P. T. Anderson’s Oscar-winning oil opus There Will Be Blood hits shelves this week, so if you missed Daniel Day-Lewis’ astounding turn as the prospector with a heart as black as crude in theaters, now’s the time to play catch up. Also new to DVD are the musical spoof Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Leonardo di Caprio’s environmental doc The 11th Hour, the parking lot thriller P2, and more.
Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the most consistent young auteurs around (his films in order: Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love) so it was no surprise when his latest, There Will Be Blood, proved predictably exceptional. The epic character study of oilman Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis in an Oscar-winning role) striking it rich in turn-of-the-century California captivated the hearts of critics with Robert Elswit’s handsome Oscar-winning photography; Plainview’s greed-fueled descent into bitter loneliness — and his rivalry with evangelist Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) — mesmerized their minds. All of which makes There Will Be Blood, released this week in both single- and double-disc versions, a must-own for any true cinephile. We recommend the 2-disc release, of course, which includes deleted scenes and a government-produced vintage silent film about the oil industry scored anew by Radiohead guitarist (and TWBB composer) Jonny Greenwood.
While Walk Hard suffered the ignominious label of “box office bomb” following a dismal and surprising theatrical run last December, the Judd Apatow-produced musical comedy deserved a better fate, according to critics. Perhaps the time for glory is now. Co-writer and director Jake Kasdan, whose sharp industry satire The TV Set also opened quietly earlier in 2007, skewers the musical biopic genre (Walk the Line, Ray) with the rollercoaster rock ‘n roll life of Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly, who does his own rocking and rolling), a doughy musical prodigy with a tragic past who goes from rockabilly to psychedelia to Dylanism and everything in between as fame, fortune, groupies, and drugs facilitate his rise and fall. The best part of this DVD release — besides the inclusion of American Cox: The Unbearably Long, Self-Indulgent Director’s Cut — is the better-than-average bonus menu stuffed full of backstage and specially-produced extras.
Hollywood’s attempts to address the Iraq war have thus far fallen flat with ticket buyers, a trend that Lions for Lambs didn’t help reverse. Robert Redford directs and co-stars in this talky anti-war drama, penned by Matthew Michael Carnahan (brother to Joe and writer of The Kingdom) and also starring Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise. In three intertwined stories, a professor, his student, two soldiers, a journalist, and a politician hash out ideas about war, democracy, the media, and terrorism; the question is, do you care? While it’s a noble attempt at provoking discourse, critics say Lambs is not the stuff of great cinema. A director commentary on the DVD might be the film’s most useful feature.
Unless cleavage and gore rank higher than plot and realism on your movie checklist, P2 is likely to disappoint. In any case, it can’t be a good thing to be unfavorably compared to Saw and Hostel (“[P2] at least does its predecessors the service of making them look masterful by comparison,” wrote the Toronto Star‘s Geoff Pevere). The yuletide tale of a career woman (Alias‘ Rachel Nichols, whose eleventh hour addition to that cast couldn’t save the series) trapped by an obsessive parking garage attendant (Wes Bentley, who really deserves better roles than this) on Christmas Eve garnered the scorn of most critics, though powerhouses like Roger Ebert gave it their thumbs up. Watch P2 to scope out first time director Franck Khalfoun, who appeared in producers Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur’s High Tension, and will next co-script a remake of the 1984 slasher Silent Night, Deadly Night.
Two families are ripped asunder when one fatal hit-and-run drives two fathers toward a final conflict in Terry George’s adaptation of the novel of the same name. George (In the Name of the Father) previously directed the South African drama Hotel Rwanda to multiple Academy Awards nominations; his follow-up here, starring Rwanda actor Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffalo (and Jennifer Connelly and Mira Sorvino as their respective wives) might have been going for awards season gold but fell far short of the mark. Critics called this dramatic thriller insufferably dark and dull, and worse — predictable.
Leonardo di Caprio hosts a gaggle of experts in this alarming documentary about the Earth’s depleting resources. Unfortunately for producer di Caprio, who doubtless took on the project to lend his celebrity power to the cause, the film is a bit of a bore. That said, wearied scribes appreciated the thought behind the effort, if not so much the final product; for actionable reasons to go green, you might be better off watching a PowerPoint presentation by Al Gore. Over an hour of additional featurettes on how to do your part to help Mother Earth accompany the disc.
New York filmmaker Jason Kohn crafts a lurid, sobering peek into wealth and corruption in Brazil in this festival favorite, which nabbed the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance last year. Stylized camera work exposes the country’s surreal reality by focusing on, among other subjects, a politician-owned frog farm that serves as a money-laundering front; a plastic surgeon who specializes in reconstructing the cut-off ears of kidnap victims; and a businessman who opts to bullet-proof his car. A filmmaker commentary accompanies the release; find out why Kohn calls Brazil’s cycle of street violence and political corruption akin to “a non-fiction RoboCop.”
‘Til next week, Qvod cibvs est aliis, aliis est wenenum.