Movie of the Week
The Hunter (Magnolia) - Blu-ray and DVD
Release Date: Apr 06, 2012
Director: Daniel Nettheim
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Frances O'Connor, Sam Neill, Jacek Koman, Callan Mulvey. Full cast + crew
The Hunter is the kind of movie one randomly stumbles across late night on cable or Netflix and thinks, "Damn this is good. How come I've never heard of this movie?" It's an excellent character piece about a mercenary hunter (Willem Dafoe) hired by a biopharmaceutical company to find and gain DNA samples of a Tasmanian Tiger, an animal believed, until very recently, to be extinct. The company arranges for him to stay, under the identity of a professor researching Tasmanian Devils, with a local family (Frances O'Connor) of hippies trying to protect the local wilderness from development. By day he goes out and sets elaborate traps trying to find the mythological mammal, and by night he gets to know more about the family and the recent loss of their father, who may or may not have been killed for his conservation attempts.
It's a gorgeous film with a great performance by Dafoe (as if there is any other kind) as the cold, professional for hire, with strong supporting turns from a steely Sam Neill and a beautiful Frances O'Connor. Any pro-environment/conservation message is secondary to the character and the story at large, but do also know that this is not the type of thriller that cover art might imply. This is a relatively straightforward story about a man who discovers that his employers haven't been telling him everything. And for as straightforward as it is, it's a dense, satisfying, and striking film that burrows under your heart and hits hard when it needs to.
To put it bluntly, The Hunter is one of the best films of 2012 that no one is talking about.
Special Features: A commentary with the film's director and producer, a 33-minute Making-Of, 7-minutes of Deleted scenes, Trailers
Unfortunately, after The Hunter it's a rather slim week for new releases. There's Bobcat Goldthwait's latest film, the vitriolic dark comedy God Bless America about a middle aged man and a teenage girl who go on killing spree to take out the Kim Kardashians of the world. It's a funny film, especially in the beginning, but its crusade against civility-endangering pop culture is pretty one note. After that we've got the John Landis-produced indie horror comedy Some Guy Who Kills People, which I haven't seen but have heard good things about, and two random straight-to-video offerings; The Forger and Wind Blast.
Nostalgia-Bait of the Week
Barbarella (Paramount) - Blu-ray
Release Date: Oct 10, 1968
Director: Roger Vadim
Cast: Jane Fonda, John Phillip Law, Anita Pallenberg, Milo O'Shea, David Hemmings. Full cast + crew
Barbarella is not the movie I thought it was. For some reason I'd always assumed this was a campy, interstellar movie like Flash Gordon, which is to say a goofy space adventure for kids. And while star Jane Fonda's sex appeal is obvious, I always assumed that came simply from her romping around planets in funky '60s clothing. Imagine my surprise, then, upon popping in this new Blu-ray and seeing that while rated PG and indeed campy, Barbarella is far from a kids movie. And it doesn't take long to realize that considering the film opens with Fonda emerging fully nude from a shapeless, asexual spacesuit, never to enter similar clothing again.
Of course, Barbarella isn't some raunchy, interstellar sex movie - it's too (intentionally) goofy for that - I just wasn't expecting the casual nudity and sex throughout. My surprise aside, everything else about Roger Vadim's film is exactly as expected: cheap-looking special effects (even for the time period) and a plot that is as barely-there as Fonda's outfits. The video transfer here is exceptional for a 54-year-old film, but beyond that there's not a whole lot to this new release: Just a mono Dolby TrueHD track (and mono, as clear as this is, is hardly what people associate with HD). Anyone picking this up is doing so purely for the nostalgia factor, as there's just nothing to this film (aside from a sexy Fonda being a relic of a liberated '60s) that'll warrant new fans.
Special Features: Just a trailer.
Just in time to get you excited for for Oliver Stone's latest film, Savages, is a Blu-ray of Born on the Fourth of July, which earned the soldier-turned-filmmaker a Best Director Oscar back in 1990. Special features on the disc are all ported over from past DVD issues, but if you're a fan of the Tom Cruise-starring film that takes a sobering look at the post-war life of Viet Nam veterans (and you should be, it's one of Stone's best films), the HD upgrade alone may be worth a double dip.
Stepping away from Stone's heavier drama, one can also find Blue Underground's Blu-ray of the cult favorite Django Kill.. If You Live, Shoot!, Barbara Hershey's memorable, um, encounter with a spirit in The Entity, and the fine but forgettable Disney Animation effort Home on the Range. All are on Blu-ray for the first time this week.
Continuing the trend are a further seven titles that all hit Blu-ray for the first time this week. They're all arriving mostly without frills, so if you already own any of these films on DVD, you're buying these just for the pretty bump in resolution: The Horse Whisperer, The Most Dangerous Game? (which was listed earlier on Amazon but is now unavailable, so don't be surprised if it's been bumped until later), Phenomenon, Step Up, Treasure Planet and the delightful Under the Tuscan Sun.
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Follow along on Twitter: @PeterSHall and @Moviesdotcom.