Thursday, July 17, 2008

DVD Under the Radar 18/07/08

With this regular feature, I’m trying to bring attention to smaller stuff just coming out on DVD that is flying under the radar but is definitely worth a look for the discerning DVD viewer. Is that you? Then read on!

First thing that grabbed my attention this week is the release of Iggy & the Stooges Escaped Maniacs. A new DVD of Stooges live? How could it possibly be good, right? Well, when almost the entire repertoire comes from the first two records, as it does, you’ve got a much better chance of that happening than if they’re trying to pimp the new material. Even good stuff from Raw Power is left off as too late for this show and it’s better for it. If only a meltdown version of “L.A. Blues” had made the cut, it’d be the perfect throwback.

As for movies just out, the big little film this week that’s got my eye is the kung-fu comedy Eagle Shooting Heroes. Rather than some lame Jerry Zucker-styled lowest-common-denominator parody, this takes a genre already prone to self-mockery (90’s Hong Kong kung-fu epics) takes several of its biggest stars (Leslie Cheung, Maggie Chueng, Brigitte Lin, Tony Leung and others) and goes for a comic take on the genre. Apparently it flopped upon release, but it’s taken on a life of its own now as a cult hit and you can see why – like Shaun of the Dead it makes sure it succeeds as the genre it’s making fun of before worrying about mockery.

Also of major interest this week is Chop Shop, from director Ramin Bahrani, who made the highly regarded Man Push Cart (which I haven’t yet seen). It’s a film about two young orphans living in the slums of Queens, NY and trying to make their way in the world by helping out in an auto shop and a food van and hoping to gain enough to make a better life. It’s a gritty, almost documentary feel not unlike the strong, street-level stories of The Bicycle Thief or Los Olvidados. Suffice to say that Man Push Cart will be moving up my Netflix queue in the wake of seeing this terrific film.

And one last one just out that I haven’t seen but have heard raves about is Stop-Loss, directed by Kimberly Peirce (who made the very good and very weighty Boys Don’t Cry). In it, Ryan Phillippe plays a soldier just home from a tour of duty in Iraq who is ordered to return just when he’d thought his life would return to normal. Sounds like not-too-light fare yet again, but the way it’ll play out in terms of loyalty and honor – both to his country and to his family – sounds like drama right up my alley. And according to most things I’ve read it steers clear of partisan issues, so it ought to speak to most anybody.

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