The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part I
Ah. More Twilight. Here’s what I wrote about this first chapter in this climactic two-parter back in November (read full review here): “[It’s] very challenging to look at The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 and not want to laugh. Easily [author Stephenie] Meyer’s most insane bit of over the top and giddily silly prose, the basic truth is not a heck of a lot happens here. Sure Bella and Edward get married, and yes the supercilious teenage heroine does get pregnant, but as far as plot is concerned there’s just not a lot of there, well, there. The book is page after page of brooding and pouting and worrying and wedding preparations, and when the final moments do indeed come they’re so freakishly out there and idiotic it’s almost stupefying that a person of even subterranean intelligence could have taken them seriously.” (Releases on Saturday, Feb. 11)
Downton Abbey – Season Two
So, um, yeah, Downton Abbey…honestly, I have no idea what to write. Easily the most fantastically popular BBC series to play on PBS in decades, this show has met with bushels of acclaim, has one all kinds of awards and has a fan base as far as I can tell roughly the size of Texas (okay, so that might be an exaggeration, emphasis on the ‘might’). But for all the hoopla I’ve never seen a gosh darn episode, and even though I should probably remedy that oversight on my part at some point I’m just not feeling the impetus to do it. Be that as it may, the second season is now available on Blu-ray, and considering its lofty position on the Amazon top ten list (it was second behind the latest Twilight film the last time I checked) I’m sure the majority of you out there don’t need me to tell you that.
Glenn Close. John Malkovich. Michelle Pfeiffer. Uma Thurman. All are absolute perfection in director Stephen Frears (The Queen) and writer Christopher Hampton’s audacious and spectacular adaptation of the 1782 masterpiece Les Liaisons dangereuses byPierre Choderlos de Laclos. Heck, even Keanu Reeves holds his own in most scenes, his tragic battle with Malkovich filled with a fire and fury we’ve seldom (if ever) seen from his since. Sadly, a review copy of Dangerous Liasons has not arrived. That said, considering it’s one of my personal favorites I can admit to purchasing a copy from Amazon this very morning.
Let’s get this out of the way first: Worst. Tagline. EVER. I’m sorry, but, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” is seriously horrible in more ways than I care to state. Anyone who has ever been in love knows ‘sorry’ is the one word you almost can’t do without. Period. End of sentence. No more debate on the subject. With that said, Paramount’s Blu-ray of Love Story is sublime, filled with images that are every bit as poetic now as they probably were back in 1970. As for the movie itself, I may hate that line, but Arthur Hiller’s epic saga of romance is kind of spellbinding, and if that finale doesn’t make you cry than your heart must have been surgically removed from your chest.
I can’t say Anonymous was a movie I was anxiously looking forward to. Not because I didn’t want to see a drama toying with the idea that William Shakespeare didn’t actually write his legendary plays and that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, actually did, but more because Roland Emmerich, the man behind such works of ‘genius’ like Independence Day, the Godzilla remake, 10,000 B.C. and 2012, was the one calling the shots. His is not exactly a name that screams ‘art house’ or ‘quality character-driven’ filmmaking, and as such my reservations towards the man actually persuaded me to skip the press screening when it played theatrically and go to an entirely different motion picture (In Time) instead.
That was a mistake on my part, not just because In Time was a relative waste of, well, time. The simple truth is that Anonymous, for all its over-the-top flourishes, for all its historical (or lack thereof) legitimacy, for all the things that make it something of a tedious slog at times, is still quite entertaining when all is said and done. Rhys Ifans is borderline spectacular as de Vere, while the great Vanessa Redgrave steals every scene she’s in as Queen Elizabeth I. Emmerich does a fine job (for the most part) bringing this story to life, and I know have to wonder if someone had been allowing him the opportunity to helm scripts as solid as this one maybe we’d have been spared a decade of disaster film mediocrity.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas
A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas
Here’s what I wrote about this one back in November (read my full review here): “The 3D use is blatantly over the top, the film embraces, almost celebrates its R-rating and it is filled with just enough in the way of ribald lunacy it’s hardly a total chore to sit through and very rarely bores. It’s just not my cup of tea, that’s all there is to say about it, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas hardly a slice of holiday fruit cake I’d willingly take a bite of ever again.” Mitchell just posted his Blu-ray Review of the non-3D version of the film; check it out.
La Jetée / Sans Soleil
Chris Marker’s short La Jetée is one of the most influential science fiction films of all time. Period. End of story. Nothing more to say on the matter. Sans Soleil, made in 1983 (two decades after La Jetée), is its own, utterly peculiar, magnificently enthralling, sci-fi entity. Together, these two pictures showcase a gifted filmmaker bending the cinematic medium to his own will, and it’s easy to see why in many genre circles Marker is considered an absolute master the likes of which few can compare to.
A Star is Born (1937)
The original Technicolor 1937 classic starring Janet Gaynor, Fredric March and Adolphe Menjou comes to Blu-ray courtesy of the folks over at Kino, and any fan of legendary Hollywood cinema owes it to themselves to give it a look. While the Judy Garland/James Mason film will always be the better known, this version is still without question the superior one, building to the kind of weepy, old school melodramatic climax that is virtually guaranteed to reduce viewers to puddles of blubbering mush.
Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall
For Phantom of the Opera enthusiasts, this Blu-ray presentation of the 25th anniversary staging of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s shockingly enduring smash at the Royal Albert Hall in London is an absolute must as far as a purchase is concerned. Technical specs are phenomenal across the board, picture and audio as pristine and as astonishing as any a person could have possibly hoped for. As for the those of us who are not fans of Sir. Webber’s obnoxious (and I say that as lovingly as I can) rock opera, this disc is worthy of mild appreciation, nothing more, and I wouldn’t suggest giving it a second glance as you pass legions of them sitting on the shelves at your local Best Buy.
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES
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· Casino Royale (1967)
· The Cat in the Hat (2003)
· The Deadly Spawn
· Filth to Ashes, Flesh to Dust
· A Fish Called Wanda
· It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
· Metal Shifters
· The Rebound
· The Retrievers
· The Reunion
· The Sunset Limited
· Throw Momma from the Train
In many ways, Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer) latest drama is a modern-day Sunday, Bloody Sunday set in Berlin and revolving around a seemingly happy couple who both simultaneously fall in love with the same man. In reality, it is actually far, far more than that. Bracing, full of adrenaline, never quite going where you expect it to, this sometimes crushing melodrama is as poignant as it is debilitating, everything building to the type of climax that mixes playfulness, sensitivity, and tragedy in a way that feels fresh and new.
5 Star Day
Surprisingly good fantasy/comedy/drama/romance with Cam Gigandet and Jena Malone that works far better than it arguably has any right to. Built on a flimsy premise (guy tries to disprove astrology by seeking out three people born at the same time and place as he), the movie boasts a shockingly literate and character-driven script by writer/director Danny Buday that belies its silly and unbelievable origins. It doesn’t always work, and there are more than a few scenes that had me cringing as I watched them, but overall this is a solid piece that kept me engaged all the way from start to finish. Definitely worthy of seeking out as a rental.
Karen Cries on the Bus
Columbian import about a woman, Karen (Ángela Carrizosa), breaking things off with her successful yet crass and incredibly uncouth husband after ten years of dysfunctional marriage. The movie is basically your straightforward tale of self-discovery and independence, and while the whole thing can be more than a bit familiar writer/director Gabriel Rojas Vera does a splendid job of holding it all together and keeping the focus on Karen at all times, right where it needs to be.
New Tricks – Series 6
The adventures of Superintendent Sandra Pullman (Amanda Redman) and her team of seasoned cops continues, the unit tackling another cadre of Cold Cases abandoned by the police force at large. Fans should keep watching, as this is one show that just seems to get better and better with each subsequent season.
How James Marsh’s (Man on Wire) latest documentary didn’t get nominated for the Academy Award this year is way beyond me, as it’s easily one of the very best to have played the festival circuit and to have hit theatre screens in 2011. Granted, the way it ends, what it builds to, isn’t exactly heartwarming, life-affirming or all that touchy-feely in any way whatsoever, Marsh pulling no punches as he chronicles the landmark 1970’s experiment of Nim, a chimpanzee pulled from his natural environment and raised like a human child. Unsettling, to be sure, Project Nim is still pretty outstanding, and to my mind is one of the best pictures of any kind hitting store shelves today.
Fantastic Israeli import about three teenagers from wildly differing backgrounds pinning their hopes on soccer as a way to get out of the dire situations afflicting they and their families alike. While the film doesn’t manage to avoid all inspirational sports drama genre clichés, it does sidestep around a heck of a lot of them, all three of the kids more interesting and three-dimensional than they at first appear. Spectacularly shot by director of photography Ram Shweky.
Coming and Going
Alex is an independent woman with a law degree and an affinity for one night stands. Lee is an insecure OB-GYN who can't seem to get anywhere near women outside of the examining room. When a freak accident leaves Lee with a temporary disability, their lives intertwine in a wild comedy where love can be hell on wheels! (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Fireflies in the Garden
To an outsider, the Taylors are the very picture of the successful American family: Charles (Willem Dafoe) is a tenured professor on track to become university president, son Michael (Ryan Reynolds) is a prolific and well-known romance novelist, daughter Ryne (Shannon Lucio) is poised to enter a prestigious law school, and on the day we are introduced to them, matriarch Lisa (Julia Roberts) will graduate from college—decades after leaving to raise her children. But when a serious accident interrupts the celebration, the far more nuanced reality of this Midwestern family’s history and relationships come to light. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Last Man Standing
Abby Collins is a former Marine who is now a happily married housewife but soon discovers she will need to put her highly trained operative skills to use when her past comes to haunt her. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
In 2002 the military captured and imprisoned a supernatural entity at a secret underground base known as Stormhouse. In the final four days of their experiment, a "ghost whisperer" is brought to Stormhouse by the government to make contact with the captured entity. But her arrival triggers a series of events which lead to the entity's escape, plunging the base into a horrific nightmare leaving everyone on board fighting for their lives! (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
What Happens Next
After rich businessman Paul Greco (Jon Lindstrom) retires early, his imperious sister Elise (two-time Emmy Award nominee Wendie Malick) tries to get him to settle down with the woman of her choosing. But Paul seems more interested in developing his friendship with Andy (Chris Murrah), a charming young man he meets at a dog park. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES
(Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon!)
· Brontes of Haworth
· The Elephant in the Living Room
· Father Dowling Mysteries: The First Season
· Geek Charming
· Masterpiece Classic: Far From the Madding Crowd
· Northern Lights: The Complete Collection
· Rocko's Modern Life: Season Two
· Song of Lunch