I listed it at number five on my Top Ten of 2011, and watching the film again at home (multiple times) I’m thinking I left it to low on the list. As I wrote in my original theatrical review (read it here): “Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive is an ambient mood piece that his you like a shot of nitroglycerine enhanced adrenaline yet goes down as smoothly as an expensive slug of single-malt. It hits fast, hits hard and hits home, the whole thing a pulsating angst-riddled drama of fate and circumstance that plays itself out like a fevered dream of irrational rationality that refuses to dissipate and lingers in the psyche long after the film has come to an end.” You can also get more on the film by checking out my just posted Blu-ray Review.
Shakespeare in Love
Let’s be frank, Shakespeare in Love is a better overall film that Saving Private Ryan, and with that being the case it deserved to win the Academy Award for Best Picture over it. Now, personally, I believe that The Thin Red Line was the best film of 1998 and should have won over the both of them, but as that’s just my opinion and the award ceremony is long over and done with I’ve made my piece with that particular opinion an extremely long time ago. As for John Madden’s divine what-if dramatic comedy, Shakespeare in Love is an absolute treasure trove of sublime moments building to an incredibly moving coda I utterly adore. It’s a great film, plain and simple, and considering the low price point on Amazon I’d urge people to pick it up for their collections sight unseen.
The English Patient
Two more Miramax titles courtesy of Lionsgate, these two both directed by the late, great Anthony Minghella, The English Patient winning a slew of Academy Awards including ones for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay and Supporting Actress Juliette Binoche. Quite frankly, it is also by far the better of the two motion pictures, and while I’d probably have voted for either Fargo or Secrets & Lies in 1996 that doesn’t discount just how awesomely perfect this adaptation of Michael Ondaaje’s stunning novel unquestionably is.
As for Cold Mountain, it’s grown on me over the past nine years since I wrote my original theatrical review (read it here) stating: “[The movie] is never less than enthralling, and even with all its problems it is still a film to cherish. In a world where studios make so many pictures based on the idiotic ramblings of focus groups, here is a movie that has the courage to ask interesting and complex questions and then the gumption to let the audience come up with the answers on their own. Flaws and all, Cold Mountain burns the screen with a calenture few films dare.” Watching it again on Blu-ray, I was taken by just how absorbing this Odyssey-like story truly is, the tearful finale hitting home far more solidly almost a decade after the fact then it did in 2003.
Spike Lee’s audacious and daring Malcolm X is without question the idiosyncratic director’s most personal film. Not his best, that honor still belongs to Do the Right Thing, but for pure cinematic chutzpah and daring this biography of one of the twentieth century’s most iconic figures certainly takes the cake. Featuring Denzel Washington’s best performance, filled with moments that burn through the screen, this is a movie everyone and anyone should make it a point to see, Warner’s new Blu-ray presentation a glorious achievement worthy of celebration. Read my Blu-ray review for more thoughts.
Here’s what I wrote back in October of last year (read my full review here): “Andrew Niccol’s In Time is by no means a complete disaster. The writer behind the modern classic The Truman Show and the filmmaker responsible for the wonderfully thought provoking Gattaca has crafted another science fiction parable who hopes echoes our modern world’s current predicaments and problems…The movie meanders in circles, frustratingly wasting its intriguing premise showcasing a story of Robin Hood meets Bonnie and Clyde-like heroic villains on the run that’s as rudimentary as it is forgettable. It is an oddly antiseptic effort, and while it’s easy to salute Niccole’s creative virtuosity it’s just as easy to hammer him for delivering a final product that’s poorly paced, dramatically muddled and filled with one note characterizations that go sadly nowhere.”
The Thing (2011)
Here’s what I wrote about this prequel/remake back in October (read my full review here): “In all fairness, the film is better than I’d expected it to be. While nothing that happens will come as a surprise to anyone who has seen the Carpenter flick, [director Matthijs van Heijningen, Jr.] does a reasonably fine job of manufacturing a sense of gloom and doom that’s admittedly unnerving. Until the picture flies off the rails during its climactic stretch showing things it shouldn’t and going places that are far more unintentionally silly then they have any right to be, I was ready to cut this new The Thing a bit of slack, enjoying bits and pieces of it quite substantially.”
The Big Year
I liked The Big Year. There, I said it. As I wrote back in October (read my review here): “David Frankel’s (The Devil Wears Prada) latest is a nice movie. I don’t mean ‘nice’ as in it is well-made (although it is), I mean ‘nice’ in that is has got to be the least cynical adult-driven Hollywood comedy as any I’ve seen in years. There isn’t an ounce of acrimony, ungraciousness or pernicious insincerity to be found here, the whole thing a fairly buttoned-down journey of self-discovery, regret, friendship and euphoria that’s as clean-cut and as refined as the subject matter at the heart of its narrative is.”
Dream House did not screen for critics. Director Jim Sheridan almost had his name removed from the project. Stars Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts refused to do press for it. That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?
Two more from Miramax courtesy of Lionsgate. Here’s what I wrote about Frida way back in November of 2002 (read my full review here): “It would be nice to report that the subsequent film, with all of the talent and perseverance that has gone into seeing it to fruition, was worth the heartfelt efforts of all involved. That would be nice, but, unfortunately, is not going to happen. Frida is a perfectly ok film, nothing more, and fails to transcend much of the standard clichés of filmed biography.”
As for The Piano, Jane Campion’s landmark achievement has only gotten better over the years, filled with moments that have haunted me since I fist witnessed them way back in 1993. A staggering work of sheer unadulterated genius, Campion’s ability to balance light and dark is just staggering, the movie anchored by performances by Oscar winners Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin ranking as some of the best a person is ever likely to see.
Silly, if rather okay spy vs. spy tale with Richard Gere and Topher Grace chasing a secretive Russian agent long thought dead by the CIA. The twists get to be a bit much, and in all honesty the No Way Out nature of the narrative is a bit obvious right from the start, but both actors give there all and writer-turned-director Michael Brandt (Wanted, 3:10 to Yuma) shows a surprising confidence behind the camera calling the shot. Not great, but certainly no disaster, action/suspense fans probably won’t be too disappointed if they pick this one up as a rental.
I listed this one at number 33 on my list of the Top 50 Films 2000 – 2009, and in all honesty I should have probably ranked it a heck of a lot higher. As I wrote way back in December of 2002 (read my full review here): “I’m not going to try and explain too much about Adaptation. It would be impossible to do so as it is. Just go see it. Immediately. Today. There are far too few films that make one giddy and excited about the art of making movies. Adaptation is one of them, and it is for the ages.” For more, check out my just posted Blu-ray Review.
Takeshi Kitano’s latest Yukaza extravaganza Outrage is expertly made and filled with hard-core violent moments and bits of absurd black humor we’ve come to expect from the iconic Japanese filmmaker. It’s also a little self-indulgent and more than a bit boring, the director seeming to pulling from a familiar bag of tricks and not having as much fun bringing it all to life as he’s done in the past. Still, there’s some awesome stuff here, and for Kitano fans the film is as must-see as anything to hit Blu-ray so far this year.
I adore Lawrence Kasdan’s Grand Canyon, I always have. I’ve long felt this sprawling, multi-character Los Angeles drama is a bit of a lost modern classic, and the fact it has never garnered as much attention as I’ve always felt it should have kind of makes me a wee bit sad. Here’s hoping now that Image Entertainment and Fox have teamed up to bring it to Blu-ray more people will give it a second look; goodness knows its hugely deserving of one.
Poirot: Series 1
Poirot: Series 2
Acorn brings forth the first two seasons of “Poirot” to Blu-ray, and let me be one of the first to say fans should make it a priority to add these two sets to their collections right away. You can read my Season 1 Blu-ray Review and Season 2 Blu-ray Review of these marvelous Agatha Christie adaptations starring the great David Suchet.
Texas Killing Fields
Solid debut for Michael Mann’s daughter Ami Canaan Mann behind the camera, Texas Killing Fields doesn’t exactly offer up a lot that new but at the end of the day still more than manages to get the job done. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jessica Chastain and Chloë Grace Moretz all deliver strong performances, while the climactic portions of the film are surprisingly strong. The middles section does tend to meander, however, and Sam Worthington pales a bit dramatically when compared to the work of his costars. Still, as debuts go Mann’s effort shows the director to have definite promise, and here’s hoping she lives up to it with her subsequent efforts. Mitchell has posted his full Blu-ray review for you to read.
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES
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· 2-Headed Shark Attack
· Another Take on Catherine
· Best Picture Academy Award Winners – Five Film Collection
· Fernando Di Leo Crime Collection
· Joe Somebody
· The Mill and the Cross
· Night Train Murders
· Nothing in Common
· The Scout
· Snow Buddies
· A Soldier’s Story
· Star Trek: The Next Generation – Next Level
· Transformers: Dark of the Moon (3D Special Edition)
· Treasure Buddies
I know little about this release. IFC was supposed to send me a screener back in September of last year, but for whatever reason it never arrived. What I do know is that it stars Felicity Jones who made such an indelible impression in Like Crazy and that she spoke warmly about the film during our interview, and that alone has me curious. I’m going to give it a look, that I promise you; the only question is when.
I never got around to reviewing Janie Jones last year, but that’s not a testament to the film’s lack of quality. Just the opposite, in fact, this quiet drama featuring strong performances by Alessandro Nivola and Abigail Breslin that allow the intimate nature of the story to hit home a lot harder than it would have otherwise. Definitely worthy of a look, here is a little-seen gem people will hopefully take the time to discover now that it’s available on DVD.
Here’s what I wrote about this one August of last year (read my full review here): “[Spiderhole] wastes its potential and does nothing with an excellent performance by its female lead, and other than a wonderfully unsettling opening and an admittedly unforeseen, and a wee bit ingenious, sleight-of-hand at the end there’s not a lot to talk about.”
Poldark: The Complete Collection
One of the 10 most popular shows in “Masterpiece Theatre” history, this epic saga is a British Gone with the Wind. Set in 18th-century Cornwall after America’s War for Independence, it stars Robin Ellis as Capt. Ross Poldark, a young hero who returns home to find his estate in ruins, his inheritance gone and his beloved Elizabeth (Jill Townsend) engaged to another man. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Thunder Soul is the inspiring, music-filled true story of high school band leader "Prof" Johnson, who took a ragtag jazz band and transformed them into the legendary funk powerhouse that took the nation by storm. Now decades later, "Prof's" students prepare to gather and celebrate the man who taught them about pride, honor and the power of a deep groove in this unforgettable true story. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
You and I
Two girls, Lana and Jane, from vastly different worlds, bond as they persevere to become a part of the glamorous lifestyle offered by the power’s high society. Although they are constantly challenged by the seductive, intoxicating allure of this society they’re suddenly forced to confront the cruel reality that lies beneath its glittery facade. As their bond is tested to its breaking point they will need to re-discover the love that brought them together otherwise their bond will be shattered forever. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
OTHER NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
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· Dead Hooker in a Trunk
· The Other F Word
· Steam – The Turkish Bath
· Ubaldo Terzani Horror Show