New Blu's On the Block Blu-ray and DVD Releases for Jan 25, 2011
Lots to talk about, but it is the two major catalog titles I’m most excited about, Steven Spielberg and James L. Brooks having a pair of their most notable favorites hitting Blu-ray for the very first time.
To many people Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Alice Walker’s literary masterpiece The Color Purple is his finest work. While I like the film quite a bit, I am not one of those “many people.” The saga of an uneducated African American woman, Celie Harris (Whoopi Goldberg, in what is still her finest performance), who endures hardship and tragedy in 1920’s and 30’s Georgia. The movie is cast to perfection, Oprah Winfrey, Margaret Avery and Danny Glover ripping apart the screen with their raw, intensely emotional turns, while Quincy Jones’ electric and alive score comes exceedingly close to transforming the picture into a full-blown musical.
What I love about The Color Purple is that fact that it showcases Spielberg at his most brazen and raw. He is stretching himself here, going in new directions and attempting to do things on film the likes of which he’d never truly done before. But the film can sometimes feel slapdash and overwrought, not everything connecting as cleanly or as elegantly as it could have. It is filled with highs, lows and numerous in-betweens, all of which adds together to produce an epically intriguing and gut-wrenching drama I enjoy and admire immensely but can’t still quite bring myself to call a classic; not that I’m going to let that stop me from adding it to my hi-def library. You can read Mitchell’s The Color Purple Blu-ray review.
James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News is, without question, my favorite release of the entire week. I’ve been hoping and praying this 1987 marvel would get a deluxe treatment at some point, and the fact the folks at Fox have allowed the folks over at Criterion to do just that couldn’t make me any happier. I’ve only just pulled the wrapper off of this release, but not only does this razor-sharp lovelorn satire of the television news industry offer up a brand-new high-definition transfer personally supervised by Brooks and editor Richard Marks, it also sports a newly recorded commentary from the pair as well.
But that’s just the beginning; there are so many features and extras on this disc I can’t wait to dive into them all. Yet it is the movie itself the remains the chief asset here, and for those who watched the forgettable and anemic How Do You Know and scratched their heads perplexed at just what all the fuss about this James L. Brooks guy was all about Broadcast News is glorious proof that, once upon a time, this was a filmmaker whose name alone could convince just about anyone to by a ticket to his latest work.
So Red isn’t a very good movie. Director Robert Schwentke’s (The Time Traveler’s Wife) latest is silly, preposterous, nonsensical and in the end fairly obvious. But it never takes itself too seriously, has an amazing cast he realize just how tongue in cheek everything is and offers up numerous moments of energetic ingenuity that are far more fun and enjoyable than they have any right to be. As I said in my original September review (read it here), “[Red] is a glorious guilty pleasure starring a whole slew of actors who all should know better yet decided to give this one a whirl all the same. I liked it, and for all its faults and shortcomings in the end that’s the only thing here that matters.”
So, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo came within a hair’s breath of being on my Top Ten list for 2010, but I think part of the reason it didn’t make the grade was my mixed reaction to The Girl Who Played with Fire and my positively disastrous one to The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. All my goodwill was slowly and irrevocably erased by the two sequels, this final entry in the series letting me down so thoroughly I couldn’t even bring myself to write a review. While both Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqviststill give it their mutual all, the movie itself bored me to tears. It didn’t go anywhere interesting, its twists and turns nowhere near as exciting or as breathless as they were in the original film. I haven’t read the second two books in the late Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, so I don’t know if this is a problem with the novel as well. What I do know is that the saga of Lisbeth Salander ultimately went to a place I could have cared less about, making it difficult for me to urge people to give any of them, even her wonderful initial adventure, a look.
Here’s what I wrote about Secretariat back in October (read my full review here): “[The] movie is just too glossy and superficial, so happy to revival in the genre’s clichés, to succeed in the way it could have. It shorts its audience on the rich and vibrant experience it continually hints at, and for a horse that is rightly regarded as one of the greatest pure athletes who ever lived this is one race Secretariat doesn’t win.” I’ll be getting a look at the Blu-ray later this week so I’ll let you afterwards if those sentiments hold true the second time around.
I really liked John Curran’s (The Painted Veil) Stone. This treatise on faith and forgiveness moved me both times I’ve watched it, and it drives me a tiny bit crazy that it never caught on with either my fellow critics or with audiences. In my October review (read it here) I said that, “In the end, [Stone] isn’t a story so much about characters looking to the heavens as it is an examination of who we ourselves are as individuals, and while some won’t like what they find that’s still a mirror most of us could use looking into.” You can read Mitchell’s Stone Blu-ray review in which he disagrees with me.
There is no real reason to watch Saw 3D, but I don’t that’s going to stop anyone so I’ll just reprint some of my sentiments from my October review (read it here): “At a certain point as creative as the kills can be and as gruesome as the traps used to ‘test’ the willpower of a variety of deserving and undeserving victims all of it begins to get rather tired and routine. There are no surprises here, nothing that is unexpected, only a continuing series of bloody dismemberments whose only reason to exist is to push the boundaries of the R-rating.” Lionsgate offers up both 2D and 3D versions of the film for its Blu-ray release, so feel free to take your pick as to which one strikes your fancy more if you’re truly intent on seeing how the saga of Jigsaw ultimately wraps itself up.
I wanted to give this Australian contemporary western a special mention because how much I liked it. While we unfortunately did not receive the Blu-ray copy for review, the film tells the story of Constable Shane Cooper (Ryan Kwanten, best known for True Blood) whose first day on the job with the police department entails trying to stay alive during a revenge spree when an enraged, convicted murderer escapes from prison and seeks justice (read: kill) on the men responsible for his incarceration. The story is fairly minimalistic, but the filmmaking is quite accomplished, and the action pieces move fluidly and are exciting to watch. The western-type setting works in its favor, and a few moments reminded me of the Australian classic Mad Max. Watching Red Hill proved an unexpectedly very good time, and I hope it can do the same with you.
From my Blu-ray review of Nowhere Boy (read it here): “Nowhere Boy is a mixed bag. The musical elements – other than a great moment between Julia, John and a banjo – are surprisingly unsuccessful, while the emotional connection between myself and the title figure never materialized as strongly as I felt it should have. But the dynamic between John, Mimi and Julia is excellent, and whenever the movie went in that direction I felt like Greenhalgh and Taylor-Wood came close to hitting it out of the park, and if only the two sides of the picture could have worked in better tandem maybe I’d have something awesome, instead of half-baked, to talk about.”
From my review from last September (read it here): “Enter the Void is brilliantly made, hugely challenging motion picture that perplexed, bewildered, fascinated and disgusted me almost in equal measure. As Gaspar Noé’s follow up to his hugely controversial Irreversible, it is a movie that busts apart the medium and shows the filmmaker willing to try anything and everything in order to see his vision realized. In short, this is a guy not interested in maintaining the status quo, and if he puts off as many viewers as he entices I get the feelings that just fine with him.” I have nothing new to add other than I’d love to give this one another look as it’s haunted me for almost five months now and that’s a pretty rare thing nowadays if you ask me.
Alex Gibney’s excellent documentary about the former governor of New York and the scandal that brought him down is a movie I kept meaning to review but for whatever reason never did. Needless to say, it would make for the perfect companion piece to Charles Fegurson’s Inside Job, the two combining together to craft a devastating and infuriating examination of Wall Street and the many intricately layered pieces that led to a world-wide meltdown.
After mastering the mix of comedy, suspense, and horror that helped define the golden age of British cinema, Basil Dearden (along with his producing partner Michael Relph) left the legendary Ealing Studios and, in the late fifties and early sixties, created a series of gripping, groundbreaking, even controversial films. In dealing with racism, homophobia, and the lingering effects of World War II, these noir-tinged dramas burrowed into corners of London rarely seen on-screen. This set of elegantly crafted films—Sapphire, a dissection of a hate crime; The League of Gentlemen, a deft heist adventure suffused with postwar melancholy; Victim, a landmark gay character study, starring Dirk Bogarde; and All Night Long, a provocative transposition of Othello to the swinging London jazz scene—brings this quintessential figure of British cinema out of the shadows. (Product description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Having concluded its ninth season run on the BBC not too long ago and a tenth scheduled for the end of 2011, BBC Video has just released the eighth season of the U.K. spy show in a 3-disc set, which everyone should know for its real name, Spooks; the American title of MI-5 is just a little bit boring. In the season-long story arc a mysterious organization by the name of “Nightingale” makes things extremely difficult for the Section D spooks at MI-5, viewers will be surprised to see a formerly departed character make a return, and top spook Lucas North (Richard Armitage) confronts a haunted past and has his loyalty called into question. As usual, the season finales end on a cliffhanger, and this one is a bit hard to stomach. Fans may shed a tear (of frustration) when a series veteran departs and is replaced by a younger agent (this perhaps at the insistence of the producers, or because the show needs a minority character at least once in every season).
The unforgettable Gleeks return in TV’s most spectacular musical sensation! Despite school budget cuts and a setback at Regionals, New Directions is more energized than ever. As fresh romances develop and old ones are tested, the club embraces an exciting new year of challenges. This 3-disc set brings you the first ten episodes of Glee Season 2, with all-new guest stars, amazing renditions of some of the world’s hottest music and rockin’ special features! (Product description reprinted from Amazon.com)
From my DVD review of “Man in a Suitcase: Set 1” (read it here): “McGill (Richard Bradford) is a former American spy who left the service of his country under mysterious circumstances. He now works as a freelance private detective in London, England finding himself knee-deep in mystery and mayhem nearly every single day of the week. […] Man in a Suitcase is hugely enjoyable, and for fans of this sort of retro hard-boiled bullet-riddled cigarette-smoking womanizing nastiness it’s hard to think this won’t go down as tastily like a pint of Guinness with a whiskey chaser.”
In early 19th century Spanish California, a corrupt Alcalde (mayor) grows rich by terrorizing the good people of Los Angeles. Young and dashing Don Diego de la Vega (Duncan_Regehr), pretending to care only for science and study, secretly creates a bold alter-ego: Zorro the Fox.
Filmed entirely in Madrid, Spain, Zorro aired on The Family Channel for four seasons, from 1990-1993. Still a tremendous fan favorite, Zorro is renowned for its swashbuckling family-friendly adventure as well as its top-notch cast of featured characters and guests, including Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Don Alejandro de la Vega, Daniel Craig, Andre the Giant, Philip Michael Thomas, Jesse Ventura and Adam West. For the first time ever, all 88 episodes have been collected in one DVD set, including a bonus disk with classic Zorro films, an alternate series pilot and much more. (Product description reprinted from Amazon.com)
It kills me that I haven’t gotten the chance to see this one, but this 2009 Un Certain Regard prize at the Cannes Film Festival never got a Seattle release and I wasn’t able to grab a screener from the distributor. But I am fully expecting that, by the time this week’s edition of “New Blu’s On the Block” is being read, that this Grecian import is going to be an Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, and as such I sure as heck better give it a look before the award’s ceremony airs in February.
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. (Reprinted from the 1/4/2011 “New Blu’s On the Block”)
The final film from the great Claude Chabrol and the first to star the equally as legendary Gerard Depardieu, Inspector Bellamy got a cursory domestic release towards the end of 2010 and was also available from distributor IFC via OnDemand. The reviews for this police thriller were generally solid, the movie having a decent score of 69 on Metacritic and stands at a respectful 89-perfect on Rotten Tomatoes. Personally, I’m dying to give it a look, and have already put it at the very top of my Netflix queue.
"Mira Sorvino is amazing” and Golden Globe® nominee “Barry Pepper is stunning” (Film Threat) in this emotionally gripping drama. Sorvino and Pepper star as Wendy and Rip Porter, a working-class couple fighting to regain custody of Joey--the young son Wendy gave up for adoption when Rip went to prison seven years earlier. But Joey’s adoptive parents will stop at nothing to ensure that the small boy stays in the only home he’s ever known. From a screenplay by Academy Award Nominee Stephen J. Rivele and Michael Lachance, and based on the novel by New York Times best-selling author Karen Kingsbury, Like Dandelion Dust is a “powerful story” with “a powerful cast...don’t miss it.” (ABC-TV) (Product description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Saw this one at last year’s Seattle International Film Festival, and let me just say that star Andy Serkis absolutely kills in it. He’s playing punk rock pioneer Ian Dury (Ian Dury and The Blockheads) and his ribald, over-the-top portrait of angst, excess and talent is downright spectacular. The movie itself runs a bit hot and cold, running into the usual music star biopic clichés barely being able to overcome them by the time it reaches its climax. Still, the film is definitely worthy of a look (especially for either punk rock and/or Serkis fans), and as I’ve seen it twice I can honestly say it holds up to repeat viewings surprisingly well.