January 2011

The Ten Best DVD Releases You (Probably) Missed in 2010
by Loey Lockerby

the road1. The Road
This adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's apocalyptic novel did poorly at the box office, but it is an improbably beautiful film, thanks to its stark visuals and the performances of Viggo Mortensen and newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee.

2. Best Worst Movie
Sometimes, the story behind a film is more interesting than what's onscreen, which was never truer than in the case of the 1990 disaster-turned-cult-hit "Troll 2."  One of its stars, Michael Stephenson, has a hilarious time exploring why in this documentary.

3. The Chaser
Na Hong-jin's Korean thriller barely got a U.S. release, which makes its recent appearance on DVD one of the year's true finds. Its relentless pace and gritty atmosphere easily make up for any lapses in narrative logic.

cronos4. Cronos
Before he hit it big with Blade II and Hellboy, Guillermo del Toro directed this offbeat 1993 vampire film in his native Mexico. A new Criterion DVD release offers a chance to see just how confident del Toro has always been with his twisted fairytale sensibility.

5. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
If you could plug directly into the brain of an insecure comic book fan, you'd get this crazy, awesome blast of a movie, in which Michael Cera's title character can only get the girl of his dreams by defeating her super powered evil exes.

6. A Single Man
Colin Firth may win an Oscar for The King's Speech, but anyone who saw his turn as a gay professor grieving his lover's death knows he should already have one of those little statues. Director Tom Ford captures the early '60s milieu beautifully, but it's Firth who owns every frame.

7. Moon
Great low-budget sci-fi is a rarity in this age of Transformers and Spider-Man reboots, and Duncan Jones' quiet futuristic mindbender slipped right past most moviegoers.  See it for evidence of how intelligent filmmaking — and a star like Sam Rockwell — can trump CGI monsters any day.

the road8. In the Loop
Both deeply cynical and completely honest, this satire of international politics could have been depressing. While it hardly inspires optimism about our "leaders," it is simply too sharp, energetic and profanely funny to leave you with anything but a smile.

9. The Informant!
As the exclamation point will attest, Steven Soderbergh opted not to take a dry approach to the true story of ADM whistleblower Mark Whitacre. Matt Damon is fantastic as the sneaky/noble/delusional Whitacre, whose antics were literally stranger than fiction.

10. Fantastic Mr. Fox
Technically, it's a kids' movie, but Wes Anderson gives his adaptation of the Roald Dahl book a distinctly grown-up style. Its imaginative stop-motion animation is a stunning work of art all its own.

Loey Lockerby can be contacted at lrl94@aol.com.

The Ten Best DVDs (to pick up when The Social Network is sold out)
by Dan Lybarger

1. Red Riding Trilogy
This gripping three-part British miniseries chronicles the Yorkshire Ripper murders of the 1970s and ‘80s, but in the process reveals a police corruption scandal that’s more frightening than any of the crimes themselves. Andrew Garfield, Rebecca Hall, Mark Addy, Paddy Considine and David Morrissey are excellent in three interlocking stories that have to be seen together.

2. The Square
If you listen closely throughout this Australian thriller, you might hear the devil chuckling in the background as the characters continually dig themselves into more hopeless predicaments. Worth renting not only for the terrific film itself but also for a darkly hilarious short by the same director.

blackdynamite3. Black Dynamite
If the Man has got you down and your VHS copies of Shaft, Superfly, Dolemite and I'm Gonna Git You Sucka are all worn out, Black Dynamite is here to save the day. This lovingly made parody of Blaxploitation film is consistently hilarious and has an amusing Kansas connection.

4. Paths of Glory/The Night of the Hunter
Both of these wonderful films have only been available in stripped-down DVDs. Now, they are finally in the deluxe format they deserve. The former is Stanley Kubrick’s first masterpiece, a grim tale of French soldiers charged with cowardice because their general sent them on a fool’s errand in the quest for another star on his uniform. The latter is Charles Laughton’s only film as a director, featuring a terrifying Robert Mitchum as phony preacher who will kill women and children in his search for stolen cash.

5. Mary and Max
This oddball stop-motion animated entry from Australia from director Adam Elliott is disturbing and definitely not for tots, but at the same time it manages to be more amusing and touching than a lot of stateside cartoons. It comes with Elliott’s Oscar-winning short Harvey Krumpet.

6. Darkness on the Edge of Town/The Promise
This box set of music from Bruce Springsteen’s 1978 landmark album includes a great documentary about the turbulent recording of the album. You get to see “The Boss” lose his cool and some frank recollections from him, his band mates and his former manager, whose acrimonious split with Springsteen almost wrecked both of their careers. There’s also hours of vintage Springsteen performance clips that have been previously available, legally.

mine7. Mine
This look at pet owners trying to get back their animals after Hurricane Katrina is guaranteed to leave you misty-eyed with joy. Director Geralyn Pezanoski avoids voiceover or obvious manipulation when she depicts the struggles between the animals’ original owners and their adoptive families. Both have clear rights to be with their furry loved ones, so the film raises some crucial issues that should be considered in planning for disasters to come.

8. The 1985 World Series on DVD
This box set includes all seven games of the series, and even if out motley local team hadn’t won, it would still be worth catching. Unlike many championships, there’s actually some tension because both teams are evenly matched. It’s also refreshing to see George Brett outside of his viral video fame.

9. Car Bomb
Former CIA Agent Robert Baer hosts this chilling documentary about a weapon he claims is more powerful than nukes, mainly because it has been used far more often and to deadly effect. In addition to his own knowledge (he’s made a few car bombs), Baer goes all over the world talking with bombers and the people who try to stop them. He’s also smart enough to avoid offering a solution to a problem that won’t go away any time soon.

10. Stones in Exile/Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rolling Stones
The former is a revealing look at the recording of Exile on Main Street; this new documentary reveals that the Stones’ success has had as much to do with discipline as it does with decadence. Keith Richards candidly recalls his past substance abuse but also admits that he’d work on a song for two days before breaking to eat or sleep. Occasionally, the party stopped. The other film is a concert documentary shot at the peak of their musical prowess.

Dan Lybarger can be contacted at Lybarger@efilmcritic.com.

Loey Lockerby can be contacted at lrl94@aol.com.
Dan Lybarger can be contacted at Lybarger@eFilmcritic.com.