Recommendation of the Week:
Red Cliff (VOD, Amazon, and Xbox 360: 800 ($10) SD to rent)
John Woo is back! And thankfully this isn't the John Woo who directed Paycheck or Windtalkers. This is more like the Hard Boiled, Hard Target John Woo ... just on a massive scale. It's an epic film based on actual historic events and battles that took place in China around 208 AD. Chinese audiences were treated to a four hour long version that was split into two parts, and it has become the highest grossing film in Chinese history. American audience are getting a version that's been heavily edited down to 2.5 hours, but it is still well worth watching. Three epic battles, stealth, trickery, and martial arts action. Plus it reunited John Woo with actor Tony Leung who co-starred in Hard Boiled with Chow Yun-Fat. Don't balk at the running time, because it is worth every minute. Check out an exclusive clip of the movie over at Cinematical.
A lot of you have been asking about the pricing on certain Xbox releases. For instance Red Cliff is 800 ($10) to rent in standard definition, as opposed to the normal rental price of 320 ($4) for SD. The reason for this is that it has not yet been released in theaters, and is exclusive to the Xbox 360, Amazon, and certain VOD outlets. The film actually opens on November 18, so the added price is for the benefit of seeing it early.
Xbox Live Video Marketplace (Xbox 360)
The World's Fastest Indian (320 ($4) SD to rent)
Anthony Hopkins shows us why he's one of the world's best actors in this true story about an old man determined to push the limits of his motorcycle, and himself. Even though everyone keeps telling he's too old, he keeps pushing ahead. When he's denied a racing permit, he decides to do it anyhow. He also does it on all on a rebuilt 1920 Indian motorcycle It's a simple, yet touching film about human spirit and perseverance that doesn't feature any real shocking twists, turns or surprises, but it'll make you forget that Hopkins formerly played a character who wouldn't mind dining on your liver.
Netflix Watch Instantly (Mac/PC or Xbox Live, subscription required: starts at $8.99 per month)
I didn't want to like Bolt, and it would have been standard Disney animated fare if not for that freaking hamster. Rhino is one of the best characters to come out of any movie, animated, live-action or otherwise, in a long time. What's even better is that the animator Mark Walton recorded his lines as a temp track, and they liked them so much that they kept him in the film. Even more bizarre is the fact that the design for Rhino in his plastic ball was based on the look of John Lasseter's pet Chinchilla, and the animation team adopted a hamster to study for the film. They named him Doink. The movie is fun, charming and might even jerk a tear or two out of gamer's battle-hardened eyes.
PlayStation Store (PlayStation 3 or PSP)
Seventh Moon ($4.50 HD, $2.99 SD to rent, $9.99 SD to own)
How do you follow up The Blair Witch Project? Apparently by waiting nearly 10 years to return to horror. Director Eduardo Sanchez has been notably silent since Blair Witch tore up movie charts in 1999 as a surprise hit (Paranormal Activity, anyone?). He directed the forgettable Altered in 2006, but Seventh Moon is a fine return to the horror genre and genuinely terrifying. And I'm not just talking about Amy Smart's acting ability and top billing on the movie poster. Film follows a young couple on their honeymoon in China, and things of course go horribly wrong. There are some actually decent scares here, and should be on your Halloween horror radar.
Blu-ray Disc (PlayStation 3)
The Wizard of Oz: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition ($84.99 MSRP, lower at many retailers. Currently $49.49 at Amazon)
Everyone has a secret guilty pleasure that they keep behind closed doors. Sometimes, you have to let that secret out and just go with it. Mine is that I love old Hollywood movies, and yes, that includes musicals. Next to Singin' in the Rain, The Wizard of Oz is my one of my favorite movies, and it has never looked this good. Not even when it screened in theaters. Seriously, there are details in this transfer (they call the process UltraResolution) that you've never seen before. This Blu-ray edition has been spectacularly restored, features enough archival material to keep you occupied for days, and comes with a wristwatch, a miniature coffee table book, and reproductions of the original 1939 press materials, as well as a copy of the budget. Yes, the budget. Bizarre but true.
What are you watching?