February 13, 2009 in Features

‘Blindness’ strength in visuals

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Associated Press photo


(Full-size photo)

‘Blindness’

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End-of-the-world scenarios make up 90 percent of the plot devices used in a certain genre of sci-fi film. Fernando Meirelles, whose powerful “City of God” earned him a 2002 Oscar nomination for direction, adapted Nobel laureate Jose Saramago’s novel about the whole world going blind. When this occurs, the only person inexplicably to retain her sight – the wife (Julianne Moore) of a doctor (Mark Ruffalo) – must find the strength to help those around her survive. Meirelles’ powerful sense of the visual makes the most both of the Brazilian shooting sites and of a slimly themed screenplay (by Don McKellar). DVD, which is available on Blu-ray, includes making-of featurette, deleted scenes. (2:00; rated R for language, sexual assaults, sexuality/nudity, violence)

‘Frozen River’

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Melissa Leo is this year’s Amy Ryan: a veteran character actress who makes the most out of a choice role and, in the process, earns an Oscar nomination. She plays one of two women from different worlds (the other actress is Kalispell, Mont., native Misty Upham), each desperate to earn some much-needed money. To do so, they agree to drive illegal aliens across the Canadian border, which requires them to brave the shifting ice of the frozen St. Lawrence River. This film from first-time filmmaker Courtney Hunt is riveting, powerful and, ultimately, releasing. DVD, which is available in Blu-ray, includes commentary by writer-director Hunt and producer Heather Rae. (1:36; rated R for language)

‘W.’

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It’s no easy thing to document the life of a living person, especially when that person is a president who has roused so much public debate. Oliver Stone, no stranger to biopics, takes an unusual tack in attempting to portray former President George W. Bush. He benefits from a powerful performance by Josh Brolin as the title character, but the film ends up being little more than a pop-psychology character study. Maybe he – Stone, I mean – needs to take a few years and try again. DVD, which is available in Blu-ray, includes commentary by director Stone, featurette on the Bush family, DVD-ROM “W.: The Official Film Guide.” (2:11; rated PG-13 for alcohol abuse, disturbing war images, language, sexual references, smoking)

‘Foot Fist Way’

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This low-budget independent production earned its big-screen release because fans such as Will Ferrell championed it. You have to wonder why, though. Danny McBride, who has gone on to star in “Pineapple Express” and “Tropic Thunder,” makes the most out of his martial-arts-instructor character, whose natural sense of arrogance is more misplaced than thongs on “Biggest Loser” competitors. But the film overall, though it has comic moments, feels like what it should have been: a straight-to-video project. DVD includes commentary by director Jody Hill and actor McBride, a making-of featurette, additional scenes, blooper reel, alternate ending. (1:25; rated R for strong language, sexual content)

‘Miracle at St. Anna’

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Spike Lee never has been what anyone would call a subtle filmmaker. In adapting James McBride’s novel about four African American soldiers, trapped by Germans in World War II Italy, Lee decides to toss a bit of everything into the mix. Not only does he address racism, but Lee tackles mysticism, religion, partisan politics, class differences, sexism and a myriad other issues until it all merges as one overheated would-be epic. DVD, which is available in Blu-ray, includes no extras. (2:40; rated R for language, some sexual content/nudity, strong war violence)

Also available: “Against the Dark,” “Chocolate,” “Daniel’s Daughter,” “Gospel Hill,” “Imprint,” “The Lodger,” “My Name Is Bruce,” “Nights in Rodanthe,” “Obscene,” “The Romance of Astrea and Celadon,” “She Stoops to Conquer,” “Soul Men,” “Treasure Blind,” “Way of War”

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