Now that all the summer Hollywood folderol is in full swing, I thought it might be time to turn our eyes elsewhere for a little change of pace. I’m talking about the DVD world, where the lesser-known and sometimes bizarre films flourish in tight spaces. Here are some of the more interesting discs I’ve recently discovered.
This film examines the meaning of what we call progress, dissecting both its technical and evolutionary roots. True, we’re dealing with some dire themes here, but the insights are worth the pain. It turns out that, even with all our civilized practices, we’re still functioning as primitive hunters from the ice age. It also turns out that we need this planet to live. As the film implies, we should change our evolutionary thinking, but for the cave person in all of us, it’s a tough choice.
At age 75, Dustin Hoffman has finally directed his first film. Too bad he had to go all the way to England to do it, but the end product is both funny and charming. Who knew there was such a thing as a retirement home for musicians? Probably a British thing. But when you put Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins together, what you get is great acting (Connolly is a hoot!) and lots of good music. If you’re a Downton Abbey fan, you’ll love this movie.
I enjoy movies that deal with the dark and twisted, and this little horror gem, in hiding for three years, has finally surfaced. When psychiatrist Cara Harding (Julianne Moore) gets a referral from her father to study the case of David (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), little does she know that David is not who she thinks he is. In fact, he’s not even what she thinks he is. It’s a cold creepy story that gets into your bones and won’t let go. The ending, in particular, is a chiller.
Care to watch a French film? Don’t let the subtitles stop you. This movie, based on a true story, is heartwarming and funny. When upper-crust white quadriplegic Philippe (François Cluzet) advertises for a caretaker, he decides to forego the usual professional help and hire Driss (Omar Sy), a street-savvy black man. Driss has good instincts, even if his techniques are somewhat raw, and he provides Philippe with what he needs most: strong human connections and a world of reckless fun.
You may have overlooked this because you thought it was just another video game posing as a movie. Well, you’re half right. It is based on a slew of video games, but the theme of the film, video villain seeks chance to be the good guy, is actually a great story; and the visuals are anything but cheesy. Ralph (John C. Reilly) tries to change sides, but the video world has typecast him as big and ugly. Is there a message here about giving a guy a second chance? Yup, and a good one at that.
You should never miss anything that pairs Christopher Walken and Al Pacino, and this film is no exception. Yes, it’s a gangster movie, but it’s not what you would typically expect. When Val (Al Pacino) gets out of the joint, his good friend Doc (Christopher Walken) picks him up and offers to house him for a while. The catch is that Doc is secretly being strong-armed by a local mobster to assassinate Val. It’s a cat and mouse game with a lot of humor, sex, and a roaring senior citizens night on the town. If you love good dialogue and great performances, you can’t beat these guys.