Recommendation of the Week:
Doctor Zhivago (Blu-ray: $35.99 MSRP, much lower at most retailers)
How do you follow up Lawrence of Arabia? If you're director David Lean, you do it by directing a film based on a contemporary popular novel of the same name, that's set in tumultuous Russia in the days of World War I and through the Russian Civil War. Lean also cast Lawrence's right-hand man Omar Sharif as Doctor Zhivago, and this is easily of one Sharif's best performances. My generation has mostly known him as the guy who gets crushed in the car in Top Secret!, and it's high time that this movie put him back where he belongs as a terrific actor ... and not a guy who hosts video games about bridge. Zhivago is a true epic, and Warner Bros. has done one of its meticulous restorations to this film and put it in Digibook format. The film looks truly gorgeous in high definition, and there are a ton of extras, including an eight song soundtrack sampler. The treatment of this movie, combined with the fact the Warner's just announced it'll be bringing Citizen Kane and Ben-Hur to Blu-ray in 2011, set the bar high for future classic movie releases.
Xbox Live Video Marketplace (Xbox 360)
The Men Who Stare At Goats (640[$8] HD, 480 [$6] SD, to rent)
This film flew under everyone's radar, unfortunately, and if you missed it, then you missed out. Luckily it's right here on your Xbox for you to stare at. This is a very tongue-in-cheek look at the supposed real Psi-Ops division that the Army had in development, which contained men who were purported to have the ability to do things with their minds ... like kill goats. It's only loosely based on the non-fiction novel of the same name, but it contains terrific performances from George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey and the scene-stealing Jeff Bridges. More a dark comedy than anything else, Goats contains some surprisingly beautiful imagery and will definitely make you think. And yes, there are a lot of references to Jedi powers in the script, and yes Ewan McGregor played Obi Wan Kenobi. You're going to sort of get past that on your own, and if you can't separate actors from characters they've played in your head, then I can't help you. But, you could do far worse than to check out this enjoyable film, directed by Clooney's producing partner, Grant Heslov.
Netflix Watch Instantly (Mac/PC, Xbox Live, PS3 and now Wii!, subscription required: starts at $8.99 per month)
Party Down: Season One
What's this? You've never heard of Party Down? Well, that's forgivable since it's a half-hour comedy that airs only on Starz. This is an absolutely hilarious show about caterers created by John Enbom, Rob Thomas, Dan Etheridge and Paul Rudd, and it has a long list of actors in it who bring these stories to life: Adam Scott, Megan Mulally, Martin Starr, Kristen Bell, Ken Marino, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge, Lizzy Caplan and Ryan Henson. Plus, a bevy of guest stars usually appear each episode. They just kicked off their second season (also available on Watch Instantly), and you can catch up with the entire 10 episode first season right here. The series is set in Los Angeles, and often pokes hilarious fun at the entertainment industry, with most of the actors in the cast also playing wannabe actors on the show. It's unknown if this show will survive past the second season, due to actors moving on to shows like Glee and Parks and Recreation, but I'm hoping that it does and they can just keep rotating the stars right on through, just like a real catering company.
PlayStation Store (PlayStation 3 or PSP)
Drawn Together ($.99 SD per epiosode to own, The Movie! $15.99 HD, $9.99 SD to own)
A bit of a confession here: I actually worked on Drawn Together. For an entire season, I served as the design coordinator, where I broke down scripts and handed out assignments to the artists. Is it one of the highlights of my career? Well, let's just say that I never told my parents about the show. They probably would have had heart attacks. South Park continues to stand as a show that often propels itself across the line of what is proper, but "the world's first animated reality show," Drawn Together, went so far over that line that they circled the globe more than once. Nothing underscores this more than one of the first scenes of the The Drawn Together Movie: The Movie!, where the Jew Producer (a body with a loudspeaker for a head) tells the animated housemates that they have to put on high heels and stomp on kittens and puppies to win an immunity challenge. And that's just for starters. It gets worse. Much, much worse. Yet somehow, you're going to laugh. At least once. Check out the series and the movie and you'll see what I mean.
Blu-ray Disc (PlayStation 3)
Saving Private Ryan ($39.99 MSRP much lower at most retailers)No song and dance here. Saving Private Ryan is finally out on Blu-ray, and it looks fantastic. Have you been watching HBO's The Pacific, produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks? That series, combined with Band of Brothers and this movie make for one of the best WWII storytelling experiences on film. At 12 years old, Ryan still holds up, and while there are no new extras, save for HD versions of the film trailer, the picture and the sound mix here are worth the price alone. There are no new deleted scenes, no commentary with Hanks or Spielberg, no interactive map of the entire invasion of Normany. Just a solid, gorgeous film that shows the brutality of war through a very up-close and personal lens. People are always looking for one of those discs that you toss in to show off how gorgeous Blu-ray looks. This should be the one. Granted, there are no laser beams or artificial blue people, but it is extremely gorgeous nonetheless. Highly recommended.
But enough of our yakkin', what are you watching?