Wednesday, December 29, 2010

December New Discs


Israeli director Keren Yedaya showed herself a keen observer of fractured relationships affected by a volatile Middle East in Or, a worthy selection of the 2004 New York Film Festival. Yedaya’s follow-up, Jaffa (Film Movement), continues her predilection for intertwining the personal and the political, although in a more didactic mode. A young Jewish woman and Palestinian man are having an affair…she’s pregnant with their child when the unspeakable happens after a confrontation between her hotheaded brother and boyfriend. Yedaya’s plot is familiar and unsurprising, but she and her actors (including her talented alter ego, Dana Ivgy, as the harassed heroine) present such truthful and searingly real friction among these people that we have no choice but to immerse ourselves with their tragedies. The lone extra is the equally powerful 10-minute Israeli short, Lost Paradise.

French director Francois Ozon’s first English-language film, Angel (IFC) is a costume melodrama buoyed by its lead performers: Sam Neill, Charlotte Rampling and, as the title heroine, Romola Garai (lone extra: making-of featurette); a sentimental favorite, Army Wives—Complete Season 4 (ABC) comprises all 18 episodes of the most gripping of the best-acted prime-time soap operas (best extra: 18 deleted scenes); A Country Doctor (Zeitgeist/KimStim) collects over a dozen animated shorts from the wicked imagination of Japanese animator extraordinaire, Koji Yamamura, including the title film from Franz Kafka‘s story; Israeli director Amos Gitai’s Disengagement (IFC) spotlights the amazing Juliette Binoche in a heartbreaking performance as a French woman returning to Israel to find the daughter she abandoned 20 years ago, only to be caught up in Gaza troubles, circa 2005; Double Take (Kino), which uses Alfred Hitchcock’s work and life to make a statement about our current climate of fear, is better in theory than in execution (extra: Karen Black audio interview); you know what Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels—Complete Seasons 4 & 5 (A&E) is about, and whether you want to watch will depend on your tolerance for the Kiss bassist and his family’s egomania (lone extra: additional footage); Going the Distance (Warners Blu-ray), despite starring Drew Barrymore and Justin Long, lightweights both, is not nearly as bad a specimen of Hollywood romantic comedy as one would have thought (best extra: making-of featurettes); Harpoon (Image Blu-ray) would be an otherwise routine thriller if not for its setting: a whale-watching boat where the passengers are hunted down one by one (lone extra: behind-the-scenes footage); Legacy (Vivendi), despite Idris Elba’s typical intense portrayal, is a ponderous would-be psychological character study about a Black Ops soldier musing on his many missions; Jerome Robbins’ classic jazzy ballet from 1958, NY Export: Opus Jazz (Factory 25), gets a modern reboot with the fantastically talented cast of New York City Ballet dancers on location throughout the city (lone extra: making-of featurette); in Secret Life of the American Teenager—Volume 5 (ABC), actress Shailene Woodley makes the most of borderline sitcom/soap-opera situations to create a complex, fully believable character (best extra: on-set featurettes with lead actors); Turkish-German Fatih Akin’s screwball romantic comedy Soul Kitchen (IFC) features buoyantly entertaining characters, who make up for the silly attempts at slapstick and broad comedy (lone extra: making-of featurettes); although the amiable comic drama Turning Green (Image) features Timothy Hutton and Alessandro Nivoli as Irish brothers, Colm Meaney is on hand to provide a bit more authentic Irish flavor; it’s almost too easy when a bad, inept, unfunny Twilight spoof is titled Vampires Suck (Fox): no other comment is necessary (best extra: aptly-named gag reel); World Series 2010—San Francisco Giants (A&E), an eight-disc set that features each of the five World Series games in the Giants’ championship win against Texas on a separate disc, also features two pivotal NLCS games for good measure (best extra: footage of victory parade and City Hall celebration).

No comments: