Pick Of The Week: New
In 2004, Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda made the devastating Nobody Knows, a fact-based docudrama about a 12-year-old who looks after his younger siblings when their mother abruptly abandons them. Kore-eda’s I Wish isn’t nearly so bleak, but it affirms his talent for getting naturalistic performances out of small children. The title refers to the hoped-for volcano eruption that would reunite a grade-school-age boy with his brother after years of separation following their parents’ divorce. The A.V. Club’s Noel Murray found it “full of life, heart, and funny little details about daily existence, as it meanders its way toward moments of real profundity.” (No special features.)
Pick Of The Week: Retro
They Live (Shout! Factory)
Jaws aside, this is the week that Blu-ray justifies itself as a format. As part of its invaluable “Scream Factory” series—previous releases include Halloween II and III, and The Funhouse—John Carpenter’s politically charged cult favorite They Live finally gets the deluxe treatment it richly deserves. A howl of protest at the end of the Reagan ’80s, with plenty of relevant haves-and-have-nots themes for the Occupy set, Carpenter’s clever mix of action and science fiction stars “Rowdy” Roddy Piper as a mullet-headed laborer who leads the resistance against a hidden alien race that controls the populace through subliminal messages. The DVD/BD includes a Carpenter/Piper commentary track, interviews with Carpenter and actors Keith David and Meg Foster, and a documentary about the film’s technical aspects.
Do Not Break The Seal
Entourage: The Complete Series (HBO)
The first season of HBO’s Entourage was a minor pleasure, following the low-stakes adventures of a bunch of pals who follow their actor friend to Hollywood. The guys got in and out of trouble, Jeremy Piven stole scenes as the agent, and the whole thing was palatable in half-hour nuggets. Then as Entourage kept going and going and going, with nothing ever changing except the increasing noxiousness of the characters and the howling vapidity of their lives. But for the low, low retail price of $300—deeply discounted to $140 on some sites—all eight seasons can be masochistically yours.
The Amazing Spider-Man (Sony)
Does anyone even remember this reboot of the now-retired Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire franchise? It came out in the summer and there’s evidence that it made upwards of $260 million domestically, but it seems like it never happened.
Criterion issued Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece before on DVD—and we reviewed it—and a new Blu-ray transfer ports a wealth of special features over from the original disc, including Donald Ritchie’s commentary track, a Robert Altman interview, and the two short stories that inspired Kurosawa’s rumination on truth and justice.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (Disney)
The 20th anniversary edition of The Muppet Christmas Carol includes a Muppet commentary and sing-alongs, as well as a commentary track by director Brian Henson, who honored his late father’s legacy with mostly welcome version of the Charles Dickens classic.
Sunset Boulevard (Paramount)
The new Blu-ray of Billy Wilder’s brilliant dissection of Hollywood gathers extras from the 2002 and 2008 DVD editions of the film, which are mostly a barrage of 15-minute featurettes, plus an Ed Sikov commentary track. Still, a sterling presentation of the movie itself is enough—admit it, you weren’t going to watch the rest of that stuff anyway.
Arthur Christmas (Disney)
The Aardman Animation team has had a little trouble reconciling its whimsical claymation roots with the speed and polish of computer animation, but Arthur Christmas comes close to getting the balance right. Its story of Santa’s bungling son trying to save the Christmas spirit is a little too busy with gags, but it’s got plenty of Aardman heart.
Your Sister’s Sister (IFC)
Lynn Shelton’s Humpday ranked an impressive #7 on The A.V. Club’s collective Top 20 list of 2009, an honor owed to Shelton’s unusually strong improvisational technique and her funny and insightful rendering of a crazy dare taken on my longtime male friends. Her follow-up, according to our own Keith Phipps, starts promisingly, but “[pays off] its investment in its characters with a whopper of a contrivance, a montage sequence long enough to train Rocky twice, and a conclusion that tidies up all that carefully cultivated chaos much too neatly.”
The Pact (IFC)
Horror films have been attempting with mixed success to square the tools of our technologically advanced modern life with tried-and-true genre conventions. The supernatural premise involves a woman who deals with a ghostly presence in the wake of her mother’s death. According to our critic Noel Murray, the film is “an atmospheric haunted-house mystery that mixes classically constructed shocks into the world of today.”
Fire With Fire (Lionsgate)
Bruce Willis, Rosario Dawson, and Josh Duhamel in a straight-to-DVD thriller. What could possibly go wrong? An upcoming Nathan Rabin “Dispatches From Direct-To-DVD Purgatory” will no doubt explain.