The Conspirator (Blu-ray)
Special Features: B-
Blu-ray Geek Factor: 3
(Out of 10)
The first thing that struck me about director Robert Redford's film about the aftermath of the Lincoln assassination and the trial of Mary Surratt is how bad-looking it is. The movie looks like it was shot on a low budget with not much thought given to the authenticity of the period surroundings and makeup. This results in a movie that doesn't look worthy of the History Channel during overnights.
The second thing that struck me about the film is how utterly boring it is. James McAvoy gives it his best shot as lawyer Frederick Aiken, given the unenviable task of defending accused assassination conspirator Mary Surratt (Robin Wright). McAvoy has an impressive American accent, but his role here is to basically labor in yet another monotonous Hollywood courtroom drama.
Wright, donned in black, plays her role with a total void of humanity. She's all slow-motion and sour-faced here. Yes, she is playing somebody who had a rather shitty final few days on Earth, but Wright brings no spark to the proceedings. She looks bored and, consequently, I was bored.
The cast also includes the likes of Justin Long, Tom Wilkinson, Kevin Kline and Evan Rachel Wood as the girl who cries a lot.
For those who care, Redford hasn't made a really good film since 1998's The Horse Whisperer. It should also be noted that this film is the first for an organization called the American Film Company. Its mission is allegedly to make films that accurately portray American history. If The Conspirator is evidence of true American history, than 1865 was a lethargic time of bad wigs and extremely poor lighting.
SPECIAL FEATURES: You get a decent audio commentary from Redford, who seems proud of the movie (you can also watch the movie with video of Redford commentating and blocking part of the picture). There's also a making-of featurette, and an over hour-long documentary on the plot to kill Lincoln and the hangings that followed.
Special Features: B-
Blu-ray Geek Factor: 7.25
(out of 10)
Deep into August, this remains one of the year's better films, and a great superhero movie. Rainn Wilson delivers his best work to date as Frank d'Arbo, a depressed husband who puts on a makeshift outfit, grabs a pipe wrench, and becomes the Crimson Bolt, an over-reactant and quite violent superhero.
In what is one of my favorite performances of the year, Ellen Page is hilarious as Libby, the comic-bookstore employee who becomes Boltie, Crimson Bolt's hyperactive and chipper sidekick. Kevin Bacon is his usual awesome self as Jacques, the token bad guy, while Liv Tyler is good as Frank's misguided wife.
The movie is like a combo of Kick-Ass and Hero at Large, the '80s movie starring John Ritter as a vigilante who gets carried away. Wilson comes up with a great creation here, a total psycho you can't help but root for. With this film and Hesher, Wilson is making a name for himself playing sad, pitiful guys that are also kind of cool.
The film has a big gore factor, and might shock those who don't like lots of blood in their movies. Hell, it will shock those who like bloody movies.
SPECIAL FEATURES: A commentary with Wilson and director James Gunn, along with a deleted scene, some behind-the-scenes footage, and a funny featurette of Wilson running around in costume during SXSW in Austin.
Dead Man (Blu-ray)
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Special Features: D
Blu-ray Geek Factor: 7
(out of 10)
Jim Jarmusch's 1995 Western remains the best film of his career. Shot in beautiful black-and-white and starring Johnny Depp back when he was super-daring, the movie is Jarmusch firing on all cylinders.
Depp plays William Blake, a Cleveland man heading to the Old West for a job (love how the passengers get progressively grubbier and furrier the further west the train travels). After a bad scrape and shootout in a hotel, Blake winds up in the wilderness with Nobody, a helpful Indian played by Gary Farmer.
The cast is populated with great faces, including Iggy Pop as a bonnet-wearing frontiersman, Billy Bob Thornton as a guy who likes Depp's hair, and Robert Mitchum in one of his last screen roles. Michael Wincott is especially funny as a bounty hunter who can't keep his mouth shut, while Lance Henricksen is disgusting as the cannibalistic bounty hunter who eventually eats him. The sight of Henricksen chomping on an arm is one of the things that makes this one of the more unusual Westerns ever made.
Neil Young's stinging guitar soundtrack is a real stunner, and provides the film with much of its power. As for the Blu-ray, it's not the remastering the film deserves, and the picture is often grainy. Still, it looks better than any DVD incarnation that has come out over the years.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Some deleted scenes and a music video are all you get.