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DVD Splurge: July 2012
From squealing pigs to 4-inch families, we have you covered.
A Necessary Death
The Skinny: Faux documentaries are de rigueur right now, especially with indie horror films (we have the wild success of Paranormal Activity for that one. But this film, which purports to follow various suicidal individuals as they work towards, er, completion, has all the makings of a cult favorite.
Linkage: A Necessary Death
Breaking Bad: Season 4
The Skinny: By the fourth season of this ground-breaking AMC series, Vince Gilligan’s well-crafted show had already officially entered the ‘best show on TV’ discussions, but with this extraordinary season it rendered all the other arguments moot. Dark, daring and often shocking, the show — which reportedly has just 16 episodes left — has become one of the flashpoints of our generation.
Linkage: Breaking Bad: The Complete Fourth Season (blu-ray)
The Skinny: One of the more culturally impactful films of the last 40 years, John Boorman’s adaptation of James Dickey’s twisted tale of river rafting, pig squealing and eventual bloody redemption retains exactly all of its original unsettling power some four decades after its release. Now, released on Blu-ray, you can get freaked out all over again, but this time with superior picture and sound.
Linkage: Deliverance: 40th Anniversary Blu-ray Edition
Down By Law
The Skinny: Jim Jarmusch’s lonely comedy follows three men — including Tom Waits and Roberto Benigni — as they drift in and out of jail and down across Louisiana. For some, Jarmusch’s airy artiness and drier-than-vermouth wit was a turn off; for most everyone else, the film was a treasure of offbeat and iconic moments.
Linkage: Down By Law: Criterion Blu-ray Edition
The Skinny: A brilliant concoction of humor, political pathos and human ego, the story of a celebrated Israeli academic, the son of a spurned professor whose life’s work has seemingly gone for naught, is sneakily one of the best pictures of the year.
Linkage: Footnote: Blu-ray Edition
Harold and Maude
The Skinny: Hal Ashby’s quietly poignant film has grown ever more beloved since it’s original release in 1971. At once funny, sweet, and sardonic, the love story between a shy, suicidal kid and a hearty, free-spirited elderly woman remains as uncomplicated and honest as it ever was. Wes Anderson-era hipsters have their source material.
Linkage: Harold and Maude: Criterion Blu-ray Edition
The Skinny: Lyric and subdued, the film, which stars Ben Foster and Lubna Azabal as two star-crossed lovers who travel in Armenia and find themselves lost in the strangeness of it all, has all the makings of a slight and fey romance drama, but its fine acting and strong atmospheric awareness digs deeper than you might imagine.
The Skinny: Okay, well, there’s no hiding the fact that this $250 million-dollar stinkbomb did no favors to the ledger of Disney, who lost a bundle upon its release in March of this year. Still, might Andrew Stanton’s sci-fi saga be worth a second look someday, long after the hype of its financial meltdown has subsided? Look, I absolutely hated Flash Gordon when it came out, now it’s a cult classic and revered in pop cultural history.
Studio: Disney, and they wish it weren’t
Linkage: John Carter: Blu-ray Edition
The Skinny: Holocaust films tend to fall into two distinct categories: Stories of hope and redemption; or stories of untold misery and wretchedness. Consider this 2011 film from Agnieszka Holland one of the former category, but its certainly not without its perils. Based on a true story of a family who successfully held out from the Nazis by hiding in the sewers of their small Polish city, you’ll be very glad to see the light of day when it’s over.
Linkage: In Darkness: Blu-ray Edition
Louie: Season 2
The Skinny: In just two seasons, Louis CK has completely removed the slightly bad taste from his first foray into the televised sitcom (HBO’s misguided “Lucky Louie”). His FX show is innovative, unpredictable and totally unmatched.
Linkage: Louie: Season 2 (blu-ray)
The Skinny: Whit Stillman’s debut feature found a crafty wordsmith who managed to depict neurotic, deeply entrenched Manhattanites without completely stepping on the toes of Woody Allen. Erudite and bracingly honest, the film plays a bit as a comedy of manners in a world in which no one has quite decided on the rules.
Linkage: Metropolitan: Criterion Blu-ray Edition
The Skinny: Never let it be said that we don’t give equal weight to the family discs that come across our desk. Vincent Bal’s Danish film, based on a popular children’s book, concerns a cat who turns into a young woman in order to help protect her village. Expect much in the way of sweetness and feline-based references.
Studio: Music Box
Linkage: Miss Minoes
The Skinny: Sticking on the heartwarming tip, this tearjerking drama from Japanese filmmaker Yôichi Sai follows a young Labrador pup who learns how to become a guide dog for a very irritable and particular man, who feels he has no use for him.
Studio: Music Box
The 39 Steps
The Skinny: One of Alfred Hitchcock’s early masterworks, finds spies, murder and mismatched romance all cooking on the stove in one brilliant stew. It includes one of the great chase scenes — across the Scottish moors — of the first half of the 20th century.
Linkage: The 39 Steps: Criterion Blu-ray Edition
The Gold Rush
The Skinny: One of Chaplin’s all-time greats follows the Tramp as he tries to strike it rich in the mines of the Klondike. One of this country’s most gifted comedic performers at the height of his considerable powers.
Linkage: The Gold Rush: Criterion Blu-ray Edition
The Last Days of Disco
The Skinny: A hard-edged comedy from Whit Stillman that follows a young group of cultured Manhattan revelers as they wind down the free-flowing era of the ’70s and face the great unknown beyond their culture of loose abandon.
Linkage: The Last Days of Disco: Criterion Blu-ray Edition
The Secret World of Arrietty
The Skinny: Rounding out the list of family-friendly fare this month, the latest export from Hayao Miyazaki’s famed Studio Ghibli concerns a four-inch family living secretly in the house of a regular-sized family, that is until Arrietty, the daughter of the diminutive clan is discovered. Filled with child-like wonder and magic.
Linkage: The Secret World of Arrietty: Blu-ray Edition