Considering that it isn’t even a holiday, this week brings us an almost inexcusably paltry selection of new Blu-ray releases that may only excite Criterion collectors and James McAvoy fans. The rest of you, hold tight and wait for a small improvement next week.
After the Oscar bait of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and ‘127 Hours’, director Danny Boyle returned to his roots this year with the slick, high concept (and perhaps a little cheesy) thriller ‘Trance‘. James McAvoy stars as an art thief who suffers amnesia after a bonk to the head. This presents a problem for him, in that he can’t remember where he stashed a valuable painting. With impatient partners in crime (including Vincent Cassel) threatening grave consequences, McAvoy enlists the help of a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) to help him get his memories back. Events spiral surreally out of control from there. Many reviews compared the movie to ‘Inception’, not entirely favorably. Some complained about the plot machinations feeling a little too contrived. In the film’s favor are Boyle’s manic energy and eye for striking visuals. This seems to me to be a perfect candidate for a rental.
If you just can’t get enough McAvoy, the actor also stars in the British crime thriller ‘Welcome to the Punch‘, this time as a detective forced to work with a criminal (Mark Strong) to unravel a conspiracy that affects them both. Reviews for this one were similarly mixed. No, I have no idea what the title means.
With two titles of at least modest interest, the Criterion Collection dominates the catalog release slate this week. First off is the 1987 Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar winner ‘Babette’s Feast‘, the story of a 19th Century woman who hits the Parisian lottery and uses all of her winnings to prepare an elaborate feast for her rural village in Demark. I’m fairly certain that I saw this many years ago, but I have a hard time remembering much about it. As far as the genre of food porn movies goes, I’m much more partial to Stanley Tucci’s ‘Big Night’ or Ang Lee’s ‘Eat Drink Man Woman’.
Speaking of Ang Lee, please forgive the unavoidable pun, but I’ve never quite warmed to the director’s 1997 drama ‘The Ice Storm‘, which chronicles the dysfunction of two Connecticut families in the days prior to a major weather event. While Lee meticulously recreates the details of the 1970s setting, I found that the movie’s (again, sorry) emotionally chilly tone prevented me from investing in the characters. It probably didn’t help that the film was released alongside Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1970s porn-industry opus ‘Boogie Nights’, which had a whole lot more fun with the time period. I probably need to revisit this to judge it on its own merits.
Even though I may not be overly enthusiastic about either of them, both Criterion titles will go on my wish list. I may also rent ‘Trance’ at some point. Does anything excite you, or will you sit the week out?
Maybe ‘Trance’, but otherwise this week is a giant pass-o-rama.
Maybe Fairy Tale, but I haven’t seen the first season yet.
No love for ‘Pieta’? It’s oh so hard, violent, sickening, disgusting … but one hell of a movie. It will haunt your dreams for weeks after the screening.
Two Korean movies this week, New World and Pieta. New World was reviewed here and I agree with that review. This one and tThe Berlin Files were nothing really special, just servicable told in the gritty Korean style.
But Pieta is a Kim Ki-duk film and this guy is something else, contoversial in his home coutry but he makes movies that are unique, powerful, sometimes disturbing and always, no matter what genre he is dabbling in, they have something to say.
He can be very diverse with his movies tough movies like this one or Bad Guy or The Isle, to the beautiful and poetic Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring, to just kind of wacky allegories like 3 Iron and Breathe.
This one can make you uncomfortable while watching it, and the protagonist is not very sympathetic but it will end with a shot that you will be hard pressed ever to forget.
If you are adventurous, this is definitely worth a watch. It won a Golden Lion award at Cannes.