HomeVideodrome: DVD Releases for April 12, 2011

This week, a great movie getting a Blu-ray upgrade is Pixar’s The Incredibles, which is my favorite of the studio’s impressive catalogue. My favoritism towards it is due to the fact that I find the themes delicious, not surprising given my enthusiasm for comic books and superheroes growing up. Writer/director Brad Bird has crafted a story that has the basic framework of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, brilliantly redesigned for the whole family. Here we have an original world of superheroes living in a time where their activities have been outlawed, and yet some of them secretly engage in their now-illegal superheroics, in order to re-live the good ol’ days. Soon a mysterious villain is killing off ex-superheroes for some unknown reason, and the whole thing climaxes with a devastating attack on a city by something big with tentacles (that last part only happened in the Watchmen comics, but it should’ve happened in Zack Snyder’s film). The Incredibles only resembles Watchmen in its set-up, as the actual themes in the film are completely different. It has always amazed me how Pixar is able to deal with extremely heavy and complex ideas in a family-friendly manner, and The Incredibles is nowhere near as thematically intense as films like Up or Toy Story 3.

In The Incredibles, the family of superheroes find themselves pitted against Syndrome, a villain voiced with fanboyish enthusiasm by Jason Lee. An obsessive fan of Mr. Incredible, Syndrome is a character who badly wanted to be given the status of a superhero, hoping to serve as Mr. Incredible’s sidekick. When Mr. Incredible rejects him, Syndrome grows up to be a bitter, hateful sociopath with an arsenal of sci-fi weaponry, his ultimate scheme being to bring his super-technology to the populace at large. This would allow anyone on the planet to be a superhero, all they would have to do is ask. Syndrome is a character that is indicative of a disease in our society, where people want to experience status of achievement, minus that pesky “putting in the effort” part. Anyone who has achieved anything extraordinary will tell you that it is the journey itself that is transformative, not the view from the summit. Mr. Incredible is a character that openly expresses contempt for a culture that “celebrates mediocrity,” and we live in a world that does just that. People go out of their way to make sure everyone feels like a winner for merely participating, and not for having actually done anything outstanding. By actively avoiding hurting anyone’s precious, fragile feelings, we breed a culture of sore losers and spoiled brats with entitlement issues. The Incredibles is a film that illustrates this point in a manner that is both entertaining and artful, making it not only one of Pixar’s best films, but one of the greatest superhero movies ever made.

Available on Blu-ray/DVD combo. Previously available on DVD

Another fantastic movie getting a Blu-ray touch-up this week is Jean-Pierre Melville’s classic heist movie Le cercle rouge, courtesy of the folks over at The Criterion Collection. Widely hailed as a masterpiece of the crime genre, Le cercle rouge follows three men, a thief fresh out of prison (Alain Delon), a criminal on the lam (Gian Maria Volonté), and a former cop in the throes of withdrawal from alcohol (Yves Montand). Joined by fate, they hatch an ambitious jewelry heist, but a determined police inspector (Andre Bourvil) isn’t keen on letting them get away with it. Most critics say that Le cercle rouge is Melville’s masterpiece, me, I prefer his existential hitman movie Le Samouraï, but it would be a gross understatement to merely state that Le cercle rouge simply better than the average crime flick. Melville’s brand of movies centered around enigmatic criminals wearing suits and brandishing guns helped to define the modern notion of cinematic cool, the Criterion DVD of Le Samouraï even states this proudly on their synopsis on the back of the box. John Woo took Melville’s influence to heart, giving birth to The Killer, which would come to inform the majority of Hong Kong’s massive contributions to the crime genre. Quentin Tarantino was another filmmaker taking notes, however Melville’s characters simply had to have the camera focused on them in order to emit coolness, whereas Tarantino utilizes music and pop-culture obsessed dialogue in order to get his desired effect. Melville needed none of those things, and Alain Delon was his greatest leading man, an actor with a presence that rivals the greatest Hollywood actors. There’s a reason he was Johnnie To’s first choice to star in his Melville-homage Vengeance, before going with the also-extremely-charismatic French singer Johnny Hallyday. If you haven’t seen Le cercle rouge, do so on a double-feature with Le Samouraï, and discover Melville’s indispensable contribution to the genre movies we all enjoy today.

Available on Blu-ray. Previously available on DVD

Other Noteworthy Releases

Country Strong: I know it’s really lame to pass judgment on a movie before having seen it, but I can honestly say there are many things I would rather do than spend time watching Country Strong. Several exciting activities come to mind, including getting punched in the face by Mike Tyson, getting locked in a closet with a starving wolverine, and reading Eric Boehlert’s Twitter feed. The prospect of seeing a movie where Gwyneth Paltrow sings a country song written by the guy from Coldplay is enough to send me screaming for the hills.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD

White Material: Criterion is releasing this 2009 film by Claire Denis, in which Isabelle Huppert plays a woman in Africa in danger of losing her coffee plantation during a brutal civil war. It’s rare that Criterion releases films this recent, so it’s probably worth checking out.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD

Tracy & Hepburn – The Definitive Collection: A comprehensive box set featuring the work of Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn (obviously). Includes films such as Woman of the Year, Adam’s Rib, State of the Union, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, and more.

Available on DVD

H.R. Pufnstuf – Complete Series Collector’s Edition: In case you want to relive your childhood introduction to drug culture, here you go.

Available on DVD, also available in a collector’s edition

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1:: This one’s at the bottom because it doesn’t come out on April 12th, but on April 15th for some reason. That and I haven’t seen a Harry Potter movie or read a Harry Potter book since The Prisoner of Azkaban. Nothing against Harry & his crew, I just haven’t gotten around to it.

Available on Blu-ray/DVD combo, Blu-ray and DVD

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