This has become our most popular feature. Go figure.
By the time you read this, March 2010 will likely have gone out like a lamb, with April and the full arrival of spring coming just after it. Not an awful lot happened by way of movies and film in the last month, at least by way of new releases. A couple of films we expected to do better performed poorly at the box office, while others offered mild surprises. The coming months at least promise plenty of popcorn fare, including The Losers, the eagerly awaited Iron Man 2 and, this coming week, the less-eagerly awaited Clash of the Titans reboot.
The following is just a roundup of news about television and film stuff we didn’t get around to giving the blogging attention the stories probably deserved. There in no particular order, and they’re just our opinions. They may differ from your opinions. That’s okay.
1. March was noticeable for a couple of releases that we think fell short of our vague, informal box office expectations. We thought Green Zone would have excited the public more, though Repo Men, which looked to address health care the same way that Soylent Green addressed overpopulation, got the box office cold shoulder we were afraid it might. Green Zone seems a victim of the American movie audience’s continuing aversion to films about Iraq, while Repo Men was simultaneously under- and mis-promoted. Green Zone may also have been perceived, to quote a friend of ours, as The Bourne Redundancy.
2. For a while now we’ve had an idle theory that there exists an inverse proportion between the quality of a high-budget, high-concept movie and the degree of saturation which its marketing receives. If this theory is true, we already suspect Date Night may prove one of the worst movies of the year. The omnipresent, profoundly unfunny ads explaining the film’s premise were all over the dial this month, broadcast and cable alike, making us suspect that 20th Century Fox has little faith in its appeal spreading by word of mouth. For our part, we’re weary of stars Steve Carell’s and Tina Fey’s bland, self-congratulatory schticks, and can’t imagine paying to get what we can see, for free, every Thursday night.
3. Which is not say NBC’s Thursday night lineup is completely without laughs. Over the course of its first season, Community has quickly bloomed into one of the smartest and most daring shows on network TV. Critics fault its humor for being too reliant on cultural references and its own quirkiness; we see those issues as growing pains in a show with the potential to become a classic ensemble comedy along the lines of New Radio or even Cheers. NBC finally renewed it for a second season, several weeks after re-upping the far drearier Parks and Recreation.
4. FX’s new Justified has garnered rave reviews in just its first couple of episodes, praise with which we’re hard-pressed to disagree. Adapted from an Elmore Leonard short story, the almost flawless pilot established U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens’ (Timothy Olyphant, Deadwood) return to Harlan, Kentucky as punishment for an act that may or may not have been simple vengeance. Fans of Leonard’s complicated characters and wry black humor won’t want to miss the show; neither will fans of old-fashioned, uncomplicated TV-hero drama. It’s great fun, and like Community has the potential to only get better.
5. In last month’s Miscellaneous Debris we talked about the land war in Asia that was the casting process for The First Avenger: Captain America. Late this month it was announced that familiar comic book movie presence Chris Evans (The Fantastic Four) had finally won the role. An informal sampling of friends and associates (we asked around our local comic book shop) revealed the general mood surrounding the announcement amounted to vague relief. Nothing against Mr. Evans, who’s dependable if not exactly thrilling as an actor, but such long-awaited news ought to elicit more from its target audience than a collective “well, it could’ve been worse.”
6. Here’s something to make Gen-X’ers feel their age: Twin Peaks turns twenty years old next week. As argued in this panegyric from the British Observer website, the 30-episode surreal crime drama subtly revolutionized television drama, moving it away from the superficial episodics of the 80s towards the meatier, more literate fare that’s become the modern bastion of cable television from The Sopranos on down. Some of us were fans back in the day, and some of us still appreciate the never-ending reruns on the Chiller cable network. Nevertheless, the occasional campiness of the plots and acting are starting to show their age, and the early episodes are markedly more cohesive than the show’s troubled second season.
7. The industry isn’t promoting their release as well as they could, but several studios are quietly issuing some classic and near-classic fare to Blu-Ray at bargain basement rates. We’ve already found the 80s vampire cult favorite Near Dark and the Steve McQueen crime classic The Getaway for less than ten bucks each at the local big box retailers, with similar prices offered on several more films. Though the cumulative Blu-Ray library still has a long way to go before rivaling DVD in depth or quality, putting out such special-interest films at collector’s prices is a huge step in the right direction.
Here’s the trailer for The Getaway, not so much a preview as a seemingly random assortment of moments from the film:
If you’ve scored your own cheap Blu-Ray find, tell us about it in the comments section below.
8. Finally, an open plea to our readers: longtime DVD collectors will likely remember the heady days of the early 00′s, when the format’s swift replacing of the VHS medium caused a deluge of titles to appear on retail shelves and in the catalogues of online boutiques alike. Now, many lesser known titles that were given releases back then are going out of print and/or commanding exorbitant prices on eBay and throughout Amazon.com’s gallery of affiliate merchants. If you know of a reputable, dependable e-commerce DVD retailer, please let us know. Particularly, right now we’re looking for Fat City and The Duellists; on a larger level, we’re trying to find a dependable e-commerce merchant with a broad, deep back catalogue. Thanks.
We’ll be back next week with more reviews. Thanks for reading.
- Michael Kabel