Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Demko's DVD shelf: A truly packed week

"It would be like me going to ['No Country for Old Men' author] Cormac McCarthy and going, 'I have an idea for a [sequel]: You write a book, and I'll write a movie, and you can release it. You'll win a Pulitzer; I'll win an Oscar. It'll be awesome. The attitude toward comic books, they show their hand a little bit. They would never say that about a real novelist, but they would about a comic book."
- Zack Snyder in The New York Times

The rather meager $55 million opening of "Watchmen" will hopefully put the kibosh on any talk about a sequel, and judging from that quote above I'd have to assume Mr. Snyder at least wouldn't be on board. At least until the dumptrucks of money pull up to his door, anyway.

I will say this about anyone who would dare to pen a "Watchmen" sequel, which would really be just about the worst cinematic idea short of a big-screen remake of "The Wizard of Oz": He or she would have to have some serious huevos.

But enough about that. Let's just assume for now that it's never going to happen and move on to a much happier subject: This week's rather seriously loaded DVD shelf. There's a ton of new titles, and at least six that are well worth a rental. These include "Milk" and "Synecdoche, NY," but because I still don't get paid to do this I'm just gonna have to brush over those and simply say check them out if you haven't already (even if Charlie Kaufman's conceit, unfiltered, does wear out its welcome a bit by the end.)

And there's a 12th season of "South Park" (and, much better, a new season beginning tomorrow night, huzzah!), but I just checked Hulu and all 14 season 12 episodes are indeed available there, so why not just watch them for free? A good starting point would be the "Breast Cancer Show Ever," 'cause there really are few better ways to waste 20 minutes or so than by watching Cartman finally get his ass thoroughly kicked by Wendy. Priceless.

But there are four other titles out this week that are so good they're worth a full mention, starting with the best vampire movie I've seen in many, many years. I had no expectations at all going into "Let the Right One In," which probably helped it grow even higher in my estimation, but mi hermano has seen it and raves about it just as much as I do, so I know this time I'm right.

Director Tomas Alfredson's flick, based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, is in fact at least as much a coming-of-age tale as it is a horror movie. Set in frozen Sweden and making full use of its smothering setting, it tells the story of 12-year-old Oskar, who is bullied by his stronger classmates and is pretty much just all-around miserable until he meets new neighbor Eli, who resembles a pale young girl, but, well you can probably figure out the truth. Watching what happens as Oskar does too is easily one of the biggest cinematic pleasures of 2008, and I guarantee you won't soon forget what happens when Eli steps up to fight for Oskar. I've ranted about this before, but it's so sinister an idea that it's worth mentioning again, only as a word of warning: "Cloverfield" director Matt Reeves' plan for an American remake, to be transported to snowy Colorado, is now far enough along to have an IMDB listing. Stop this madness now if you somehow can, or at least just trust me and watch the original now that you have another chance.

"Cadillac Records"
Anyone who's been here before (and I'm still amazed there appear to be a few of you out there) knows that I have nothing but love for Darnell Martin's flick, and I'm happy to sing its praises for what might be the last time now that it's out on DVD. Rather than the straightforward story of Chess Records, Martin just makes her movie all about the music, the mood and the 'tude, and she's helped out by - with all apologies to "Milk" and "W." - the best ensemble cast of 2008. If you think you haven't heard Beyonce sing Etta James' "At Last" by now, you're probably wrong, because its just everywhere. But as beautiful as that is, the real joy in Beyonce's performance (and yes, I am serious) comes in the pain she mines in James' story. Just as good are Jeffrey Wright, who is just a simmering pot of pride and anger as Muddy Waters, Columbus Short, who wrings all the life out of Little Walter, and finally Mos Def clowning it up in full ham as Chuck Berry. All Ms. Martin has listed now on her IMDB sheet since this thoroughly fun flick is three episodes of "Law and Order," but here's hoping she finds real movie work again soon, because she certainly deserves it.

Rachel Getting Married
Be warned before you watch it: Jonathan Demme's flick is the most claustrophobic one I've seen since "Margot at the Wedding," but - on screen, at least - I like my family life served up with a big helping of dysfunction, so they both just worked for me. I was really hoping Anne Hathaway would win the Oscar for this, because she really is as good as all the hype would have you believe as the unwelcome guest at her sister Rachel's wedding. My parents were surprised by this one because they heard a "Fresh Air" interview with Demme in which he called it a "romantic comedy." It's far from that, but you won't get very many flicks that take a more perceptive look at the family dynamic, and Rosemarie DeWitt (Don Draper's hippie mistress on the first season of "Mad Men") is every bit as good as Hathaway as the titular Rachel.

I'm not sure I was supposed to find Sally Hawkins' Poppy easily the most annoying lead character of 2008, but it's one of the biggest strengths of Mike Leigh's flick that I was still rooting for her from the start. Hawkins' Poppy is indeed so cheerful that you might want to throttle her, but it will certainly make you think when she encounters someone who might just be ready to act on that understandable impulse in combustible driving instructor Scott, in an unforgettable turn by Eddie Marsan. Like most of Leigh's movies its just an enjoyable little snapshot of working life, with the bonus this time that it just might make you think a little about how you look at the world around you (hokey I know, but true.)

So, there you have it. If you rent any of these, I certainly hope you like them as much as I did. Peace out.


Mercurie said...

For me the big DVD release today is Disney's Pinocchio's Platinum Edition...at last! For a while my best friend and I were worried Disney would bury the classic movie forever in their vault...

Reel Fanatic said...

That is indeed a great one ... I missed it because it's so hard to keep track of all of Disney's releases!

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Chalupa said...

I just watched Let the Right One In. It was awesome. Loved the ending. I liked how the vampire elements were applied and dealt with. This seemed very believable.