New DVD takes 'alienation' to a new levelJan. 18, 2010.
By G. Michael Dobbs
A fun animated film, an interesting documentary series and a great science fiction movie are in this week's DVD review column.
WWII in HD
When I interviewed famed documentarian Ken Burns late last year, I asked him about the effect his success and his style of documentary has had on other filmmakers. He modestly deferred part of the question, but it is certainly answered in "WWII in HD."
Watching this History Channel series, one can't help but wonder if the producers argued about just how close they wanted to make their series to Burns' "The War." It has several of the key storytelling devices used by Burns.
The principal difference is that all of the footage used in this series is in color. The producers searched archives for color films from the war and the result is pretty stunning.
The footage isn't just from the Allied side, but from the Axis as well.
The story of the war is told through Americans who participated in it, from a combat reporter to an Austrian immigrant who came here to escape Hitler. It's very involving and should be an eye-opener to any young person who might wonder just how accurate "Inglourious Basterds" really was.
Although the series is derivative of the Burns production, the color footage certainly makes it well worth any history buff's time.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
I have to admit that when the trailer came on the screen when my wife, nephew and I were watching "Monsters Versus Aliens," I was quite unimpressed. There was a glut of computer animated film in the last two years of dubious concept from chimpanzees in outer space to house flies stowing away to the moon aboard the Apollo spacecraft and I lumped this film along with those.
Boy, was I wrong. "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" is a delightful film that is truly suitable for the entire family. Based on a book of the same name, the film tells the story of Flint, a struggling inventor who lives on an island where sardine fishing was once the big industry. His latest gadget a device that can change water vapor into food is accidentally sent into orbit above the town and is able to literally rain down any food Flint instructs it to.
Soon, the mayor of the town sees great possibilities for turning the town's economy around with the device and Flint's newfound success and popularity lands him the chance to have a girlfriend.
Naturally, things go a little wrong, but Flint prevails as the hero.
I laughed out loud at this funny and warm story, which has no musical numbers yay! and doesn't try to ape the very successful animated Pixar films.
Get this film, pop up some corn and watch it at your next family gathering.
Although this highly acclaimed film deserves all of its recognition, one must acknowledge the concept of how humans would interact with a population of alien refugees stuck on Earth was first tackled in the 1988 film "Alien Nation." Although "District 9" does share some concepts with the earlier film, it takes those ideas to a logical conclusion that certainly blew me away.
The film is set in Johannesburg, South Africa, where a huge alien vessel is literally stalled over the city. When local authorities make their way into the UFO they discover a population of starving alien beings whom they bring to a camp at the edge of the city.
Fast forward years to the present and the aliens are still in the camp. Their presence is creating problems for South African officials who understand this is a new apartheid policy, so a private management firm is hired to move the aliens to a new location and convince them this is better for them.
The man heading that effort is Wikus (played by Sharito Copley in an Oscar-worthy performance). Wikus is a middle manager thrust into the job by his scheming father-in-law, the head of the company, and he earnestly believes in his mission.
When he comes into contact with an alien liquid, though, something begins to happen he is turning into one of them. This is very ominous as the aliens have weapons that respond only to their hands and now Wikus is growing one of those hands.
Wanted by the government, the corporation and local criminals, Wikus soon undergoes another transformation, this one of perception of what it is like to be alien.
The two-disc DVD set is loaded with extras and this is one film that lives up to its hype.