Clockwise from upper left: 'Tropic Thunder,' 'Wall-E,' 'The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2,' ' Encounters at the End of the World'

A personal checklist and shopping guide:

As with all great movies, I quickly forgot about everything except the characters and the story. Wall-E sparked some surprising political and sociological debates, but no one can deny the sense of wonder that the boxy robot and his adventures engender. Erik's already run down the special features; the toughest decision is which editon to get. Buy it.

Tropic Thunder
I skipped this one theatrically because I'm worn out on Hollywood self-mockery -- has any other industry ever found itself so simultaneously fascinating yet repulsive? Still, reviews were generally strong, and this is the best bet this week for a broad, R-rated comedy, as long as you haven't overdosed on Ben Stiller and Jack Black. Does Robert Downey, Jr. make it all worthwhile? Rent it.

Encounters at the End of the World
Speaking of something simultaneously fascinating yet repulsive, Werner Herzog traveled to the Antarctic to make a personal essay assailing the ugliness of the man-made town from which all journeys Seriously Down Under begin, and questions the sanity of some of the people who work there. Then the beauty of the place overwhelms everything, before Werner starts asking about the sex life of penguins to liven up an interview. Oh, Werner! Rent it.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2
Girl power got a kick in the, er, pants, with this sequel, which takes place in a fantasy land of upper class privilege masquerading as lower middle class struggles. No doubt some will take me to task for missing the moral message which is rolled up somewhere inside the pretty scenery and prettier tears; I admit I dozed off a couple of times. In a weird way, this could be a good contrasting double-bill with Twilight. Under 18? Rent it.

The Minoru Kawasaki Collection
Though I've only seen 1/3 of the films, it's so strong I'm buying the box set; if you haven't seen any, I suggest renting the one I've seen. The Rug Cop is a dry, deadpan comedy about a police detective who puts his hairpiece to very good use. It's low-key and low-budget, and not for everyone, but, from what others have told me, it's indicative of Japanese director Minoru Kawasaki's sense of humor and approach to his films. A good friend swears that corporate satire Executive Koala is superb; global superpower-spoofing The World Sinks Except Japan is reportedly less sucessful. Rent at least one.

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
Alex Gibney's doc swoops and swirls and generally works hard to be as entertaining and scattershot as the literary works of the legendary journalist, drug-taker, political candidate, and notoriously hard-living rebel. The approach is mostly worshipful, but allows room for criticism, as in, 'If only he'd applied himself he could have left the world more to treasure.' As it is, I was left feeling jealous of everyone that got to be his friend. Rent it.

Also out:
Priceless. Audrey Tautou as a golddigger in this French romance.
Mister Lonely. Harmony Korine (Gummo, Julien Donkey-Boy) challenges perceptions once again.
Up the Yangtze. Chinese doc contrasts the working class and the passengers on a luxury cruise ship.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. High school girl "traverses space and time."

Debuts on blu-ray this week (in addition to Wall-E, Tropic Thunder, and Sisterhood 2):

Southland Tales. Richard Kelly's sprawling science fiction epic has spawned legions of detractors and a growing number of defenders.
MirrorMask. Dave McKean brings a fantastical mix of live action and animation to the screen.
Lucky Number Slevin. Mistaken identity and a bunch of stars wandering around in search of a story.
Paris, je t'aime. A passel of directors from around the world provide their take on the City of Lights.
Revolver. Guy Ritchie, Jason Statham, Ray Liotta, crime, gambling, bad crowd.

Monty Python Holy Trinity. Three movies, six discs, Brit brilliance.
300 Limited Collectors Edition. With a new doc, digital copy, 52-page hardcover art book, photo card, and an image in a Lucite block, plus the previously-released two-disk special edition.
Heathers - Limited Edition Box Set. The two-disc 20th High School Reunion Edition, plus metal locker with working combination, hardcover Heathers yearbook, themed magnets, and compressed t-shirt.
David Lynch The Lime Green Set. Ten discs of Lynch - Amazon has the details.

categories Dvds, Cinematical