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 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. It is my opinion based upon what I know of the titles I pluck from the new release lists that I peruse. The opinions I give based on the new releases are my own, and my recommendations upon them 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.
WALL-E. It is the rare film that can elicit such childlike glee as this one did. I remember when I saw the first Wall*E trailer my jaw dropped. The first thing that hit me was the animation — it was absolutely gorgeous, the amount of detail that went into every corner of the frame was mind-boggling. Beyond the animation, the title character – striking a cross between ET and Johnny Five while still feeling new and fresh – just captured my imagination; the innocence and curiosity that he possessed made me want to see more of him and his world. I am happy to report that the film does not disappoint.
From frame one I was captivated. I was ensnared in the profound combination of childlike curiosity and wonder with an underlying sadness. The title character is more than just a cleaning robot, but a being that longs for companionship, has a thirst for knowledge and a curiosity that knows no limits. Wall*E is a character unspoiled by anything; he has hopes and dreams and it is impossible not to get caught up in them. This movie is near perfection.
Jeff Dunham: Very Special Christmas Special. This guy's popularity has just exploded over the past couple of years and here I was thinking ventriloquism-based comedy was dead. Well, not really, I haven't given it that much thought. I watched bits and pieces when this aired the other day on Comedy Central, and it was pretty darn funny. Dunham does a wonderful job of giving these puppets personality and giving them believable life. Yes, I realize that is ridiculous, but this is a funny guy, period.
Bones: Season Three. I was looking forward to Bones when it was first announced, although I was wary of David Boreanaz not playing a vampire. I shouldn't have been. The show is a lot of fun with strong characters that are not overshadowed by the stories, like other procedurals can be. This is definitely worth checking out.
Doctor Who: The Complete Fourth Series. David Tennant's third and final go around as the Doctor, save for some upcoming specials, is not his best based on the half season I watched. I need to catch up with the rest of the episodes. While it is not his best turn that does not translate into bad. Ever since this new round of Who began with Christopher Eccleston, it has been a very entertaining run.
Tropic Thunder. If you are looking to laugh, this will fit the bill. The trailers set expectations pretty high and the feature was up to the task. The cast is filled with stars, all nailing their parts, including one star making an extended cameo that just cracked me up. The movie approaches greatness in the way that it takes familiar situations and pushes them to the edge. It takes set problems and makes them utterly ridiculous. At the same time, they hold the movie together on a tight, plot-driven, path. Also, I love how subversive the film felt. On the surface you get a ridiculously over-the-top comedy that will leave you in stitches. Beneath lurks satire that leaves no stone unturned and uncovers the ruthlessness that infects the industry. I particularly enjoyed the revelation of the story source; I will not reveal it here, but I found that aspect to be quite telling.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2. Here comes a surprise — I liked this movie. No, I don't think it was perfect, nor great, nor even really good. It is, however, solid. The movie benefits from a cast that gels really well, sort of like, well, a well-worn pair of pants. When they are on-screen together they seem to be old friends; they may occasionally be at odds with each other, but you can still sense an unbreakable friendship between them. This is also one of the problems with the film. The basis of the film, as indicated by the title, requires the foursome to spend a good deal of time away from each other, otherwise the pants would not have to travel, would they? Still, this is a movie that won over someone in a non-target audience. Will it do the same to you?
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. Here is a documentary on a writer who many find endlessly fascinating and who I know nothing about. Perhaps this is for me? I have always enjoyed the film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. This documentary includes interviews with friends and acquaintances including Johnny Depp.
Zombie Diaries. This low-budget horror film has gathered quite the buzz around it over the past number of months. Now it arrives on DVD and looks to be well worth taking a peek at. This film is set in England during a zombie outbreak and features footage captured camcorder style of those attempting to survive.
Cannibal! The Musical: 13th Anniversary Edition. Leave it to Trey Parker and Matt Stone to pick a random year like 13 to celebrate an anniversary. This is the second DVD release for this cult film that I have yet to see. Anyone out there that can attest to its worthiness?
Executive Koala. With a title like that, how can you go wrong? I do not know what to say, just read this description:
Tamura is an average Japanese salaryman working in the offices of a pickle
distribution company. He is well liked in the office, hard-working, polite,
wears a suit and tie, and also happens to be a six-foot tall koala bear. But
when his girlfriend Yoko turns up dead one day and Tamura is the chief suspect, he is forced to enlist the help of his boss (a white rabbit) and a friendly convenience store attendant (a frog) in order to prove his innocence. A psychological thriller wrapped up in the packaging of a nonsense comedy with giant animals.
The Happiness of the Katikuris. Here is another film that hails from Japan and is for those who like the bizarre. It is actually a remake/reimagining of the Korean film The Quiet Family. Takashi Miike directed this black comedy, horror, drama, musical about a family running an inn in the forest whose guests keep turning up dead. If you like weird, you need to see this.
The World Sinks Except Japan. I have not seen this, but the title is intriguing. It is a science fiction film that sees all of the land in the world sink beneath the waters except for, you guessed it, Japan. It follows survivors from around the world as they try to assimilate into Japanese culture. Sounds good to me!