Hot Tips and Top Picks: DVDs for August 23

New Releases:

Tom McCarthy’s “Win Win” (Fox), starring Paul Giamatti as small-town lawyer and family man, is a small film from with a big heart. Which sounds like a promotional cliché but it’s true in the case of this low-key family comedy, a compassionate portrait of fallible people trying to do their best under pressure. This film’s idea of winning skips the feel-good fantasy and delivers an story that feels honest and earned. Videodrone’s pick of the week.

Jodie Foster’s “The Beaver” (Summit), starring Mel Gibson as a suicidally depressed man who finds strength through a hand puppet, had the bad luck to be a hard-sell drama with black comedy and a leading man with a rocky reputation. And “Henry’s Crime” (Fox), an indie caper comedy with Keanu Reeves, Vera Farmiga and James Caan, never quite comes to life (MSN film critic James Rocchi complains that it “dawdles when you want it to jump, skips when you want it to sizzle”).

Road to Nowhere” (Monterey) is Monte Hellman’s first feature in 21 years and it’s as dense, enigmatic and challenging as his early masterpieces, “The Shooting” and “Two-Lane Blacktop,” a film about the making of a film where the layers of reality blur and merge in the most fascinating ways. The 79-year-old rebel brings a whole new beauty to digital photography. Videodrone’s review is here.

The films of South Korean director Lee Chang-dong have won acclaim and awards all over the world for their intelligence, compassion and emotional power. This week his two most celebrated films arrive on DVD and Blu-ray: “Secret Sunshine” (Criterion), a devastating drama of anger and grace that won the Best Actress award at Cannes 2007, and the sublime “Poetry” (Kino), which earned Lee the Best Screenplay award at Cannes 2010. Videodrone reviews both here.

Plus Morgan Spurlock has fun with product placement in “Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” (Sony), Jackie Chan is the hapless “Little Big Soldier” (Well Go USA), Jason Statham goes on an action “Blitz” (Millennium) and Norway reveals its greatest secret in “Troll Hunter” (Magnolia).

Browse the complete New Release Rack here

TV on DVD:

The Event: The Complete Series” (Universal), the latest attempt to replicate the cosmic mystery and labyrinthine plotting of “Lost,” did not quite turn out to be the event that NBC had hoped, and even after a mid-season adjustment, the epic alien invasion conspiracy thriller with the breakneck plotting momentum was cancelled after a single season (thus the subtitle “The Complete Series”). Videodrone explores the conspiracy here.

The best and the brightest are back to fight crime in the military-centered crime shows “NCIS: The Eighth Season” (Paramount), with Mark Harmon leading the a colorful team of naval investigators on the East Coast, and “NCIS Los Angeles: The Second Season” (Paramount), with Chris O’Donnell and LL Cool J chasing bad guys in the California sun. Videodrone enlists here.

Plus the backbiting continues in “Gossip Girl: The Complete Fourth Season” (Warner) and the animated “Angry Beavers: Seasons 1 & 2” (Shout! Factory) debuts.

Flip through the TV on DVD Channel Guide here

Cool, Classic and Cult:

The Warped World Of Koreyoshi Kurahara (Eclipse Series 28)” (Criterion) is an introduction to another of the lively directors who flourished making crime thrillers, youth dramas and other genre films as the new blood hit the studios starting in the late 1950s. This set, from Criterion’s budget-minded line, presents five jumped-up genre pictures made for Nikkatsu through the 1960s by Koreyoshi Kurahara. Videodrone reviews them here.

The original 1973 TV Movie “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” (Warner Archive) is duly re-released in the MOD format, this one with commentary! Videodrone shuts off the lights here.

Sword and Sorcery Collection” (Shout! Factory) boxes up four previously-released films from the Roger Corman version of the sword and sandal genre, which includes heaping scoops of nudity.  Plus direct-to-DVD animated features “Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension” (Disney) and “Tom and Jerry & the Wizard of Oz” (Warner).

All of the Cool, Classic and Cult here

Blu-ray Debuts:

The DVD editions came out in June. Now “The Women in Cages Collection” (Shout! Factory), a collection of three Roger Corman-produced exploitation films of the seventies starring Pam Grier, debuts on Blu-ray. Videodrone’s review is here.

Swingers” (Lionsgate), the 1996 indie hit that launched the careers of Doug Liman, John Favreau (who wrote the script just to get a good role) and Vince Vaughn, gets its high-def debut. That is so money, baby.  Videodrone gets in the swing here. Also from the Miramax imprint is “Rounders” (Lionsgate), with Matt Damon and Edward Norton, and “Hostage” (Lionsgate), with Bruce Willis.

Peruse all the new Blu-rays here

More reviews at Videodrone.

Hot Tips and Top Picks: DVDs for August 9

Videodrone’s take on the biggest, best, coolest and culty-ist releases of the week.

You could describe “Paul” (Universal), a road movie “E.T.” comedy with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as sci-fi geeks who pick up an extraterrestrial hitchhiker, as “Close Encounters of the Nerd Kind.” MSN has an exclusive extended scene video clip along with a DVD and Blu-ray review here.

Continuing on the alien theme is “Mars Need Moms” (Disney), an animated comedy about maternally-challenge​d Martians looking for a little human nannying, from producer Robert Zemeckis and his motion-capture approach to animation. “Your Highness” (Universal) takes the stoner comedy to the dark ages of knights and quests and Danny McBride as black-sheep prince with more arrogance than aptitude. Both were critic and commercial flops.

MSN critic James Rocchi is more upbeat about “Jumping the Broom” (Sony), “a perfectly acceptable rom-com with a few nice performances” starring Angela Basset, Paula Patton, Laz Alonso and Loretta Devine, and far less sanguine about “Super” (MPI), a grimy superhero satire with Rainn Wilson as a costumed nutcase.

On the indie front is “Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam” (Kino), a documentary on the Muslim punk rock movement in America.

Browse the complete New Release Rack here

TV on DVD:

Secret Diary Of A Call Girl: The Final Season” (Paramount) brings the Showtime original series starring Billie Piper as a high-priced London escort and secret author to an end with just as much sexy nothingness and weightless satire that defined the rest of the series’ run. Videodrone closes the book on the show here.

Hey Arnold! Season One” (Shout! Factory) features the first 20 episodes of the hit Nickelodeon animated series about a goofy kid with a head shaped like a football. “M.A.S.K.: The Complete Original Series” (Shout! Factory) features all 65 episodes of the eighties-era animated series about a secret society of crime-fighters with high-tech toys.

Cool, Classic and Cult:

The Fox And The Hound / The Fox And The Hound 2 – 2-Movie Collection” (Disney) bundles up remastered versions of the 1981 animated features and 2006 direct-to-DVD sequel for a new remastered DVD edition and a Blu-ray debut, both packed with extras.

Dirk Bogarde solidified his status as a British matinee idol as the romantic lead of the hit 1954 comedy “Doctor in the House” (VCI), which makes its official American DVD debut along with six of the sequels of the long-running film series. Bogarde stars in three of them—”Doctor At Sea” (VCI), “Doctor At Large” (VCI) and “Doctor in Distress” (VCI)—as well as the 1955 thriller “Simba” (aka “Mark of Mau Mau”) (VCI), also making its DVD debut. Videodrone surveys the entire series here.

Wide Open” (Impulse) is a cult artifact of what you might call Swedish sin-ema, notable largely for the presence of cult actress Christina Lindberg in a minor role. “Clash” (Indomina) is a martial movie from the South Korean action movie industry.

Blu-ray Debuts:

The Battle Of Algiers” (Criterion) is Gillo Pontecorvo’s controversial drama of Algeria’s struggle for independence from France, a mix of documentary and drama directed with a newsreel immediacy and a documentary seriousness. The Blu-ray debut is a lavish two-disc edition filled with supplements and a thick booklet.

And for a jolt of nostalgia, go back to high school with “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (Universal) and “Dazed and Confused” (Universal).

Complete list of releases and coming attractions at Videodrone

Videodrone: The new DVD/Blu-ray blog on MSN

Welcome to my new project on MSN: Videodrone: Commentary on DVD, Blu-ray and more.

This new blog will encompass news, reviews, interviews, announcements and more. I’ll be spending the next few weeks playing with the format and the possibilities, but feel free to drop by and see what’s going on before the “official” launch. In the meantime, the unofficial launch begins with my interview with Jacki Weaver, the matronly Ma Barker of Animal Kingdom.

The blog homepage is here. Watch this space.