In 1985, Indiana Jones got all serious and even garnered himself an Oscar nomination for Peter Weir's excellent film about a big-city cop hiding out in Amish country. Harrison Ford has never delivered a better performance than his work as John Book, although his turn as a crazed father in The Mosquito Coast (also from Weir) did come close.
The film contains one of the great child performances in cinema history, that of Lukas Haas as the young Amish boy who witnesses Danny Glover's murderous behavior in a men's bathroom. In that bathroom scene, Haas has a look in his eyes that is terrifying (Haas reveals during a special feature that Weir had him scared that he'd blow the scene if he didn't get the look right).
Special Features: An excellent five-part documentary on the making of the movie, with participation from Ford, Weir, Kelly McGillis, Viggo Mortensen (who made his big-screen debut in the film) and Haas. A deleted scene that was shown on television also makes the package.
A very faithful adaptation of Frank Miller's dark graphic novel, Sin City stands as director Robert Rodriguez's best film to date. Shot in black and white with sparse use of color, the movie is a visual masterpiece, equipped with a stellar cast.
Mickey Rourke is most memorable as Marv, a lantern-jawed giant seeking revenge for a woman's death. Bruce Willis is greatness as Hartigan, a cop with a bad ticker. While Jessica Alba doesn't have much to say, her cowboy dance stands as one of the year's most memorable visuals. Well, for me, anyway.
This has been a good year for the comic-book movie. Sin City and Batman Begins are two of the best in the genre, and Rodriguez is already hard at work on a sequel.
Special Features: Just a behind-the-scenes featurette, surprising considering how ornate past Rodriguez releases have been on DVD. There will probably be a special edition somewhere in the future.
Director Errol Morris won an Oscar for his 2003 film, The Fog of War. He actually contributed to the winning of somebody's freedom with one of his earlier films.
The Thin Blue Line is one of the more extraordinary documentaries ever made. It tells the story of Randall Adams, wrongly convicted of killing a Dallas cop in 1976. Morris recounts the story through interviews with Adams and others, as well as re-enactments that depict all sides of the story. David Harris, who would later be put to death for a separate crime, had managed to deceive the Texas judicial system with his scared 16-year-old act, and got a man wrongly imprisoned for 12 years. After the release of the film, the case was re-opened, and Adams was eventually exonerated.
The Thin Blue Line can be purchased alone or as part of the collection. The collection features two other Morris films: Gates of Heaven, which tells the true story of a pet memorial park, and Vernon, Florida, a funny look at a life in a strange American town. The Thin Blue Line (A); Gates of Heaven (B), Vernon, Florida (B).
Special Features: The Thin Blue Line has an episode of a Morris television program called Mr. Personality. That is all.
This is a documentary film of Death Cab for Cutie's 2004 American tour, and a nice place to start if you are not familiar with the band. Riding high on the success of their album Transatlanticism (2003), Death Cab tours as an indie-label band for their final time in this film. Coming Aug. 30, Death Cab makes their major label debut on Atlantic with Plans after years on the indie label Barsuk.
The film reveals a band that is awfully laid back behind the scenes. Apart from one quick drinking story, the band is all about the business of music. Vocalist/guitarist Ben Gibbard (who is also the driving force behind his side project, The Postal Service) appears to be anything but a rock star when sitting down for interviews. He looks like the Woody Allen geek that he actually is. When he and the band take to the stage, a sort of magic happens. Death Cab albums are great, but the live show is an altogether unexpected experience. What was somber in the studio becomes a monster on stage.
There's great music to be heard here, with great insight into the life of a band that isn't interested in destroying itself.
Special Features: An acoustic set at the Metreon in San Francisco, and some additional interview material should make fans happy.