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.
Where last week was rather weak, this one is stacked with a number of titles that I need to get my hands on. It is definitely a case of feast or famine. This week had four contenders for the top spot.
Pushing Daisies: The Complete Second Season (also Blu-ray). ABC recently burned off the remaining episodes of this series late on Saturday night (then did the same thing for the very good but little watched Kings). It is cases like that which make me angry at anyone who tells me there is nothing good on television. If there isn't anything good on, you aren't looking. That shows like this languish and are ultimately canceled is just sad. Meanwhile shows like Two and a Half Men and American Idol are allowed to thrive. It boggles my mind. Pushing Daisies is a brilliant show cut down well before its time. It stars a wonderful ensemble led by Lee Pace and Anna Friel. It can be summed up by this line delivered by Pace: "My name is Ned, I make pies and wake the dead." Sure, it sounds rather morbid, but the show has life and vibrancy, it's magical and funny, thrilling, and romantic. It is one of the most original shows to reach the small screen in some time and now we will not get any more of it. Do yourself a favor, buy it, rent it, find it on ABC.com, just watch it.
Coraline (also Blu-ray). Writer/director Henry Selick has crafted a film that transcends what might traditionally be called a kids' film. It is a movie that offers up a dark fantasy nightmare for children that tempers its threat with an empowering heroine. It is a story that anyone who was ever a child can identify with, and is dealt with using an intelligence that does not pander to children nor does it talk down to them. It deals with the material with a maturity that belies the mainstream view of it as a kids' film. This is a story about a young girl living in a new home, ignored by her parents and looking for adventure. She gets more than she can handle when she discovers an alternate world where things are, shall we say, off. This is a beautiful and delightful movie that everyone should watch.
Watchmen (also Blu-ray). Based on the graphic novel, which was said to be unfilmable, Watchmen arrived amid great hype earlier this year. When you look at it on paper, the plot seems to be a little conventional. Fortunately, the story is much more layered and complex than I am willing to do justice here. This is a film that eschews standards of action and character development in favor of developing a world that exists in the gray area between good and evil, where motives and methods play both sides of the fence in the service of what may or may not be the greater good. There are many layers to peel away on the narrative side, but it is also an absolute visual feast. Definitely going to look good on Blu-ray. The question is whether to get it now or wait for the inevitable mega-set (which I believe is set to arrive in the fall). It is available in Blu-ray, two-disk DVD, and single-disk DVD and feature a new Director's Cut, which is 24 minutes longer, as well as single-disk widescreen and single-disk widescreen theatrical cut. Too many choices!