New Blu's On the Block - January 17, 2012


Rating: Various

Distributor: Various

Released: Jan 17, 2012


Written by Sara Michelle Fetters


There are plenty of titles worthy of leading today’s column with, this third Tuesday in January surprisingly packed with sensational offerings. There are a couple of notable exceptions, of course, but you’ll have to read on to see what I mean.



Belle De Jour

The week’s signature release, Criterion’s presentation of Luis Buñuel’s masterpiece is virtually without par. As I stated in my recently posted Blu-ray Review of the title, “Everything builds and builds until the viewer comes close to bursting at the seams, Buñuel layering everything together in as sensational a manner as longtime fans of the filmmaker have come to lovingly expect. The line between fantasy and reality is a tenuous strand of psychological chaos that bends to and fro like the wind blowing through a Parisian park. You can’t always seen what is going to happen next, can’t always know where the next blow is coming from, but the reactions are crucial, and how one relates to the unknown is the most perilous, destructive, at times uplifting, others heartbreaking, and in the end hopefully the most wondrous response of them all.” Buy this one right this very second; it’s that good.




Criterion’s new Blu-ray upgrade of Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic is shockingly close to perfect. As I wrote in my full Blu-ray Review just last week, “Traffic might just be the best film director Steven Soderbergh has ever made, while Criterion’s Blu-ray release of the film – supervised by the filmmaker – borders on extraordinary. This one pretty much gets my highest recommendation there is, and even those who already own the great Criterion DVD are strongly urged to pick this disc up as an upgrade.” The movie is a classic, this disc is incredible and I can’t crow about it any louder than I already have; buy it this instant.



The Ides of March

Another great release, Sony’s presentation of this one fairly incredible from a technical standpoint. As for the movie itself, director and star George Clooney’s latest  gets better and better with each subsequent viewing, making me think I was being a little unfair when I originally reviewed it theatrically (read the full review here). As I stated in my recently posted Blu-ray Review, “Stripped of the weight of expectation, The Ides of March plays exceedingly well the second and third time around. The performances jump off the screen a bit more, especially Wood’s and Gosling’s, while Clooney’s subtle work is far more complex and nuanced than I originally gave him credit for. Still not a great effort, but it is a very, very, very good one, and a movie I’m fairly certain I’ll be revisiting again quite soon.”




Dead Poets Society

Good Morning Vietnam

Haven’t gotten around to Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society as admittedly I’ve never been a gigantic fan of that ‘Captain, my Captain’ prep school melodrama. I will soon, though, promise, and when I do I’ll have a full review up of Disney’s new Blu-ray as quickly as I can.


As for Barry Levinson’s Good Morning Vietnam, well I couldn’t rip the plastic off this 25th anniversary disc any faster if I’d tried. As I wrote in my recently posted Blu-ray Review, “Platoon and Full Metal Jacket may be the two best pictures [my dad and I] ever saw, but without question Good Morning Vietnam was my absolute favorite. I’ve watched countless times since that first viewing as an adolescent, and for whatever reason it just gets better and better each and every time I get a look at it. Sure, it isn’t accurate, and by no means does it follow Armed Forces Radio superstar Adrian Cronaur’s actual life story, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining. For that matter, also no less dynamic, director Barry Levinson and writer Mitch Markowitz chronicling an aspect of the war few, if any, other stories on the subject ever have.”



The Tuskegee Airmen

This disc is notable for many reasons, not the least of which is that it’s a quality flick that HBO has every right to be exceedingly proud of. For those heading out to see the George Lucas produced Red Tails this weekend, may I suggest you pick this disc up as a rental instead because, even if that CGI-filled aerial war epic is hardly a disaster, this is easily the better, more emotionally gripping production and a film that honors the men at its core with far more respect and conviction. Close to a must-see.




Lionsgate tried to prove that Taylor Lautner is a star, surrounding him with an all-star supporting cast (including Sigourney Weaver and Alfred Molina) and giving him the type of glossy juvenile action-filled scenario his core Twilight fans should have gone gaga over. But they didn’t, not even slightly, making the film one of 2011’s more auspicious box office failures. As for me, I still haven’t seen it, and as of this writing I’m fairly certain I never will.




The latest from Christian fundamentalist filmmakers Alex and Stephen Kendrick (the firefighter melodrama Fireproof), the law enforcement themed Courageous was hardly a motion picture I was clamoring to see. After reading Mitchell’s scathing Blu-ray Review, I am now even less inclined to give it a look. He writes, “It’s not for me. The Kendrick boys (they co-write the screenplays for their endeavors and Alex directs; they ain’t exactly the Coens) and I obviously aren’t on the same page when it comes to matters of faith, but that’s not what bothers me about their movies. They have no interest in telling a story, creating believable characters, etc… They can call it whatever they want, dress it up however they want, but Courageous is little more than an extended infomercial.”



Mysteries of Lisbon

Director Raúl Ruiz’s latest is a five-plus hour spectacle taking viewers around the glove from Portugal, to France, to Italy, to Brazil, all of it centering on an orphan living a complicated life inside the walls of an exclusive boarding school. Overlong, yes, but still stunning, and a movie I couldn’t recommend the watching of with any less vim or vigor.



George Gently – Series 1

The outstanding British procedural starring the great Martin Shaw finds its first series getting a Blu-ray release, and I do have to say these first three mysteries couldn’t look better (granted, they could probably sound better, but that’s an argument for a different day). Acorn’s handling is quite solid, and fans should definitely consider adding this two-disc set to their collections.





The Roots of Heaven

Another pair of Sony catalog titles getting the exclusive Twilight Time treatment, the notable release out of this twosome is easily 1955’s Picnic starring William Holden and Kim Novak and directed by Joshua Logan. It’s a classic, definitely one of the pure unabashedly romantic delights I discovered while watching TCM one quiet evening. Have no idea how good the disc itself is, but considering the quality level of previous Twilight Time releases my assumption is that it will be worth the limited collector’s edition price tag.



Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star

Somehow Mitchell wrote 12 paragraphs of criticism in his recently posted DVD Review (Sony didn’t bother to send over a copy of the Blu-ray) of this bona fide disaster, a feat I find something short of remarkable considering it was the most universally reviled (both critically and by the paying customer who for whatever reason chose to see it) films to get a theatrical release in all of 2011. No, I haven’t personally seen it, and I don’t feel bad about that fact one little bit so there.



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·         Age of Heroes

·         America in Primetime

·         Boys in Company C

·         Citizen Kane (70th Anniversary Edition)

·         Division III: Football’s Finest

·         Drive Me Crazy

·         Dutch

·         The Josephine Baker Story

·         License to Drive

·         Project X

·         Redline

·         Thurogood





Eclipse Series 31: Three Popular Films by Jean-Pierre Gorin (Poto and Cabengo, Routine Pleasures, My Crasy Life) (Criterion Collection)

Filmmaker Jean-Pierre Gorin, widely known for his early-seventies collaborations (including Tout va bien) with Jean-Luc Godard in the Dziga Vertov Group, established his singular voice with this trio of accomplished, fascinating, and nontraditional documentaries, made in Southern California after his relocation there. Poto and Cabengo (1978) is a compelling visit with two young San Diego twins who have invented their own language. In Routine Pleasures (1986), Gorin conjoins the story of a group of model train enthusiasts in Del Mar with a meditation on the work of critic and painter Manny Farber. And My Crasy Life (1992) is an expectation-shredding exploration of a Samoan gang in Long Beach. With these three films, Gorin excavates hidden communities that are a part of everyday American life, and shows himself to be a major chronicler of what is eccentric and beautiful in our common culture. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)



Dirty Girl

From my October 2011 theatrical review (read it here): “Dirty Girl doesn’t do anything new. One part Harold and Maude, another part Flirting with Disaster with additional helpings of Louis Malle, Richard Linklater, Wes Anderson and “Glee” thrown in for good measure, the movie is a hodgepodge of road movie clichés scored to its own happily idiosyncratic beat. I never felt like I didn’t know where it was heading and was comfortable the outcome was going to be a forgone one, the lack of surprises a stumbling block keeping my enthusiasm for the picture as a whole somewhat in check.”



The Overcoat (Il Cappotto)

These Raro Video releases of classic, if in many cases little known, international sensations just keep getting better and better, their DVD of director Alberto Lattuada’s The Overcoat certainly no exception. An adaptation of the Nikolai Gogol short story and set in modern Italy circa 1952, the movie is a breathtaking marvel that left me more than a bit bruised, battered and overwhelmed by the time it reached its astonishing conclusion. Remarkable, certainly worthy of the price of a rental and, in the end, for fans of quality international cinema potentially of being added to the personal library, this movie worthy of being designated a classic.




Writer/director Sabine Bernardi’s charming drama with refreshingly honest comedic overtones concerns itself with a female to male transsexual college student (Rick Okon ) in Cologne who finds his friendship with the smolderingly sexy Fabio (Maximilian Befort ) quickly developing into something else but having no clue as to how to deal with that fact. The movie is a bouncy, energetic cocktail that never panders to audience expectations always maintaining focus on its central character’s journey. A gem.



Bombay Beach

Decades ago, the Salton Sea, two hours outside Los Angeles, was a tourist hotspot and a symbol of 1950s-era American optimism. Now, a victim of environmental decline, it stands mostly abandoned, its boomtown communities now decaying relics of a bygone era. Visionary filmmaker Alma Ha'rel investigates one such town - Bombay Beach - and weaves together the stories of its inhabitants with surreal poetry and beauty. Set to the music of Bob Dylan and Beirut, this is the story of a place where the American dream has faded, but where the dreams of those that stayed behind are alive and well. Winner of the Best Documentary prize at the Tribeca Film Festival. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)



Killing Bono

The film loosely recreates the story of young Irish rocker McCormick and his younger brother, Ivan, who attempt to become rock stars but can only look on as their secondary school friends form U2 and become the biggest band in Ireland. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)



LIFE 2.0

LIFE 2.0 follows a group of people whose lives are dramatically consumed by the virtual world of Second Life. They reside in this new reality, where inhabitants assume alternate personas in the form of avatars - with digital alter egos that can be sculpted and manipulated on a whim. More than an examination of a hot new technology, LIFE 2.0 is an intimate, character-based drama about people who look to a virtual world in search of something they are missing in their real lives. The results are unexpected and often disturbing: reshaping relationships, identities, and ultimately the very notion of reality. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)



Special Treatment

In this darkly erotic drama from cult filmmaker Jeanne Labrune, Isabelle Huppert stars as a high-class prostitute named Alice who serves up sexual fantasies for her clientele, from schoolgirl innocence to S&M. Fed up with the seamy underbelly of French masculinity, Alice crosses paths with Xavier, a neurotic psychoanalyst facing a marriage crisis. The two quickly realize their professions share a thing or two in common as they navigate the overlapping worlds of psychotherapy and sex therapy. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)



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·         Bill Moyers: Amazing Grace

·         Merlin: The Complete Third Season

·         Waking the Dead: The Complete Season Six



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