New in Home Entertainment – May 31, 2011

New in Home Entertainment

May 31, 2011

True Blood: The Complete Third Season
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

When the Sopranos left the air a few years back, there were many besides myself that thought HBO was in a bit of a pickle.  After a bit of dry spell, they came back with a vengeance with True Blood.  While the first two seasons of the hit vampire show introduced us to the world of Louisiana vampires and demons, the third went in a brand new direction: werewolves.  Sookie (Anna Paqin) had a fun enough time being fought over by two bloodsuckers (Stephen Moyer and Alexander Skarsgard), but in season three a new hairy hunk was thrown into the mix (Joe Manganiello).  And if you thought seasons one and two were crazy, the third gets wilder and naughtier.  I can hardly wait to see what season four throws at us come June 26.  A

Rated R for disturbing images, language, some sexual content, nudity and drug use
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

He might have been haunting in No Country for Old Men, but now Javier Bardem is haunted in Alenjandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s latest film about a man from Barcelona who struggles not only to provide for his children, but with his connection to the afterlife as well.  Just like Inarritu’s other films, Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel, the film is a challenge to watch but worth every minute spent viewing.  With the absence of long time writing partner and collaborator Guillermo Arriaga, there is definitely a different approach to his characters and his filmmaking than audiences will be used to, especially since this film follows one central storyline rather than several.  But many will find this to be an easier film to follow, although it is equally as difficult in regard to subject.  The biggest reason to watch this film – Bardem’s powerhouse performance which won him a best actor award at Cannes as well as an Oscar nomination.  A-

Once Upon a Time in the West
Rated PG-13
Available on Blu-ray

While this classic western isn’t as popular as Sergio Leone’s other masterpiece The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, (it’s still ranked #20 on IMDB’s top 250 list) you can tell five minutes into the first act that this might be his most influential.  Having been years since I’ve seen this tale about a widow trying to stay alive in the old west while some really bad dudes want her property, I had forgotten how much this looks like a Quentin Tarantino film.  I would guess that Tarantino watched this over and over again, studying it while trying to put together his own stories in his head.  This particular pic is unique in that Leone built the film around the score.  He had long-time collaborator Ennio Morricone compose a magnificent piece of music and then shot the movie with the music in his head.  In this regard, the music becomes an entire other character, enhancing the movie well above where the story could have taken it.  It’s not my favorite western, but it’s awfully darn good and very evident that there can be a true art in western pictures.  A-

American Graffiti
Rated PG
Available on Blu-ray

While not a western, American Graffiti, which is also making its blu-ray debut, has a lot in common with Once Upon a Time in the West.  When George Lucas pitched his classic American car story, he did so as a musical.  He had dozens of classic American songs from that period in his head and wanted to play them in the background while telling the story of teenagers in the 60s whose lives were about to change after their high school graduation.  The film takes place in the span of one night and in the process invented a new sub-genre of teenage comedies.  I’m not a big fan of the film, but I can certainly appreciate what it did for cinema.  Without American Graffiti there would be no Dazed and Confused, American Pie, Harold and Kumar or even Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.  Graffiti also introduced the concept of Music Supervisor, creating a new standard by which many films are judged today: the soundtrack.  B+

Drive Angry
Rated R for strong brutal violence throughout, grisly images, some graphic sexual content, nudity and pervasive language
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D

While Nick Cage has become quite famous for taking on some bad films in order to pay off his nasty spending habit, occasionally we get a guilty pleasure gem like Kick Ass and now Drive Angry.  Drive Angry follows a man that has escaped from Hell in order to track down the cult that has killed his daughter and kidnapped his baby grandchild in order to sacrifice her.  While the film was meant to be watched in 3D, it is still fun in its 2D format.  Sure, its more entertaining to have Cage shoot off someone’s hand only to have said hand fly into your face, but if you haven’t made the move to a 3D TV yet, you’ll still get the point and you won’t have to wear the nerdy glasses.  This is by no means a good movie.  I’m not trying to trick you into believing it is.  But if you just want a guilty pleasure, mindless grindhouse pic to keep you entertained after a long and hard week, this will fit the bill just fine.  B-