Like so many of us, the DVD scene is vulnerable to the summertime slow-downs, and this week proves the point with one of those light release schedules that may not bring any heavy-hitters (no, The Dark Knight isn't here yet), but instead delivers a fair number of sunny titles if you're willing to look beyond the obvious blockbusters.
For instance, our own MaryAnn Johanson gives the covert prison-camp A-OK sign for The Counterfeiters, the gripping based-on-a-true-story thriller of Nazi intrigue, and the film that just happened to win last year's Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
Dawn and Cargill will be giving us their reactions to Nim's Island and When I Find the Ocean, both new to DVD this week. This week Cargill also provides us with a two-fer lowdown on Shutter and Asylum, a pair of generic, low-grade horror films that, apparently, were even worse than we thought they'd be when we sent them to him. Sorry, Big C. We owe you one. (Well, a bunch, actually.)
TV on DVD includes Sunset Tan, which Dawn previewed under duress last week, and Paramount's big boxed set, Star Trek: Season Two: Remastered, which brings some of the best eps of the original seminal series back to disc, this time with beautifully enhanced transfers -- really, they're stunning -- and new digital special effects. The episode "The Doomsday Machine" (Capt. Kirk and William Windom battle the Giant Space Waffle Cone) is now a whole new experience. Be still, my geekish heart!
Other TV on DVD this week brings us Robin of Sherwood: The Complete Collection and Foyle's War, Set 5, both from the indispensible pros at Acorn Media. Both represent the best of their breed. Robin of Sherwood is probably the finest interpretation of the Robin Hood legend since Errol Flynn. Certainly it's richly textured and engrossing, not to mention one of the best TV series of the 1980s.
Foyle's War continues the adventures of police detective Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen), who reluctantly remains on duty in his quiet English seaside village while World War II rages across the Channel. The battle comes to Foyle in its own way as he probes war-related cases of murder, espionage, and treason. Mystery blends with history, moral complexity, and period atmosphere in this first-rate -- and addictive, I'm here to tell you -- British series. This final-season edition of the popular PBS series holds three feature-length mysteries -- Plan of Attack, Broken Souls, and All Clear. (For a bit of background, try the series' thorough website at www.foyleswar.com.)
Getting a reissue upgrade to widescreen and home-theater sound is Lonesome Dove, the epic four-part miniseries from 1989. It's adapted from Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about two former Texas Rangers (Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones) who, after the Civil War, drive their cattle from Lonesome Dove, Texas, to the wide-open spaces of the Montana territory, hoping to establishing a ranch there.
For headier fare and a touch of that French je-ne-sais-quoi, Lionsgate delivers André Téchiné: 4-Film Collector's Edition, with four titles from the French master of elegant and emotionally charged, yet unsentimental, melodrama. Highlighting the set are two cult favorites that have long been out of print -- My Favorite Season (1993) and Wild Reeds (1994). Also here are the first U.S. DVD release of I Don't Kiss (1991) and, carried over from Lionsgate's recent Catherine Deneuve set, Hotel America (1981).
Among the other new DVDs hitting shelves this week, look for:
Meanwhile, Harry Knowles has his AICN weekly DVD release list up. So do DVD Talk, DVD Beaver, Peter Martin (Cinematical), Slant, Sean Axmaker (MSN), Noel Murray (Los Angeles Times), Paul Clark (Screengrab), PopMatters, and The Onion A.V. Club.
Paul was reluctant to let Andy Milonakis use what he squeamishly calls "the ninja word" until a visiting Eddie Murphy (who was dating producer Tracey Edmonds at the time) convinced him that it was okay. That's right: Paul used the man behind Norbit to gauge what was and wasn't offensive in a raunchy black comedy.
A new triple-disc edition of The Inglorious Bastards is this week's New York Times DVD feature by Dave Kehr.
Now that Quentin Tarantino's long-gestating remake of Enzo G. Castellari's 1978 Italian action film, "The Inglorious Bastards," finally seems on the verge of going into production, Severin Films has issued a lushly appointed, superbly engineered three-disc edition of the original. A product of that brief, heady period when Italian genre movies challenged Hollywood for dominance of the Western world's drive-ins and grindhouses, "The Inglorious Bastards" is a slapdash but appealing riff on the themes established by Robert Aldrich's consummately cynical film "The Dirty Dozen" in 1967.
... Making movies hasn't been this much fun for a long time now, one reason watching them may seem even less so.
Recently Film.com writer Sacha Howells asked a question about that Tarantino redo that Kehr mentioned.
Over at The New Yorker, Richard Brody kicks the tires on the recent Criterion edition of Jacques Tati's comic car-culture satire, Trafic.
Filming on location, Tati depicts highways as open wounds in flowering fields and stages a long, brutal chain reaction of car accidents. He ends the film with an agonizing gridlock punctuated by a stream of black umbrellas, as if holding a funeral for himself. Yet he is nonetheless transfixed by the sleek visual sublimity of modern life, watching highway lines and their kaleidoscopic reflections in sheet metal flow by with a quasi-metaphysical perfection.
We didn't use the phrase "quasi-metaphysical perfection," but we liked it too.
Meanwhile, our discussion on "to collect or not to collect" continues. (Rather surprisingly, I must say. Apparently you folks have been thinking about this issue.)