5. Batman: Under the Red Hood — Bruce Timm’s Batman: The Animated Series knocked me for a loop when I first saw it back in the ’90s, and I’ve been a huge fan of his many DC Universe animated projects in the years since. The recent series of animated DVDs that he’s been masterminding have been a bit hit-or-miss, but this film (adapting a storyline from the Batman comics written by Judd Winick) is really tremendous. The story has a GREAT hook: Batman’s life is uprooted when he discovers that the new crime-lord in Gotham City just might be his former partner, Robin. What unfolds is a surprisingly dark, surprisingly violent tale. Whenever Mr. Timm returns to Batman, I’m a happy camper, but this grim little film really grabbed me. I think it’s a particularly great depiction of the Dark Knight Detective. A superlative voice cast (including Bruce Greenwood, Neal Patrick Harris, Jensen Ackles, Jason Isaacs, and Futurama’s John Di Maggio) is just the icing on the cake. (Click here for my original review.)
4. Family Guy: It’s a Trap! – The folks at Family Guy conclude their trilogy of extended episodes parodying the three original Star Wars films with this warped version of Return of the Jedi. The animation is absolutely gorgeous (it’s shocking that I would write that about an episode of Family Guy, but believe me, it’s true. These artists have painstakingly recreated shot after shot from Return of the Jedi. Their version of the Battle for the Second Death Star is astounding). The jokes are very funny. (I was particularly taken with their depiction of the speeder-bike chase sequence, but on tricycles.) It’s Family Guy Star Wars. What more could I ask for? (Click here for my original review.)
3. Grindhouse (Blu-Ray) – I was very afraid that this would never see the light of day, but at last one can now own the original theatrical version of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s double-feature, complete with all of the fake trailers. I love the extended versions of the two films that were released on DVD a few years back, but I’ve been aching to be able to experience what I saw (and so loved) in theatres back in 2007. Ignore the nay-sayers — this film is genius, and it is phenomenally entertaining viewing. It’s not for everyone (there’s a lot of sex and violence), but damn do I think it’s a lot of fun.
2. Apocalypse Now: Full Disclosure (Blu-Ray) – Apocalypse Now is one of my favorite films. I didn’t … [continued]
It’s been a busy month here, but that hasn’t stopped me from checking out a bunch of DVDs recently, new and old:
The Conversation — Released in 1974, this masterpiece was written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola between The Godfather and The Godfather Part II. Gene Hackman stars as twitchy, secretive surveillance specialist Harry Caul, whose life is up-ended by a seemingly-innocuous conversation that he is hired to record. Confidently directed by Coppola at the height of his abilities, the film is a perfect study of a slow burn as we watch Hackman’s character gradually fall to pieces. This is Hackman’s film, without question, but it’s also fun to see the great John Cazale (Fredo in The Godfather) and an incredibly young Harrison Ford in supporting roles. The film is also notable for the contributions of master editor Walter Murch (American Graffiti, Apocalypse Now) who created an incredible sound-scape that plays with sound and dialogue in some incredibly inventive ways. The bravura opening sequence, in which Caul and his team records the titular conversation, is staggering — like Caul, we attempt to follow the couple and their conversation, but keep getting distracted by people talking, music playing, and a myriad of other background noises, with the conversation itself flittering in and out of our perception. It’s really quite astonishing. Everybody loves The Godfather these days, but I feel that The Conversation is a film that has fallen out of the popular consciousness. Do yourself a favor and help remedy that by checking out this brilliant film!
Band of Brothers — Speaking of masterpieces, there is this 2001 HBO miniseries executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Adapted from the book by Stephen Ambrose, the series follows the men of Easy Company (of the US Army 101st Airborne Division) from their training in 1942 through to the end of the second world war. I have watched this series through four times now since it was released, and each time I watch it I am just as over-come by the power of the story of these extraordinary heroes. The production quality of this mini-series is unbelievable — each episode is really its own mini-movie. The vistas are stunningly beautiful, and the action is gut-wrenchingly intense. There are few movies. let alone TV shows, that are able to stage combat sequences with as much ferocity. Over the ten episodes we follow and grow to love an enormous ensemble of characters: Damian Lewis as Richard Winters, Ron Livingston as Lewis Nixon, Donnie Wahlberg as Carwood Lipton, Scott Grimes as Donald Malarkey, Michael Cudlitz as “Bull” Randleman, James Madio as Frank Perconte, Neal McDonough as “Buck” Compton, Frank John … [continued]