Friday, February 15, 2008

DVD releases for February 12

Yes there were DVDs released this week, but I am in denial. I already have so much crap that I want to watch but can't get around to, that I can hardly face more options. Fortunately , I have seen most of the following:

The Draughtsman's Contract (1982) and A Zed & Two Noughts (1985) directed by Peter Greenaway
I'm saddened by how Peter Greenaway has fallen from favor. We have barely heard a word about him in this country since 8 1/2 Women. In the past eight years he has been working feverishly on projects that seem wholly personal yet nonetheless fascinating: four films that chronicle alter-ego Tulse Luper and his suitcases (or what Greenaway called "a personal history of Uranium") and most recently a film about Rembrandt called Nightwatching. (Never mind that you probably nothing short of a doctorate to start to understand these films - I saw the first of the Tulse Luper films on DVD from some Godforsaken country where they have no qualms about cropping and pan-scan, and I honestly have no idea what they hell I saw.) I digress. The release of these two early films on DVD remind me that I should re-engage in a Greenaway search. A Zed & Two Noughts is easily one of my favorite Greenaway films, that stars to reveal the master filmmaker I believe he is. The Draughtman's Contract may not be as convincing on its own but totally worth the time.

Four Swords: Shaw Brothers Box Set - Vengeance is a Golden Blade (1969), Have Sword Will Travel (1969), The Water Margin (1972), and The Wandering Swordsman (1970)
The Shaw Bothers releases from Image Entertainment continue to trickle in and this four DVD box set is well worth the $30 price tag. Unfortunately, most interested in the Shaw Brothers have long ago acquired these DVDs from other shores. For those with a passive attraction, these films are finally available restored with original soundtrack from reputable video stores or your favorite mail rental service. Vengeance is a Golden Blade is probably the weak link in the set, with decent action but less than engaging story. Have Sword Will Travel is a must see; a Chang Cheh classic that often gets overlooked staring the stoic Ti Lung and dreamy David Chiang. The Water Margin is perhaps a failure in capturing the 108 heroes of classic Chinese novel, but is one of Chang Cheh's most ambitious projects. And lastly, The Wandering Swordsman is an average film that excels with the inclusion of David Chiang and Lily Li.

The Royal Tramp 1 and 2 (1992) directed by Wong Jing
The combination of Stephen Chow and Wong Jing may be irresistable to me but undoubtedly nails-on-a-chalkboard to others. My love for 90s Hong Kong cinema knows no bounds and The Royal Tramp is as juvenile as it is nonsensical - I absolutely love it! Released by Dragon Dynasty, the Weinstein's continue to repair their hack reputation: the DVD includes commentary with Bey Logan and interview with Wong Jing.
Lubitsch Musicals - The Love Parade (1929), Monte Carlo (1930), One Hour with You (1932), and The Smiling Lieutenant (1931)
The title of the set and the date of the films says it all. If my financial status allowed me to be the DVD collector that I purport myself to be, I would have every one of these Eclipse releases on my shelf. As much of a commentary and special feature fan that I am, I rarely get to the fancy crap offered on most the DVDs I buy. Eclipse has it right: it's about the films! This is the eighth set from Eclipse. (Check out Series 9!)
Romance and Cigarettes (2005) directed by John Turturro
When looking over possible movie choices in the theater last Fall, someone said "How about Romance and Cigarettes?" which I quickly responded "Ah, no." Romance and Cigarettes is a movie that suffered from first impressions with me. The trailer portrayed a film that seemed to be aimed at an older and straighter demographic. I'm starting to think that was unfair. A musical by John Turturro deserves more of a chance. I'm not sure why this film is dated 2005, because it definitely opened locally in 2007.

Gone Baby Gone (2007) directed by Ben Affleck
Fortunately I have seen this. Gone Baby Gone may not be the best movie you will see, but it is not bad, and is willing to say a lot more than most movies. Casey Affleck is great as the guy next door, while the other roles seem like bit parts, at best. (Yes, even Amy Ryan who was nominated for best supporting actress.) Ben Affleck may have more of a career behind the camera.

We Own the Night (2007) directed by James Grey
I was going to check this out while it was in the budget theaters. Better yet, I'll check it out on DVD.

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