DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS
Up In The Air (Paramount): One of the most acclaimed films of last year was this comedy-drama about a man (George Clooney) who specialises in firing workers in a smooth and efficient manner because managers have outsourced this difficult process. Addicted to travel, air miles and an open relationship with a fellow traveller (Vera Farmiga), he is alarmed when his boss (Jason Bateman) makes him train a new recruit (Anna Kendrick) who advocates firing people via video-link.
Directed by Jason Reitman, it manages to combine breezy, observational comedy with more serious themes of work and finding love. The script even updates the themes of the book to the current era (one sequence is dated as happening in February 2010) by having recently fired workers essentially play versions of themselves.
Clooney is perfectly cast in the lead role and the supporting cast is generally excellent with Farmiga, Kendrick and Batemen contributing fine work. The technical aspects of the film are first rate across the board; with Dana Glaubetman’s editing worthy of special mention as it helps keep proceedings ticking along beautifully. Compared to Reitman’s previous films, it has the delicious wit of Thank You for Smoking and the unsentimental emotions of Juno, but actually surpasses both in terms of mixing up the light and heavy elements.
The HD transfer is of the high standard you might expect from a contemporary Hollywood studio and although this isn’t the kind of film that is a banquet for the eyes, the Blu-ray looks wonderfully clean and sharp. [Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray]
The special features include the following extras, which are all in high definition:
- Commentary by writer/director Jason Reitman, director of photography Eric Steelberg and first assistant director Jason Blumenfield
- Shadowplay: Before The Story
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Jason Reitman:
- To Know Me is To Fly With Me
- Real People Firing and Irate Employee
- Thumper and Extended Boat Scene
- Omaha Montage
- Do You Live At The Hilton?
- Nosey Neighbour
- Natalie In Restroom
- Natalie Vid-Chats
- Angry Ryan Checks In
- Goalquest Invite
- Maynard Finch Commercial/Kara Calls Ryan
- Barely Squeaking By / Natalie Calls
- “Help Yourself” music video by Sad Brad Smith
- American Airlines Prank
Road to Perdition (20th Century Fox Home Ent.): Sam Mendes made a big splash with American Beauty, his feature film debut which scooped several Oscars in 1999, and his eagerly anticipated follow up in 2002 was this Depression-era crime drama about a hitman (Tom Hanks) who is forced to go on the run with his son (Tyler Hoechlin) after the rest of his family are killed by the wayward son (Daniel Craig) of a mobster (Paul Newman).
Although this wasn’t as well received as his debut film, the technical aspects are excellent with the late Conrad Hall winning a richly deserved Oscar for his cinematography. DreamWorks made the bizarre decision to open it right in the middle of the summer season, meaning its Oscar chances were considerably reduced, but it still stands up well compared to the other films that won that year. [Buy it on Blu-ray]
The extras are as follows:
- Sam Mendes Feature Introduction (HD)
- A Cinematic Life: The Art & Influence of Conrad Hall (HD)
- The Library: A Further Exploration of the World of Road To Perdition
- Previously released bonus material is presented in standard definition, except as noted:
- Commentary by director Sam Mendes
- Deleted Scenes (with optional commentary by Sam Mendes)
- The Making of Road To Perdition
Capitalism – A Love Story (Paramount Home Entertainment): from Michael Moore examines the effect of corporate dominance on the everyday lives of Americans, especially in the light of the recent global economic meltdown. Although the buzz on this film was mixed when it premiered at Venice and Toronto back in the Autumn, it is a more thoughtful film than some critics have given it credit for. The title is misleading as it’s more of a critique against the winner-takes-all capitalism ushered in by the Reagan administration and how the policies under Clinton and Bush have contributed to the current financial crisis.
There are some sequences that drag a little, but for the most part it is a thought provoking examination of how we’ve got to where we are as a society. Strangely, it could actually win Moore audiences amongst the right-wing Teabaggers as well as his core liberal audience, as his criticisms of the TARP scheme chime in with theirs. [Buy it on DVD]
The extras on the DVD feature a lot of material that didn’t make the theatrical cut, including:
- Sorry, House-Flippers and Banks: You’re Toast In Flint, MI
- Congressman Cummings Dares to Speak the Unspeakable
- NY Times Pulitzer Prize Winner Chris Hedges on the Killing Machine Known as Capitalism
- The Rich Don’t Go to Heaven (There’s a Special Place Reserved for Them!)
- What if, Just if, We Had Listened to Jimmy Carter in 1979?
- The Omnivore’s Dilemma? It’s Capitalism
- Commie Taxi Drivers: “You Talkin’ To Me?”, in Wisconsin
- How to Run the Place Where You Work
- The Socialist Bank of… North Dakota?
- The Bank Kicks Them Out, Max Kicks Them Back In
St. Trinians 2 – The Legend Of Fritton’s Gold (EIV) [DVD / Blu-ray]
Did You Hear About The Morgans? (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [DVD / Blu-ray]
Precious (Lionsgate) [DVD / Blu-ray]
Armageddon (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray]
City of the Living Dead (Arrow) [DVD / Blu-ray]
Anesthetize (KSCOPE) [DVD + Blu-ray]
Heartless (Lionsgate) [DVD / Blu-ray]
S.N.U.B (Isis) [DVD]
> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 21st May including Prince of Persia and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans