This Week in Blu-ray / DVD Releases: Lincoln, Killing Them Softly, Veep ...
► Usually when an actor is a lock for Best Actor, it’s because of a showy performance which dwarfs everyone else (think Jamie Foxx for ‘Ray’ nine years ago). What’s remarkable about Daniel Day Lewis as LINCOLN is how restrained and understated he is in most every scene, letting his words carry the movie. The same goes for director Steven Spielberg, our most blockbuster of all directors, making a politically top-heavy biopic focused on the changing of minds instead of the assassination of the 16th president. There’s lot of talk, but what’s being discussed - the end of slavery in the United States - makes for a nuanced and intense film in its own way. Four-disc version goes deep into Lewis’ performance.
► Andrew Dominik’s KILLING THEM SOFTLY got the same raw deal ‘Drive’ did two years ago: People expected a fast-paced crime movie based on the trailer, and instead got a thoughtful character study. Set against the backdrop of the 2008 financial collapse and presidential election, Brad Pitt is a killer brought in to clean up the shitstorm after two low-lifes rob a mob-run card game. Lots of talk, lots of subtle moments which don’t register right away. A sorely misunderstood movie which belongs in the early ‘70s.
► Take pity on the poor writers of ‘Saw IV’ (and V and VI and VII). The world has moved on from torture porn, but they have so much left to say. Like THE COLLECTION, the sequel to 2009’s ‘The Collector,’ about a mute sicko who puts his victims through a series of rigged rooms in a house of horrors. This one’s more of the same, with a team of mercenaries sent to rescue a rich guy’s daughter from the sick chamber.
► HBO’s VEEP came out of nowhere to become one of last year’s funniest, most sharply-written comedies. The premise is basic: What if a deluded, clueless woman like Sarah Palin actually became vice president? Julia Louis Dreyfus nails it, crushing the ‘Seinfeld Curse’ for good, but it’s the supporting cast that really shines, led by Matt Walsh as her hapless director of communications and Timothy Simons as the White House liaison.
► If it catches you in the right mood, IRONWEED will ruin you. Based on William Kennedy’s Pulitzer-winning novel, it is one of the most depressing, gutpunch movies I’ve ever seen – the first time I saw it, I had to go for a long walk afterwards to keep from losing it. Jack Nicholson plays a disgraced father who accidentally killed his son while drunk back in 1910. He’s now a homeless bum who finds a drinking buddy in an aspiring singer, played with heartbreaking brilliance by Meryl Streep. Her fantasy sequence, singing in a saloon, is one of the most devastating moments of her career. Two legends at the top of their game in this lost ‘80s classic.
► A few weeks after the blu-ray debut of ‘Westworld’ comes its considerably less great sequel, FUTUREWORLD. Set two years after the amusement park disaster, a reporter (Peter Fonda) is invited to check out the new and improved park and its control room staffed entirely by robots. Because that worked so well last time. Weirdness ensues (cloning machines, samurais, Blythe Danner making out with Yul Brynner in his final film appearance). No surprise, original author Michael Crichton had nothing to do with this.
► If ‘Ultra Man’ was the poor kid’s ‘Godzilla,’ the laughable JOHNNY SOKKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT was few rungs below that. And you know what? Shit didn’t matter, because when you’re a kid, any show with giant robots fighting giant monsters was cool (Hmm, they should make a movie about that some day). Here’s all 26 episodes which ran in 1967 and 1968, and no, they haven’t aged well. That’s part of the charm.
► From ‘The Last Exorcism’ gang comes THE FRANKENSTEIN THEORY, in which a documentary film crew heads to the arctic to prove a theory that Mary Shelley’s most famous creation is alive and well and kickin’ it in the snow. This one owes much to the superb ‘Troll Hunter.’
Also out this week:
SO WHAT DVD/BLU-RAYS ARE YOU GUYS STOKED ABOUT THIS WEEK?!