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Monday, February 14, 2011

Unstoppable and Others on DVD Tomorrow

A small Tuesday, for sure, with only three releases of note. Tony Scott's Unstoppable, the break-out documentary/indictment of America's public education system Waiting for Superman, and Woody Allen's latest You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.

I like it when the week brings me new things to watch - I haven't had the chance (maybe that's a good thing) to see Unstoppable, and I'm chomping at the bit to finally see Waiting for Superman. I watched You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger with my girlfriend, and we both loved the hell out of it. But, also, we're both obnoxiously big Woody Allen fans. So, that was probably to be expected.

But, I want to take a look at each DVD release, and see which might be worth my, and what's infinitely more important, your money.

More after the cut --

I think it's safe to assume at this point that either Denzel Washington has a life debt to Tony Scott, or they're just regular bosom buddies. Life debts are funnier, so I'm going to assume that. Still, their partnership has lasted for over a decade now, and spanning over five films - Crimson Tide, Man on Fire, Deja Vu, The Taking of Pelham 123, and finally Unstoppable. Deja Vu is pretty terrible, but the other films are quite a bit of fun. Man on Fire is the only one of any sort of weight or purpose, but that doesn't mean it can't stack against Pelham or Crimson Tide as being a popcorn movie at heart. Let's not forget, Tony Scott is the man responsible for such films as Top Gun and Days of Thunder. And Domino. But, we don't talk about Domino.

Chris Pine stars alongside the 'Zel in a film about a runaway train, and follows them as they try to save the day. Word on the film was mostly positive, with the obvious detractors. I can almost always count on Denzel Washington to entertain me, if not impress me, no matter what he's doing. Chris Pine proved himself someone to watch in Bottle Shock and the Star Trek reboot, and Rosario Dawson is one of my favorite actresses. Three solid stars, one action packed script, and a director known as one of the best in the genre? Why haven't I seen this yet?

The special features, as listed on the film's Amazon page, are only a Feature Commentary from Scott and a making-of featurette called "The Fasted Track: Unleashing Unstoppable".

Director Davis Guggenheim, who brought us the terrifying An Inconvenient Truth, brings us another shocking look into a very real problem that American seemingly is doing nothing about: public education. Examining proposals to give inner city schools more money, what schools do with the money, and how a public school can hold a child back in more ways than one. All culminating, through a multi-narrative, in a "lottery" to determine graduates at the end of the year. The film has been described as a punch in the stomach for anyone not looking, and is one of the best reviewed films of last year. 

I want to withhold saying anything further on the film until I review it, but I'll just say this - Davis Guggenheim is a remarkable filmmaker. I'm slightly scared of watching this film. An Inconvenient Truth shook my bones, and metathesized itself there for weeks. I'm expecting this film to do the same.

From the film's Amazon page, the special features are as follows -

Four additional inspiring teacher/student stories
Changing the Odds: A look at innovative programs that are changing public education
Public Education Updates: Changes which have taken place since the making of the film
A Conversation with Davis Guggenheim
The Future Is In Our Classrooms
The Making of "Shine": the film’s title track by musician John Legend Commentary by Director Davis Guggenheim and Producer Lesley Chilcott

Finally, on DVD tomorrow, is Woody Allen's You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. Sure, it was a critical disappointment. Sure, it went as quickly as it came. Sure, people have since called Allen irrelevant and have claimed he's getting too old to keep pumping out one film every year. 

But, I'll be honest here, I really loved it. Not just because I'm a Woody Allen fan. The film is surprisingly tame for Allen, who - while focusing on the usual infidelity and lying - chooses to focus more on dark emotional struggle than he has in quite a while. Since 2005, his films have become more about the psychological breaking points of his characters than in years before that. It's always been a theme, but not so prominent as recent films of his.  

We see people cheat and lie and steal, we see people die and get mislead, we see people who honestly can't help it and don't know any better. Make no mistake about it - it's a romantic comedy, but it's a shrew character study about bitter people leading a sweet life. And it's brilliant. 

A pitch-perfect ensemble including Josh Brolin, Naomi Watts, Anthony Hopkins, Antonio Banderas, and Freida Pinto, a snappy script with equally snappy direction from Woody himself, and a wonderful score. Pick it up. You'll thank me two hours later. 

Special features are not available. Whatever. The movie is a special enough feature. As is Freida Pinto. 

I'll be picking up Unstoppable and Waiting for Superman to check them out, after a long wait. But, the only flick I can really recommend to anyone for this week is You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. Look for reviews for the other two releases to come soon. 

Go out. Get a movie. You have a long week ahead of you, and it's only gonna be Tuesday.