It’s been quite some time since so many major titles were released on one day, and while most of them (even the ones I’m covering in more detail) aren’t exactly the kind of films you would consider must-see, there’s still something for everyone. From Oscar nominees and indies to a re-issue of an old favorite, let’s not waste any time in getting to my picks of the week.
With the exception of the feature films, I’ve never really been a fan of “Star Trek” (especially “The Original Series,” as it’s now being dubbed), so when the first season arrived on my doorstep a few weeks before JJ Abrams’ big screen reboot, I decided to give the series another shot. As it turns out, I feel the same way about the sci-fi classic now as I did before, but Paramount has done such a good job with the Blur-ray release that I’m actually considering holding on to it. For starters, both the original broadcast version and a new remastered version (with updated visual effects) of all 29 episodes are available in high definition, and though purists may want to stick with the former, the remastered episodes are almost too gorgeous to pass up. The DTS 7.1 audio track is equally impressive, while nearly all of the extras from the HD-DVD release (like the Starfleet Access video commentary tracks) has also been included. Though diehard fans likely already have the series in several different formats, it’s hard to deny that the Blu-ray release is the best version on the market. Here’s hoping it sells well, because if there’s one thing that would benefit from the HD treatment more than classic movies, it’s classic TV shows.
There are a few things you should know before going into “JCVD.” First, it’s not like most Jean-Claude Van Damme movies in that it’s a low-budget drama – which means that with the exception of a cool tracking shot that opens the film, there’s very little action. Second, while Van Damme’s performance has been acclaimed as award-worthy (TIME Magazine is even quoted on the cover), it’s not. With that said, however, “JCVD” is one of the best surprises of the year. Van Damme stars as a fictional version of himself, a direct-to-DVD action star who’s caught up in the middle of a bank heist that the cops think he planned. Though he’s essentially just playing himself, Van Damme proves here that he isn’t just the Muscles from Brussels, but a regular guy who lucked his way into Hollywood. In a scene towards the end of the film (where Van Damme truly breaks the fourth wall in order to deliver a heartfelt speech), the actor proves that he’s just that – an actor. That likely won’t impress loyal fans that would rather just see him kick ass, but for everyone else, it has to be seen to be believed.
Let’s get one thing straight: Stephen Daldry’s “The Reader” was far from one of the best movies of 2008. How it even managed to secure a Best Picture nomination over more worthy films like “The Dark Knight” and “The Wrestler” is beyond me, and it’s a decision that will likely become more and more baffling in the years to come. The same goes for Kate Winslet’s leading, I mean supporting, I mean leading turn as a German war criminal who strikes up a torrid love affair with a young boy. If Winslet was going to win for anything, it should have been for her slightly less ridiculous role in “Revolutionary Road.” That doesn’t mean the film isn’t worth seeing as least once, though (if for nothing else, than for newcomer David Kross’ impressive performance), and those that do pick it up on Blu-ray will be happy to discover a plethora of extras including a making-of featurette, a short interview with Daldry and Kross, a behind-the-scenes look at Winlet’s extensive make-up process, and a whopping 42 minutes of deleted scenes.
Also Out This Week: