The Good Life

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

DVD Spotlight (July 1 - July 8)

By R. Kurt Osenlund, The Good Life film critic

Three of the best films of the year thus far are now arriving on DVD, and since the biggest movie in theatrical release -- "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" -- is a major bust, it's better to hang in and experience something of quality. These titles couldn't be more different -- an animated fantasy, a gritty comic book picture, a moody romantic drama -- but what they have in common is the foundational element of engaging cinema: great storytelling.

Dir. Henry Selick
Starring the voices of Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher
101 min. PG

Based on the book by Neil Gaiman, "Coraline" is a visionary fantasy film from Henry Selick, the director of "The Nightmare Before Christmas." Created in Selick's signature, painstaking style of stop-motion animation, the movie took years to complete, and the result is wondrous. Eye-popping and imaginative, "Coraline" -- about a young girl who enters an alternate, dream-like version of her own world -- is at once kid- and adult-friendly. (Available July 21)

Dir. Zack Snyder
Starring Patrick Wilson, Jackie Earle Haley, Malin Akerman and Jeffrey Dean Morgan
163 min. R

Though overly long, "Watchmen," the highly anticipated adaptation of the groundbreaking graphic novel, is a slick, beautiful and bad-ass bit of cinema. It marries the post-"Matrix" stylistics of films like "Wanted" and "V for Vendetta" with the unflinching worldview of pics like "The Dark Knight" to become one of the best comic book films ever made. "Who watches the Watchmen?" the film's tagline asks. I say, you should. (Available July 21)

Dir. James Gray
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow, Vinessa Shaw and Isabella Rossellini
110 min. R

Shades of Joaquin Phoenix's recent bizarre behavior spill into his lead performance in this love-triangle drama, and for that director James Gray should be most thankful. As man-child Leonard, Phoenix is loose, lively, unpredictable and fearlessly unbound. He's supported by an almost gleaming Gwyneth Paltrow and a wonderfully subtle Vinessa Shaw (an underrated actress who doesn't work enough). The story is smart, the character development is strong and the film entire is suck-you-in good. (Now available)


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