If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Even as acknowledged in the impressive array of bonus features added to this new limited edition (?) blu-ray of cult fave, "The Big Lebowski", it's not a film that everyone likes the first time. In fact, in my experience, pretty much every Coen Brothers film takes a couple viewings to figure out what you really think of it. Some of my absolute favorite films (and albums, for that matter) I didn't really react to that strongly at first go-round, and several of those were Coen movies. On initial release, "The Big Lebowski" was greeted with a lukewarm reaction by most crowds and critics alike, who weren't really sure what to make of it. Coming as it was between two such undeniably fantastic movies as "Fargo" and "O Brother Where Art Thou", it must have seemed, to those who didn't grok it's off-beat humor, as a somewhat charming mis-fire. As one of those folks who fell in love the first time around I was relieved, as the years have elevated it to being considered one of the best cult films, and one of the best comedies of the 90's to boot. Loosely based (and I mean loosely) on Chandler's "The Big Sleep", the story follows the veritable god of likable slackers, Jeff Lebowski (Jeff Bridges). Going through life with a caucasian (a white russian for those who live in the real world) in one hand and a joint in the other, the generally amiable "Dude", as he prefers to be called, passes the time bowling with his two buddies; a temperamental vietnam vet named Walter (John Goodman), and a sweet but naive guy named Donny (Steve Buscemi). A mistaken identity that causes the Dude to get roughed up in his own home, and his rug peed on (it "really tied the room together") leads him to try and track down his alternate namesake that the thugs were actually looking for in order to be recompensed for his troubles. The "Big" Lebowski (David Huddleston), a crippled captain of industry type, dismisses the Dude as a loser and kicks him out of his home, only to contact him a few days later about his wife (Tara Reid) who appears to have been kidnapped. He wants the Dude to handle the pay off, in case the kidnappers are the same thugs who appeared in his home and thus the "Big" Lebowski can confirm their identity. And from there....chaos. A plethora of memorable characters appear, too many to detail here, but most significantly, Julianne Moore as Maude Lebowski, Sam Elliot as "The Stranger" and John Turturro as "The Jesus". After all these years, it remains my go-to comedy....even...maybe...dare I say it? My favorite. The new blu has all the extra features from the previous excellent special edition DVD with many of them upgraded to HD, three new U-control options (one of them a PIP) to watch along with the movie, and a very cool full color digibook. This is the one to get. And that should be all you need to know before you click that click right below...clicky clicky....
--CLICK HERE TO BUY The Big Lebowski (Limited Edition) [Blu-ray Book + Digital Copy]
OUTCASTS (Blu-Ray and DVD)
Well I'm disappointed. Here's this BBC sci-fi show with an intriguing premise that integrates ideas from both the recent "Battlestar Galactica" reboot and "Lost", but it was cancelled after only one eight episode season? More like "Outraged". After watching both seasons of the superb "Survivors" a few years back only to have it cancelled after a huge cliffhanger because audiences weren't responding, and the near-miss with the recent superlative Idris Elba show "Luther" for the same reasons, I'm finding myself getting a bit gun-shy with BBC attempts at genre programming. But, then I actually watched all of this show.....oh. The story follows survivors from a battle-torn Earth who are limping to this one livable planet that's been found that's a mere five year space trip away. When the series begins, it's ten years after the initial settlement of the town of Forthaven on this mysterious planet that they've named Carpathia, and a lot of local tensions are coming to a head. A former hero and 'expeditionary' (Jamie Bamber, from BSG, just to solidify the link) has descended into madness and plans to set the settlement's elected President (Liam Cunningham) against a group of pretty pissed off exiled clone soldiers now living in the mountains. The discovery that the soldiers (referred to as "Advanced Cultivars") are even still alive sets the big tension for the first season as the colonists and their leaders have a new and aggressive barrier holding them back from exploring the strange land they've adopted as home. Two Protection and Security Officers, played by Daniel Mays and Amy Manson who both seem incapable of playing the sexual tension between them in a believably subtle way, are the ones who have to get their hands dirty fixing whatever's been broke that episode. Even though they're the closest thing this show has to having a heart, both of their troubled past subplots are more irritating than compelling. Even less impressive is the leader of the expeditionaries, a gung-ho and thoroughly unappealing grunt played by Ashley Walters who mainly just gets mad and is wrong about everything, but we're still apparently supposed to like. Oh and please don't let me forget Eric Mabius as some sort of con-guy who uses spirituality in his attempt to seize control of power. He's almost startlingly dull and obvious to watch, both as an actor and in the writing: the show wants us to believe that anyone would put up with his cartoonish machiavellian theatrics. What "Outcasts" gets right, is setting up an interesting story involving an intriguing and possibly self aware environment, amongst other tantalizing plot threads, that if allowed a second season might have expanded enough to break away from its rather obvious influences. FSM knows it needed an absolutely fascinating planetary story to make up for the louts living on it. I wish I could say "Outcasts" is worth a look, but since there'll never be any more, and it ends with a rather frustrating cliffhanger, I can only advise against it. This time, I can't really blame the unresponsive brits. Next, please.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Outcasts: Season One [Blu-ray]