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New to VUDU: Week of January 22nd, 2012

In all the hoopla around this week’s Oscar nominations, several highly-acclaimed films from last year were (perhaps unfairly) ignored and left completely out of the running. One of them hit Blu-ray and streaming this week. Despite its lack of awards recognition, the movie still looks like a very worthy rental.

In case anyone happened to notice, my failure to post a VUDU update last week didn’t mean that the streaming service added no new movies or that I was too lazy to write the article (though that part was somewhat true). Rather, it turned out that my previous post actually covered new titles through the 17th. In any case, the following titles enter the VUDU stream this week:

  • ’50/50′ (1/24/12)
  • ‘Another Happy Day’ (Rental 12/2/11, Purchase 1/24/12)
  • ‘Beginning of the Great Revival’ (1/24/12)
  • ‘Beware the Gonzo’ (Rental 8/25/11, Purchase 1/24/12)
  • ‘Essential Killing’ (Rental 8/25/11, Purchase 1/24/12)
  • ‘Hell and Back Again’ (1/24/12)
  • ‘The Lie’ (Rental 1/10/12, Purchase 1/24/12)
  • ‘Paranormal Activity 3 – Extended Cut’ (Rental 2/24/12, Purchase 1/24/12)
  • ‘Real Steel’ (1/24/12)
  • ‘Restless’ (1/24/12)
  • ‘Revenge of the Electric Car’ (1/24/12)
  • ‘Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure’ (Rental 8/25/11, Purchase 1/24/12)
  • ‘The Whistleblower’ (1/24/12)

Although the so-called “cancer comedy” ‘50/50‘ did fairly decent box office business (a nearly $35 million gross based on only an $8 million budget) and got great reviews (93% positive at Rotten Tomatoes), it failed to land any Oscar nominations this week. Some awards prognosticators had predicted it to be named in at least the Best Original Screenplay category, if not possibly a Best Actor nomination for Joseph Gordon-Levitt as well. No such luck. Even so, the buzz around the film has been extremely positive. (Both Luke and Aaron here loved it.) This is one of many of last year’s acclaimed movies that I desperately need to catch up with.

A movie that fared better with Oscar this week is ‘Hell and Back Again‘, which was named a Best Documentary Feature nominee. The film follows an injured soldier from the battlefield of Afghanistan to his attempts to rebuild his life back home in America. It has been described as harrowing and heartbreaking.

An interesting double bill with that might be Polish director Jerzy Skolimowki’s wartime thriller ‘Essential Killing‘. Film critic Glenn Kenny called the film a “small-scaled masterpiece of such grabbing immediacy that it’s practically a sin that it’s gotten next to nothing with respect to U.S. distribution.” That lack of distribution probably has to do with the facts that: 1) It’s told from the point of view of a Taliban fighter on the run from American soldiers, and 2) It stars Vincent Gallo, who isn’t exactly a box office draw. Regardless, it sounds kind of fascinating. Apparently, the lead character doesn’t have a single line of dialogue. While this is available on Blu-ray in Europe, as far as I’m aware, no Blu-ray release for this title is planned in the U.S. Fortunately, VUDU offers it in 1080p HDX format now.

Back to documentaries for a moment, another title of note is ‘Revenge of the Electric Car‘, director Chris Paine’s sequel to ‘Who Killed the Electric Car?’, in which he tracks the progress of auto manufacturers to offer alternative fuel vehicles. This time, there actually is some progress.

Josh’s Random VUDU Pick:

My random selections from the VUDU catalog aren’t terribly random after all. This week, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s role in ’50/50′ in mind, I’d like to highlight the actor’s 2005 sort-of detective thriller ‘Brick‘. The film applies the conventions of 1940s hard-boiled film noir to a contemporary high school setting. Somehow, writer-director Rian Johnson makes this conceit work without playing it for camp. It’s a very weird and pretty cool little movie. It’s not available on Blu-ray in the U.S. (though Europe got one, and a Canadian edition is apparently now out of print), but you can stream it from VUDU in 1080p HDX.

All dates provided refer specifically to rental availability. Check VUDU for sell-through availability, if interested. Be sure to also check for VUDU’s $0.99 Movie of the Day offers, which are announced each day on the company’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

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