Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Best DVD week ever?

Well, probably not, but given the sea of crap that usually flows onto DVD shelves this time of year, it's rare enough to have three movies that I thoroughly enjoyed hit all at once.

First, of course, comes "300," Zack Snyder's take on Frank Miller's graphic novel about the battle of Thermopylae. Gerard Butler leads the 300 scantily clad Spartans of the title into battle in what was probably the most over- (and incorrectly) analyzed movie so far this year. It's just a popcorn movie, after all, and as I argued here, a damn fine one at that.

Extras for the two-disc edition include a commentary by director Zack Snyder, writer Kurt Johnstad and director of photography Larry Fong, deleted scenes with introduction by Snyder, and three featurettes: "The 300: Fact or Fiction?" Historians, authors and filmmakers reveal how much of the film was based on fact; "Who Were The Spartans: The Warriors of 300" touches on the customs and ways of life of the Spartans; and "Frank Miller Tapes" shows how Miller exerted his control to make sure his epic graphic novel looked right on the big screen. Definitely my first buy this week.

"Hot Fuzz"

Is "Hot Fuzz" the funnest movie of 2007? So far, I'd have to say yes, by just a nose over "Knocked Up." Anyone who liked "Shaun of the Dead" will love this ode to '80s action movies from Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright and Nick Frost. It goes on at least 10 minutes too long, but you'll be laughing so hard you'll hardly notice. You can read my full review here.

"Starter for 10"

Among the many nice things I can say about South African Airways is that their inflight movie selection is sensational. Although I decided to skip "The Painted Veil," I did watch the nearly flawless "Breach" again and discovered "Starter for 10," a thoroughly predictable yet utterly charming British take on the '80s teen romantic comedy.

James McAvoy, who must have been pushing 30 when this came out last year, is surprisingly convincing as a British public school student who, of course, is more interested in chasing co-eds than he is learning anything. The rather awful title, which meant nothing to me before seeing the flick, comes from a quiz show for teams of prep-school students.

There would be nothing to recommend this movie if it weren't so entirely, well, British. From the great music to the hideous attire, it invokes the spirit of Thatcher's Britain if nothing else, and it's well worth a rental. Besides, I once watched "Big Momma's House 2" out of desperation while trapped on a plane, and this is a damn sight better than that.

Welcome back, Mr. Franklin

It's a rare feat when a director manages to make two of my favorite movies, so I can only give a hearty huzzah to the return of Carl Franklin to the big screen.

His "One False Move" is an almost flawless film noir, and that "Devil in a Blue Dress" flick with Denzel and Don is almost as good. Now, after years of directing for TV and serving up the occasion big-screen clunker, it seems that Mr. Franklin is getting back on course.

First will come "Tulia," based on the book about one Texas sheriff's plan to wipe out the black population of his town by concocting an imaginary drug ring. It would make a sensational story if it weren't all so horribly true. For the movie, Billy Bob Thornton plays an attorney who tries to take him on, and Halle Berry figures in here somehow too (please, please, please let this be better than that simply craptastic "Monster's Ball" flick!)

And now comes word of a new project that is even more up Mr. Franklin's alley. Inspired by true events chronicled in a PBS "Frontline" documentary, "Snitch" centers on a devoted father whose son faces 30 years in prison after being set up in a drug deal. The father goes undercover in the drug world to make a bust that will free his son. I can see Denzel being involved in this one already, but we'll have to wait and see.

No matter how it all turns out, I can only say welcome back, Mr. Franklin.

Three more intriguing Comic-Con tidbits

Here are three more nuggets from the sunny San Diego comics confab, all of which sound promising to me and come directly from Dreadcentral.

First, it seems that Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant of "Reno 911," who are also extremely prolific (and hit and miss) screenwriters, are now at work on a sequel to their "Night at the Museum." So far, we know only that Ben Stiller and Robin Williams are on board, and there will be "exisiting characters and plenty of new ones." I thought the original flick was just silly fun, so bring it on.

Actually, I should have listed that one third, because these next two are just perfect. It seems that Robert Rodriguez, though he'll surely first turn his attention to "Barbarella," hasn't given up on making a feature-length "Machete" movie. For anyone who's forgotten, the "Machete" trailer featuring Danny Trejo (huzzah!) preceded "Planet Terror," Rodriguez's half of "Grindhouse," and was far superior to any of the fake trailers that cut the flick in half. Trejo is simply the definition of a badass, so I can only hope he follows through on this before his attention gets diverted once again.

And, finally, it seems that Frank Darabont will have Stephen King on his mind for the foreseeable future. After "The Mist," which I'm thoroughly psyched for, he'll be adapting two other King stories for the big screen, "The Long Walk" and "The Monkey."

According to Dreadcentral, "The Long Walk" is about a 16-year-old boy who is on a survival walk with 99 others. They walk for honor and their lives with the winner being promised everything his or her heart desires. "The Monkey" revolves around a father-son relationship and a toy monkey whose clanging symbols are harbingers of death.

Those sound intriguing, but first get ready to be enveloped by "The Mist" in November. And now, unfortunately, I have to get ready for work. Peace out.

P.S. Nell Minow, Yahoo's Movie Mom and easily one of my favorite bloggers, e-mailed me over the weekend to share some of her crazy adventures at Comic-Con (and make me, of course, insanely jealous.) You can read all about what she found in sunny San Diego in her great blog here.


jeremy said...

Along w/ Reno 911, Tom Lennon was also in The State, the sketch comedy troupe on MTV. Last week David Wain, another of the troupe, announced that after a VERY long wait, The State will be available on DVD sometime in the fall.

Reel Fanatic said...

That is indeed very good news, Jeremy ... I was addicted to The State, but many programs I like, it didn't last nearly long enough

Marina said...

I would say so! "300" is on it's way so all I have to pickup is "Hot Fuzz".

By the power of Greyskull! I can't wait!

Mercurie said...

I think you're right. I think this could be the best week for DVDs so far this year. I mean, 300 and Hot Fuzz. It's hard to see how they'll top that!

Jonathan said...

I missed both 300 and Hot Fuzz in the theater, so this will be a great week for me. Also threw Starter for 10 on the Netflix queue based on your reccomendation; don't let me down.

Glad to see praise for "Devil in a Blue Dress." This is one of those few films out there that I would have loved to have seen a sequel too, as I'm sure the studio would have as well since they bought the rights to all of the Walter Mosley novels with the Easy Rawlins character. But alas, like so many great films of the past, no one went and saw it. But then I guess movies like this are great for us film geeks so we can give our less inclined friends help picking a movie out when they want to watch something besides the new Adam Sandler comedy.

Reel Fanatic said...

I really hope Starter for 10 doesn't disappoint, Jonathan ... Remember going in that, like I said, it's really an homage to the '80s teen movie, so it's all awfully silly, although, to me at least, also quite entertaining

Divinity said...

I just watched a screening of "Becoming Jane" on Sunday morning and, despite illustrating how badly James McAvoy may age, I'm thoroughly enamoured with the Scot (mostly due to his turn as Joe MacBeth in a BBC reimagining of Shakespeare). Movie was pretty good too although there was a heavy directorial hand in the use of windows and reflections.
"Starter for 10" was in theatres here for a scant 5 minutes. Will definitely have to catch it on DVD now.

Reel Fanatic said...

The only things I know him for so far, Divinity, are Narnia, with those crazy faun legs, Last King of Scotland, and, of course, Starter for 10 ... I have the sinking feeling that I'm going to be very sick of Jane Austen by the end of this year with all the movies that are coming out, which is a real shame

Divinity said...

I don't know if Netflix carries it, but the BBC collection "Shakespeare Retold" is worth a watch if only for the "witches" in McAvoy's MacBeth and the newsroom version of Much Ado About Nothing

Chalupa said...

I've really been looking forward to this week too. Haven't made it to Best Buy or anywhere yet to make a purchase though.

I also totally agree with you on Hot Fuzz and Knocked Up being the funniest movies of the year so far. However, a buddy of mine say an early screening of Super Bad and said it might just take the cake.

Reel Fanatic said...

I've been jonesing for Superbad ever since I saw the dude with the McLovin ID in the trailer way back .. that had better just rule!

James said...

I'll be snatching up 300 tonight. I love that flick.

James said...

Oops, I forgot to add:

"Hot Fuzz" I can do without. I admit I don't get the whole "Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz" style of humor or whatever it is.

Reel Fanatic said...

It's definitely not for everyone, James, I concede .. Hot Fuzz, in particular, is full of juvenile and awfully violent gags, but I still just can't get enough of it

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