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 the Wild Things Are (also Blu-ray). This is a movie that I knew was special as I left the theater; however, I was not as enamored with it as I had hoped to be. At the same time, I think it is one of those movies that will only grow in estimation over the years. Spike Jonze took Maurice Sendak's minimalist children's tale and turned it into a rumination on childhood and growing up for adults. It truly is an original, remarkable work that pulls no punches. If you missed it, do yourself a favor and give it a shot. It is quite different than anything you've seen in awhile.
2012 (also Blu-ray). As a fun disaster film, this fills the bill. However, if you are looking for anything to stimulate the intellectual centers of the brain, you are going to want to go somewhere else. The movie is fun and exciting, there is no denying that. Was I expecting a masterpiece? No, not at all. I essentially got what I was expecting, which is a visual extravaganza with some melodrama to string it along. Watch as Roland Emmerich takes the best effects money can buy and proceeds to destroy the world. Allow John Cusack to play your guide through the apocalypse; just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Ponyo (also Blu-ray). Hayao Miyazaki's latest offering is a beautiful piece of animation that more specifically targets the youth than in other recent outings. It is the story of Sosuke and Ponyo the goldfish. It is a story of innocence and love and is fairly simple and straightforward. What is interesting is how it keeps its focus on the simplest of characters and only hints at the bigger story. For once, this is a movie not interested in the big story; instead it gives us the ground view from the children. It is a great decision that works very, very well.
Clash of the Titans (also Blu-ray). Arriving on special edition DVD and steel book Blu-ray comes this old school fantasy classic, just in time for the remake. This telling of the story of Perseus has a nice collection of stars including Harry Hamlin, Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Ursula Andress, and Burgess Meredith. I have not seen this in a long time. Perhaps I should pay it a revisit.
The Neverending Story (Blu-ray). I loved this movie when I was younger. It tells of a young boy who finds freedom and fantasy in the pages of a magical book, a book given its power by being read. It was directed and co-written by Wolfgang Peterson. I look forward to seeing if it still holds up so many years later.
Bitch Slap. Been looking forward to this one. Three women travel into the desert to steal a fortune in diamonds from a ruthless kingpin. The movie looks corny and cheesy and a lot of fun. It does not look like one I will need to engage the brain for.
Ninja (also Blu-ray). This straight to video affair looks like a throwback to the era of Sho Kosugi ninja flicks in the 1980s. It looks corny, has a cheesy atmosphere, but looks to have plenty of ninja action.
Cold Souls. This is a strange, surreal film that appears to be directly influenced by the work of Charlie Kaufman. It has that sort of strange, off-kilter feel to it, where things are not quite what they seem. Paul Giamatti stars as Paul Giamatti, an actor who sells his soul in the hopes of improving his acting, but then decides he wants it back only to find it has been sold on the Russian black market. Interesting and very odd.
The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (Blu-ray). This is an undeniable classic. It offers up some great fights, possibly the best training sequence, and made Gordon Liu a star. If you are a fan of martial arts films, this is an absolute must see. I am curious to see how this looks on Blu-ray.
Gentleman Broncos. From the minds behind Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre comes another tale of the weird. I have not yet seen it and have heard it isn't that great. Still, I am looking forward to it. It centers on a teenager attending a fantasy convention where he discovers his story idea has been stolen by an established writer.
My Neighbor Totoro, Castle in the Sky, Kiki's Delivery Service. Arriving along with Ponyo, a trio of Miyazaki classics on special edition DVD. These are all great films that you should have in your collection. There is something about the way he tells his stories, the way his characters are animated — they are all unique and interesting, he's a real master.