Blame the Oscars for a poor week of DVD releases, at least as far as film releases go. But before we get to the releases of the week, I must pass on the devastating news of New Yorker Films, which is closing the doors after more than 40 years of bringing many of the greatest works of world cinema to the United States. I reported on it for Parallax View here.
Now on to your regularly scheduled DVD report.
Breaking Bad, the unconventional crime drama made for American Movie Classics, was one of the more unexpected revelations of the 2008 TV season. High school science teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) gave up his Nobel Prize dreams and ambitions to take care of his family. But when he’s diagnosed with terminal lung cancer (and he’s not even a smoker), this one-time research chemist decides to invest in his family’s future with a second career – cooking up crystal meth in partnership with a former student washout (Aaron Paul) turned drug dealer. Written and created by X-Files veteran Vince Gilligan, the show has a wicked sense of humor and a bleak sense of disappointment. In a strange way, this dangerous new lifestyle gives White an indomitability and daring that he never had before. Whether it’s shaving his head (in the aftermath of chemotherapy) and reigniting his sex life with his wife (Anna Gunn), or facing down the local drug kingpin with a bag full of homemade explosives, his life burns with an intensity that he’s missed all these years. All it costs him is an ethical equilibrium. Cranston, hilarious as the childish father in Malcolm in the Middle, brings a brilliantly underplayed humor the role and won the Emmy for it. The first season is out in DVD this week. The second season begins on AMC on March 8.
The 1972 documentary/performance film FTA profiles the anti-war roadshow that toured the American military bases in 1971. The stage show (or “political vaudeville,” as star Jane Fonda put it) featured Fonda, Donald Sutherland, singers Holly Near and Rita Martinson and comedian Paul Mooney, among others. Suffice it to say that was not Bob Hope’s USO show. “We’ve come here… to support the servicemen and women who are organizing against the war and demanding their rights,” explains Jane Fonda as she steps off a plane in Okinawa. The film is both a document of the pointed skit show and of the people they meet along the way, who voice their own concerns about the war, about race, about gender and pretty much anything else on their minds. No surprise that the shows were not allowed on-base, but the servicemen and women all came anyway to celebrate their opposition to the war.
Read my review on MSN here.
For the rest of the highlights (including Blu-ray releases of The French Connection and The Passion of the Christ), visit my weekly column, which goes live every Tuesday on MSN Entertainment.