by Louis Fowler
Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
Is it wise to review a Kenny Chesney concert DVD for an altweekly? I'm pretty sure this isn't his demographic, with this space probably better spent reviewing the latest visual dirge from the Decemberists or Vampire Weekend or whoever the kids like to listen to while drinking PBR and growing ironic moustaches. But for those good ol' boy, true blue patriots that are reading and interested in this type of tunage, Chesney's Summer in 3D, which recently played in select theaters, is a fun enough time, filled with disposable Jimmy Buffett-lite pop-country songs about beaches in Mexico, sexy tractors, how great America is and … you know the routine. The 3D is actually pretty stunning, wonderfully complementing the music, with the tight-jeaned and tank-topped Chesney popping right off your television, like a cowboy-hatted little homunculus sent from a tropical hell to entertain you for 99 minutes. If that doesn't sell you, nothing will.
As a fan of such 60s/70s epic musicals as The Sound of Music and Jesus Christ Superstar, it's appalling that I've never seen the masterful Fiddler on the Roof. That's officially been rectified with MGM's 40th Anniversary Blu-Ray. Academy Award nominated Topol is a poor Jewish milkman who is constantly conflicted with the changing world and the effect it's having on his sacred traditions, but compromises because of his strong love for his family. The first half deals with familial upheaval, as his children shun marriages arranged via a matchmaker for true love, while the sad, more dramatic second half has Czarist Russia encroaching and moving them from their homes and into America. Filled with beautiful songs such as "Sunrise, Sunset", "If I Were a Rich Man" and "Far From the Home I Love", Fiddler is a life-affirming, moving work of art that I really should have seen twenty years ago. Thanks for nothing, Mom.
Most Hollywood-backed World War II prison movies center around square-jawed American G.I.s using their brash Yankee cunning to escape Nazi strongholds and lead the downtrodden into victory against their captors. That's a wonderful, fictionalized story that I will always support, but more often than not, real escape attempts were harsh lessons in survival, with escapees battling everything from hunger and the elements to each other. Six-time Oscar nominee Peter Weir's beautifully subtle The Way Back is a more honest depiction of the struggle against all odds, with seven prisoners (including Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess and Colin Farrell) escaping a Siberian gulag and walking 4500 miles to freedom across the life-threatening terrain of Russia, Mongolia and Tibet. The Way Back is a beautifully shot, believably written epic tale of the human will to live and fight and keep going, one without any pretensions or flair.