Debuting this week on DVD and Blu-ray: Viggo Mortensen and Kodi McPhee star in the post-apocalyptic drama, The Road; Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried get romantic in Dear John; Neil Patrick Harris leads the geeky musical, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog; and a look at the second season of True Blood.
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi McPhee, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, Robert Duvall
Director: John Hillcoat
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Cormac McCarthy is becoming something of a popular fellow with the film industry. In 2007 the Coen brothers’ adaptation of his novel No Country For Old Men was a critical success, capturing four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. There are also plans for an adaptation of his novel Blood Meridian in the next few years.
And this week, director John Hillcoat’s vision of McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic thriller The Road debuts on DVD. The harrowing story follows a man, played by Viggo Mortensen, travelling across America with his son as they try to find some safe haven among the violence and ruthlessness that has broken out after a disaster claimed most of civilization.
Stark, bleak and utterly grim, but also brimming with emotion, The Road is a story of survival and the human condition, which was called “emotionally shattering” by The Guardian when it was first published.
On screen, the story is profoundly moving, beautifully capturing the relationship between father and son as they survive inhumane conditions, and carry the burden of the mother they lost before they set out on their journey.
Filmed magnificently, in a way that not only captures the story, but firmly sets the drama within a devastated reality, The Road is ultimately not quite as powerful as No Country for Old Men, but it is far more devastating. The film is profoundly troubling, and left me bare to the bone. There is hardly a speck of light to be found, except in the father’s relationship with his wife and child.
That may turn some viewers off, but The Road is a powerful experience, which will probably change how you perceive the average “post-apocalyptic” story. By contrast, I would almost call a movie like Children of Men a gentle walk through the park by The Road’s standards, but that’s perhaps an unfair comparison. It still should give you some idea what you’re in for once you start on this heavy, dreary and yet emotional path.
Starring: Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried, Richard Jenkins, Henry Thomas, D.J. Cotrona
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Director Lasse Hallstrom, who brought us films like The Cider House Rules and Chocolat, delivers the adaptation of Nicolas Sparks’ novel about a young couple, brought together by chance, but separated by war.
Channing Tatum stars as John, a soldier on temporary leave when he meets Savannah, played by Amanda Seyfried, a lovely college girl who immediately captures his heart. Spending two weeks together, the two fall in love, but are quickly torn apart when John’s leave takes him back to the turmoil of war. Over the course of his tour of duty, the two share their lives through letters, but invariably when he can be with Savannah again, a looming second tour is on the horizon.
Written by screenwriter Jamie Lindon, who previously penned We Are Marshall, Dear John is a romantic drama that is happy to flaunt its two leads as it cranks up the sappy tension.
Notably similar to Sparks’ other adapted story, The Notebook, Dear John is a sweet story that dwells in a pure, idealized version of teenage romance. It’s seriously sappy to the core, but it’s not without some charm, mainly because Tatum and Seyfried make a pretty couple, and do a certain level of justice to the story.
The big flaw is that the story falters considerably as it moves into the letters stage, where John and Savannah are only connected through words on a page. While this concept must have worked well on the page, and it seems like a romantic notion, it just doesn’t hold up the mood very well.
If you can accept the average Hollywood romance, Dear John is still a sufficiently sweet story of love and heartache.
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog [Blu-ray]
Starring: Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, Felicia Day
Director: Joss Whedon
For the geeks of the world, Joss Whedon deserves some big respect. Between Buffy The Vampire Slayer and his short-lived series, Firefly, Whedon created some seriously loved television.
During the Hollywood writer’s strike though, he earned yet another notch on his belt with the Internet-only miniseries, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which arrives on Blu-ray for the first time today.
Over three, 14-minute episodes, the miniseries introduces us to a sweetly-musical, tragic comedy. Starring the fantastic Neil Patrick Harris as the pitiful Dr. Horrible, plus Nathan Fillion as Captain Hammer, and Felicia Day as the lovely Penny, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog was a huge hit when it debuted online, thanks to a light and lively love story. It’s also filled with some of the best tongue-in-cheek musical numbers you’ll imagine a super villain could sing.
Topping it all off, the Blu-ray package is full of great extras, more than we usually see in many big budget films, let alone independently produced movies. Admittedly, the production standards are somewhat low at times, but that’s both the charm of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, and the reason it was possible to make at the time when Hollywood was effectively shut down.
Features from the package include two commentaries, one standard edition with the cast and Joss Whedon, plus an all-singing commentary that mocks the commentary process and the film’s production. There are also making-of features, bloopers, and the very funny, “Evil League of Evil Application Videos”.
Overall, a must-own for fans, and a bright, comical mini-series that deserves a look on Blu-ray.
True Blood: The Complete Second Season
Starring: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Alexander Skarsgard, Rutina Wesley
Lastly, I can’t overlook the release of the second season of the fantastic vampire drama, True Blood.
Set in an alternate reality where humans and vampires are trying to exist together, the plot looks at the messes that emerge as the two sides try to find some kind of middle ground, which was basically made possible thanks to the creation of a synthetic blood that sold across America.
Jumping into the second season, the story revolves around one missing vampire, who is over 2000-years-old, and the rise of one religion that essentially wants to eradicate the vampires.
The Blu-ray package includes picture-in-picture extras about the series, commentaries, character perspectives about other characters, faux news reports, plus an in-character video from the pastor of the Fellowship of the Sun, Rev. Steve Nelwin.