It looks like for the most part, Blu-ray and DVD are taking the holiday week off, with one notable exception in 'God Bless America'; fortunately, June changing to July means a host of great new additions on Netflix Watch Instant …
Written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait -- yes, the guy from the 'Police Academy' films, who has quietly and assuredly become a truly impressive director and screenwriter -- 'God Bless America' plays like a clumsy, comedy version of 'Falling Down,' ('Stumbling Down'?) or 'Fight Club' played for laughs with plenty of bitter bite. Terminal case sad-sack Joel Murray decides to use his dwindling days of life to teach a few lessons to the rude idiots, reality TV stars and singing-competition flavors of the week that have, to him, ruined everything, using actual bullets to signify his bullet points. Tara Lynne Barr shines as the mean teen who volunteers to be Murray's helpmate and apprentice in his mission of homicidal (but oddly hilarious) vengeance. The disc includes deleted and extended scenes and commentary by Murray, Barr and the funny-as-he-is-smart-and-vice-versa Goldthwait.
With a long-delayed remake on the way, it's important to pause and reflect that 1984's 'Red Dawn' is, for the Reagan-era Cold War generation that grew up with it, simultaneously ludicrous and awesome, like watching someone play "The Star-Spangled Banner" as an electric guitar solo through fifty feet of stacked speakers while a million dollars in wasteful pyrotechnics lights up the sky with glory. After a land invasion of the continental U.S.A. by Soviet forces -- an idea as inspiring as it was utterly ridiculous -- a group of teens in the Heartland (including Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Gray, Lea Thompson and others) head for the hills to act as resistance fighters against an enemy who has them outgunned, but not outmotivated. Written and directed by John Milius, 'Red Dawn' isn't just a pop-culture history (or pop culture as history) museum piece; for all its over-the-top craziness, it's also remarkably effective and engaging.
20th Century Fox
John Sayles may be one of the most under-appreciated indie directors of our time -- he never blew up, to be sure, but he also never sold out. recently placed in the Watch Instant catalog, 'Eight Men Out' may feature his most star-studded cast, as the story of the 1919 'Chicago Black Sox' -- the Chicago team who infamously fixed the World Series -- comes to the big screen. There's a long list of great of stars like John Cusack, Charlie Sheen and D. B. Sweeny playing the baseball players who decided to turn play into profit through cheating -- while still showing why they did it, and making us understand their actions. With a great cast, a sure hand from writer-director Sayles and an ending that puts chills up your spine, 'Eight Men Out" turns history into high drama, and America's pastime into a look at America.
A lot of the time, a documentary film means either a heartbreaking slog through the dim forest of some stranger's emotional turmoil or a numbing recitation of facts and figures about bad news to come. This film, though, is the exact opposite -- a documentary so full of humanity and heart and good-spirited joy that it'll leave you cheering, as six teens compete for the title, privilege and honor of being the best at the World Magic Teen Competition. The film's message that magic is a place for the awkward to shine and discover self-confidence is nicely underplayed, and the skill and passion and incredible work ethic and sense of joy the teens have -- from America, Japan, South Africa and further afield -- is incredible. The careful depiction of the six subjects' journeys and efforts means that "Make Believe''s greatest trick is turning your cynicism into delight.