New Blu's On the Block - 1/11/2011


Rating: Various

Distributor: Various

Released: Jan 11, 2011


Written by Sara Michelle Fetters



New Blu's On the Block
Blu-ray and DVD Releases for Jan 11, 2011

At this point, David Fincherís The Social Network has won just about every criticís prize imaginable and had been anointed by many as 2010ís best production. When Academy Award nominations are announced on January 25, expect to hear its name quite a bit (my guess is nine or ten times) and for it to be anointed by many pundits as the obvious frontrunner. While Iím not quite on that bandwagon (although I did place it in the fifth spot on my 2010 Top Ten), I do think itís definitely part of the conversation, and at this point only True Grit, The Fighter and The Kingís Speech seem to be capable of derailing its march to the Best Picture Oscar.


Itís comes out on Blu-ray and DVD today, but itís not the only title to be excited about. In fact, Iíd make a case there are three, maybe even four others who deserve a bigger shout-out than Fincherís latest does.



The Social Network

I donít have a lot more to add to what I already stated above other than that while I do personally believe The Social Network is something close to a masterpiece and is a movie weíll be talking about for decades to come, that doesnít also mean I think it is a shoe-in to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. As for this Blu-ray, it just arrived at my doorstep today so I havenít had a chance to dive into it as of yet, but as Iíve heard nothing but raves (from the likes of DVD Beaver and Blu-ray.com) I absolutely cannot wait to do so. In my original October review (read it here) of David Fincherís opus I said that ďlike all great films the fact I keep marinating on all its nuances and intricacies is testament enough to its potential long-lasting import.Ē For my part, I think that just about does it.


Expect a full review of the Blu-ray from Mitchell very soon.



Army of Shadows

Hereís what I said about this release in my review of the Blu-ray just last week (read it here): ďUnreleased in the United States until 2006, Jean-Pierre Melvilleís Army of Shadows is an awesome, jaw-dropping achievement that held me spellbound all the way up until its tragic, yet still heroic, conclusion. It is the only movie I can ever recall where the postscript codas, the words letting the viewer know what happened to the characters they grew over 145 minutes to care so deeply about, brought me to tears, these final indelible sentences just as powerful as all of the events and images skillfully presented by filmmaker up to that point.Ē


For me, this is the weekís definitive must-have title, and to say Criterion has started 2011 off on the hi-def front with a proverbial bang would be as big an understatement as any Iíve ever made.




Dances with Wolves
Raging Bull

It is intriguing to me that both of these films are hitting Blu-ray in spiffy new collectorís editions from MGM and Fox on the very same day. After all, Kevin Costnerís 1990 Western famously beat out Martin Scorseseís Goodfellas for the Best Picture Oscar, a fact that only infuriates people all the more when they also process that the esteemed directorís 1980 boxing epic lost the same prize only a decade earlier to Ordinary People. Want to rile Academy Award nitpickers up all you have to do is ask them about both those defeats and theyíll be up in arms in a second trying to convince you how heinous both of these losses were.


All that being said, I actually canít wait to get my hand on both of these releases, and I could care less that one has the stigma of being an undeserving winner while the other has the rep of a classic not given its fair shake from the Academy. Letís face it, these are strong, iconic motion pictures and while neither is perfect both feature some sensational work from their respective casts and crew ranking as some of their best. Heck, De Niroís performance in Raging Bull is arguably the greatest piece of screen acting of all time, while Costnerís handling of the iconic buffalo hunt sequence in Dances with Wolves is one of the most exhilarating and transporting moments Iíve ever had sitting in a movie theatre. Expect full Blu-ray reviews of both of these releases soon.



Once Upon a Time in America

Our third recognized masterpiece of the week (or fifth, depending on how you want to rate The Social Network and Dances with Wolves), this Blu-ray release of Sergio Leoneís final picture is cause for celebration. While the troubled post-production and differences in the quality of the footage assembled into this cut doesnít lend itself to the perfect high-definition experience, it certainly doesnít hurt it all, either. Called by film critic Sheila Benson (who now lives and works in Seattle and with whom I sometimes feel beyond lucky to have made her acquaintance) as both the worst film of 1984 and the best motion picture of the 1980ís, the movie was infamously dismantled by producers after its rapturous debut at the Cannes Film Festival reduces from almost four hours in length to just barely over two for its U.S. theatrical release. Now, reassembled into the cut Leone preferred (and to all accounts knew was maybe his fines achievement), this restored edition of this sprawling, 50 year gangster epic is one of the most daring, fascinating and glorious achievements Iíve ever had the pleasure to see. Read my full Blu-Ray Review of ďOnce Upon a Time in AmericaĒ to get a better idea of what I mean.



Robinson Crusoe on Mars

I know nothing about Byron Haskin's 1964 science fiction adventure Robinson Crusoe on Mars other than it has a devoted following and that the cover art for the Criterion Collection DVD (thankfully carried over to their Blu-ray release of the film) has always caught my eye making me want to give it a look. Now that this disc has just reached my doorstep Iím happy to say Iím going to get my chance, reviews at both DVD Beaver and Blu-Ray.com making me even more eager to do so. The Blu-ray comes with an exclusive audio commentary with screenwriter Ib Melchior, actors Paul Mantee and Victor Lundin, production designer Al Nozaki, and Oscar-winning special effects designer and Robinson Crusoe on Mars historian Robert Skotak (recorded in 1994), short documentary feature by filmmaker and space historian Michael Lennick, a collection of sketches, a music video and the film's original theatrical trailer.





Piranha 3D

This is what I said about Piranha 3D back in August (read my full review here): ďA very loose remake of the 1978 Joe Dante-directed and John Sayles-scripted B-movie classic, Alexandre Ajaís [latest] is a gross-out hoot that can be a heck of a lot of fun. The man behind the amazingly disgusting and masterfully scary The Hills Have Eyes remake as well as the great-until-the-final-twist-ruins-everything High Tension completely outdoes himself, the gore impresario unleashing a ten minute extended bit of carnage so gloriously nasty genre fans will be doing cartwheels in the lobby afterwards.Ē Nothing more to add, other than that Sonyís Blu-ray release of this Weinstein Company production (through their Dimension Films banner) comes in both 3D and 2D versions and will play better with a large group of friends ready to have a good time than it will to a single viewer sitting on their couch expecting something interesting.



Alpha and Omega

I ended up missing this animated effort in theatres, but considering it carries a Metacritic rating of only 36 and sits at a colossal 14-percent on Rotten Tomatoes Iím guessing I didnít miss anything substantial. I still might be inclined to add it to the Netflix queue, however, if only because the late Dennis Hopper supplies one of the voices it what was sadly one of his final roles.











ER: The Complete Fourteenth Season

Weíre one more season away from the end, and now fans of ER can own the penultimate season on DVD, all episodes presented in a 6 disc set, and bonus material including the usual Unaired Scenes, but as a nice surprise the studio has added the ďPaley Center panel interviewĒ as a featurette, cast members appearing for a retrospective on the series; the Paley Center is the Los Angeles Museum of Television & Radio, and they host events throughout the year.


- Written by Dennis Crane



Funny or Die Presents: Season One

Inspired the website, this HBO series collects a large series of short films, skits and comedy bits from a variety of filmmakers and actors to make up twelve 30-minute episodes. Viewers will recognize many familiar faces in supporting roles, as well as some interesting cameos. Rachel will have a DVD review very soon, where she will discuss the quality of the first season and the bonus materials included.


- Written by Dennis Crane




Skins: Volume 4

This BBC teenage drama series has gained quite a large following abroad in its native Britain but also in the States, even though it hasnít aired on TV here that Iím aware of, but thanks to Warner/BBC the seasons have been coming to DVD in short intervals. Case in point, this is the fourth season, and fans have complained about a decline in quality, but of course you can check that out for yourself with this 3-disc set.


- Written by Dennis Crane



Greek: Chapter Five Ė The Complete Third Season

Shout! Factory has taken over distribution of the series and releases the third season in a 6-disc set, the students of Cypress-Rhodes University facing an uncertain future as a consequence of their actions. Fans will be pleased to find bonus material includes cast & crew commentaries, a study break with Nora Kirkpatrick, a gag reel and a featurette.


- Written by Dennis Crane



Rules of Engagement: The Complete Fourth Season

Never having seen an episode of this sitcom, the fact that it managed to last four seasons probably says something about it, though Iím not sure what, and donít care to speculate at this point, but rest assured all 13 episodes of the 2010 season, presented in widescreen format, are collected in a 2-disc set. Rules of Engagement stars Patrick Warburton, Megun Price, and David Spade, among others.


- Written by Dennis Crane




The Mexican import Alamar is stunning triumph I was caught more than a little bit off guard by. While Iíd heard it was pretty good and had done well at a number of festivals, I didnít expect director Pedro GonazŠlez-Rubioís (who also writes, photographs and edits the picture) feature to wow me quite as much as it did. The story of a father spending a final few weeks with his son before he must depart to Rome to live with his mother, this deeply poignant saga of family and fatherhood kept me captivated for all its too-brief 73 minutes. A quite, intimate and profound marvel, this is a one lushly photographed effort definitely worth the time it takes to search it out.



The Freebie

So, even though this one did press screen in Seattle I admit to avoiding it like the plague. The film stars Dax Shepard, and Iím very sorry to say this but his name alone was enough for me to, not just stay away, but almost want to go running in the opposite direction of any theatre that might have been showing it. Apparently, while this tale of a young couple giving one another the night off from monogamy, wasnít nearly as dreadful as I feared it might be, a couple of local critics even telling me that Shepard has many of the pictureís best moments. So now I have put The Freebie into my Netflix queue; if I ever have the guts to actually put it at the top of it a whole other issue entirely.



Happy Ever Afters

Sally Hawkins and Tom Riley star in the British import about a couple of wedding receptions unceremoniously thrust one into the other when both are accidentally scheduled at the same posh hotel. I know nothing about this one other than the star of Happy-Go-Lucky and Made in Dagenham headlines it, and as far as Iím concerned thatís more than enough for me to seek it out and give it a look.




Heartbreaker was a superbly cast French romantic comedy I wanted to like a whole heck of a lot more than I actually did. In my September review I stated (read it here), ďAs romantic comedies go, this one has a great premise, a handful of interesting characters and schizophrenic scenario that sadly does very little with any of its positives.Ē Still, fans of stars Romain Duris and Vanessa Paradis will want to give this one a look as both are priceless, and I do believe that director Pascal Chaumeil is a man to keep an eye on. I just wish I enjoyed this one more than I did, than maybe I wouldnít be nursing my own broken heart when I have to talk to people about it.



Love Hurts

Starring Carrie-Anne Moss, Jeaneane Garofalo, and Jenna Elfman, Love Hurts tells the story of a man who, after his wife leaves him, gets a makeover by his 17-year-old son that turns him into the most popular single man in town, but when his new lifestyle gets the better of him, he realizes that itís his one true love he has to win back. The DVD includes cast & crew interviews, and behind-the-scenes footage.


- Written by Dennis Crane



Shake Hands with the Devil

Directed by Roger Spottiswoode (Shoot to Kill, Air America), this 2007 Rwanda genocide drama stars Roy Dupuis as Lieutenant Romťo Dallair as he struggles to overcome overwhelming danger and fights for his own survival as millions of innocent people are threatened by the war. Shake Hands with the Devil also stars Deborah Kara Unger (The Game).


- Written by Dennis Crane



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