DVD RELEASES 2009/11/17

Well, whaddya know, Thanksgiving’s come early this year, as today brings us the home video release of two of the best new American films of 2009. One is a fiction comedy that plays like a documentary, and the other is a documentary about a character so utterly bizarre that it plays like fiction. But it doesn’t end there. Dig in and enjoy:

Humpday (Magnolia) — Now that the smoke has cleared, it’s obvious that Lynn Shelton’s hilariously sharp comedy—which embraces the Hollywood formula while subverting it at the very same time—didn’t become the breakout box office success so many of us had predicted (or should I say hoped for). I guess it just proves, once again, that multiplex audiences will pay to see movies that were shot on video for a paltry sum featuring unfamiliar faces, but they’ll only do it for one lucky genre: horror. But so what. Now that Humpday is making its way onto home video, it will hopefully make the mark that it should have made in theaters. Read my full review, then buy it on DVD.

The Carter (Virgil Films and Entertainment) — I wrote this after seeing The Carter at Sundance this year: Another one of my most anticipated films of the festival, Adam Bhala Lough delivers with this glimpse into the weed-clouded, syrup-glazed mind of Lil’ Wayne, who confirms his standing as one of modern music’s truest geniuses. Bhala Lough’s style is a perfect fit for Lil’ Wayne, who we get to see behind closed doors, recording-recording-recording (he says he records two new songs every day), getting interviewed, and performing to screaming fans all over the world. In some of those interviews, The Carter has a Don’t Look Back feel (note to interviewers: don’t get too analytical about Wayne’s process or you’re out the door). My favorite moment might be when Wayne pantomimes without actually lip-synching—he’s too busy smoking weed—to a track that is blasting out of a stereo. Bhala Lough superimposes the track’s lyrics over the image, and the stream-of-consciousness lyrical flow confirms Wayne’s mad genius. I can’t wait to see this movie again. Yes, it’s true, I can’t. Even if you don’t think you like Lil’ Wayne, you need to see The Carter. Visit the official website, then buy it on DVD.

My Effortless Brilliance (IFC Films/MPI Home Video) — Perhaps hoping to benefit from the press surrounding the more high profile Humpday—though in an even somewhat grander scheme, these movies are on a level playing field—Lynn Shelton’s second feature, My Effortless Brilliance, comes out on DVD today as well. Here’s a snippet of my full review, which I wrote in conjunction with the film’s world premiere at the 2008 South by Southwest Film Festival: My Effortless Brilliance is a well-executed dissection of a particularly complicated male friendship. As is the case in the real world, relationships like Eric and Dylan’s aren’t as simple as three-strikes-and-you’re-out. There are too many factors that prevent a firm stance from ever being taken. Shelton and her collaborators realize this. By shunning traditional, formulaic character interplay, they are able to dig deeper, resulting in a drama where far more complicated truths emerge. Read the rest of it here, then buy it on DVD.

The Exiles (Oscilloscope/Milestone) — Down and out on the margins of post-war, downtown Los Angeles, the subjects of Kent Mackenzie’s The Exiles—itself a seemingly banished film for nearly half a century—are Native Americans, most of whom struggle with the overwhelming effects of joblessness, alcoholism and urban alienation. Considered a documentary by its makers, who were greatly influenced by the school of British and Canadian non-fiction associated with Basil Wright and Humphrey Jennings, the film simultaneously has the fly-on-the-wall, off-the-cuff immediacy of mid-period Cassavetes and the delicate design and rich lighting schemes of Golden Era Hollyood. Working in a mode not unlike the Robert Flaherty of Nanook of the North, the film is made up of reenactments of sorts, taking a group of non-actors, mainly Natives, with a Latino or two sprinkled in, and having them live out a scenario not too dissimilar from their daily experience. Read the rest of Brandon Harris’ review, then buy it on DVD.

Thirst (Focus Features) — Park Chan-wook’s latest spectacle might not be perfect, but it’s a thoroughly captivating experience nonetheless. This might be one of those cases where too much thought gets in the way. I chose to leave my brain behind and simply soak in the sumptuous sounds and sights on display. Thirst tells an increasingly wild tale of a priest (Song Kang-ho) who finds himself unable to control his desires when he “survives” a deadly blood transfusion experiment (if by “survives” you mean “is turned into a vampire”). And when he crosses the line with a timid young woman, things really begin to get crazy. There’s no way in hell Kim Ok-vin would ever get nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, but she deserves it. Buy Thirst on DVD.

Sex, Lies, and Videotape (Sony) — Steven Soderbergh’s little-indie-that-did is finally available on Blu-ray. If you don’t remember what all the hype was about, you need to give this thing another spin.

— Michael Tully

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