2008 DVD Releases
Review by: Larry Thomas
The interesting thing about show biz is how cyclical it is. It seems like whenever the current movies are about two miles south of “stinko,” then the new DVD releases are there to pick up the slack. And this coming week is no exception. DVDs are generally released on Tuesdays, so on April 15, you can expect a treasure trove of available goodies.
Juno was the huge surprise hit of the Christmas movie season. This charming, funny, incredibly well written tale of teen pregnancy just charmed nearly everyone. The film ended up on many ten-best lists for the year, and rolled up four Oscar nominations, with a win for screenwriter Diablo Cody. It’s one of those films that all your friends talk about, so if you haven’t seen it yet, this is your chance.
84-year-old Sidney Lumet has been making films for fifty years, amassing an astounding resume in the process: Twelve Angry Men, The Pawnbroker, Fail-Safe, Serpico, and Dog Day Afternoon among the titles that are essential viewing for film buffs. He’s still at it, and hasn’t lost his touch. His newest, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, is about two brothers, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke, who plan to rob the family business so they can clear their debts and start fresh. Also in the great ensemble cast are Albert Finney, Marissa Tomei, Rosemary Harris and Amy Ryan. It didn’t get much theatrical exposure around the country, so take this opportunity to catch up with another outstanding work from a master filmmaker.
In the land of quirky, nothing qualifies as the “king of quirk” more than Lars and the Real Girl. Ryan Gosling plays an introverted young man who brings the girl of his dreams home to meet his brother and sister-in-law. The only wrinkle is that she is a blow-up doll he bought on the Internet, in search of a meaningful relationship. Naturally, everyone thinks he’s nuts, but he has a way of charming everyone in his hometown. Oscar-nominated for its screenplay, don’t let the synopsis put you off. This is a nice movie.
If you’re looking for something in the “archive” vein, there are three items worth mentioning. A remastered two-disc set of the complete twelve-chapter serial Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe is released, starring stalwart Olympic swimmer Buster Crabbe in the title role. Made in the days when serials brought audiences back to theatres week after week to see the next exciting, cliffhanging chapter, these low-budget affairs can be lots of fun, and this is one of the best.
Another carryover from the golden days of movie programming is the theatrical cartoon. Everyone is familiar with Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, and many others, but Woody Woodpecker is almost forgotten. The second edition of Woody Woodpecker…and friends…features another 80 or so animated goodies from the Walter Lantz archive, including characters like Pooch the Pup, Oswald Rabbit, and Andy Panda.
From the days when serious television meant something, NBC produced the World War II series Victory at Sea, with an original score by none other than Richard Rodgers (of Rodgers and Hammerstein). This 26-episode program features some of the best combat footage to come from the war. In an era when almost every other cable channel seems to have wall-to-wall war documentaries, this is the series that made news and is well worth revisiting.
So this Tuesday, after you’ve filed your tax returns, get comfy, have some popcorn, and enjoy a good show. Right in your own living room.