This week's new DVD releases give you your choice of an grumpy, broken down country singer, a dead girl and blue creatures called the Na'vi.
Let's start with Crazy Heart with Jeff Bridges, whose performance won him this year's Academy Award for Best Actor, as well as nods by the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Globes (translation: he gave a performance worth your notice). Bridges is Bad Blake, a country singer whose career has been reduced to playing bowling alleys and empty clubs.
His body is in worse shape than his career (he smokes and drinks almost constantly), but somehow he still attracts the attention of Jean (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal), a journalist and single mom. With a little help from Jean and a buddy named Wayne (Robert Duvall), Bad tries to sober up and start writing hits again. It's all too obvious that there's no guarantee that he's going to make it.
While this might sound gloom-and-doom (who wants to watch an old drunk get sober?), Bridges' performance draws you in, one scene at a time, until you're completely immersed in his struggles. A heartfelt film that makes the most of its actors' talents, Crazy Hearts manages to stay this side of melodrama while providing a powerful story. Partially set in Houston, the film features some impressive music, including "The Weary Kind" which took home an Oscar for Best Song.
Equally heartfelt is Lovely Bones with Saoirse Ronan as Susie, a 14-year-old girl who has been murdered and watches her family from heaven (she narrates the film). Her dad (Mark Wahlberg) and mom (Rachel Weisz), mourn her in different ways: her dad becomes obsessed with finding her killer, her mom begins a relationship with a local cop. Written by the trio that penned the Lord of the Rings screenplays -- Peter Jackson (who also directs), Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens -- Bones can sometimes seem a bit heavy on the special effects (it appears Jackson can't shoot a film without a CGI tech standing right next to him), but Ronan is captivating on screen. Walhberg's intensity hits the right notes as the grieving dad and Stanley Tucci as Susie's killer is perfectly sinister and twisted.
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That leaves us with a little film you might have heard about called Avatar. It's a typical guy-kills-aliens, guy-falls-in-love-with-an-alien, guy-switches-sides-and-defends-aliens story, with some next generation CGI technology that makes the whole thing pop. Writer/director James Cameron makes good use of every tool at his disposal to tell his story, from special effects to music to actors, which included Sam Worthington, Zoé Saldaña, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, and Sigourney Weaver (every good alien movie has Sigourney Weaver in it, right?).
Forgive us for being so nonchalant about Avatar, but the film has already won more than enough awards (28 major nods in all, including three Oscars), accolades and rabid fans - not to mention it made $745 million dollars in box office. Those of us who don't dream about turning blue and growing a tail, have a little bit of Avatar fatigue. Great film? Sure. Hyped to freaking death? Oh, yeah.