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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

127 Hours, Love and Other Drugs, and Others on DVD This Week

Let the Oscar films begin to roll out! They might have lacked serious chemistry hosting the Oscars together, but James Franco and Anne Hathaway each offer one of their best performances separately onto DVD shelves today. Also, Christina Aguilera and Cher in Burlesque and Dwayne Johnson in Faster. I've seen the first two, but haven't gotten around to the last two yet. But, honestly, my hopes aren't high.

127 Hours wasn't an Oscar winner, but it should have been. Franco gives the performance of his career, and one of the best I've seen in years, as Aron Ralston - the modern adventurer who gets his arm caught underneath a boulder during a canyon exploration. His performance puts us right underneath that boulder with him, but Danny Boyle's loving direction lets us feel as the raven that passes overhead of Ralston every morning. It's a touching, inspirational, and divinely made film. For the full review, click here.

Danny Boyle brings his Slumdog Millionaire team back to the table, with a beautiful musical score by A R Rahman, a delicate and tense screenplay by Simon Beaufoy, and meticulous editing from Jon Harris.

The balance and urgency of that balance between living and dying have rarely felt more tangible in any film that I've seen - and I'm still amazed by how fluid and affable Boyle got the film to feel. It's about a man stuck under a rock, and it's one of the most free movie-going experiences of last year.

More after the cut --

Still, though, perhaps the most impressive thing that the film accomplished was keeping the audiences interest for what was essentially a one-man show. It takes a hell of an actor, and extremely involved direction, and this film provides that in spades. We're afforded the opportunity to let sink in the vivid desert landscape, so that once we're trapped in the canyon with Ralston, we actually do long for it - very smart cinematography. All of this, with almost no other actors, except for very brief moments that probably total a whole five or ten minutes of the film's running time. It's Franco, it's us, a rock, and a very desperate situation.

The special features, on the DVD/Blu-Ray release, from the film's Amazon page:

  • Feature Commentary by Director/Co-Screenwriter Danny Boyle, Producer Christian Colson and Co-Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy

  • Deleted Scenes

  • Search & Rescue: Actual events that aided the search and rescue of Aron Ralston

  • 127 Hours: An Extraordinary View - A unique collaboration between the director and actor

  • Disc 2: Digital Copy

  • Also on DVD today, Love and Other Drugs. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as the man who pushed Viagra into our hearts, living rooms, and late night stand-up routines. The film is based on a memoir, 'Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman' by Jamie Reidy. Gyllenhaal plays Jamie Randall, though we're allowed to assume that what we're seeing is what actually happened. That's the thing about true stories like these - unless we were there, we don't know the truth. So, in effect, we have to assume that the book and the film are the 'truth'. That aside, if this is what happened, it's one hell of a story.

    For the full review, click here.

    Anne Hathaway's Parkinson-afflicted Maggie Murdock is beautifully portrayed by the actress, and she pulls out all the stops in her performance. I wouldn't use the word harrowing, but it's pretty close to that, emotionally speaking. She's at once steely and vulnerable, off-putting and charming, aloof and friendly... it's impressive work. Unfortunately, the film was not as well received as her performance, so her chances of becoming the second of the Oscar nominated hosts alongside Franco were dashed. Shame, because she deserved it. Best Actress was stacked, but she was wonderful nonetheless. She doesn't need another nomination to enjoy that fact.

    Edward Zwick's departure from his usual historical dramas maybe caught critics off-guard, but I think he's still well in his territory. It isn't the time frame or the landscape that defines a director, but his handling of tone and character. Here, he falters a little bit with the handling of the tone (specifically with one extremely dark and hard to swallow scene that, while expertly crafted, has no place in the film), but has a firm hold on the characters. I blame screenwriter Charles Randolph for the rest of the film's story problems. All in all, though, still a very easy watch. Especially if you can handle two attractive people having sex for two hours. If you can't, watch something else. Because there is a lot of sex.

    Special features on the DVD/Blu-Ray include:

    • extended and deleted scenes
    • “An Actor’s Discussion” featurette about the relationship between Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway
    • “Beautifully Complex” Anne Hathaway describes Maggie
    • “Reformed Womanizer” Jake Gyllenhaal is Jamie
    • “Selling Love & Other Drugs”
    • digital copy (only on Blu-ray)

    Also on DVD this week - 

    Faster - Dwayne Johnson stars as Jason Statham a criminal with an ax to grind. His brother was killed during a bank robbery, which led to his being in prison in the first place, and now he's out - ten years later - to settle the score. It's dashes of Kill Bill, with sprinkles of Se7en, and bit of prophecy for Drive Angry. But, this didn't fare as well as any of the aforementioned films. Critics didn't seem to enjoy it any more than audiences did. It was a flop, and if the critical word is any truth, rightfully so. I'll find out this week. 

    Burlesque - You'd be surprised to hear that this film wasn't a success at all. It seemed destined to succeed from conception - a high brow, musical Showgirls-type film with a pop-star leading the cast, and trying to resurrect Cher's film career from the dead. But, even though the music was lauded, and Christina Aguilera and Cher earned solid marks for their performances, the film tanked at the Box Office and with critics. Why? Probably because it takes one damn spectacular filmmaking feat for a musical to succeed with today's audiences, that... and much better marketing than the film had. 

    Click the titles for more information, and to go to the films' Amazon pages. 

    Go out and pick up a movie. You have a long week ahead of you. I know I can definitely recommend 127 Hours and Love and Other Drugs, but if I had to pick between the two, ... go for the brilliance that is James Franco's performance and feel inspired for the rest of the week.