The Weekly Spin: April 21st 2009

Having ditched the DVD reviews section of Dark Horizons a few years back due to the sheer workload involved, I’ve decided to bring it back in something much simpler to handle – a weekly column. The format here is mini-reviews of the DVD and Blu-ray picks of the week worth considering:

Frost/Nixon (DVD & Blu-Ray)
Well-received but a little dry at the cinema, Ron Howard’s character study of the David Frost & Richard Nixon interviews improves on repeated viewings and works better on the small screen. Langella nails Nixon despite the physical difference and Sheen gives one of last year’s best supporting performances.

The Wrestler (DVD & Blu-Ray)
Darren Aronofsky’s brutal but brilliant drama about a has-been wrestler was notably overlooked at last year’s Oscars despite being easily one of the year’s best films. It’s a tough film to watch which will make repeated viewings sparing, but it’s one of 2008’s most important movies and features. Rourke’s work is revelatory.

Wages of Fear: Criterion Collection (DVD & Blu-Ray)
Clouzot’s 1953 thriller kick started the boys own action genre, and was remade as 1977’s “Sorcerer”. The story follows a group of ex-cons hired to drive tankers of nitroglycerin across 300 miles of South American back roads. Unlike its imitators, this story is multi-layered, darkly humored and utterly gripping.

X2: X-Men United (Blu-ray)
While all three “X-Men” films are hitting Blu-ray this week, it’s this first sequel that will always be remembered as the one that got it right. Still one of the best Marvel comic-to-film adaptations, the script, cast and story blended smoothly and still works today even as the comic film genre has become more divided between efforts of light humor and dark drama.

Caprica: Pilot Episode (DVD)
On paper it sounds like an awkward attempt to suckle on “Battlestar Galactica” prestige with a dull sounding prequel. Nevertheless early reviews are good and cite the concept as having more promise than one would expect. The last ten eps of “Galactica” also hit soon but best wait for the 20-disc Blu-ray set in July.

The Arrival (Blu-ray)
David Twohy’s dark 1996 pulp sci-fi thriller follows an eccentric SETI worker (Charlie Sheen) who stumbles upon an alien conspiracy in which global warming is actually caused by them trying to terraform the planet. The South American location shooting and visual effects are still impressive while Lindsay Crouse and the late Ron Silver deliver great supporting turns.

Hellraiser Puzzlebox Set (DVD & Blu-ray)
The only truly successful adaptation of Clive Barker’s work, the author displays surprisingly adept filmmaking acumen in this first feature effort which lead to the grizzliest of the 80’s horror franchises. Admittedly the sequels became essentially unwatchable after the first one, but the original still stands up as decidedly creepy.

Sin City (Blu-ray)
Robert Rodriguez’s stylish adaptation of the Frank Miller comic remains oddly uneven. Mickey Rourke’s early subplot is still compelling but the Clive Owen and Bruce Willis-led mini-stories grow tedious despite the often compelling graphics and atmosphere. Worth a nab on Blu-ray though to see what that will look like in full 1080p.

Notorious (DVD & Blu-Ray)
As I’ve only a small interest in hip-hop I didn’t see the biopic on rapper Notorious B.I.G., but a lot of people did considering its opening numbers. Reviews weren’t that great and the fallout from the shootings at a screening did it no favors to get people in the cinema. Yet on disc that has certainly added a morbid interest on my part to check out what all the fuss is about.

Other Releases This Week: Dante 01 (DVD), Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth & Sea (Blu-ray), The Burrowers (DVD), The Last Word (DVD & Blu-ray), Into the Blue 2: The Reef (DVD), My Own Worst Enemy: Complete Series (DVD), Air: The Complete Series (DVD).