Archive for the 'Recent DVDs' Category

Lawrence of Arabia

When the restored “Director’s Cut” of Lawrence of Arabia played at Seattle’s legendary Cinerama theater in 1989, I was naturally at the first showing… even though it meant cutting work that afternoon. As the overture began playing to a fairly crowded house, the lights failed to come down… and the projectionist opened the curtain and unblocked the projection aperture. As the dumbfounded and confused audience looked on, timing marks on the 70mm print were projected onto the screen… and then the curtain closed. So much for the intended effect of the overture.


Undefeated
A Game of Inches? You Bet!

Coach Bill Courtney is a self-made man from the wrong side of the Deep-Southern tracks. He owns a specialty hardwoods factory, and knows what it means to suck it up when misfortune strikes and rise above it. But the coaching… well, he volunteers at Memphis’ Manassas High, and over the course of six years takes the Tigers from scoring maybe 36 points in an entire winless schedule to a shot at the division title, the playoffs… and maybe, even, an undefeated season.


Act of Valor
Reality? Check!

As the action unfolds, you never get the sense that something absolutely ridiculous (Mission: Impossible), leaden (The Expendables), or overly-kinetic (Bourne or anything Statham) is going to happen. If bad guys are gonna get taken out, it’s going to happen quick, and the SEALs are going to move on, fast. If something blows up, it’s going to happen… once, and the SEALs are going to move on, fast. If something technologically sophisticated is required, we’re going to see bits of it—it won’t be belabored and shown off—and the SEALs are going to move right along, fast.


Saints and Soldiers

At the crux of the plot is the same dilemma as in Steven Spielberg’s heavy-handed and polemic Saving Private Ryan: Do you show mercy to your enemies? Little’s film doesn’t treat that question in a perfunctory manner, on either end of the spectrum… though, naturally, it just isn’t possible to read this as a “shoot the bastards” tract.


The Snow Walker

What happens when a headstrong rumrunner crash-lands in the Arctic Barrens? In 2003’s The Snow Walker, this question has to be answered in the context of post-World War II technology, not with the luxury of GPS beacons and satellite phones. So when Charlie Halliday drops the last spare radio tube in his crashed single-prop, and it breaks, the answer is… a whole lot of survival training.


Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
More of the Same

Based on the popular graphic novels by Frank Miller, the 2005 movie Sin City was something of a revelation in cinema. Director Robert Rodriguez had his actors perform in front of a green screen and then added the rest of the film elements digitally. The result was a visually stunning film that completely captured the stylized images of Miller’s books. Nine years later, co-directors Miller and Rodriguez bring us back to their world with Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, a movie that matches the stunning visuals of the original… but unfortunately lacks interesting enough stories to make it worth it.


When the Game Stands Tall
Overcoming Adversity On and Off the Field

If I were to tell you that they were making a movie about a team that won 151 consecutive football games, you might assume that the movie would be about how this team came together to accomplish that feat. When the Games Stands Tall is about the team that experienced that tremendous winning streak, but instead of focusing on what went into the streak, the movie focuses on what came after: how the team bounced back from an onslaught of adversity that hit them all at once.


Lucy
Mind-bending Action

In 2011, Bradley Cooper starred in a movie called Limitless, which had a premise that revolved around a drug that would allow the user to access 100 percent of their brain capacity. Three years later, director Luc Besson introduces us to Lucy, a movie that also uses a similar drug as its main plot device. That is where the comparisons between the two movies end, however, as the trippy Lucy turns out to be a cross between a Jason Statham action movie and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.


Boyhood
12 Years in the Making

Director Richard Linklater’s new film Boyhood is a movie twelve years in the making… literally. The movie began filming in 2002 and finally wrapped in 2013. A combination of narrative and experimental filmmaking, the movie follows its central characters over that same time period as the actors continue to age realistically. It is a fascinating idea that works on the experimental level, but that just fails to pack enough drama to fill its 165-minute narrative.


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Evolving Franchise

Based on the novel by French writer Pierre Boulle, the original Planet of the Apes film inspired a franchise that included five movies between 1968 and 1973. After a forgettable Tim Burton remake in 2001, the franchise was rebooted in 2011 with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. While it is often referred to as a reboot, that movie stayed true enough to the original franchise that it could also be considered a prequel. The franchise now continues with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which logically advances the progression from the events of the 2011 movie towards the events depicted in the 1968 original.


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