There has been a bundle of new DVD releases coming out in January. I'm not a marketing expert but I would have thought Christmas might be a more profitable target date for new items, unless of course studios are banking on coaxing you out of your Christmas money. And though I fear that the DVD and the BluRay might be going the way of the fountain pen, there is still something very allurring about a crisp new shiny copy of your favourite movie on a silver disc. (There is one exception on this list - that being Fright Night which came out December 13. And if it didn't end up in your Christmas stocking - do run out and get it. More later)
Worth noting, before going on, that my colleague Alex Huls is embarking on the same venture. Not often do we double-up on on entries, but being a generation apart (although that gap is closing) Alex and I are likely to be able to attack (did I say attack? I meant, discuss) the new DVD releases with varied enough opinions to make this an exercise in comparison and diversity.
Let's start with Robin Williams because how often do you get to say that anymore?
Remember Dead Poet's Society? Sure you do. It was director Peter Weir's Goodbye, Mr. Chips/Robin Williams' Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Either way it won earned a great deal of attention from the public and critics plus it brags of a very young Ethan Hawke. It's the story of a unconventional teacher (when isn't it) who disrupts the staged conformity and stifling traditions of a high-end Academy. That Williams comes in all full of life and inspiration should be of little surprise. That it leads to a devestating tragedy might add a bit of unexpected edge to the genre.
It would win screenwriter, Tom Schulman a 1989 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
Dead Poet's Society gets it's Blu Ray release January 17. It looks darn good in HD, though it's not one of those films that demand such quality unless you are really into grey academic halls, identically coloured school uniforms, mahogony desks and a pinewood decor Dean's office.
Now, do you remember Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam! Sure you do. And you probably think you like it. At least that's how many of us remember it. But unfortunately some sleeping dogs should be left to lie. I never did quite understand the appeal of Good Morning Vietnam! even when it was released in 1987. I like it even less now. The film is dated to the point of being occassionally corny, far too earnest and even, at times, bordering on offensive. Back in 1987, I merely found it earnest and corny...finding it offensive is a new addition.
The transfer is lovely...but pretty to look at with nothing to offer is like an dinner with a magazine cover.
And since we're riding on a 'remember when' phase, let's take a look at the soon to be released Sid & Nancy. You know this is a collectors item because it says so right on the dust cover. Gary Oldman (who I occassionally get mistaken for. *sigh* ) and Chloe Webb are perfect as the Prince and Princess of punk-rock mayhem. Alex Cox directs and if you are at all aware of his work, Repo Man, Bad Lieutenant, and Walker than you know that your not likely to get a routine a bio-pic out of Sid & Nancy. Alex Cox is a punk musician who plays the camera. He is anrachy and misbehaviour put on film. The great thing about Sid & Nancy, and all their messiness displayed in H.D. is that you can start the film anywhere and watch. The are in constant performance even when they can barely lift their head to vomit. Grotesque, sad, funny and unforgetable.
Next up is Fright Night, a bit of a cheat since it did hit the streets early December. This is the remake of the 1985 film of the same name. Bad news/Good News. Bad News is, the 1985 version does not hold up - and that's real bad news because in 1985 I thought Fright Night was just about the best horror-comedy thriller around. And who knows, I might have been right. Most interesting thing one can say about the original is Stephen Geoffreys who plays the crazy, loveable, weird and vulnerable best friend sidekick. Turns out Geoffrehys has gone on to make a profitable career as the crazy, loveable, weird and vulnerable gay porn star. Now that's a topic for a "Where are they Now..." column. His co-star William Ragsdale went an entire opposite direction. He makes inspiring Christian themed family movies. You got to wonder how those two ever got along on set.
Good News is the updated version is classy, funny, and far better than it has any right to be. Credit much of this to the performance of Colin Farell who does vampire very well. The film is perfect for the casual collector who isn't out to impress his Criterion friends who are holding out for the blu ray remastering of Ken Russell's The Devils. But as something handing on the shelf to grab when the gang feels like sitting back and enjoying a good laugh and a few jumps, Fright Night is perfect.
File this one under - I never knew there was a Scorpion King 2. The Scorpion King 3:Battle For Redemption is the 3rd (clearly) entry in the stepson franchise to The Mummy series. As a straight to DVD BluRay it has its moments of Boy's Own Stories kind of authentic adventures but it would be a curious addition on the shelf of any collector, serious or otherwise. The dust jacket makes a big deal of an appearance from Billy Zane and Ron Perlman but it's really Dave Bautista who should be front and center. I liked The Scorpion King (1) for it's lavish silliness and great sensibilities to the kind of matinee fantasy films I ate up as a kid. Not sure what happened in two, but SK3 loses much of the original's muscle and artistry. Stricktly for a late night mindless sleep enhancer. Perfect for insomniacs.
The Big surprise for me is Real Steel, a touching (yes this film has a mechanical heart that just keeps on ticking) story of fighter robots. The robot with a conscience is nothing new - starting with Pinochio, The Iron Giant, Short Circuit and the classic Twilight Zone episode, The Electric Grandmother. But director Shawn Levy adds another dynamic to this Rock'em Sock'em robot yarn making this perhaps his best film to date. Shawn is the man who gave us Night at the Museum, Cheaper By the Dozen, Pink Panther and Date Night but they are idle pasttimes compared to the kind of captivating magic he manages in Real Steel. It helps that Hugh Jackman takes the lead. It's a rise from the ashes story, a father and son story, and a classic sports story. It's the Rocky of this decade.