DVD Traffic Report Omnibus: December 25, 2007 – January 15, 2008

If you follow consumer-electronics news and/or video-nerd gossip with even a casual interest, you know by now that the long-simmering format war between rival high-definition movie standards (HD DVD in one corner, Blu-ray Disc in the other) is, essentially, over. When Warner Home Video announced that it was ending support for HD DVD in favor of Blu-ray, it essentially put the writing on the wall — with only Universal and Paramount supporting the HD DVD format, it’s soon to go the way of the Betamax. Blu-ray has a fairly robust film library, but until those two hold-out studios make a decision about releasing their high-definition titles to the format, video nerds are going to have at least a few tough decisions to make. Right now, for instance, they have to decide whether to shell out for attractive titles like Universal’s Eastern Promises and Paramount’s must-have Zodiac: Director’s Cut in a soon-to-be-obsolete high-definition format, hold their videophile noses and buy the standard-def DVD versions, or simply rent the damned things for now. (For inveterate collectors, that last option isn’t much of an option at all.)

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Eastern Promises (Universal)

The life of a Russian gangster, with a heart. Forget about

the story, which is a slight thing, and more than a little obvious. It’s

elevated — from an auteurist perspective at least — by Cronenberg’s pedigree,

although it’s perhaps the most conventional of the director’s many

genre-tweaking exercises. But this expertly modulated B-movie exercise in

tension and release is really the Viggo Mortenson show — he spends most of the

movie with the kind of confident almost-grin on his face that suggests he’s the

only one who realizes that a joke is being told. It’s not until a punishing

action scene, in which Mortenson’s Nikolai fights for his life, nude, in a Russian

bath house, that he delivers the punchline. Like the superior A History of

Violence, Eastern Promises is a deliberately modest but sophisticated (and

quite entertaining) accomplishment.

Buy it from Amazon.com: Eastern Promises (Widescreen Edition) or Eastern Promises (Combo HD DVD and Standard DVD) [HD DVD]

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Zodiac: Director’s Cut (Paramount)
 
The differences between this version and the theatrical

release are fairly minor, but if you’re going to dig into (or revisit)

Fincher’s obsessive, nearly three-hour look at the unsolved mystery of the

Zodiac killer, you might as well go all the way. The complete film holds up to

repeat viewings, but this DVD is a nibbler’s delight, since the film can be

broken down into so many virtuosic sequences and incredibly ambitious VFX shots

that reward close examination. The digital cinematography by Harris Savides is

worth a close look, almost — but not quite — replicating the look of film and

still giving an oddly plastic feel to some of the imagery. (In my review, I

guessed that the cab seen from a crane shot in one of the film’s early murder

sequences was a CG model. I found out later that I was completely wrong. But

it’s still fascinating to consider the provenance of these images from a tech

point of view.) The two-disc release carries a full load of extras, including

two documentaries and the requisite Fincher commentary. (Original review.)


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3:10 to Yuma

(Lionsgate)

Director James Mangold’s western remake pits Christian Bale

against Russell Crowe, to predictably good effect. Worth a look for sure, but

ultimately hampered by a hyperactive climactic shootout and an unconvincing

role reversal for one of the lead characters. (Original review.)

Buy it from Amazon.com: 3:10 to Yuma (Widescreen Edition) or 3:10 To Yuma [Blu-ray]

Big Bang Love, Juvenile A (Animeigo)

Nathan Lee on Takashi Miike’s Big Bang Love, Juvenile A in

the Village Voice: “Big Bang Love joins Gozu and Izo in

the Miike pantheon of hard-edged ontological essays pushing at the limit of

representation. And at a mere 84 minutes, it’s one of his less punishing

works.” Is that a compliment?

Buy it from Amazon.com: Big Bang Love, Juvenile A

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Sunshine (Fox)

This epic SF movie about astronauts traveling on a suicide

mission to the sun almost reaches Kubrickian heights of terror and grandeur.

Somewhere along the way, Danny Boyle loses control and gets all Event Horizon

on us. (Original review.)

Buy it from Amazon.com: Sunshine or Sunshine [Blu-ray]

Post-War Kurosawa Box (Criterion Eclipse)

Criterion’s auteur-driven Eclipse label adds to its slate of

relatively obscure works by big-name directors with this collection of

seldom-seen early Kurosawa titles. At a list price of $70 for five feature

films, the Eclipse line-up addresses concerns that Criterion discs are

too damned expensive — in return for buying the lesser-known stuff in bulk, you get a

discount. Up next: Lubitsch and, hmm, William Klein.

Buy it from Amazon.com: Post-War Kurosawa Box – Eclipse from Criterion (No Regrets for Our Youth, One Wonderful Sunday, Scandal, The Idiot, I Live in Fear)

Syndromes and a Century (Strand)

This is one of a number of highly acclaimed 2007 films I

have yet to get around to. I should admit that 2005’s Tropical Malady baffled

me, so I suppose I have some work to do where Weerasethakul is concerned.

Buy it from Amazon.com: Syndromes and a Century

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The Kingdom (Universal) or The Kingdom (Combo HD DVD and Standard DVD) [HD DVD]

The road to hell etc. (Original review.)

Buy it from Amazon.com: The Kingdom (Widescreen Edition)

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Resident Evil: Extinction (Sony)
Milla, OK. But how good could it be?

Buy it from Amazon.com: Resident Evil – Extinction (Widescreen Special Edition) or Resident Evil: Extinction [Blu-ray]

480_shoot-dvd.jpgShoot ’Em Up (New Line)

My brain still hurts.

Buy it from Amazon.com: Shoot ‘Em Up or Shoot Em Up [Blu-ray]

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