Monday, June 19, 2006

DVD Tuesday: Syriana, Eight Below, A Good Woman & More! - Xoanon @ 15:17 PST
Syriana: George Clooney earned an Oscar for his performance as a disillusioned CIA agent doing deep cover missions in the Middle East when he stumbles on to a conspiracy surrounding the royal family of a small oil-rich country mired in greed and complicated by the international competition for its oil. The very complicated plot involves an idealistic American economic analyst in a Swiss corporation (Matt Damon) and a tricky merger of American energy interests with a whiff of malfeasance. It's hard to put these puzzle pieces together -- they don't fit with the easy snap that we're used to in American movies -- but the message of political and corporate self interest at the expense of third world stability and democracy is unmistakable. It's a pointed thriller of modern geopolitical realities, and it's pissed off about it. Director Steven Gaghan earned an Oscar nomination for his screenplay, inspired by the book by real life CIA veteran Robert Baer (the part is played by Clooney). Jeffrey Wright, Chris Cooper, William Hurt, Mazhar Munir, Tim Blake Nelson, Amanda Peet, Christopher Plummer and Alexander Siddig costar. Details: Color, 128 mins, Warner, Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1. Supplements: "Make a Change, Make a Difference" featurette; "A Conversation with George Clooney" interview featurette; Deleted scenes; Theatrical trailer. Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1) and French (Dolby Digital 5.1). Optional Spanish, French and English subtitles. [Order]

Night Watch: (Russia) Timur Bekmambetov's Russian blockbuster is a fantasy noir set amidst an urban underworld subculture of sorcerers, shapeshifters, seers and vampires in a depressed modern Moscow. The opposing forces of Light and Dark are held in check by a wobbly truce policed by supernatural cops from each side, and even the ostensible good guys, a seedy vice squad that uses humans as disposable bait in supernatural sting operations, are sketched in shades of gray. The familiar elements of modern mythmaking are all here, refreshed by the intriguing shift in culture and setting. It's a bit arch but the imagery is striking and the style impressive. Based on the novel by Sergei Lukyanenko, it's the first in a trilogy and it shows: it ends on a twist that sets the stage for an epic conflict to come. Features both the original Russian version (with creative subtitles that have the presence of an incantation taking physical form) and an English dubbed version. Details: Color, 114 mins, 20th Century Fox, Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1. Supplements: Side A (DVD9):; Widescreen English Version; Extended Ending ("The Roof") with optional commentary by director Timur Bekmambetov (option to view in English or Russian audio); Sneak Peak at upcoming Night Watch sequels; Bonus Trailers; Side B (DVD5):; Widescreen Russian Version; Audo commentary by director Timur Bekmambetov (subtitled in English, Spanish, French); Text commentary by novelist Sergei Lukianenko (subtitled in English, Spanish, French); ; ; . Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), Russian (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.1 Surround) and Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.1 Surround). Optional Spanish and English subtitles. [Order]

The Hills Have Eyes: French director Alexandre Aja's remake of Wes Craven's 1977 grunge-horror classic is remarkably faithful to the original thriller about a modern American family stranded in the desert and under attack by a feral cannibal clan, a savage, warped reflection of itself. Aja directs with a stark, stripped-down style in a in a desolate desert wasteland and adds a backstory that recalls the atomic monster mashes of the 1950s which, while clever and even visually witty, also tends to distract from the primal core. It's violent and effectively harrowing, less for the gore than the primitive savagery, directed with flair. Available in separate theatrical R and unrated editions. Details: Color, 108 mins, 20th Century Fox, Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1. Supplements: Commentary by director/co-screenwriter Alexandre Aja, art director/co-screenwriter Gregory Levasseur and producer Marianne Maddalena; Commentary by producers Wes Craven and Peter Locke; "Surviving the Hills: Making of The Hills Have Eyes" documentary; Production diaries; Music video. Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1) and Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.1 Surround). Optional Spanish, French and English subtitles. [Order]

Eight Below: Paul Walker is the ostensible star of the Disney adventure, inspired by the true story of a team of sled dogs stranded in the Antarctica (previously dramatized in the Japanese film Nankyoku Monogatari), but it's the dogs who take center screen in the survival nature drama. Bruce Greenwood, Moon Bloodgood and Jason Biggs co-star in the human side of the cast and Frank Marshall directs. Available in separate letterboxed and full screen editions. Details: Color, 120 mins, Disney, Widescreen anamorphic, 2.40:1. Supplements: Deleted Scenes with audio commentary by director Frank Marshall; "Running with the Dogs: The Making of Eight Below" featurette. Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1) and French (Dolby Digital 5.1). Commentary by director Frank Marshall and producer Pat Crowley and Commentary by director Frank Marshall, star Paul Walker and director of photography Don Burgess. Optional Spanish, French and English subtitles. [Order]

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada: The big screen directing debut of Tommy Lee Jones is a magnificent modern western, an odyssey turned last rites for a friend. His unhurried and focused direction pares away the dense storylines of the script as the determined cowboy (Jones in a marvelous performance) and his captive (Barry Pepper) ride out of society and into the Mexican desert and punctuates it with dark humor and compassion. By journey's end, Jones comes to something primal and pure, a film both rough and poetic, laconic and passionate, a beautiful, low key drama with a primal core and least self congratulatory film about racism, redemption, mortality and self-discovery you'll in many a season. Julio Cesar Cedillo, January Jones and Dwight Yoakam co-star and the original script Guillermo Arriaga ("Amores Perros" and "21 Grams") won the Best Screenplay award at Cannes in 2005. Widescreen and full screen versions on the same disc. Details: Color, 121 mins, Sony Pictures, Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1. Supplements: Viewable in both 2.35:1 Widescreen aspect ratio, and 1.33:1 Fullscreen aspect ratio; Commentary by director/star Tommy Lee Jones and actors Dwight Yoakam and Jennifer Jones. Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1). Optional Spanish, French and English subtitles. [Order]

A Good Woman: Helen Hunt is the notorious Mrs. Erlynne, mistress to the millionaires, and Scarlett Johansson is the naive Meg Windermere in the adaptation of Oscar Wilde's "Lady Windermere's Fan." Set in 1930s Italy, in the luxurious villas of the coastal playground of the rich and aristocratic, it co-stars Tom Wilkinson, Stephen Campbell Moore, Mark Umbers and Milena Vukotic. Mike Barker directs. Details: Color, 93 mins, Lionsgate, Widescreen anamorphic, 1.78:1. Supplements: Director and producer commentary; Trailers. Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1). Optional Spanish and English subtitles. [Order]

The Omen: Collector's Edition: (1976) What better time to be reminded how much better the original devil child horror is than the remake? Gregory Peck and Lee Remick are the well-placed parents handed a baby born at the 6th hour of the 6th month of the 6th month (after their own child is stillborn). They end up raising the anti-Christ prophesized to bring about the End of Days (and who practices on people close to home, just to get and early). David Warner and Patrick Troughton are priests out to stop the devil spawn who end up with memorably creative deaths and Billie Whitelaw co-stars. It's still one of Richard Donner's most memorable directorial efforts and Jerry Goldsmith's Oscar winning score is a highlight. The new 2-disc set features a commentary and numerous featurettes and interviews. Details: Color, 111 mins, 20th Century Fox, Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1. Supplements: Disc 1: ; Widescreen Feature Film with Commentary by director Richard Donner & editor Stuart Baird; Commentary by director Richard Donner & writer/director Brian Helgeland (screenwriter of Mystic River); "Curse or Coincidence" featurette; "Jerry Goldsmith Discusses The Omen Score" interview featurette; Theatrical Trailer; Disc 2: ; Introduction to the special edition of Omen by director Richard Donner ; "666: The Omen Revealed" featurette; "The Omen Legacy" featurette; "Screenwriter's Notebook" featurette with screenwriter David Seltzer; Deleted Scene - Dog Attack with commentary by director Richard Donner and & writer/director Brian Helgeland; "An Appreciation: Wes Craven on The Omen" interview featurette; Still gallery. Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 1.0), French (Dolby Digital 1.0) and Spanish (Dolby Digital 1.0). Optional Spanish and English subtitles. [Order]

What's Eating Gilbert Grape: (1993) Johnny Depp is the frustrated Gilbert Grape, trying to take care of his autistic brother (Leonardo DiCaprio) and obese mother (Darlene Cates, hold down a grocery store job and hold his family together in the drama directed by Lasse Hallstrom from a script by Peter Hedges (adapting his own novel). Mary Steenburgen is the housewife whose attentions keep Gilbert going until he meets a new girl (Juliette Lewis) who changes his outlook. John C. Reilly co-stars. Details: Color, 128 mins, Paramount, Widescreen anamorphic. Supplements: The characters of Gilbert Grape: Interviews with Peter Hedges, Lasse Hallstrom, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Juliette Lewis, Darlene Cates and Mary Steenburgen; The voice of Gilbert Grape: Interviews with author/screenwriter Peter Hedges, director Lasse Hallstrom and Johnny Depp taking a closer look at the creative evolution of bringing the book in to the feature film experience; Why we love Gilbert Grape: Director, author and select cast talk about their favorite moments making the film; Original theatrical trailer; Photo gallery. Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1) and English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround). Commentary by director Lasse Hallstrom and writer Peter Hedges. Optional English subtitles. [Order]

L.A. Story: 15th Anniversary Edition: (1991) Wacky TV weatherman Steve Martin fumbles his way through the crazy culture and romantic landscape of Los Angeles with the help of an electronic freeway sign in the offbeat romantic comedy written by Martin. Victoria Tennant, Richard E. Grant, Marilu Henner, Sarah Jessica Parker co-star and Mick Jackson directs. Details: Color, 98 mins, Lionsgate, Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1. Supplements: "The Story of L.A. Story" featurette; "The L.A. of L.A. Story": An Interactive Map of the Popular Sites Filmed for L.A. Story; Deleted Scenes; Outtakes; Original Theatrical Marketing Materials from 1991. Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1) and English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround). Optional subtitles. [Order]

The Sacketts: (1979) Louis L'Amour personally introduces this landmark mini-series, adapted from his novels, and the gentle rhythm of his easy voice sets the unhurried tone and pace of the loping, rambling, tough-minded tale of the Sackett Brothers and their meandering journey across the Midwest. Sam Elliot's gravely drawl and flashing eyes made him the great wandering survivor of the old west and Tom Selleck displays a jovial temperament that hardens into steely intensity at the snap of a spur. Director Robert Totten transforms the landscape into a character in its own right and he set the standard for the modern TV western with his production. 2-disc set. Details: Color, 193 mins, Warner, Academy Ratio, 1.33:1. Supplements: "The Sacketts Go West" featurette. Audio: English (Dolby Digital 1.0). Optional Spanish and French subtitles. [Order]

Rough Riders: (1997) Directed by John Milius, the made-for-TNT mini-series presents the 1898 liberation of Cuba from Spain as a defining moment for the country, America's first battle since the Civil War and a story of heroism under fire and the honor of battle. Tom Berenger is Naval Secretary Teddy Roosevelt, who leads the cavalry units that are also a microcosm for an idealized American melting pot: East and West, North and South, rich and poor, white, black, red and brown form the new brotherhood of America. Sam Elliott, Gary Busey, Brad Johnson, Illeana Douglas, Chris Noth, Brian Keith and George Hamilton co-star. 2-disc set. Details: Color, 184 mins, Warner, Academy Ratio, 1.33:1. Supplements: Commentary by director/co-writer John Milius and executive producer William J. MacDonald. Audio: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo). Optional Spanish and French subtitles. [Order]

Born in Flames: (1983) The landmark indie sci-fantasy of female rebellion by Lizzie Borden is a political satire set in an America ten years after the Second American Revolution, where the murder of radical leader inspires a diverse coalition of women to rise up and band together of armed, whistle-blowing bicyclists to police their own rights. Honey, Adele Bertei, Jeanne Satterfield, Flo Kennedy, Ron Vawter and Eric Bogosian star and future director Kathryn Bigelow has a small role. Details: Color, 90 mins, First Run Features. Supplements: Interview with director Lizzie Borden. Optional subtitles. [Order]

Daughter of Keltoum: (Tunisia) A 19-year-old Swiss-raised Arab woman travels to her homeland, an isolated, barren Berber settlement in the mountainous desert landscape of Algeria, to find her biological mother she had never known, and finds an isolated and unforgiving culture and impoverished world that her mother saved her from. Mehdi Charef directs. Originally presented in the "Global Lens" Film Series, showcasing films from cultures rarely seen on film screens. Details: Color, 101 mins, First Run Features. Supplements: Discussion guide; Director statement; Director biography; Photo gallery. Audio: Arabic. Optional English subtitles. [Order]

Hollow City: (Angola) The feature debut of Maria Joćo Ganga follows an 11-year-old (Roldan Pinto Joćo) orphaned by a massacre during the bloody civil war in Angola, who is flown to Luanda, the capital of Angola, and immediately runs away into the dangerous city. Originally presented in the "Global Lens" Film Series, showcasing films from cultures rarely seen on film screens. Details: Color, 88 mins, First Run Features. Supplements: Director biography & introduction; Discussion guide; Photo gallery. Audio: Portuguese. Optional English subtitles. [Order]

A Year Without Love: (Argentina) Drama of a young AIDS-afflicted poet (Juan Minuj'n) who descends into the underground world of sadomasochism in his search for human contact in what he believes will be the last year of his life. Details: Color, 95 mins, Strand Releasing, widescreen. Supplements: Making-of featurette; Deleted scenes; International Trailers. Audio: Spanish. Optional English subtitles. [Order]

Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman: Kevin Burns directs the made-for-TV documentary on the history of the iconic comic book superhero created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and recreated on radio and TV and in the movies for successive generations. Details: Color/Black and White, 110 mins, Warner, Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1. Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1). Optional Spanish and French subtitles. [Order]

Lady & the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure: (2001) Direct-to-video animated feature follows Tramp's rebellious pup, who runs away from home and tangles with his pop's angry old junkyard pal. Features the voices of Scott Wolf, Alyssa Milano, Chazz Palminteri, Jodi Benson, Bronson Pinchot, Mickey Rooney. Like all Disney releases, it's available for a limited time only. Details: Color, 70 mins, Disney, Widescreen anamorphic, 1.66:1. Supplements: "Making of Lady and the Tramp II" featuertte; All-new Disney's song selection; All-new Junkyard Games; Tramp's hide-and-seek game. Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS 5.1), French and Spanish. Optional English subtitles. [Order]