New Blu's On the Block - 1/18/2011


Rating: Various

Distributor: Various

Released: Jan 18, 2011


Written by Sara Michelle Fetters



New Blu's On the Block
Blu-ray and DVD Releases for Jan 18, 2011

This week offers up two Samuel Fuller classics from Criterion, a one-set movie I personally didn’t care for but does prove Ryan Reynolds is more than a one-trick pony, a derivative multiethnic Heat / True Romance hybrid that’s so silly and cliché it’s almost good, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s quiet, character-driven directorial debut and an Israeli military tank drama many have compared favorably to Wolfgang Peterson’s Das Boot.


There’s also an Aussie crime noir that generating plenty of Oscar buzz for supporting actress Jacki Weaver and a hit modern day Western television series from FX based on a short story by executive producer Elmore Leonard.


And all of that is only the tip of the Blu-ray/DVD iceberg for this third Tuesday of a still quite young 2011. Also, if you haven't done so already make sure and check out Mitchell's list of the 2010's Best Blu-rays.




The Naked Kiss

Shock Corridor

Criterion goes into their vaults and brings us two classics from the great Samuel Fuller giving them their full-on high-definition Blu-ray due. The Naked Kiss is the story of a prostitute who comes to a small mid-American town to start over with her life only to discover hypocrisy all around her. Shock Corridor concerns itself with a driven journalist who goes undercover at a mental institution as a patiend in order to solve a murder only to discover his own sanity dripping slowly away from him the longer he remains there. Both films are downright extraordinary and I think you should watch them right away, and if you already own the previous Criterion DVD editions I strongly urge you to make the upgrade to these Blu-rays. You can read my full review of The Naked Kiss here and of Shock Corridor here.




So, the less I say about Rodrigo Cortés’ claustrophobic thriller Buried the better. While I didn’t care for, I do freely admit that star Ryan Reynolds is very, very good in it starring as truck driver working as a contractor in Iraq who is abducted and held for ransom by an unknown adversary. It is also ingeniously edited and paced, tension ratcheting up as the clock on the hero’s potential survival slowly runs out. But I closed my September review (read it here) by stating that “for all its cinematic merits this is an ugly, deeply unsatisfying thriller I can only hope I’ll never have to experience again,” an opinion that has not changed almost four months later.




Takers is silly and stupid and not exactly the best acted heist thriller of the past year. Like Ben Affleck’s The Town, it is incredibly derivative of Michael Mann’s Heat, throwing in additional plot steals from the likes of The Italian Job, Scarface and especially True Romance for good measure. But the movie is so bad on so many different levels it ends up being kind of entertaining almost in spite of itself. In my August review (read it here) I said, “The movie has energy and it sometimes has nerve, and for as overly familiar and predictable as it always is the one thing you can definitely say about the finished product is that it is seldom, if ever, boring.” None of which makes it good, per se, but at the very least I do see why it was something of a minor box office hit. You can read Mitchell's Takers Blu-ray review to find out all about the movie.



Justified: The Complete First Season

I’d heard from quite a few friends that FX’s series “Justified” was something special. While the commercials had me intrigued and the fact the great Elmore Leonard (on whose short story the show was based) was executive producing was a definite plus, I just never got around to setting up the DVR in order to see for myself what all the fuss was about. Now, after watching all 13 episodes on Sony’s outstanding three-disc Blu-ray set for season one, I’m happy to state that this saga of U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens unceremoniously returning home to Kentucky is an outright hit, this modern day Western a crackerjack character study full of Leonard’s trademark wit, witticisms and wisecracks. You can read my full review of this release by going here.



Animal Kingdom

I will admit upfront I was one of the few that did not care for writer/director David Michôd’s Animal Kingdom. In my August review (read it here) I said that the movie left me feeling “beaten, battered and bruised by the time it was over,” and that everything was treated with “such didactic solemnity [that] as things progressed it became increasingly difficult to take any of it seriously.” Maybe I need to watch it again, because even Jacki Weaver’s much heralded performance as a Lady McBeth-like mother failed to move me all that much and I have trouble understanding why she’s getting such great buzz while Dale Dickey’s equally great and far more unnerving turn in Winter’s Bone has failed to do the same.




As I stated in my recent Blu-ray review (read it here) of this movie, “Based on his own experiences as a tank gunner serving during the First Lebanon War, writer and director Samuel Maoz’s Lebanon is a claustrophobic and terrifying thriller that had me dripping in sweat when I first saw it back in September of last year. It was a theatrical experience like just about nothing else, and while I couldn’t say I thought the film was anything close to perfect the thrills and chills it send up my spine while I sat there in the screening room viewing it just about were.” Nothing changed when I watched it again at home, Sony Pictures Classics delivering up a wonderful little Blu-ray definitely worth searching out.  



Jack Goes Boating

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s somewhat solid directorial debut finds him starring as a sad, disillusioned New York limo driver who is introduced by his best friend (John Ortiz) to an equally emotionally wounded woman (Amy Ryan) who works in his wife’s (Daphne Rubin-Vega) telemarketing office. To pull from my September review (read it here): “I didn’t have stock in [Hoffman] and [Ryan’s] romance, didn’t feel the need to invest in them more than microscopically because the film didn’t trust me enough to let me know enough substantive about either of them. Their dialogue sometimes has bite, and their relationship can sometimes sizzle, but both remain such enigmas by the end as they did at the start I never really knew whether or not they’d changed enough for romance between the pair to be a success. Jack Goes Boating is extremely well-acted and full of moments I just adored, it’s just the final product itself that sadly left me cold.” You can read Mitchell's Jack Goes Boating Blu-ray review.



Down Terrace

Father and son Bill and Karl (real life father and son Bob and Robin Hill) have just been released from jail free and clear, but all is not well at Down Terrace. Patriarchs of a small crime family, their business is plagued with infighting. Karl has had more than he can take of his old man's philosophizing and preaching, and Bill thinks Karl's dedication to the family is seriously compromised when he takes up with an estranged girlfriend who claims to be carrying his baby. To make matters worse, there’s an unidentified informant in their midst that could send them all to prison for a very long time, and none of their associates can be trusted. (Product description reprinted from Amazon.com) 




Excerpted from my October review (read it here): “Look, I enjoyed Freakonomics, I just can’t really say how much so mainly because I’m still having issues buying all the information past on here as mathematical fact. Maybe I need to read [Steven D.] Levitt and [Stephen J.] Dubner’s book, an idea after watching their film I’m actually finding kind of appealing. But as for the documentary itself thanks to the level of talent involved I can certainly recommend it, just not as much going in I might have pre-surmised.”



Death Race 2

Apparently pointless prequel (the review on RopeofSilicon is absolutely scathing) to the almost equally pointless 2008 remake of Death Race 2000 directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. We didn't get a review copy so I can't give you my own verdict on this one other than to say, even as a fan of straight-to-video schlock, I intend on avoiding this one at all costs (even with Ving Rhames and Danny Trejo making appearances).



Fire on the Amazon

1993 Roger Corman produced misfire directed by Anaconda maestro Luis Llosa and starring a sometimes quite naked Sandra Bullock and an incredibly bland Craig Sheffer in a story about an American journalist imprisoned in the Amazon who is freed by an impassioned rainforest activist. There’s more, but not much that’s very interesting, and I’m only listing this title in this section because we were sent a review copy and Mitchell should have a full review of the Blu-ray up in the next couple of days. I could be wrong, but my guess is that it won’t be even slightly positive.











Dark Skies: The Declassified Complete Series

On July 2, 1947, a spacecraft of unknown origin crashed in the New Mexico desert outside Roswell Army Air Base. Four bodies, known as the Grays, were recovered. From that moment on, everything you think to be true about American history has been influenced by that event. On February 17, 1962, another event occurred, related to the first, but one that has, until now, been kept completely suppressed. You are being trusted with that secret.

In 1996, television audiences were introduced to John Loengard (Eric Close) and Kimberly Sayers (Megan Ward), two heroic freedom fighters charged with the unearthly task of protecting humanity against an alien infestation known as the Hive while showing us, through their own experiences and actions, the truth behind our own recent past. Call it alternative history or call it the unthinkable truth. Either way, call it Dark Skies. (Product description reprinted from Amazon.com)




Waking the Dead – The Complete Season Five

Whenever a solid British drama series is released stateside I have to mention it in the column, and this week BBC Video offers the complete fifth season of Waking the Dead, a detective drama following the Cold Case Squad, led by Detective Superintendant Peter Boyd (Trevor Eve), who combine the latest technology with old-fashioned hard work to investigate serious crimes that have gone unsolved. The fifth season picks up right after a traumatic event from the previous season that shakes things up and emotions run high in the squad, especially for Detective Boyd. The 6 episodes of the season, each presented in two parts, come in a 3-disc set running a combined total of 690 minutes. Fans of British TV should look into this show, but might be wise to start from the beginning.

- Written by Dennis Crane


Merlin: The Complete Second Season

Merlin is back with even more magic, adventure and romance as the young wizard struggles to protect Prince Arthur in the perilous world of Camelot. While battling deadly assassins, mystical monsters and the most powerful sorcerers Camelot has ever seen, Merlin must work harder than ever to conceal his unique abilities, as King Uther redoubles his war against magic. And Merlin isn’t the only one whose destiny calls—Lady Morgana , Uther’s ward, discovers dangerous secrets she dare not reveal; Lancelot returns, changing everything for both Gwen and Arthur; and King Uther falls in love, little knowing that the charming Lady Catrina is secretly a hideous troll. And as Arthur continues on his path from arrogant prince to the noble and just King Arthur of legend, we see the return of the one prophesied to kill him—the mysterious druid boy, Mordred. Featuring exciting new villains, white-knuckle stunt sequences, and spectacular CGI monsters, Merlin: Season Two is more thrilling than ever. (Product description reprinted from Amazon.com)




Made in 2007 but not released theatrically in the United States until late last year, this surprisingly awful docudrama concerns itself with final confession of Adolf Eichmann (Thomas Kretschmann), a subject one would think would make for at least something partially intriguing based on that brief synopsis alone. But no, this tired, meandering and horribly paced feature does almost nothing of interest with its potentially explosive subject matter, instead going round and round in increasingly tired circles wasting a solid cast including notable character actors like Troy Garity, Franka Potente and Stephen Fry. A waste of both talent and time.



The Penitent Man

I’m including this only because I took the time to watch it during the 2010 Seattle International Film Festival and, as such, just wouldn’t feel right if I passed it over for this column. That does not mean, however, I think any of you should take the time to view it for yourselves. Other than the fact it wastes on of Lance Henriksen’s best performances in years, this silly and quite stupid time travel psychological thriller is a turgid talky mess that seems to go on forever and ever before culminating in a conclusion so forgone it’s practically freeze-dried. Still, for Henriksen fans this might be a must, the actor giving his mysterious protagonist for more emotional weight and heft than he even slightly deserves.



Roger Corman's Cult Classics Triple Feature (Attack of the Crab Monsters / War of the Satellites / Not of This Earth)

Roger Corman triple feature two-disc DVD collection from our friends over at Shout! Factory. To quote from my recent review of this set (read it here): “I didn’t really care for War of the Satellites, it just didn’t do anything for me. But I was definitely take with Attack of the Crab Monsters and Not of This Earth, both of which (other than the annoying abruptness of the climax of the former) I enjoyed quite thoroughly.” That pretty much says it all and I’ll leave things there.



Sins of My Father

Stirring documentary about the notorious Columban drug lord as told by his son Sebastián Marroquín and widow Maria Isabel Santos. Director Nicolas Entel does a masterful job weaving in personal stories, news footage and home videos to tell a story of a unique childhood unlike almost no other. Definitely worthy of a look, you can find my full review of the DVD here.



Up From The Depths / Demon Of Paradise (Roger Corman's Cult Classics)

More Roger Corman silliness, this time featuring a couple of tropical resort Jaws knock-offs. To quote from my DVD review (read it here): “Totally silly and at times an awful lot of fun pair of underwater Hawaiian creature features that I enjoyed a heck of a lot more than I probably should admit. For Corman B-movie fans, this double-feature DVD is an absolute must.”



The Virginity Hit

I saw this in theatres. I didn't so much hate it as find it so perfectly forgettable I didn't even write up a review. That's pretty much all I have to say and everything I think you need to know.



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