New Blu's On the Block - 1/4/2011


Rating: Various

Distributor: Various

Released: Jan 4, 2011


Written by Sara Michelle Fetters



New Blu's On the Block
Blu-ray and DVD Releases for Jan 4, 2011

The first week of 2011 might as well be subtitled “Robert Rodriguez Hi-Def Appreciation Week” as four of the director’s low budget B-movie action favorites make their Blu-ray debuts. Other than that, there isn’t a lot to talk about, the majority of the new releases nothing more than catalog titles or 2010 box office underperformers. Also releasing are two independent releases from last year I thoroughly enjoyed, both of which definitely worthy of a look.




“Machete don’t text,” might just be my favorite line of 2010. At the very least, it’s the only one from last year that I can remember with any real clarity, the type of instantly classic quip that makes me chuckle every time I hear (or even think) about it.


Other than that, I was not one of this Grindhouse B-movie’s fans. While There are some great moments, and while I could watch star Danny Trejo slash and hack his way through bad guys for days, Robert Rodriguez’s throwaway down-and-dirty action movie wore out its welcome as far as I was concerned. It was too long, wasting its one joke premise with everything leading to a climactic conclusion I didn’t care for. In my September review (read it here) I stated that Machete was “borderline entertainment to begin with, and in the end the only work visa or green card I see this one getting is for early access into the DVD bargain bin at your local Best Buy.” You can now read my Machete Blu-ray review.



Dinner for Schmucks

I just named Dinner for Schmucks my tenth least favorite film of 2010 (read my 2010 recap here), so the fact I could care less about it hitting DVD and Blu-ray today goes without saying. In my July review (read it here) I called this Steve Carell/Paul Rudd monstrosity “horribly unfunny” and “truly terrible,” and that while I had seen worst films last year this it might have been the most “irritating and disappointing of the lot.” As the movie made just over $73-million at the box office, I guess there were plenty of people out there who disagreed with me about this.



The Last Exorcism

If not for a bizarrely idiotic and incomprehensible horrible last five minutes, this faux documentary horror thriller might have been one of the more delightful finds of 2010. Actors Patrick Fabian and Ashley Bell are superb, director Daniel Stamm and writers Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland generate some real scares, while the film itself is filled with multiple moments of suspense as well as laughs. Everything works right up until the climax turns everything into an unintentionally laughable mess, the last scenes so unquestionably bad I began to wonder if the proceeding 80 minutes were made by different filmmakers. In my August review (read it here) I said that the true horror was witnessing “just how quickly a great movie can become a horrible one,” and I doubt if I were to watch it again on Blu-ray my opinion would change.




I think the reason Catfish didn’t make the 2010 Academy Award shortlist for potential Best Documentary nominees is because, ever since its debut at the Sundance Film Festival last January, everyone has been questioning directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s film’s authenticity. Is this story of a Facebook deception real, or, much like Casey Affleck’s I’m Still Here, is it nothing more than a carefully plotted ruse? No one is saying at the moment, and considering just how much I enjoyed this one I’m hoping it is the former, the picture an awesome example of truth being stranger than fiction that I adored. So check it out. At the very least, when The Social Network releases next Tuesday the two played together would make for one heck of an outstanding double feature. (Read my Theatrical Review)




Taken directly from court transcripts, interviews and excerpts from the poetry of Allen Ginsberg, Howl is a true independent filmmaking of the first degree. Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman have constructed a marvelous, thought-provoking, oddly off-center effort that makes for a quirky, one-of-a-kind entertainment. Anchored by a magnificent, fully lived-in performance from James Franco as Ginsberg (who, with both this and 127 Hours, arguably deserves a Best Actor Oscar for 2010 more than just about anyone else), this is a movie that perplexed, intoxicated and moved me, and by the time it was over the only thing I wanted to do was head to the bookstore and read some of the author’s poetry for myself. You can read my full review of the Blu-ray by clicking here.




El Mariachi / Desperado

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Three more from writer and director Robert Rodriguez, this time his entertaining, if not always entirely successful, Mexican Spaghetti Western trilogy that helped make him the Grindhouse household name that he is today. The movie to watch, of course, is his 1993 no-budget debut El Mariachi, and to be perfectly honest I’m highly curious to see how this $7,000 effort looks in hi-def. As far as the other two are concerned, I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for 1995’s Desperado, both Antonio Banderas’ performance as the mysterious guitar carrying gunslinger and the film’s rollicking guitar-driven soundtrack make me kind of girlishly giddy. The only one of the three I don’t really care for is the final part of the trilogy, because other than Johnny Depp’s wickedly whacky performance as a rogue CIA agent out for blood this one didn’t do it for me. Still, as cheap as they are I might be inclined to pick this set up anyhow, the completist in me wanting all three pictures even if one of them I’ll likely never watch again.



Case 39

Delayed for over three years, the Renée Zellweger starring Case 39 understandably did not screen for press before its theatrical run and, needless to say, I never felt the need to head to the multiplex and see just how bad the darn thing was for myself. Nick Schager over at Time Out New York called the picture “one hokey-horror riot,” while Jeannette Catsoulis of The New York Times said that Ray Wright’s screenplay was “more interested in following formula than in breaking new ground.” As a review copy never made it over to our door, I guess I’ll have to slip this one into the Netflix queue if I want to see if all the negative hubbub is warranted.



My Dog Skip

Frankie Muniz, Diane Lane, Luke Wilson and Kevin Bacon star in this heartwarming 2000 favorite that deserved to do better at the box office and has managed to develop a strong family following on DVD. No making its Blu-ray debut, I was really hoping Warner Bros would have sent this title our way for a review as I’d love to replace my owl copy with this one. Granted, considering how much I truly love this sweet, sentimental and ultimately emotionally moving effort there’s the very real possibility I might be inspired to pick it up as an upgrade all the same.




Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

Austin Powers in Goldmember

The Austin Powers trilogy has a fairly devoted following and while these three titles were previously released as a Blu-ray box set back in 2008 this is the first time they’ve been made available individually. The 1997 original continues to grow on me and is a film I wouldn’t mind owning. The 1999 sequel I more or less enjoyed the first time around but haven’t found nearly as much fun on subsequent viewings. As for the 2002 final chapter, the less said about that one (other than the still awesome star-studded opening sequence) the better, part three by far the least inventive and most unfunny entry in the series. (Read Dennis’ Theatrical Review of Austin Powers in Goldmember)




Ever After

Hope Floats

A Walk in the Clouds

Of these three, the Drew Barrymore/Angelica Huston starring Cinderella adaptation Ever After is by far the one I’d be most interested in adding to my personal library. This is almost perfect family entertainment, and over 12 years after its release it is a film I continue to enjoy. As for the other two, I kind of can’t stand the Sandra Bullock starring Hope Floats, so much of it driving me so far up the proverbial tree just thinking about it again now is starting to make me angry. In the case of A Walk in the Clouds with Keanu Reeves, my vitriol is practically nonexistent, the visual beauty of the piece more than making up for the hackneyed storyline and schmaltz-filled romance.











Big Love: The Complete Fourth Season

Season four of the popular HBO series “Big Love” finds devote Mormon polygamist Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) running for the Utah State Senate thinking he will announce he’s married to multiple women at his inauguration forcing the legislature to legalize polygamy. A lot of people love this show, but just about everyone that I know who does felt this season of the program was easily its most harebrained and uneven. One of these days I’ll get around to checking it out for myself, until then fans will by happy to know this latest release contains all nine episodes of the fourth season releasing just a couple of weeks before the season five premier on January 16.



Ricky Gervais Show: Complete First Season

I just started watching this over the New Year’s weekend and, I have to say, this HBO series featuring animated versions of award-winning podcasts with Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and “the little round-headed buffoon” Karl Pilkington is a total hoot. Each episode is uniquely original, offering up verbal with and visual ingenuity galore. But, unlike most television shows, it’s a lot easier to watch this one in spurts than it is all at once, and I’ve found it easier to look at two, maybe three, at a time than engaging in a marathon of the full 317 minute thing all at once. You can read my Ricky Gervais Show DVD review now. Fans of Gervais should probably pick this up right away while everyone else should just throw it into the Netflix queue and watch it at their leisure.



The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Complete Third Season

All six episodes of this “Dr. Who” spin-off featuring everyone’s favorite former Timelord companion as she and her friends struggle to save the Earth from a variety of threats. When I was a kid after watching the Tom Baker episodes of “Dr. Who” I wanted more than just about anything to grow up and be just like Sarah Jane, and now that I’m an adult I’m extremely happy she’s got her own successful BBC series. While not quite as engrossing as the show it’s spun-off from, it’s still a family-friendly delight both young and old alike should equal enjoy.




Semi-autobiographical Canadian import from writer/director Ricardo Trogi concerning events from his childhood revolving around his families move to a new neighborhood when he was 11-years-old. Played a number of film festivals but never got any sort of domestic theatrical release. Nonetheless, I’ve heard from a few fellow critics whom I trust that this is a film worth checking out. Heck, I’ve already added it to my Netflix queue.



Dirty Tricks

Very entertaining BBC dark satirical serial killer comedy from 2000 with Martin Clunes (“Men Behaving Badly”) as a charming social climber who may or may not be involved in a number of recent deaths. At a 146 minutes it goes on a bit long, but overall this delightful program is wickedly entertaining, full of slashing blackly comic witticisms I was completely taken by. I’ll try to have a full review up soon, until then just know that fans of intelligently scripted British programming should do themselves a favor and snatch this DVD up right away.



Fright Flick

Writer and director Israel Luna’s follow up to Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives isn’t nowhere as interesting a B-grade horror movie as that giddily enjoyable exploitation effort was, the gore-filled horror-comedy hybrid Fright Flick a surprisingly forgettable effort that left me decidedly under whelmed. A satire of the cutthroat nature of the show business industry, the majority of the targets are far too familiar and tame to meet with anything close to success. Sort of like Ten Little Indians meets The Player, there’s just not enough going on the make this one worthy of a person’s time. Luna has talent, lots of it, but for the life of me I kind of felt like he was spinning his wheels in neutral as far as his handling of this one was concerned.


(Editor's note - I received an update from the distributor that Amazon is incorret with their listing. This film will release on January 25, not today. I apologize for the mistake.)



The Guilty

From the creators of “Chancer,” the 1992 BBC miniseries “The Guilty” is a crackerjack mystery that held me spellbound for every one of its 201 minutes. A multi-character psychological drama about a lawyer on the verge of a judgeship and an ex-con trying to find his real father, the program builds to an astonishing climax devoid of anything even close to blacks or whites. Wonderfully acted by Michael Kitchen (“Foyle’s War”), Sean Gallagher (“Coronation Street”) and Caroline Catz (“Murder in Suburbia”), this white-knuckle drama is as good as British television gets.



The Yellow Handkerchief

This small-scale melodrama with William Hurt, Maria Bello and Kristen Stewart completed in 2008 was released in a couple of theatres last February making a whopping $317,000 before ending its run. Roger Ebert was by far the nicest to the film, his three-star review alone enough to make me want to put this Louisiana road trip melodrama into my Netflix queue.



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