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Video > Couch Trip

Couch Trip

Robert Redford's badass antihero and Tian Yuan's Chinese hooker; plus, Up, Lost and Monsters in glorious Blu-ray

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Published 12/9/2009

Downhill Racer 

In what must be the most surprising Criterion release since Armageddon, this 1969 skiing adventure movie from the director of Cops and Robbersons must look like an oddly pedestrian selection next to the Bergmans and Fellinis of the distributor's highbrow archives. But one look at this debut from Michael Ritchie and you'll understand its inclusion — if not for the stunning alpine setting, claustrophobic framing and musical editing than for Robert Redford's prototypical New American Cinema anti-hero. Most sports movies hinge on the triumphant heroism of the selfless, dedicated underdog, but Redford's arrogant skirt-chaser, sundancing down the slopes, is anything but the sort. His character's hubris, sense of entitlement and constant womanizing make him the most unlikable sports-film protagonist this side of Jake La Motta in Raging Bull, which this predates by 11 years. He's utterly unworthy of our adulation, and the film takes a critical stance on the sport it depicts, as well: You can make the argument that it represents a microcosm of American imperialism. It's evidence this Michael Ritchie could have been something great; too bad Fletch came a-callin'. —John Thomason

Luxury Car 
First Run Features 

In the most effective moment in the Chinese social-problem drama Luxury Car (from 2006, newly released for First Run's Global Lens Collection), a father visits his daughter (Chinese pop star Tian Yuan, pleasant eye candy) at her glitzy workplace to inform her of the latest news about her missing brother — only to face the sad reality that his daughter is a hooker. The camera holds on the poor man's stoic countenance; he's so familiar at accepting depressing news that this latest revelation barely registers. Writer-director Chao Wang is expert at crafting these awkward moments, punctuating uncomfortable scenes with protracted, emotionally loud silences. If only the rest of this pointless pity parade held up the potential of these choice scenes; instead, Luxury Car devolves into a series of events so nonsensical to the narrative it has created that it's hard to take its tragic plot turns seriously. Absent of atmosphere and ambience, the film doesn't leave us with much. —John Thomason

Lost: The Complete Fifth Season
Walt Disney 

The best show on TV turned in one of its greatest seasons this year. You can prep for Lost's return in February with this five-disc set that includes all 17 episodes. There's plenty of action and mind-fucking going on, so you'll want to settle in and dissect every second. And be sure to pick up the Blu-ray: This is one show that deserves the full HD treatment. —Michael Gallucci

Monsters, Inc. (Blu-ray)
Walt Disney 

Pixar's 2001 movie about a pair of monsters trying to get a little girl home finally comes to Blu-ray. And it's never looked greater. It's not only a more enjoyable film than it was eight years ago (it's gotten better with age), the HD makes everything — especially all the cool creatures — burst from the screen. Extras include commentary, games and early sketch concepts. —Michael Gallucci

Walt Disney 

One of the year's (and decade's) best films gets the deluxe package it deserves: a four-disc set that includes Blu-ray, DVD and digital versions of the movie. You'll want to watch it in HD, where every detail — from rainbow-colored balloons to a glorious island vista — sparkles. Tons of extras — including a funny new short starring Dug the dog — round out the set. —Michael Gallucci

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