Pictured above (clockwise from upper left): Nights in Rodanthe, W., Frozen River, Chocolate.
Nights in Rodanthe
I'll quote our own Jeffrey M. Anderson: "If you're the type that likes crying at the movies, you'll love it. If you loved Richard Gere and Diane Lane together in a thriller like Unfaithful (2002) but you don't like to cry, you probably won't like it. Me, I found a few things to like and much to loathe." The DVD includes two mini-features, alternate scenes, and a music video. Also on Blu-ray. Skip it.
Oliver Stone's biopic is more bromide than probing drama, but as a comedy it's pretty entertaining, and Josh Brolin is superb as the confoundingly charming George W. Bush. DVD includes an audio commentary by Stone and the featurette "Dangerous Dynasty: The Bush Presidency." Also on Blu-ray. Rent it.
Thai action has never hit harder than under Prachya (Ong Bak) Pinkaew's direction in Chocolate, featuring the irresistible young star Jeeja. She plays an autistic girl with a forcibly-retired assassin for a mother and an absent Yakuza for a father, and the girl has mad skills with her hands, feet, elbows, and knees! This has endless replay value for action fans. DVD includes interviews with the director and a "making of" mini-feature. Also on Blu-ray. Buy it.
Add to Netflix queue. | Buy at Amazon. | Read my review of the import DVD.
Melissa Leo's Academy Award-nominated performance is just one of the multiple reasons to see Courtney Hunt's drama. James Rocchi also praised the way it "moves with real dramatic tension" and appreciated its "careful social commentary ... Hunt's writing and directing turns what could have been a strident or small film into a human and engaging story." Both the DVD and Blu-ray editions include an audio commentary with Hunt and producer Heather Rae. Rent it.
Add to Netflix queue. | Buy at Amazon. | Read James' review.
The Romance of Astrea and Celadon;
Eric Rohmer's romantic drama garnered mostly praise, though my colleague Jeffrey M. Anderson felt the film "should have depended on grand passions and sweeping gestures; everyone should be swooning instead of talking about and rationalizing their love. Rohmer's usual method just simply doesn't work with this fluffy costume/period material." Still, it's Eric Rohmer, and that deserves a look. Rent it.
The Foot Fist Way
Is it OK to laugh at a profanely obnoxious and inept Tae Kwon Do instructor as he abuses his students and everyone around him? Jody Hill's comedy may test your boundaries -- or push right past them into bad taste. As I wrote elsewhere, I think it is "one of the most devastating character studies to come down the pike in recent years. I laughed because the physical gags come out of left field, and I laughed because Fred [Danny McBride] takes himself so seriously that it's impossible to do likewise." Rent it.
Add to Netflix queue. | Buy at Amazon. | Read Patrick Walsh's review.
My Name is Bruce
There is only one Bruce Campbell, and every time I see him on screen, he makes me smile (as in his delightful supporting role right now on TV's Burn Notice). Jette Kernion says his latest flick is "a bundle of good cheesy fun. The gags tend to work, the storyline is eye-rollingly ridiculous but rarely dull, and Campbell is at his lovably jerky best." Thank goodness! Also on Blu-ray. Well-heeled Bruce die-hards will buy; all others: Rent it.
Also out: Saffron Burrows in Amy Redford's drama The Guitar; John Venable's crime drama Karma Police; Bruce LaBruce's gay zombie flick Otto, Or, Up With Dead People; Arielle Kebbel and Sarah Carter in horror thriller Red Mist.
"The most painful and heartrending portrait of jealousy in the cinema--an Othello for our times," wrote Roger Ebert, and I have nothing to add, except that Martin Scorsese's film deserves not to be distantly remembered but to be experienced again and again, no matter how painful it can be to watch Robert DeNiro give his most devastating performance. DVD Beaver posted a favorable review of the new Blu-ray in comparison with previous DVD editions.
A History of Violence
Though I was not as enamored of the film as most others -- the sudden shift in tone and pace lost me -- Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello were extraordinary, and Ed Harris was effectively creepy. High-Def Digest has the details on the extras included.
Simon of the Desert
Having watched thousands of movies, I occasionally feel like I know a thing or two, and then I see something like Luis Buñuel's bizarre, vision-infused Simon of the Desert and I realize I've just been picking away at the tip of the iceberg. The Criterion Collection provides, I'm sure, a superb transfer, as well as extras, such as Michael Wood's illuminating essay.
Street Fighter Extreme Edition
If you don't wish to exercise your mental muscles, I offer this contrasting release, in advance of the new version due to arrive in theaters later this month. Not exactly Jean Claude Van Damme's proudest moment, was it? IGN.com has a review of the Blu-ray edition.