Welcome one, welcome all and Happy New Year. To mark the end of the old we would like to bring in something new. Until, of course, you get totally bored of it and we will try something else.
This is the first of a new DVD round-up column designed to pull out or highlight some of the best releases of the fortnight. And then, to your left we will continue with slightly longer reviews of anything that is still around or of particular interest. The agenda is simple: if it’s half decent, two dimensional and moves while being scintillating, entertaining, intellectually stimulating or just plain weird we will have it covered on this page for you, now and maybe forever.
So let’s get this party started. The DVD delights you should give house space to in the first half of January should definitely include Rian Johnson’s curious, flawed but delightfully brave fusion of film noir and high school melodrama, Brick (Optimum - 4 stars). The two disc edition of this film is better, the transfer is superior, plus the extras include a revealing interview with Johnson (an exclusive in the UK edition), deleted and extended scenes, cast auditions, Johnson’s video diary and loads of hidden extras and other exclusives.
Japanese animation guru and Studio Ghibli maestro Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle (Optimum - 4 stars) was one of the very few of his films that was not met with the kind of fanfare that would make a Geisha blush at the time of its theatrical release. That may have something to do with the overriding European influences on the look and design of the piece (it was, after all, based on Diana Wynne Jones’ novel). Immerse yourself in this fairytale adventure of adolescent girls, wizards and spells and I suspect you will be dazzled. Stick to the Japanese language version on the disc, however, as the dubbed version has the curious effect of making everything seem a little hokey. This single disc contains minimal extras only.
Also, Gabriele Salvatores’ lovely magic realist anti war story Medittaraneo (Optimum - 4 stars) emerges from its island idyll - despite the poor extras this will have wondering why this fabulous director was never given the chance to direct the film version of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
Oversexed, Overpaid and Over Here (Panamint Cinema - 3 stars) compiles two films from the archives which were made to help the wives of American GIs settle in the UK during WWII. One for those with a penchant for domestic history methinks.
Alfonso Cuarón’s excellent futuristic thriller Children of Men (Universal - 3 stars) gets a release with decent extras as does Jason Reitman’s amusing if fairly insubstantial Thank You for Smoking (Fox- 3 starsl). The highlight of the fortnight, however, has to be the Directed by Douglas Sirk box set (Universal - 5 stars), a near divine selection of the great US filmmaker’s melodramas Imitation Of Life, Magnificent Obsession, Written On the Wind, All I Desire, Has Anybody Seen My Gal, All That Heaven Allows (pictured) and The Tarnished Angels. Dreams are made of such things. Next issue we will be carrying on regardless with the very substantial release of a near complete Carry On film box set.