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Thursday, August 23, 2007

DVD Reviews

These are two of the best films in recent memory, and both, thankfully, get excellent treatment on DVD. Basically just buy both would be the summary of this.

The Host
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Here is the entire review that I never got around to posting:
"Now before I go any further, if you often have films ruined by high expectations, reputation, and/or hyperbolic praise, don’t read on further. Just rent The Host and see it for what it is. But for the rest of you, if you think you can handle it.

…What The Host is, is superficially, a Korean monster movie, in the good old fashioned science gone wrong monster movie (here the mad scientist is replaced with American military mismanagement), like Them! Or Alligator. But this is a rare film that dares to, and succeeds on many different levels and in many different areas. It’s funny, touching, frightening, tragic, uplifting, and horrifying. And it achieves all of this in a subtle, dare I say gentle, way.

The Host is foremost a family dramedy. A sort James L. Brooks like examination of a fractured, but loving family, who come together during a time of crisis. And secondly this is an epic, and like all of the great epics from Beowulf and The Odyseey to Frankenstein and The Lord of the Rings, this is a metaphorical, primordial, and fantastical tale that is both universal and very personal. In this case, an existential mediation on a father dealing with, and coming to terms with death.

The famous ACIN review line is that The Host is “on par with Jaws.” Jaws has always been one of my favorite films. But The Host goes to, and succeeds in places where a young Spielberg couldn’t (Though, to be fair to Spielberg, Poltergeist would be a better comparison). Both Jaws and The Host are sleek, scary, and smart. But The Host is not out to titillate us, though it is the highest grossing film in Korean history, and extremely well crafted. It is a film that gives us a crisis, in this case a monster attack, and uses it to explore humanity on a deeper level. And while the poster may promise an exciting monster, this is primarily an exploration of humanity. Of our greatest fears, and how we confront them. It is deeper, and better than Jaws. In fact, to pull another reckless comparison, I found this as thrilling and emotional as all three Lord of the Rings films combined. It’s the film I’ve fallen the most completely for, and am recommending the most since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind…Think I’m crazy? Besides me, Film Threat, Rolling Stone, The Oregonian, and The New Yorker gave this film a surprisingly liberal amount of praise and hyperbole. The immortal Cahiers Du Cinema named this “an official masterpiece” and it was second on their 10 best list behind Letters From Iwo Jima last year."


The DVD has 4 hours of special features including deleted scenes, some very personal time with the creative team showing how surprisingly personal the film was, a great amount of detail on creature design and operation, casting tapes, a gag reel, and an excellent director's commentary.


INLAND EMPIRE
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The film may be remembered as Lynch's greatest Achievement, and it most certainly is Laura Dern's. Dern gives the best acting performance I have seen in the modern film era. This also is Lynch's second most important work, behind Blue Velvet. There really isn't a way to summarize the film, but it is Lynch at his most frightening, and also most generous. The film is both terrifying and beautiful. The only problem I have is that the transfer is too good. In fact the film looks too beautiful, and doesn't have the rather startling and disturbing appearance it had when transfered from digital onto film for the big screen. That said this is the best Lynch DVD to date, and he appears to be opening up to being more accessible. No, there is no commentary, but he does give us chapter marks for a change. The film includes over an hour of footage not in the film, that Lynch calls "other stuff that happened," Lynch showing how to make his favorite Quinoa, a very insightful, fly on the wall quasi-making of showing Lynch helming several scenes, trailers, stills, and Lynch relating some enlightening stories, some of which can be also found in his latest book. Most importantly the sound transfer is incredible. Lynch has always been a master of sound design, but this is the best he's ever done, though there is a chance it could blow your subwoofer out. Not kidding.

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