Blu-ray Highlights for 8/23/11 – You’re So Money!

Indie movies dominate the Blu-ray scene this week, with a special emphasis on indie movies from the mid ’90s about gambling. What a strange niche to fill all of a sudden.

Here’s the week’s complete release list:

Everything that ‘The Hangover‘ tried to be, ‘Swingers‘ did first and did funnier. Both movies even have Heather Graham in supporting roles. This is the film that put stars Jon Favreau (who also wrote) and Vince Vaughn on the map, and launched the successful directing career of Doug Liman. If the phrase “Vegas, baby!” wasn’t already part of the cultural vernacular, it was permanently cemented there after this.

Whereas ‘Swingers’ was a comedy, ‘Rounders‘ tried to be some sort of serious and insightful look at the world of underground gambling. It isn’t entirely successful at that, but the movie does have good performances from Matt Damon and Edward Norton, as well as a magnificently hammy turn from John Malkovich as a Russian mobster. My biggest problem with the film has always been that Damon was simply too pretty at the time to convincingly play someone who’d spent most of his life in smoke-filled backroom gambling dens playing poker until dawn without sleep. Every time he flashes his pearly white smile is distractingly Hollywood.

The most interesting new day-and-date title of the week is probably ‘Win Win‘, starring Paul Giamatti as a part-time high school wrestling coach whose scheme to solve his mounting financial problems spirals quickly out of control. The movie is the latest directorial effort from character actor Thomas McCarthy, who previously helmed ‘The Station Agent’ and ‘The Visitor‘. It was a big hit at the Sundance Film Festival, and performed pretty well in the indie film circuit.

We also have ‘The Beaver‘, in which Mel Gibson decides to communicate only through a hand puppet. Jodie Foster directed. Reaction to this one was pretty mixed during its limited theatrical run, but the premise is bizarre enough to merit at least a rental.

Speaking of bizarre, the Norwegian horror flick ‘TrollHunter‘ tries to apply the ‘Blair Witch Project’ found-footage gimmick to the story of some college kids who go searching for a legendary giant troll. Word is that it’s kind of fun, but tries a little too self-consciously to be a “Cult Movie.”

In ‘Henry’s Crime‘, Keanu Reeves plays a man wrongfully convicted of robbing a bank, who gets out of prison and sets about planning to rob that very bank. This one didn’t get much play outside of the film festival circuit. As I recall, the buzz at last year’s Toronto Film Festival was that it’s a decent little drama, but nothing terribly exciting.

Showboating documentarian Morgan Spurlock is back with another documentary that’s really more about himself than it is about the subject he’s supposed to be covering. In ‘The Greatest Movie Ever Sold‘, he exposes the dirty secrets behind movie product placement deals, by making a movie entirely financed through product placement. It sounds like a funny idea, but as always, your enjoyment of the movie will really depend on your tolerance for Spurlock’s antics. I believe that our theatrical blogger Luke was a fan of this one, but our previous reviewer at the time the movie came out was not.

Disney rolls out the high-def debut of the DTV sequel ‘Bambi II‘. Really, this is only notable for Disney completists and parents whose children have already watched the original ‘Bambi‘ a bazillion times.

Finally, the Criterion Collection offers up the South Korean drama ‘Secret Sunshine‘. I know next-to-nothing about this one, but our reviewer E. praised it highly. Follow the link above for his review.


  1. Just (tried) to watch “Blitz” the other night, couldn’t finish it. I’m a fan of Statham but I simply cannot understand why people keep putting him in movies where he’s not repeatedly kicking someones ass in. This one starts with a nice ass-kicking, and then… nothing, boring. Like they knew what I wanted and teased it just enough to trick me into watching this turd. Still not as bad as “War” though. How does one make a movie pitting Jason Statham against Jet Li, and then avoid having them fight at all costs? And if they must, the use guns?! The mind reels. Sorry, rant over.

  2. BTW, I’m a little confused as to how Netflix is working right now. I received “Blitz” on blu ray from them on the 16th, and it says I have “Greatest Movie Ever Sold” coming today. What happened to the waiting period? To say nothing of sending me a disc a week before it’s released. Not that I’m complaining, they can certainly keep that up, I’m just wondering if anyone has heard anything about them changing their policies or something.