Weeks after taking home Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director(s) and Best Adapted Screenplay, No Country For Old Men arrives on DVD.
(T)he Coen Bros.’ adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel is their masterpiece, a perfect match of story and storyteller. Josh Brolin stars as an easy-going Vietnam Vet poaching in the Texas desert who stumbles into the wreckage of a drug deal gone ballistic and ambles off with a fortune in drug money. Javier Bardem won an Oscar playing methodical mercenary Chigurh, a relentless killer with an indeterminate accent and the creepiest haircut ever allowed in a movie out to recover the money. But the story is really about Tommy Lee Jones’ laconic Sheriff Bell, a dedicated lawman following the trail of the corpses left in Chigurh’s wake and becoming more disillusioned with the world with every death he’s unable to prevent. The Coens don’t explain, they show in meticulous detail with evocative and creative flair, slowly unraveling a story that seems to be spinning out the control of everyone but the filmmakers. Their methodical deliberateness tracks every detail of the story. There are no random elements, just those details we don’t yet know, and that’s far more dangerous. Cinematographer (and Oscar nominee) Roger Deakins gives it the feel of a primeval frontier with his simple, stark images, a world neither compassionate nor cruel, simply harsh and indifferent and unforgiving of stupid mistakes and overweening arrogance.
The film is accompanied by three featurettes. The 24-minute “The Making of No Country For Old Men” is the most interesting, thanks to interviews with (among others) Tommy Lee Jones and the Coen Bros., who sum up their cinematic approach with classic understatment:
“A lot of it is very procedural, people doing things to cover their tracks…,” begins Ethan in a thought completed by Joel with, “It’s about physical activity in order to achieve a purpose, which honestly we’ve always been fascinated by.”
Read the complete DVD review here.
I reviewed the film for the Seattle P-I here.
My other pick of the week spotlights racy films from Hollywood’s pre-code sound era, when the studios fought to attract audiences in the depths of the depression with cost-effective spectacles of sex, violence and other forbidden activities. TCM Archives: Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume 2:
… features five films that span the gamut of sex and sin. On the classy side of the equation is The Divorcee (1930), a drama about adultery, hypocrisy and the sexual double standard starring MGM leading lady Norma Shearer, who won an Oscar as a wife who “balances the accounts” after he husband has an affair. Shearer also stars in A Free Soul (1931), as a carefree society woman who falls for gangster Clark Gable. She was quite the sexually liberated lady in her pre-code days, but these films are more suggestive in their sin compared to Three on a Match (1932), a wild, wickedly entertaining catalogue of excess and depravity. Joan Blondell and Bette Davis star as two of the three school chums of the title, but Ann Dvorak steals the film in her plunge into sin and the film packs it all into a fierce, punchy, unbelievably tawdry 63 minutes. Ruth Chatterton takes charge as an auto tycoon who goes through men like underwear in Female (1933), a smooth but snappy romantic comedy from Michael Curtiz that reverses the sexual power dynamic. Night Nurse (1931), quite possibly the original student nurse sexploitation film, it the most notorious film in the collection. Director William Wellman gets his spunky star Barbara Stanwyck down to her slip in under ten minutes and wearing even less to climb into bed with Joan Blondell soon after, but the real decadence takes place in a mansion where glowering chauffeur Clark Gable keeps the lady of the house drunk and distracted while he slowly starves her children. In such a world, a little homicide is just what the doctor ordered for a happy ending.
The three-disc set also features the original documentary Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood, an entertaining 67-minute production that skims through the history of the censorship battle between clips of some of the most notorious films of the era, with an emphasis on the films in this and other Warner releases (not just the first volume of Forbidden Hollywood but the Warner Gangster Collections and other releases).
Read the complete review here.
New on TV this are a pair of mini-series originally made for cable. From the SciFi Channel is Tin Man:
… a radical reworking of “The Wizard of Oz,” equal parts revisionist remake and edgy sequel. Our Kansas farmgirl is a spunky waitress named D.G. (Zooey Deschanel), whisked into a bizarre fantasy world by a magical twister. This ain’t Oz, it’s the O.Z., a dream plunged into tyranny by an oppressive sorceress named Azkadellia (Kathleen Robertson) with an army of jackbooted soldiers and nasty flying monkeys that burst directly out of Azkadellia’s décolletage. The Scarecrow (Alan Cumming) is a former genius with a zipper in his skull and a hole in his psyche, the Tin Man (Neal McDonough) a former lawman on a mission of vengeance who becomes D.G.’s personal protector, the Lion (Raoul Trujillo) a feline seer and healer who is all empathy and no backbone, and the Wizard (Richard Dreyfuss) a former mystic turned tawdry showman and pathetic drug addict. Familiarity with the classic 1939 movie version isn’t mandatory, but it makes all of the narrative tweaks, visual reworkings and verbal references a lot more entertaining.
Five Days is a co-production between HBO and the BBC:
The five days of the title of this miniseries… are days in the investigation of a missing persons case: a young wife and mother who disappears from a roadside florist stands, leaving behind two children in her car who themselves walk off into the night, launching a panicked search. These are not contiguous days, mind you, but snapshots off the lives surrounding the missing mother – the police, members of the press, and especially the family – over the course of nearly three months. With precious few clues and fewer suspects, the police circle around what they have: a husband (David Oyelowo) who may have thought his wife was having an affair, an ex-husband in Paris, a shady Eastern European seen at the scene of the crime. It’s less a murder mystery than an intimate drama of the toll the ordeal takes on those left in a state of doubt and anxiety by the lack closure: a husband not emotionally equipped to deal with the stress who starts to unravel, parents (Patrick Malahide and Penelope Wilton) blaming the husband for perceived betrayal, children torn in the tug-of-war between the adults. It’s not about good guys or bad guys, but victims all turning on each other when they have no one else to pin their blame on.
Here’s a digest of the other DVD releases featured on my MSN column.
Steve Carrell has found his greatest box-office success playing vain, needy, self-absorbed characters, but I’ve always preferred him playing modest, sincere man just struggling through everyday drama. It’s his warmth and good humor that defines Dan Burns, a family and relationship advice columnist and widower with three daughters, in this gentle romantic comedy from Peter Hedges. The radiant Juliette Binoche is irresistible as the woman of his dreams…
Read the complete review here.
TV: the Animal Planet series The Most Extreme – Season 1 (13 episodes on three discs), Lil’ Bush: Resident Of The United States – Season One (six episodes), and South Park: Imaginationland (in an uncensored director’s cut):
The terrorists attack our imagination in the three-part story from the 11th season of South Park, unleashing the most evil characters imaginable (from the Predator to the Cavity Creeps to the Satan worshipping Woodland Critters dreamed up by Cartman a few seasons ago) upon the once nurturing world of innocence. Kyle, Stan and Butters hold the key to salvation, if only they can stop the Pentagon from unleashing nukes. Trey Parker works his trenchant political satire under typically rude and raunchy humor, led by Cartman and his obsessive quest to collect on a typically obscene bet.
Special Releases: Gattaca: Special Edition with Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, … And Justice for All: Special Edition with Al Pacino (“You’re out of order! This whole trial is out of order!”), and the anime feature Appleseed Ex Machina:
Shinji Aramaki’s 2004 feature adaptation of Shirow Masumune’s landmark manga “Appleseed” combined cel and computer animation with dynamic results. This sequel, co-produced by John Woo, turns to motion capture for movement and renders it in the distinctive anime style through the rounded dimensionality of CGI. The story is a classic conspiracy thriller set in a future where humanity and technology have merged (out of necessity) and a mad genius hacks the techno aspects in his war to purge humanity. Woo was more inspiration and support than creative partner, but you can feel his presence in the two-handed gun battles, slow-motion acrobatics, and spent shell casings waterfalling to the ground.
Read the complete review here.
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[Note: click on DVD cover to find it on Amazon]