By G. Michael Dobbs
I watched a lot of good movies and some great ones in 2012 on DVD and Blu-Ray and here's a look at my favorites. With no order of preference, here are home video releases that I believe deserve multiple viewings.
Who knew that a new silent film in the 21st Century could be a hit with mainstream audiences, many of who had never sat through a silent film? An unabashed love letter to Hollywood that conjures up both the reality and the fantasy of a filmmaking era of nearly a century ago, "The Artist" is funny, sad and ultimately sweet. The performances are wonderful and the period look is perfect.
The Ides of March
A film made for political junkies, "The Ides of March" was not a huge box office hit when released in theaters. Perhaps it was too down-beat; perhaps it was the kind of production that could have gained more attention on cable television. Telling a compelling story of the clash of reality and idealism in presidential politics, it had a ring of disturbing truth. It showed once again the depth of George Clooney not just as an actor, but also as a filmmaker and that Ryan Gosling is more than a flavor of the month.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Although I really liked the Swedish film series based on the best-selling novels, I admired the integrity of director David Fincher in fashioning a truly harrowing murder mystery that was subversive and yet acceptable to audiences. This is not a film for everyone. The level of violence, both real and emotional, is high and the sexual content is not for the squeamish. Still, this film is really about redemption and trust as a disgraced journalist and a traumatized computer hacker team up to solve a mystery.
Only the very sour people in the world couldn't help but love this amazing re-boot of The Muppets. Star Jason Segal co-wrote this script, which was funny, clever and moving. Telling the story of the Muppets after their glory days and how they reunite was brilliant. This is a great family film that has equal appeal to adults and kids.
Cabin in the Woods
I've seen a lot of horror movies over the years and so have this film's writers, director Drew Goddard and producer Joss Whedon. Think you know what's going to happen when you watch a movie where a good-looking group of young people head off to a deserted cabin for a weekend? No, you don't because this film takes all of the conventions you've seen and turn them on their collective head. The clever script elevates this film past a parody and past in-jokes to something truly original. This is a must-see movie for anyone who likes a good scare and a good laugh.
The Perfect Family
Kathleen Turner gives audiences a great performance as a woman who is trying to reconcile her Catholic faith with the realities of her family: her husband drinks too much, her son is having an affair and her daughter is a lesbian. Turner's character, Eileen, never intends to be mean-spirited and the actress makes sure that Eileen is never a parody. She is simply confused about how her life has sped past some of the teachings of the church. Dramatic, funny and sweet, this film is well worth discovering.
This film was re-made with some well-known names, but I can't see how it could improve on the original seek that version out. What would you do if a lie on which you've built most of your life upon was threatened to become exposed? That's the problem for three Israeli Mossad agents who were assigned to bring a Nazi back to justice, but allowed to escape. They take credit for killing him, but this story unravels when he turns up in a nursing home and talking to reporters. This is a great suspense movie with some unexpected twists.
OK, you have essentially one set a standalone ATM building and four main characters. What kind of movie could you make? Director David Brooks and writer Chris Sparling show that with the right script and direction you can make a very effective suspense film. A young man offers a woman a ride home from an office Christmas party. His obnoxious pal insists that he needs a lift as well. The friend asks to stop at an ATM and that's when the trouble begins as this ATM has been targeted by a serial killer as the location of his next series of murders. This movie will make you think twice about ever stopping at a lonely ATM in the middle of the night.
The Carol Burnett Show: Carol's Favorites
Was the "The Carol Burnett Show" perhaps the greatest variety show in American television history? Well, if it wasn't, it certainly is near the top of every list and this collection gathers entire shows that are Burnett's favorites, along with a lot of great extras.
The beauty of Burnett's show is the fine comedy writing that co-existed with some of the best ad-libbing in television. Burnett, an amazingly talented performer, was smart enough to surround herself with great talent, including Tim Conway, whose ad-lib brought both energy and spontaneity to the show.
This is an outstanding collection of some of the best comedy moments ever seen on television.
The Three Stooges: Ultimate Collection
Listen porcupine, there are boxed sets and then there is this historic artifact. Every single one of the short comedies The Three Stooges made at their 20-plus years at Columbia Studios has been collected for this mammoth brick of DVDs.
Marvel at Moe, Larry and Curly! Discover the beauty of Shemp! Be somewhat dubious of Joe Besser! Wonder how Curly Joe DeRita ever had a job in show business!
The collection redeems Shemp Howard, by the way, by showing just how funny he was in Stooge shorts and in solo comedies.
The many hours of extras are truly fascinating as that disc collects two of the group's features and many comedy shorts starring members of the Stooges in solo performances.
If you're a fan of classic comedy, or of grown men hitting one another, this set shouldn't be passed up.