Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen are unlikely cowboys, Jeremy Irons is an even more unlikely villain, and Renée Zellweger is the least likely "proper widow" the Old West has ever seen. Appaloosa is a fitfully entertaining, post, post-modern Western; Eric D. described it well as "a buddy movie, a rough-and-tumble, no-girls-allowed, steak-and-potatoes romp that happens to be set in the Old West." The DVD includes an audio commentary by Harris (director/co-writer) and Robert Knott (co-writer/producer), four behind the scenes mini-features, and deleted scenes. Also on Blu-ray. Rent it.
Like Appaloosa, Swing Vote was pretty much ignored during its theatrical run, but deserves to find its audience on home video. Kevin Costner is in his everyman, blue collar mode here, which means the film is immensely likable and funny. He plays a small town loser, with a way too precocious daughter, who must cast the deciding vote in a presidential election. Of course it's contrived and silly and obvious and non-partisan, but I loved the election videos made by the suddenly too-eager-to-please candidates (Dennis Hopper and Kelsey Grammer). The DVD includes an audio commentary with Joshua Michael Stern (director/co-writer) and Jason Richman (co-writer), a "making of" mini-feature, deleted scenes, an extended scene, and a music video. Also on Blu-ray. Rent it.
Tokyo Gore Police
For extreme horror fans only: everything your splatter-loving heart could desire. Buy it.
More new releases: Balls Out: Gary the Tennis Coach, Mirrors (also on Blu-ray), My Best Friend's Girl (also on Blu-ray), Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys, and Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling (also on Blu-ray). Plus the great, faux-Kennedy TV mini-series Captains and the Kings, which enthralled me when it first aired way back in the Mesozaic Era (Richard Jordan! Richard Jordan! Richard Jordan!).
August Evening (pictured in collage at top of post)
Chris Eska's poetic, dramatic, and moving drama follows Jaime (Pedro Casteneda) and his daughter-in-law Alice (Sandra Rios) on a threadbare journey through America. Teetering on the edge of homelessness, struggling mightily to avoid self-pity or hopelessness, they stick together against all odds until inevitable generational differences threaten to tear them apart. Taking a naturalistic approach to material that could become wearisome, Eska deftly creates mesmerizing narrative rhythms. (Watch the trailer here.)
Blind Tibetan teenagers attempt to climb Mount Everest. A documentary that sounds inspiring, to say the least.
An adaptation of the novel by Monica Ali that our own Jeffrey M. Anderson called "unbearably lifeless." Jeff is usually pretty astute about these things, so I'd trust him and skip this one, unless your significant other has already rented it and is threatening you with castration if you don't watch it together. In that case, you can look forward to one of Jeff's highlighted moments, when the heroine must "choose the angry guy with the beard or the idiot with the big gut."
I saw this British period drama five months ago and remember almost nothing about it, which isn't a good sign. Hmm, it made me thirsty for tea, if that helps.
Bustin' Down the Door
Surfin' doc, narrated by Edward Norton.
Fairuza Balk, Peter Bogdanovich, and marijuana farmers. A couple of people recommended this to me, but they were high on something at the time. Still, this could be a good bet if you're in the mood for such things and/or have the munchies.
It's French, it's a comedy, and the tagline is: "How to Get Married and Stay Single," which, again, sounds very French, yet should be enough to make a viewing decision, right?
The Order of Myths
The oldest Mardi Gras in America is still divided by race in "modern" Mobile, Alabama. Margaret Brown's doc "handles both sides of the racial issues impressively," says Jette Kernion. The Order of Myths "gives us a good feel for the fun and exciting parts of Mobile's Mardi Gras as well as the undercurrent of 'traditional' racial segregation that still exists today."
Our Daily Bread
"The industry production of food as a reflection of our society's values." That may sound dry, but the doc by Nikolaus Geyrhalter earned many critical plaudits ("unblinking," "never fails to enthrall," "riveting," "important," "an eye-opener").
Patti Smith Dream of Life
The enduring rocker, composer, artist, and mother is profiled in a well-praised doc by Steven Sebring. I loved her albums in the 70s, and recent interviews make clear that she has maintained her artistic and personal integrity, so I'm hoping this doc captures her at her best.
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
It's a very thin week for Blu-ray once you get beyond new films (Appaloosa, Mirrors, My Best Friend's Girl, Swing Vote, Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling), so why not try an anime title that should look smashing in your home theater?
The reviews were mixed for this long-awaited sequel, with numerous complaints about the confusing story-line and use of CGI. At home, though, with the opportunity to rewind and replay scenes, it should be easy to sit back and soak in the ravishing visuals. This Blu-ray also, reportedly, has proper English subtitles (as opposed to the "closed captioned only" on the DVD) and an English dubbed audio track, in addition to the original-language Japanese audio.
My Bloody Valentine: Special Edition
Restored to its original gory glory, the 1981 slasher flick lives again. Both the original theatrical cut and the new extended version (incorporating deleted footage) are included, as well as mono and DD 5.1 audio tracks. A 20-minute mini-feature, "Bloodlust: My Bloody Valentine and the Rise of the Slasher Film," is slanted toward a promotional effort for the 3-D remake, due out on Friday.
Breakfast at Tiffany's - Paramount Centennial Collection
Audrey Hepburn is either divine or maddening; I think most would lean hard toward "divine." Two-disc edition carries over all the extras from the 45th Anniversary Edition, and adds several new mini-features. Perhaps the most notable is "Mr. Yunioshi: An Asian Perspective," which tackles the offensive performance by Mickey Rooney as a "Japanese" landlord.
Funny Face - Paramount Centennial Collection
Stanley Donen's musical stars Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. The new two-disc edition carries over all the extras from the 50th Anniversary Edition, plus three new mini-features ("Fashion Photographers Exposed," "This is VistaVision," and "Kay Thompson: Think Pink") that total about one hour of material.
Four Weddings and a Funeral - Deluxe Edition
Oh, for the days when Hugh Grant was a fresh new presence! Andie MacDowell is the American he pines after. I never quite fathomed the appeal of this popular romantic comedy, but for those who want to fall in love all over again, the Deluxe Edition includes deleted scenes, an audio commentary, and behind-the-scenes mini-features, along with a much-improved picture.
Rossellini's History Films: Renaissance and Enlightenment - Eclipse Series 14
Three early 70s films by Roberto Rossellini, part of his plan to "revise the whole conception of the universe." Dave Kehr has a great article on Rossellini and the films up at the New York Times.
Superb action sequences are a hallmark of this teaming of Jackie Chan with Michelle Yeoh under the direction of Stanley Tong. The third in a series (and thus originally titled Police Story III: Super Cop), Chan's Hong Kong detective works with Yeoh as a Mainland officer to bring down a ruthless drug lord. Mark Pollard has a good review at Kung Fu Cinema that talks about some of the differences between the international print and the original cut. The Region 1 two-disc edition from Dragon Dynasty reportedly includes an audio commentary by Bey Logan and interviews with Chan, Yeoh, Tong, and Ken Lo.