Whether because of the Fourth of July holiday here in the States, or by some other random circumstance, there just weren’t very many choice releases this week on home video. to give you an idea, on a good week, Amazon’s list of new releases will feature some “adult” videos somewhere around page 15 or so, far after the most viable choices have been listed; this week, they showed up on page 6. Having said that, we’ve put together a short list for you anyway, and there are a couple here that we’re sure some of you have been waiting for. So take a look at what’s out, and keep your fingers crossed for a better selection next week!
Stieg Larsson was a Swedish journalist and writer who died in 2004 of a heart attack, but three novels he wrote were posthumously published, beginning with 2005’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” The first part of a trilogy, “Dragon Tattoo” became an instant bestseller, and based on the popularity of the book, a film adaptation was made and released in 2009. The film was also a great success, and it was released in the US in March this year. Despite the critical acclaim it received, the film itself failed to generate much heat at the box office, so now we find it hitting home video shelves this week. The story revolves around a forty-year-old unsolved murder, and the uncle of its victim who is convinced the murder was perpetrated by someone within the family. In order to help research his hunch, he joins forces with a disgraced journalist and a tattooed computer hacker to discover the truth behind the crime. Though the film’s length and brutal violence might turn some viewers off, critics felt that actress Noomi Rapace’s performance as the titular character was gripping enough to make the film worth checking out, and at 86% on the Tomatometer, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is Certified Fresh. If you didn’t get the chance to catch this when it was in theaters, now’s your chance to check it out, as it hits shelves in DVD and Blu-Ray this week.
Tom Ford is probably better known by fashionistas as the American designer who turned Gucci around and subsequently became an icon in his own right, but in 2009, he ventured into the realm of cinema by financing and directing an adaptation of the 1964 novel “A Single Man” by Christopher Isherwood. The film version stars Colin Firth in the title role, a homosexual British professor named George Falconer working and living in Southern California and dealing with the recent death of his partner in a car accident. The audience is treated to one day in the life of Professor Falconer as he mulls over the events of his life and contemplates committing suicide that evening. As one might expect, A Single Man faithfully recreates the style of the era (1960s America) with impeccable flourish, and Ford’s attention to period detail is outstanding. But it’s more than a pretty movie, as critics felt there was enough depth in the examination of life, love, and death to make it a film worth watching. For his part in the film, Firth won a Best Actor Golden Globe and secured a nomination for the Best Actor Oscar, and his performance is one of the strongest reasons to see A Single Man.
Antoine Fuqua has had success in the realm of gritty, urban crime dramas with Training Day, and working with a cast as distinguished as Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, and Ethan Hawke, one would be quick to assume that he had a winner in Brooklyn’s Finest. And one would be partially correct. Shifting between three storylines, Brooklyn’s Finest alternately focuses on a veteran cop on the verge of retirement, an undercover cop struggling to reconcile his loyalties, and a narcotics officer trying to do right by his family. The bad news here is that the film makes use of common clichés we’ve come to expect of police thrillers like this, even including Fuqua’s own Training Day, which also starred Hawke. The good news is that the cast is so good, it’s almost worth watching them operate within the confines of the rehashed plot and all too familiar intrigue. Brooklyn’s Finest only managed a 43% on the Tomatometer, but it can still serve as a decent crime thriller… if you haven’t seen too many of them before.
Now here’s something for those of you into old school special effects. For those unfamiliar with Ray Harryhausen, he’s the special effects guru who put the “clash” in the original Clash of the Titans, the one who animated the swordfight between Kali and Sinbad in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, the one who brought the dinosaurs to life that would chase Raquel Welch throughout One Million Years B.C.. Harryhausen isn’t the father of stop-motion animation, but he certainly made sure the technique was utilized for several decades in some of the most memorable epics on film. One such film was 1963’s Jason and the Argonauts, a retelling of the story of the mythical Greek hero and his quest for the Golden Fleece. Of particular note here are the sequences that Harryhausen oversaw, which include a battle with a six-headed Hydra and a swordfight with seven animated skeletons. This was before the era of CGI, but there is a definite charm to effects seen here, and Argonauts is a bona fide cult classic because of them. This week, it arrives for the first time on Blu-Ray, and you can pick it up and enjoy those effects in high definition, even it sort of takes away from the atmosphere a little bit.
Buster Keaton is best known for his phenomenal work during the Silent Film era of the 1920s, and his 1927 film The General is widely regarded as one of the best films ever made, period. When the Silent Era ended, however, Keaton continued his career, working with MGM and Columbia Pictures in differing capacities. After some stormy years working within the studio system that left him utterly drained, Keaton made a couple of films in Europe, then came back to Hollywood during the 1930s for a series of comedic shorts he made for a company called Educational Pictures. These films, made from 1934-1937, marked a return for Keaton to the rapid-fire comedies he was famous for, this time with sound incorporated. Fourteen of the sixteen collected here have never been available on DVD before, and the two-disc set contains over five hours of material and special features like a stills gallery and film notes. This could be a must-have for fans of Keaton and the early days of filmmaking, and it’s available this week.