The Top 5 DVD's for 1/26/10

PICK OF THE WEEKThis is It(DVD/Blu-ray)

Michael Jackson’s passing ended one of the strangest lives in pop culture history. Though it's been filed with the closeted, those with insane religious and conspiracy beliefs, drug abuser and sex freaks, Jackson’s life stands tall as one of the great monuments to damaged childhoods leading to a level of bat-shittery that is unparalleled. Jackson may have been a pedophile, definitely turned white, had two children that weren’t his, tons of plastic surgery, and recorded at least two of the greatest pop albums that have ever been. On top of that there’s his career with The Jackson 5, one of the greatest music videos of all time, and a collection of singles that showed not only popular trends, but a performer who knew how to deliver. The baggage, the competitions between him and Prince (which Prince handily won), the oddities are now being washed away. This is It is a concert film about his supposed comeback tour, where he was set to play Europe for a number of shows. That that could have been, this concert film – rushed to theaters in a haze of capitalism – serves as the final pop culture chapter on MJ for now, and fortunately the film turned out to be a success. Much of that success may have been a morbid fascination (Roger Ebert spent a good chunk of his review addressing how he spent much of the film looking for the signs of addiction), but that also defines the last two decades of Jackson’s career, as someone to be looked at. The film will likely fall away, like many of his later albums, but it provides a coda to the man’s insane life.


REISSUE - Paris, Texas: The Criterion Collection(DVD/Blu-ray)


Wim Wenders has flirted with America his entire career, and they have had a tumultuous relationship. His Hammettis one of the great stories of a film completely reshot after the first version was rejected by the studio. Paris, Texas was his next American film, and working with Sam Shepherd and L.M. Kit Carson, it’s by far my favorite of the man’s films. Rigorously paced, and oblique, it’s a challenging work, but it also features Harry Dean Stanton in the role of a lifetime. His brother is played by Dean Stockwell, and Stanton’s character has some kind of amnesia, and spends the film reconnecting to his lost wife and abandoned child. I think it’s a masterpiece, and it has a strange collection of fans, from the late Kurt Cobain to  The State’s Michael Showalter. It’s a film that either puts you under its trance or will bore the ever loving shit out of you.


NEW – I Hope they Serve Beer in Hell (DVD)


Tucker Max may be part of the conversation for his fans, but it looks as though he won’t be a cinematic force to be reckoned with. The best that can be said for the film is that it at least achieved a theatrical release. As the film features nudity and is meant to be R-rated it probably won’t turn into late night basic cable fodder in the same way The Hangover might, but the film has nudity, which means there’s going to be some desperate lads getting this from Netflix or the video store. Of course, the film went mostly under the radar with a limited release, but this is the sort of film, much like The Boondock Saints, that could easily attract a following.


NEW – Pontypool (DVD)


This played a number of fests but had only a limited theatrical release. Now the DVD hits, and I’ve heard nothing but great things about Stephen McHattie’s lead performance. A small Canadian film, about a small Canadian town in the midst of a zombie-like epidemic, and that’s enough to get me to check this out. Again, the word on this one is excellent.


RETRO The Toolbox Murders (Blu-ray)


With Blu-ray, we’re already seeing that a lot of films just aren’t going to make the cut on this format. Then again, in five years we may no longer be looking at owning films in the same way. Regardless, you have to give it up to Blue Underground for putting out many of the trash classics that used to make Anchor Bay one of the premiere labels for horror. As I understand this has everything to do with director William Lustig, who operates the company and is quite involved with every facet of these releases. I hope they get to some more of the Italian horror films, as I’d love a Blu-ray of Suspiria, to say nothing of Demons. The Toolbox Murders is interesting as it came out the same year as Halloween, and though the two have little in common, both owe something to the Giallo, though TTM owes more to the American serial killers of its decade. It’s been more than a decade since I’ve thrown this on, so I’ll be interested to see if it holds up. Though often 1080p transfers are the worst things to happen to low budget horror, I'm sure the Lustig treatment means this will be entertaining regardless.

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