Saturday, June 27, 2009

Recent DVD(s) to look up.

Thanks for checking out my section on DVDs. Most people who know me well, know that i'm an avid DVD collector, almost rabid to a degree. I've been collecting since high school. I enjoy to purchase and add to my library your average hollywood pictures and normal all around great films (as well as guilty pleasure from time to time), but what I really look for also, are things you don't normally find. I'm going to review a few recent purchases that I've had the privilege of watching and giving you; the reader, some insight on what I enjoyed.

1. Waltz with Bashir - Directed by Ari Folman

Unfortunately in America, we tend to be oblivious of a lot of atrocities that go on in the world around us. Usually because since it doesn't involve our country, we are pretty selfish to turn a blind eye and instead litter our news coverage with inept celebrities and news about things that really do not matter in the least bit. So the subject matter of Waltz with Bashir is automatically going to be a subject in which most domestic viewers will know absolutely nothing about. In 1982, Sabra and Shatila were two refugee camps that were being controlled by the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) and this was in the middle of a heightened war that was centralized in Lebanon. The film's approach to the subject matter could've easily been another run of the mill documentary that you've seen on many other occasions. However, Folman's approach was that of innovative, creative, and overall devastating. Shot in real time and later all actors are animated (like Linklater's 2006 film A Scanner Darkly), the film approaches the subject in the form of an interactive documentary, for both the protagonist (director Folman) and the audience. We are listening to the testimonials of people involved in these atrocities, all the while seeing these actions recreated in a form of animation that is truly captivating. The documentary/narrative film involves Folman involved at one point in this war as a soldier, bewildered of the fact that he can't remember his participation in this war. He then begins to visit and speak to other comrades that stood by him to piece together the events that unfolded, to find out his true involvement. The fast paced nature of the film runs at a 90 mins that seems too quick (not in a bad way of course) and the overall impact of the film is unparalleled. The film itself is impressive but this review is also about the DVD too. The features are few and far between but Sony Pictures Classics makes the time worthwhile by giving you insight on things that are really interesting. There is a great segment on the creation of the film starting from storyboards to real time filming and to the eventual animated process that follows to give you the finished product of what you see. The commentary is enlightening if not educating as well, giving you further insight on the events the film takes you on a journey through. The making of the film itself is also short but sweet. Overall, the DVD (and film of course) is a good buy and a great film to watch alone and with friends. It's subject matter that can definitely bring a reflective thought within yourself after viewing, and great conversation between others as well. I highly recommend this DVD.

2. Gran Torino - Directed By Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood returns again to the director's chair with another film just as special as some of the legendary films he's created in the past few years. This one had more attention mainly because it was also he return the silver screen as an actor and sadly, his apparent final screen performance. Gran Torino is a metaphor about the changing of the times, racism and tolerance. Walt Kowalski is a Korean War Veteran dealing with the next chapter in his life, Solitude. Walt's wife passes away and he continues to move on in his life in the best way he knows how. The neighborhood around him continues to change (for the worse in Walt's eyes) but he refuses to move. Like the stern brick wall character he is, he drinks his beer, banters with his dog, and continues the household chores and keeps living. Until one night when the neighbor Thao is caught attempting to steal his Gran Torino in an apparent gang initiation. Walt's life becomes involved with these new neighbors through a series of different events that make him question his bigoted past and whether life is really worth living in hatred. As he understands his new neighbors, he forms a bond with the youngest one Thao in a father/son style relationship that clearly wasn't ever established with his own son. Trouble continues to be a face in Walt's neighborhood as he deals with the Korean gang that keeps bothering Thao and his family, so Walt feels compelled to protect them. Gran Torino is a beautifully shot, wonderfully paced story from Eastwood; who brings another character that will live in the annals of film history. The dialogue is amusing as much as it is shocking, but ultimately in all the rough wooden exterior that this film possesses, you'll find that Eastwood has put more heart into this film than expected, which resonates within you by the start of the film's end credits. Being that this was one of Eastwood's most successful films critically and financially, you can't help but feel cheated with the DVD's release. Eastwood has been a staple of the silver screen for more than 4 decades, and being that this is his final acting job is pretty big deal. You would expect maybe a retrospect on his career, or the preparations he may have taken for his last role in front of the camera. You dont... Maybe you'd want to know why he chose this as his last role? You won't know... What about his approach for casting the film? Why he chose to use actual Hmong people with no acting experience what so ever for the film? Sadly, we won't know. All we get is a simple short documentary on the history of the Gran Torino car (which is somewhat interesting within itself) and another documentary on america's obsession with the muscle car and a festival that celebrates such automobiles. I wouldn't be surprised if the film gets a stronger release later (because that's how companies are now a days, look at the Dark Knight's pitiful DVD release). It just seems as though this DVD wasn't worth the delayed wait. Where most films generally make the DVD shelves in about 3 months after it's theatrical release, this film took 6 months. Kind of like opening a package on christmas day that you knew was sitting there since july...and it's clothes from Wal Mart. The film is fantastic, the special features however are nearly close to being easily forgotten.

Thanks for reading, feel free to comment and I'll be reviewing more DVD soon.