New on DVD

New on DVD

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence and some partial nudity
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Hugh Jackman reprises his role as Wolverine in this Marvel spin-off that attempts to tell the tale of how Wolverine came to be Wolverine.  When his brother (Liev Schrieber), who becomes Sabretooth, kills his true love, Wolverine sets off on a quest for revenge.  This wasn’t quite the box office hit it was predicted to be, so I suspect a lot of folks are waiting for the dvd to see if it was wise to wait.  I would say yes it was.  This is definitely a renter, and should see quite a strong life on the video shelves.  It’s not that the acting is bad.  The characters are all quite likable and full of charisma.  And while many could blame the writing and directing, this is one of those situations where I would probably blame Hugh Jackman for getting too heavily involved in the production, and the studios for allowing it.  First off, the director, Gavin Hood, was all wrong for the project.  His brilliant Oscar winning film Tsotsi proved that he could do drama with the best of them, but big budget action?  No way.  The writers also were either too unfamiliar with the genre or too close to Jackman.  This has worked in past films, but failed miserably here.  Overall, this movie provides a mediocre superhero film that neither moves nor excites the audience.  C

Crash: Season 1
Unrated but contains adult content
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

With the success of HBO and Showtime original programming, Starz has gotten into the ring with this original series spin-off of the Oscar winning movie by Paul Haggis.  Dennis Hopper and D.B. Sweeney headline this group of talented actors in this ensemble show about loosely intersecting dramas that take place around the city of Los Angeles.  I was pleasantly surprised how well written and directed the show is.  After all, I have a distaste for TV shows stolen from the big screen.  But this program is really only related by name only, and it works for the same reason that the film did: the world is full of tension and discord.  Crash has just found a nice way of bottling it up and helping you to appreciate that your life doesn’t have that much drama.  Hopefully.  B+

Easy Virtue
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, brief partial nudity, and smoking throughout
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Director Stephan Elliott (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) brings to life this screen version of the Noel Coward play about what happens when a young British man (Ben Barnes) brings home his new modern American bride (Jessica Biel) to meet his family (Kristin Scott Thomas and Colin Firth) in the early 20th century.  The movie itself is very funny and the performances are great as you can well imagine with this cast.  Here’s the rub – I felt like the stuffy British family with this whimsical American under Elliott’s more-than-modern directing.  Films like this should have a classic look, unless they are going full out Baz Luhrmann.  This film sometimes keeps a classic look, just like Biel has at times, but then lots of modern nuances pop off the screen.  I found this unsettling, and rather annoying.  The difference here is that the audience, unlike the family, is not stuck with the movie.  They can choose whether or not they want camera tricks and rock music.  I’d rather not.  I’d like to see this film played straight without the showing off just for the sake of it. 

Hero
Rated PG-13 for stylized martial arts violence and a scene of sensuality
Available on Blu-ray

If you were watching the Olympics this summer and were wondering what movies the director and composer of the opening ceremony had made – well – this is the best of them.  Hero, directed by Zhang Yimou and with music composed by Tan Dun, stars Jet Li, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi and Donnie Yen.  Using an innovative method of storytelling, the pic follows a nameless warrior (Li) as he embarks on a mission of revenge against the tyrants that massacred his people.  This Oscar-nominated movie (Best Foreign Language Film, 2002) has some of the best cinematography, usage of colors, musical scores, and battle sequences that I have ever seen.  I consider it a must-own for blu-ray.  I do wish there were a few more special features.  While there is a nice documentary on action sequences with Jet Li and Quentin Tarantino, I think a commentary or music only track would have been great for this special edition.  Miramax is also releasing several other martial arts flicks on blu-ray this week, including Iron Monkey, which I highly suggest you check out.  A+

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