Friday, August 01, 2008

This week in DVD

I'm sure there were others, and others of more importance to someone else, but for me, this week brought out the DVDs of Inglorious Bastards by Enzo G. Castellari and Doomsday by Neil Marshall.

I could have seen Inglorious Bastards before. Netflix had a version under the title "G.I. Bro" and Scarecrow had an off-region version under the title "Hell's Heroes". I suspect the quality of both is less than that of the new DVD, but am largely guessing there. I can say that the wealth of special features on this new DVD from Severin Films made for an excellent first viewing experience.

For those who don't know, the movie is an Italian WWII action movie from the 1970s. It has long been praised by Quentin Tarantino, and he has long discussed his own Inglorious Bastards, which has apparently morphed some distance from being a remake as originally planned, but looks to be his next movie.

The movie stars Bo Svenson and Fred "The Hammer" Williamson as two members of a group of military prisoners, who take advantage of an attack to escape. Their path to Switzerland ultimately leads them to take over a commando raid on a armored train.

If I have a complaint of note, it's that I think Castellari should have opened immediately onto action. He's certainly not great at anything else, and there's a few other elements of movies that he's not even consistently good at, but for action, he's truly among the cinema gods. In a movie where everything else is indeed consistently good, putting your best foot forward right off the bat could have made an even bigger impression.

Ultimately, once the movie is started, it's an extemely good time. Fast paced, exciting, funny and moving in the right places.

The DVD is even more fun. The first disk including a commentary and a kind of discussion between Tarantino and Castallari, that includes a few hints of Tarantino's intent with his riff on the story, and a lot of discussion of technique. The second disk has an extensive documentary with most of the key players, including interviews with and tribute to special effects man Gino De Rossi, who definitely proved why he's called "Bombardone" on this movie.

Doomsday is the bastard child of 28 Days Later, Escape From New York, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and Apocalypse Now...

... Ok, I must defend myself. Watching the movie, I thought Heart of Darkness, but I like keeping the word "apocalypse" in the mix...

The movie should be a mess. Not because of the hugely different visions, because those aren't entirely, but because it makes more than one mighty tonal shift, although it's mostly hinged on an arc from earnest to cartoonish. Those kinds of shifts often throw audiences, and, from what I've read, this was no exception. Put me on the opposite side, however. Yes, sometime tonal shifts fail miserably, but when they work, as I think they do here, they may be my favorite thing of all.

I loved Dog Soldiers, and found The Descent disappointing, the characters weren't interesting or different enough to stand out from one another in the dark. Doomsday probably takes a place in between, but much closer to Dog Soldiers. A fun ride.

Again, my only comment would involve the opening. I understand the desire in this genre to explain, often overexplain, the world we're entering, and I understand nothing more than how tempting it would be if one has Malcolm McDowell in one's cast, to have him do some voice over narration, but in this case it's too much of a largely useless device that doesn't tie very well to his character.

Two solid, highly enjoyable action movies, both of which I'll only argue should have gotten moving a little faster in their opening moments.

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