New Blu's On the Block Blu-ray and DVD Releases for January 24, 2012
For many, this is the Tuesday many were most looking forward to this January. Classics from Woody Allen, Billy Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock. The first film to ever win the Academy Award for Best Picture. And, the biggest hi-def monster of them all, Godzilla, in all his nuclear fury, delivered to Blu-ray by the kind folks over at the Criterion Collection. Oh. Yeah. There’s more, not the least of which are two films many think were snubbed this morning by Oscar. But take a look for yourself; the list of incredible titles is a long and worthy one.
When in doubt, go with Alfred Hitchcock. On a day when there were numerous titles I could have led with, I chose this set of three to give the honor to? Why? Because anyone who even slightly loves cinema knows the name Hitchcock. Arguably the most influential filmmaker of all-time, his classics have stood the test of time like no others. Now come three fine entries into the growing list of the master’s titles available on Blu-ray, including his only motion picture to win the Academy Award for Best Picture (Rebecca). How are the transfers? What sort of job did MGM and Fox do in getting these prepared for high-definition. I honestly do not know, but considering review copies of all are supposedly forthcoming I certainly cannot wait to find out.
Paramount’s handling of director William A. Wellman’s Wings, the first motion picture to win the Academy Award for Best picture and the only silent film to do so, is extraordinary. The image quality is something beyond amazing, and while I would have liked a more extensive set of special features when the hi-def presentation is as magnificent as this I’m not exactly going to spend my time getting all worked up about it, let me tell you. As for the movie itself, filmmakers have been influenced by this one for generations, this stunning aerial extravaganza a saga of courage, love and heroism that has stood the time and then some.
Woody Allen’s two best films in my humble opinion, and any collection that doesn’t contain the both of them isn’t worth a grain of salt as far as I’m concerned. Again, I don’t know how good or bad or whatever the transfers are on the part of MGM and Fox, and considering Allen’s loathing of special features I imagine both are lacking in that department as well. At the same time, I’m sitting here salivating waiting on my review copies, and hopefully both will arrive soon so I can dive into them immediately.
The greatest monster movie of all-time? Maybe, although I’m sure King Kong would have something to say about that. At the same time, this Toho classic is a one of kind treat every kid should see and just about ever adult I’ve ever met has professed their undying guilty pleasure love towards. Sadly, my review copy of this supposedly spectacular Criterion release never arrived (the studio accidently sent me two copies of a different January title instead and have since run out of stock for critics like myself – oh well, c’est la vie), but I can tell you upfront I’m buying this package sight unseen. I can’t wait to get a look at it, and as soon as I can get to Barnes and Noble I plan on picking it up close to immediately.
Goodness gracious, I can’t believe I’m only getting to this one now, Billy Wilder’s The Apartment maybe my absolute favorite movie the director ever crafted (Some Like it Hot probably tying it for that honor). Jack Lemmon is fantastic. Shirley MacLaine has never been better. Fred MacMurray and the rest of the stellar supporting cast lend indelible support. The whole thing builds to a spectacular conclusion ranking as one of the greats ever put to celluloid, and every fan of great comedy should do themselves a favor and give this classic a look.
Seriously, I’m listing this excellent comedic drama ninth on the list of today’s releases? A movie many thought was a shoe-in for an Oscar nod for Best Original Screenplay and one with an outside shot at a Best Actor nomination? A movie I said in my theatrical review (read it here) was a “funny, thought-provoking and ultimately moving opus that is unique unto itself” and was also a “witty, entertaining and emotionally cathartic journey into the unspeakable” that showed how “resilience, family, faith and friendship can help bring love and levity in even the most trying of situation,” 50/50 is close to awesome, and although it has some imperfections and flaws here and there is a wonderful effort definitely worthy of taking a look at.
From my theatrical review posted last October (read it here): “Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman [have] taken the Paranormal Activity concept and run with it in their own vividly imaginative direction. Returning screenwriter Christopher Landon’s script is surprisingly witty and filled with some innovative ideas. There are some seriously unsettling sequences…and by and large it avoids many of the inherent pitfalls of the prequel.” I’ll have a full review of the Blu-ray up soon.
The second movie to be release today some thought had an outside (very, very outside) shot at an Oscar nom for actress Rachel Weisz, The Whistleblower is a fine, if at times deeply flawed, Bosnia set procedural that deserved a larger release than it got and to be seen by far more people than actually paid for a ticket. As I said in my original theatrical review (read it here), “Freshman director Larysa Kondracki’s (who also co-wrote the script) shocking, often times devastating procedural drama is a strong effort made even more so thanks to the mesmerizing talents of star Weisz…Like in real life, the choices made are not always the ones you’re hoping they will be, making the story connect even more powerfully because of the mistakes and missteps that frustratingly can’t help but occur.”
This one, somewhat shockingly (if not really because the visual effects are its best asset), did get an Academy Award nomination today, making the snubbing of The Whistleblower and 50/50 all the more upsetting. As I wrote in my original theatrical review (read it here), “Yes the youngsters will like it, and sure adults aren’t going to want to shoot themselves in the head if they’re forced to sit through it, but neither of those things makes the movie good. Real Steel is as mechanical as its central pugilistic figures, the whole thing a soggy, overly familiar familial drama I could honestly care less about.”
My goodness this movie is a punch in the gut. The first 15-20 minutes are some of the most uncomforting and in some ways disgusting you’ll ever watch, and I’m not making that statement even close to lightly or with any hyperbole whatsoever. I'll have a full review of this astonishing, mesmerizing effort up soon. Another stunner from Criterion.
I've got nothing to say as this Gus Van Sant effort did extremly little for me. I couldn't even muster up the enthusiasm to write a theatrical review last September, which in the end might be all I actually need to say so I'll leave things there and move quickly on.
“That’s the fact, Jack!” Seriously, if that line means nothing to you, avoid this Blu-ray release. If it does, you’ve already placed the pre-order and could care less about a single additional word I write. With that being the case, I’ll just stop while I’m maybe somewhat ahead.
Three with Richard Pryor, two that team him up with Gene Wilder (the pair appeared together four times in total) and only one of which is even slightly worthwhile. That would be Stir Crazy, Pryor and Wilder’s sophomore outing together, the other two about as forgettable as bad 1980’s comedies can get. That said, Image’s hi-def handling of these three is outstanding, and for fans of Pryor I’m hesitant to say they shouldn’t be given at least a passing glance. I’ll have reviews of all three discs up soon.
Lucky McKee’s seriously messed-up horror outing should have gotten a wider release than the handful of theatres it got late last year, as watching this one on Blu-ray at home messed me up considerably. Now, don’t read that as a full endorsement, I have serious issues with the film overall, but as creepy exercises in nihilistic, somewhat misogynistic yet oddly feminist horror (a contradiction, I know) are concerned this ‘torture porn’ meets ‘grindhouse’ effort is a genre fanatics dream. Certainly not for everyone, those who it does appeal to should pick it up for a rental right away.
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES
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Cult slasher favorite from 1982 gets a two-disc DVD special edition, but no sort of restoration or hi-def upgrade, so true fans of this crazy little opus probably won’t be entirely pleased. Still, the film knows what it is and has a grand time offing all the scantily clad sorority girls, and while I personally enjoyed the remake (Sorority Row) a heck of a lot more that doesn’t mean the original has any lesser place in my gory B-movie slasher loving brutalized heart.
Great documentary chronicling the disappearance of the honey bee and the effects that is having on the environment, this is one nonfiction winner that deserved to find a greater audience. Beautifully made, full of some truly inspired scenes and sequences, I felt like learned a ton from watching this one while never having the sense I was being preached at, and considering the proselytizing nature of the material that’s a pretty astonishing feat.
On the reverse side of that proselytizing coin, this sequel to the wonderful Who Killed the Electric Car is a stunning disappointment in almost every way. Watching this one at the Seattle International Film Festival I was dumbstruck by just how preachy it was, how it was trying to jam all of its messages down my throat with a fist the size of Mt. Rainier. Some of the converted will undoubtedly love it, but count me amongst those who believe in the message but hate the delivery as offered up by this heavy-handed, sometimes off-putting film.
Eddie Gonzo" Gilman (Ezra Miller, Royal Pains) is starting a revolution. When the wildeyed rebel journalist is ousted from his prep school's newspaper by its überpopular editor, Gavin Riley (Jesse McCartney, Summerland), Gonzo starts an underground paper, The Gonzo Files, to give a voice to all the misfits victimized by Gavin and his cronies. With help from the mysterious Evie (Zoë Kravitz, X-Men: First Class), The Gonzo Files becomes a runaway hit and turns the school upside down, but Gonzo soon learns that the truth comes with consequences. The ensemble cast of this fresh teen angst comedy includes Amy Sedaris (Strangers with Candy ), Campbell Scott (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) and Judah Friedlander ( 30 Rock ). (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
The story centers on real estate tycoon Wong Ho-Chiu. While sheltered in the luxurious trappings afforded by his wealth and power, he suffers an unbearable loss when his daughter Daisy is kidnapped and killed: a victim of her decadent lifestyle and cocaine addiction. Wong Ho-Chiu turns to his trusted bodyguard Chor to seek out the perpetrators and exact revenge. Chor does his employer's bidding with an unflinching determination and scarcely contained rage thinly hidden beneath the surface. Wong Ho-Chiu goes one step further and orders Chor to videotape each of their executions, an order to which he complies, revealing the depths of depravity to which he will sink to match hand with his former underworld brethren in his quest for revenge. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Homophobic detective Mark Rima (James Vallo) must partner up with the very gay and flamboyant Detective Chris Riant (Shawn Quinlan) to stop a serial killing Nun (Judy Tenuta) from offing five band members otherwise known as "The Ex Choir Boys." But when it is determined that the Detectives can't solve the case on their own, expert F.B.I. profiler Agent Peccant (comedian ANT) is assigned to the case. As the details of the case slowly emerge the police determine that that the "nun" may only be a silent witness to the grisly murders. The task force then turns its attention on the Catholic Church and a suspect group of Priests that have had a propensity for "cleansing the souls" of innocent young choir boys. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
OTHER NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
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