Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shopping with Sheldon

(Scroll over any film title for the original full length Black Sheep review.)

It is but a few days before Christmas and hopefully you've already tackled all your big ticket items and all you have left to purchase are some awesome movie stocking stuffers. Where do you start though? It seems like every movie released in the last little while is a must-own but you can't get them all. This is where I might be able to help you out.

My brother describes the gifts I give him as half what he wants and half my attempt to educate him on what he should want when it comes to film. I thought why not try the same approach with all of you. I have before me five blockbuster Blu-rays that I have paired up with five lesser known titles you might not have ever considered. Get both, why don't you? They'll love you for getting them the movie they wanted and they will thank you later for the the movie they may have never seen. That said, I am still waiting for that "thank you" from my brother.

THE TOWN is Ben Affleck's second directorial effort and what a resounding success it was. This Oscar hopeful is part of 2010's resurgence of the adult drama at the multiplex. It is a taut thriller that is as well written as it is acted by the impressive ensemble, including Affleck himself, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Black Lively and Jeremy Renner, who has been receiving a few awards season nods for his turn as a loose cannon bank thief in the bank robbery capital of the USA. THE TOWN includes an extended director's cut on Blu-ray and Affleck also takes you on a tour of his hometown, Boston, where the film takes place. He is obviously pretty proud of this one too as he also recorded a commentary track for the film. Dad will love you for it. (Warner Bros.)

While you're already getting your Affleck fix with Ben, why not keep it going with some Casey Affleck as well? The younger Affleck gave us his directorial debut this year, the controversial mockumentary, I'M STILL HERE. Of course, the controversy itself stemmed from speculation that the film, which was being billed as a documentary about Joaquin Phoenix's retirement from acting and new career as a hip hop artist, was in fact a big fabrication. It was eventually announced that it was a big hoax but that doesn't make the film any less engaging. The experience is unlike any I've had this past year and I'm surprised Phoenix isn't getting more awards season love for his dead-on portrayal of his own persona. Includes commentary with Affleck and Phoenix which should be fairly juicy. (Maple Pictures)

I vowed not to watch any more of these vampire movies after that last disaster but I admit it, this TWILIGHT thing fascinates me. The third installment in the series, ECLIPSE, is definitely better than the last, NEW MOON, but that isn't saying much really. Still, instead of a whiny teenage girl pining for her undead boyfriend for two hours, there is plenty more action this time out, including a pretty solid battle climax that should satisfy even the biggest of non-believers. I still fully believe that this TWILIGHT series is going to ruin a whole generation of young women who are obsessed with them, by getting them to subscribe to a completely unrealistic idea of what love is, but it's too late to stop that from happening so why bother? The Blu-ray includes commentary from stars, Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, as well as picture-in-picture options and a 6-part documentary for all you Twihards out there. I can't believe I just used that word. (eOne)

The reason I paired this indie drama with the massive vampire movie is because I think that all the girls out there who think Bella has such a hard life need to take a look at what a hard life really is. I am thrilled to see how much awards season attention is being lavished on WINTER'S BONE, the tense Debra Granik movie about a young girl (Oscar hopeful, Jennifer Lawrence) who must scour the Ozarks to find her meth head dad so that he can show up at his court date and save the home she shares with her incontinent mother and two younger siblings from being possessed by his bail bonds officer. The entire ensemble is chilling and what Lawrence must endure shows her incredible promise as a young actress. This is a part of America that is rarely seen and thanks to all the year end love it is receiving, it may actually get the recognition it deserves. (Maple Pictures)

This doesn't happen too often for me. I sometimes see a movie, like INCEPTION, that is universally loved but yet that I feel reasonably tepid toward. I enjoyed INCEPTION in theatres but what I didn't like about it, took a great deal away from me. Usually when I give a movie like this a second chance, I feel the same way I did when I first saw it. When I watched INCEPTION again recently though, I was floored by how little the things that ruined it for me the first time out mattered to me now. At the time, I wanted it to be more emotionally engaging and less of a straight heist caper but watching it and allowing it to be exactly what it is was a trip and a half. There is no specific commentary track from Christopher Nolan but he does take you through some of the key moments in the film in what is known as Extraction Mode. (Warner Bros.)

I paired this lovely Italian film with INCEPTION because I AM LOVE is absolutely breathtaking. While the latter's beauty stems mostly from visual trickery, the beauty of I AM LOVE simply oozes from every aspect of its creation, from the sumptuous cinematography to the deep poetry of the screenplay. Tilda Swinton stars as the matriarch of a prominent Italian family that is going through a serious period of transition. Her children are going off to college or taking over the family business and it isn't long before she sees how little she knows of her former self. Director Luca Guadagnino contributes a commentary track with Swinton and delivers one of the most genuine works of art I was fortunate enough to experience all year. (Mongrel Media)

This past summer, the three people who are closest to me in my life all told me in the same weekend that they had been to see THE A-TEAM and loved it. I had not wanted to see it that much but thought it might be entertaining. So when I heard such fun things about it, I was very happy to have received a screener for it in the mail. The morning after I watched THE A-TEAM extended cut, I called each of the people who had recommended it and yelled at them. I do believe this would have worked better on the big screen as the action was somewhat chaotic at home but more importantly, I just didn't buy into these elaborate plans that always came off perfectly. Still, obviously quite a few people out there liked it so if you know someone who likes mindless action, and I do mean mindless, it could work out for you. (20th Century Fox)


Now, this indie comedy has absolutely no connection to THE A-TEAM but CYRUS is another 20th Century Fox title and they have been so good to me this year that I cannot crap all over one of their titles without pushing another. CYRUS is hilarious, in a very dark way. John C. Reilly is middle aged and still not over his divorce from Catherine Keener, which took place over 7 years ago. He lives like a slob and would have do so by himself for the rest of his life if he didn't meet Marisa Tomei at a party. The two instantly hit it off but that means trouble for her son, Cyrus (Jonah Hill), who has a complicated relationship with his mother. These are faltered, damaged people and they do not shy away from that but there is hilarity to be found in ruin too. (20th Century Fox)

TOY STORY 3 is the biggest film of 2010 and with very good reason. This closer to the TOY STORY franchise was destined to disappoint but instead it blew everyone away and will likely follow its $1 billion+ success worldwide with an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. It is at times hysterical and at other times, downright devastating. Pixar proves once again that genuine emotion transcends the realm of the physical and new levels of depth can be reached in objects as simple as toys. Disney has released a 4-disc set that contains 2 Blu-rays, a DVD and a digital copy. Special features include the brilliant Pixar short film, DAY & NIGHT, as well as many a detailed featurette about how the film came to be and an interactive trivia game. (Walt Disney)

Well, as it turns out, there is absolutely nothing thematic about buying the summer indie hit, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, in conjunction with TOY STORY 3. I just think that the two films are so infectious that anyone would be fortunate enough to own both of them. Perhaps if you are attending a holiday party, you can pick both up for friends who have kids of their own. The parents would then have something watch with their kids as well as something to watch after the kids have gone to bed. This family drama has been praised for its modernity and realism, its starkly original screenplay and its subtle, humanist direction from Lisa Cholodenko. And of course, who can forget that incredible cast - Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson. (Alliance)

There you have it. Get out there and get shopping! I hope Sheldon and I have been able to help make your holiday a little happier. And in case you wanted to get Sheldon and me a little something for our tree, I will gladly accept a copy of EASY A and/or SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD. wink, wink.

Source: blu-ray.com


Mette said...

Buying DVDs as christmas presents is always a good idea... especially, because I'm always happy, when I get some!

Inception sounds quite interesting, maybe I should watch it sometime.

Black Sheep said...

Inception is very interesting .. It has definitely left its mark on 2010.

These were the films I procured during the holidays for myself ...

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Easy A
The Bourne Series
Fantasia / Fantasia 2000
Lost in Translation

It was a good year.