Prohibitive Oscar favorite explodes on DVD

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 12:29am
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'The Hurt Locker'

The Hollywood awards season is young and Oscar nominations won't be announced for several weeks, yet Kathyrn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker (Summit), which will be released Tuesday on DVD, has emerged as a prohibitive favorite.

While hardly a commercial blockbuster, the film performed decently during its theatrical release and a publicity blitz ensued after the movie began winning various critics’ polls and finishing in Top 10 lists — that should definitely help DVD sales.

The Hurt Locker follows the daily adventures of an Explosive Ordinance Disposal Team stationed in Iraq during 2004. Their job is to disarm the various homemade bombs and devices hidden throughout cities and along the countryside. The team must do this even while it is never quite certain whether the people watching them are friends or enemies.

And do the job while being well aware that one wrong move or sudden twitch may result in a fatal explosion.

By focusing on a tight-knit group involved in extraordinary life or death situations, never delving into side issues like politics or religion, and downplaying violence and CGI effects for characterization and clipped, intense dialog, Bigelow's film communicates an on-the-edge sensibility that's thrilling and riveting.

Screenwriter Mark Boa was once embedded in Iraq with a similar unit, and his script is devoid of clichés and theatrics.

Jeremy Renner, Ralph Fiennes and Anthony Mackie — among many others in this stellar cast — deliver extraordinary, searing performances.

Even if it doesn't eventually win an Oscar, The Hurt Locker shows you can make captivating and relevant movies about the Iraq conflict that effectively depict the special nature of that conflict, yet still have a universal appeal and flavor.

Other releases on DVD

Tyler Perry's films have routinely opened No. 1 at the box office, and last year's I Can Do Bad By Myself (Lionsgate), being released on DVD Tuesday, proved one of his finest even as it also departed in significant fashion from past Perry works.

One big difference was the limited role for the drag queen Madea, the cigar chomping, tough-talking, bible-misquoting character played by Perry in drag that's been a controversial figure since first introduced on the stage many years ago. Indeed the theatrical version of this movie was one of Perry's first works, and he tweaked it slightly in its cinematic rendition.

The prime story spotlights April (Taraji P. Henson) — a bitter, talented and alcoholic nightclub singer who neglects her young wards and is involved in a dead-end affair with a married man. Though once a faithful church member, April long ago deserted that family to seek solace with a man who has little respect for her and even more contempt for any children.

Then she meets a Colombian handyman (Adam Rodriguez) with his own secrets and issues, but someone determined to establish a relationship with her. Anyone remotely familiar with Perry material knows what's coming, but the journey to the inevitable climax is well acted and enjoyable.

The film also worked in fine guest musical appearances from Gladys Knight, Marvin Winans and Mary J. Blige.

Past Perry films have been big DVD sellers and there's no reason to expect I Can Do Bad By Myself won't do as well in the home video market as it did in theaters.

TV on DVD

Coming on the heels of last week's 20th anniversary special will be Tuesday's release of the four-disc boxed set The Simpsons: Season 20 (20th Century Fox).

The studio skipped volumes 13-19 to release this collection of 22 episodes from last year for one reason: the 2008-09 season was the first where The Simpsons shot some episodes in high definition, and those are a big feature of this package.

There's also a featurette about the 20th century special that's been rendered moot considering the show aired before this package was released. But that aside, Simpsons fans have been anxiously awaiting this HD set for weeks, and they will certainly help it become one of the week's prime releases.