DVD Picks of the Week: September 8th, 2009

Lots of great material to look out for this week in the form of brand new films, older titles debuting on Blu-ray and a few treats from the Criterion Collection.

Crank 2: High Voltage

The second installment of the high-adrenaline and energetic Crank series is easily one of the highlights for this week. The film was some of the most fun I’ve had in theaters this year. It goes one step further than the first film does, and with great results. Jason Statham may be type-casted to hell and back, but he does it well. Directors Neveldine/Taylor didn’t strike box office gold with Gamer, but this release should reward them financially.

Creepshow [Blu-ray]

I’m kind of embarrassed to say that I wasn’t aware that this macabre classic was being released on Blu-ray. Creepshow was a teaming of two of the greatest talents in the horror genre in the 1970s/1980s, director George A. Romero and writer (and actor here) Stephen King. Creepshow plays on the old E.C. comics of the 1950s and tells five tales of supreme macabre terror to life. All five are a good time, with actors like Ed Harris, Ted Danson and Leslie Nielsen making appearances. Creepshow truly is horror fan heaven with its ghoulish tales and results as one of the most creative genre titles of the 1980s. And for those that are still with DVD, they reissued the title in a keepcase! The film was previously only available in one of those ugly looking snap cases. Good news for OCD people all across America!

Parks & Recreation [Season One]
The Office [Season Five]

I’m grouping these two together, not because they are on the same level, but because they are quite similar. Parks & Recreation is a sort of spin-off of The Office, lending itself to the same mockumentary style. Parks survived its first season, and with great success. Aziz Ansari made himself into a dependable character on the show, and one of the main reasons to watch. Now, I may be biased, as I work for my town’s parks and rec office during the summers — and I have done so for the last five summers — but this perfectly captures some of the foolhardy and large than life beliefs some of the higher level employees actually have. On to The Office, one of the more popular shows on television. I enjoyed the latest season enough to recommend it. Not the greatest, but it sure had its moments. Some great writing going on with that show.

Homicide [Criterion Collection DVD]

It seems almost ritualistic that every time a Criterion release drops I have to talk about it. If only you would just watch a few of these great films and you’d understand why I get so giddy at seeing what they have in store on these special Tuesdays. One of this week’s most interesting releases from Criterion is David Mamet’s Homicide. Briefly, the film details a Jewish homicide detective who investigates a seemingly minor murder and falls in with a Zionist group as a result. The film stars most notably William H. Macy. Mamet already is on the Criterion Collection’s roster with House of Games, and Homicide looks just as appetizing. Check out the short trailer below.

That Hamilton Woman [Criterion Collection DVD]

I don’t know much of anything about where this film came from, what it’s about or why you should see it. I don’t know who Alexander Korda is and why I should watch one of his films either. But I’m sure ready to find out why. I know Laurence Olivier makes for good cinema, so that’s a start. Beautiful UK cinema in the 1940s was really overlooked, we Americans were busy with our brooding and ambiguous antiheroes of the noir genre. Anyways, Criterion describes this films plot to be the following: “Set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars of the late eighteenth century, That Hamilton Woman is a gripping account of the scandalous adulterous affair between the British Royal Navy officer Lord Horatio Nelson and the renowned beauty Emma, Lady Hamilton, the wife of a British ambassador.” I’m sold.

The Human Condition [Criterion Collection DVD]

Here’s Criterion’s big release of the week. It’s a 4-disc set of Masaki Kobayashi’s three part, nine-and-a-half-hour epic titled The Human Condition, what Criterion calls one of the most staggering achievements in Japanese cinema. What a bold statement, with such greats like Akira Kurosawa roaming the countryside. The epic film tells of the journey of the well-intentioned yet naive Kaji from labor camp supervisor to Imperial Army soldier to Soviet POW. Sounds as riveting as they say it is. Only trouble here might be finding time to dedicate to such a lengthy adventure. Sure seems like it’d be worth it.

Requiem for a Dream [Blu-ray]

I figured I owed it to everyone with a Blu-ray player to at least make mention of this release. Requiem for a Dream is the film that made director Darren Aronofsky important. Sure, Pi was great, but this one his name around like nothing else good. It’s a startling film for all first time users, a deeply disheartening story lies at the root of it. And this is indeed the unrated version of the film, giving you more than you’ve ever asked for.

What else comes out this week: Criminal Minds: The Complete Fourth Season, Fringe: The Complete First Season, Freddy vs. Jason [Blu-ray], The New World (The Extended Cut) [Blu-ray], Harper’s Island: The DVD Edition, The Postman [Blu-ray], Silverado [Blu-ray], Sphere [Blu-ray], Dead Calm [Blu-ray], The Quick and the Dead [Blu-ray], Friday [Blu-ray], Universal Horror: Classic Movie Archive, Over the Top [Blu-ray], Menace II Society [Blu-ray], Halloween Triple Pack, From Dusk Till Dawn Triple Pack, Scream Triple Pack.

What to stay away from: This abscess of a film: Dance Flick. I must have seen the trailer for that film a half a dozen times before good films in the theater before it came out. Way too many times to see a promotion for something like that.

As you can tell, this was a really deep week, full of quality. This is one of the few times where there literally is something for everyone to get at. I probably even left a few quality items out, so be sure to look extra hard. See you all next week!


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