom and certain characters that did not entirely work, but overall it was an entertaining and ambitious project that is worth spending some time with.
Nancy Drew. Seeming like a cross between The Brady Bunch and Scooby Doo, this adaptation is endearing if not quite what it could have been. It is enjoyable enough for the tween set. It was like a film noir for the kids, letting you play along with the mystery. Entertaining, if insubstantial.
Dan in Real Life. This is a sweet slice of cinema that has modest aspirations as it plays up the standards of the romantic comedy without pandering to the audience. Steve Carell offers up a memorable performance and is the main reason to watch this. Well, him and Juliette Binoche. Peter Hedges directed and co-wrote the script. For the most part, he does a fine job of getting the players in the right place and keeping the heart firmly in place.
Hitman. It bothers me that there is very little growth and we are cheated by the trailers promising something that isn't there. Sure, trailers have been known to be misleading, but this takes the cake. There is a lot of potential here, but it is left unexplored. The end result is a mixture of Dark Angel, The Transporter, and James Bond that came out of the oven half-baked. Perhaps when a sequel is made we will get a little more depth, but I am not holding my breath. Perhaps the unrated cut will be an improvement, but somehow I doubt it.
Appleseed Ex Machina. I have not seen either of the prior Appleseed incarnations, but this looks promising. I cannot speak to the story, not really knowing what it is yet, but I like the bits I've seen. Should be worth at least a rental.
Sleuth. Did this ever make it to the big screen? I remember seeing the trailer for it a few times, and then it just vanished. Michael Caine and Jude Law face off under the directorial eye of Kenneth Branagh. This is a remake of a 1972 film, which also starred Caine but in the role held by Law now. Law stole away Caine's wife, and when he goes to get him to sign divorce papers, the mind games begin.
Gattaca: Special Edition. Underrated gem starring Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Jude Law. It is set in the future where children are genetically engineered and one's traits will determine one's lot in life. Hawke, who was a natural birth, sets out to prove that this is not the truth and assumes the identity of another man and uses a blood and urine sample to help hide his true identity. I was not even aware this was coming out; hopefully it will be an upgrade over the prior release.
Georges Méliès: First Wizard of Cinema. One of the first filmmakers was a master of special effects and experimental film. This box set contains many of his early works. The only one I can recall actually seeing is Man in the Moon, which also inspired the Smashing Pumpkins' "1969" video. Hopefully I will be able to get my hands on this.
13: Game of Death. Here is a film that promises to be pretty dark and twisted. A man who is down on his luck gets a call asking him to be a contestant on a game show. The show promises $100 million to the winner, the problem is that each successive round gets more and more twisted and morally damaging. Sounds like fun, and vaguely reminiscent of 13 Tzameti.
Magic Blade. A classic Shaw Brothers martial arts flick. How can you go wrong? I have so many of these left to see it is not even funny. Hopefully I will find the time to squeeze some more in, including this one.