Quantum of Solace
Daniel Craig's second outing as James Bond, this time under the direction of Marc Forster, was a straight-ahead revenge drama, with rough edges intact, missing many of the character touches that we've come to expect from 007. That made it feel too much like an anonymous, overly-caffeinated action thriller for my taste, but there are enough dynamic, high-powered sequences to justify a rental. Olga Kuylenko is pretty easy on the eyes, too. Available in one and two-disk DVD editions, as well as Blu-ray. Rent it.
"An entertaining movie for kids," our own Jette Kernion opined. "However, there's not much here for grownups to enjoy ... apart from watching the kids get a kick out of the film." Sounds like it was made for home viewing. John Travolta and Miley Cyrus voice key roles. Available in one and two-disk DVD editions, as well as Blu-ray. Rent it.
Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter & Under the Hood
Two vital components of the original Watchmen graphic novel that didn't make the theatrical cut; pirate saga Tales of the Black Freighter is brought to life as a 2-D animated mini-feature and features the voice of Gerard Butler, while Under the Hood uses live-action and CGI to spin a faux-autobiography of the original Nite Owl. Both may be included in a forthcoming Director's Cut of Watchmen, but if you just can't wait any longer ... Also on Blu-ray. Rent it.
After the jump: Indies on DVD, more Blu-ray picks, and Collector's Corner
The Cake Eaters
When it played at the Tribeca Film Festival two years ago, Erik Davis described it as "one of those films that sneaks up on you a half hour after the credits roll." The directorial debut of actress Mary Stuart Masterson revolves around two families in Upstate New York, each dealing with their own separate tragedies. It's an ensemble drama, though Erik noted that Kristen Stewart gives "a performance so painful and so real that I'm surprised her name hasn't come up in award conversations."
Gardens of the Night
Nick Schager felt that Damian Harris' kid-snatching drama suffers from "missteps typical to stories about such topics, as the tendency to exploit lurid material for dramatic purposes is something he can't avoid." Gillian Jacobs, Evan Ross, Tom Arnold, John Malkovich, and Jeremy Sisto are featured in this "serious-minded attempt to trace both the literal and psychological means by which abductors carry out their plots."
Also out: Fling, Praying with Lior.
Also included in the James Bond Blu-ray Collection Three-Pack, Vol. 3, but who wants to see Moonraker or The World is Not Enough again? Goldfinger is all you need: Sean Connery all natty and nasty, Oddjob wielding his deadly chapeau, Honor Blackmaan as Pussy Galore, Gert Fröbe as the titular villain, a great theme song, babes flying through the sky strapped with sleeping gas, and a grand finale inside Fort Knox.
Never Say Never Again
An aging Sean Connery with a bad hairpiece still packed a lot of entertainment punch as James Bond in this kooky adventure, with even more self-mocking than usual for 007, aided here by beauties Barbara Carrera and Kim Basinger, plus Euro dudes Klaus Maria Brandauer and Max Von Sydow along for the ride.
Also new on Blu-ray: The Fast and the Furious Trilogy, The 400 Blows, The Last Metro, The Kite Runner, A Mighty Heart, Things We Lost in the Fire.
Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Volume Three
All six of the features included in this set (Other Men's Women, The Purchase Price, Frisco Jenny, Midnight Mary, Heroes for Sale and Wild Boys of the Road) were directed by William Wellman, who had a "snap-crackle-pop narrative sense," in the words of film critic Glenn Kenny at Some Came Running. "What's more striking than that is how he gives the female leads in each film their own heads. He doesn't judge, never lords it over them."
Dave Kehr of The New York Times says the films are drawn "from Wellman's most intensely creative period, the years he spent as a contract director at Warner Brothers in the early 1930s ... Most of these 70- to 80-minute features are swift, hard, topical dramas, filmed in the vigorous, headlong style epitomized by his best-known picture of the time," The Public Enemy.
I've watched three of the films so far (the terrific social drama Wild Boys of the Road, the very good, doomed romance Other Men's Women, the intriguing The Purchase Price with the great Barbara Stanwyck) and am partway through a fourth (the melodramatic Frisco Jenny), courtesy of Turner Classic Movies, and can add my recommendation for everything I've seen in this bargain-priced package, which includes theatrical trailers, cartoons, and two documentaries. Richard Schickel's The Men Who Made the Movies allows Wellman to recount a series of rambunctious stories about his films; I haven't seen the other, Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick, which sounds like a more typical biographical look at the director.