DVD RELEASES 2010/5/18

A solid week, I’d say. Let’s get to it:

The Messenger (Oscilloscope) — In The Messenger, Ben Foster is Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery, a clenched jaw Iraq war vet, who is forced into joining Gulf War vet Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) in the task of notifying Next of Kin that their child or husband just died in the warThe Messenger directly confronts the rage, anger and fear of the Iraq war veteran in an honest, non-manipulative style, and in the end it provides no easy answers. Read the rest of Mike S. Ryan’s review, then buy it on DVD or Blu-ray.

Long Knives Night and Reporting From A Rabbit Hutch (Seminal Films/Cinema Purgatorio) — This 2-film collection from director Victor Dashuk makes for the week’s scariest new release. Because these documentary nightmares about Belarus and that country’s dictatorial leader Alexander Lukashenko were made in 1999 and 2001, you might be fooled into thinking this is past history. But it’s not. Which only makes the terrifying insights into Lukashenko’s character that much more disturbing. This is daring, vital reportage that will wake you up and shake you up in equal measure. Buy it on DVD.

Waiting For Armageddon (First Run Features) — The second scariest release of the week is another documentary. Acclaimed nonfiction directors Kate Davis, Franco Sacchi, and David Heilbroner set their sights on the growing culture of American Evangelicals who are stirring up the Holy War pot in a way you might not expect. I always knew this sector of the religious community held hypocritical attitudes toward Judaism (in a nutshell, Jews are the chosen ones because they’re the ones who must die to fulfill the prophesy!), but to see it in this film establishes just how frightening this position actually is, since these people appear to actually wield political power. Buy it on DVD.

The 16th Man (ESPN Films’ 30 For 30) —  When I finally sat down to watch Cliff Bestal’s contribution to the ESPN 30 For 30 documentary series, I didn’t have Clint Eastwood’s Invictus on my mind (I’m still reeling from Gran Torino and never got around to that one). Unfortunately, the film that I couldn’t help but compare it to was Connie Field’s incredible 8-plus hour Have You Heard From Johannesburg, in which Field also addresses the issue of how sport—in this case rugby—helped to unite South Africa. That said, Bestal and narrator Morgan Freeman successfully recount the historic moment in time when President Nelson Mandela’s bold decision to support his country’s rugby squad, combined with their success on the field, created a unified sense of national pride that no one had ever dreamed was possible. Buy it on DVD.

Walkabout (Criterion) — Nicolas Roeg’s classic drama has been available on home video before, but it appears that this spanking new version has added treats that make it worth revisiting once again. If you’ve never seen it, well, that’s just not acceptable. Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray.

Have Not Seen But Plan To Do Just That

Defamation (First Run Features) — Defamation is a fascinating, infuriating and, ultimately, depressing treatise on Judaism, politics and the multi-layered relationship that America has with Israel. It is also vital and timely. If you want to understand something about this relationship between modern middle-class American Jewry and the current (sorry) state of the Jewish Homeland, you should see this film. Take your children, and your children’s children, with you when you do. Read the rest of Pamela Cohn’s impassioned review, then buy it on DVD.

The Black List, Vol. 2 (Indican Pictures) — I was a big fan of the first film in this project, in which well known African-Americans share their own inspiring tales of success (to good ol’ Elvis Mitchell), so I’m doubly anxious to dive into this second volume. Buy it on DVD.

Eclipse 21: Oshima’s Outlaw Sixties (Criterion) — The following Nagisa Oshima films are collected in this set: Pleasures of the Flesh, Violence At Noon, Japanese Summer: Double Suicide, Sing A Song Of Sex, and Three Resurrected Drunkards. Buy it on DVD.

— Michael Tully

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