The Good Life

Thursday, August 14, 2008

DVD Spotlight: August 14-21

By R. Kurt Osenlund, correspondent and film critic

Too busy to head out to your local multiplex and drop $10 to watch the Joker upstage Batman (in "The Dark Knight") or Robert Downey Jr. do blackface (in "Tropic Thunder")? While I highly recommend the former, not to worry. Some of the best films to come out in 2008 are now on DVD and you can enjoy them at home for half the price of a theatrical ticket.

BE KIND REWIND (now available)

Jack Black and Mos Def star in fanciful director Michel Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind")'s whimsical, throwback comedy about a pair of buddies who unwittingly erase every tape in in one of New Jersey's last VHS-only video stores and replace them with guerilla-style versions they made themselves. When their fun, new creations become a hit in their community, it draws much-needed attention to the soon-to-be-defunct business, giving its owner (Danny Glover) a chance to revive it. Tailor-made for film buffs (esp. those who remember the days of videocassettes fondly) and offering an unexpected message of the unifying power cinematic art, "Rewind" is highly enjoyable entertainment, no matter the format.

IN BRUGES (now available)

Although Bruges (pronounced "brooj"), Belgium is the butt of most of the jokes in this gritty, inventive buddy yarn from Martin McDonagh ("Six Shooter"), the majestic tourist spot makes for excellent atmospere and proves a nice contrast to the whiz of bullets and f-bombs that fly through the film. Collin Farrell gives his best performance to date as a tormented hitman repenting the murder of a child and also being targeted himself. Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes costar as Farrell's character's artsy partner and maniacally hilarious boss, respectively. But the titualr location is the star of the movie and will likely cause many viewers to dial up their travel agents.

SMART PEOPLE (now available)

A movie made for and by its title, "Smart People" is a witty dramatic comedy that benefits much from its perfectly cast, talented lead stars. Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ellen Page ("Juno"), and Thomas Haden Church ("Sideways") get into the skin of four characters who, despite their intelligence, have a lot to learn about themselves and each other. Page and Haden Church follow their recent Oscar nominations with similarly dynamite work, Quaid plays to his strengths as a disgruntled and world-weary college professor, and Parker proves why she's one of the few American actresses whose brains match her beauty. Though it received lukewarm reviews during its theatrical run,"Smart People" has hardly a single bad moment and deserves to find new life on DVD.

THE COUNTERFEITERS (now available)
Winner of the 2007 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, this morality tale, a true account of a 1936 Nazi counterfeit operation ("the largest in history"), is directed by Austrian filmmaker Stefan Ruzowitsky and stars Karl Markovics, August Diehl, and Devid Striesow. A clever, conspiratory thriller set around WWII concentration camps, "The Counterfeiters" is at once an engaging history lesson and a welcome respite from summer blockbuster bombast.


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