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FEATURE ARTICLE

New Blu's On the Block - 2/8/2011

 

Rating: Various

Distributor: Various

Released: Feb 8, 2011

 

Written by Sara Michelle Fetters

 

Editor-in-Chief
www.moviefreak.com

New Blu's On the Block
Blu-ray and DVD Releases for Feb 8, 2011

The lead for this week? For me it is something of a tie between my absolute favorite Federico Fellini picture coming to Blu-ray from the folks at the Criterion Collection and Warner Bros. bringing a little seen, and highly personal, Elia Kazan classic to DVD for the very first time. But there’s tons more to talk about, this second Tuesday of February maybe even more jam-packed than the first one was, especially on the Blu-ray front.

                            

 

 

Amarcord

Still Walking

Federico Fellini’s 1973 opus Amarcord is my absolute favorite film amongst the director’s massive collection of classic titles. Not his best work, mind you (I’d be torn between 8 ½ and La Dole Vita if I was to be put on the spot), but my favorite work, the one I could watch again and again without ever growing tired of. A colorful, moving, funny and emotional explosion of life and love, this coming of age allegory is considered one of the director’s most personal projects for good reason. Simply put, the movie is magic, and I absolutely cannot wait to get a look at this new, high-definition presentation and hope Criterion gets me that promised review copy soon.

 

Still Walking is a gorgeously delicate little charmer from director Hirokazu Kore-eda (Maborosi, After Life). His most personal project yet, the movie is a lyrical masterpiece that effortlessly floats along growing in emotional depth as it does so. Not a lot happens, and not a lot is supposed to, but what the director is talking about is profound and moving in the extreme. While we’re not scheduled to receive a review copy of this title, let me tell you I’m seriously considering adding it to me personal Blu-ray Criterion library sight unseen – it’s that magnificent.

 

 

Paranormal Activity 2

In my rave October review (read it here) of Paranormal Activity 2 I admitted upfront that it was “[one] of the last movies I ever would have expected to be decent let alone borderline awesome” I still stick firmly to that statement. This clever, unsettling and extremely well done sequel takes the ideas presented in the first flick and explores and expands on them kind of beautifully. More prequel than sequel, this second chapter has a heck of a lot going for it, and I can’t wait to get another look now that it’s available on Blu-ray.

 

 

Life as We Know It

Here’s what I had to say about Life as We Know It back in October (read my review here): “All that’s missing from this feature-length sitcom is a laugh track, everything working on prepared beats and notes that are so overly familiar and obvious they’re downright freeze-dried.” I have nothing more to add, nothing at all. Heck, just take a look at my Blu-ray Review of the title and you’ll see what I mean.

 

 

Thelma & Louise: 20th Anniversary Edition

It’s kind of had to believe that Ridley Scott’s feminist classic is twenty years old. I remember when this thing came out, recall sitting in the theatre taking it in for the first time and being hugely impressed until the dreadful – if admittedly iconic – climax. The thing is, while I still have major issues with writer Callie Khouri’s Oscar-winning script, I’d by lying if I did say I’d watched this one a good dozen or so times over the past two decades. Both Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon give such extraordinary performances that I’m able to overlook one heck of a lot mainly because of them (not that Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen and a still sexy as hell Brad Pitt don’t go along way to helping as well), while Scott’s direction is so confident and self-assured I personally think it’s some of the best work of the man’s entire career. We’ll have a full review of the Blu-ray up a little bit later in the week.

 

 

You Again

You Again is a sad and disappointing waste of talent, but considering the director, Andy Fickman, is the same guy who gave the world The Game Plan and the entirely dreadful Race to Witch Mountain I shouldn’t have been so surprised. In my recent Blu-ray review (read it here) I said the movie was, “the kind of relationship comedy that’s purely going through motions,” and that stars (including Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver and Kristen Bell) were, “hamstrung by a tired storyline that drips far too often into cloying melodrama or cheap theatrics.”

 

 

For Colored Girls

Unsurprisingly, even with Oscar buzz circling, screenwriter and director Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls did not screen for Seattle press when it opened last October. None of his films, save for his very first Diary of a Mad Black Woman, ever have, and even though this one was based on Ntozake Shange's Obie Award-winning play and featured a cast of African American heavyweights including Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose , Kerry Washington, Loretta Devine and a supposedly excellent Phylicia Rashad I can’t say based on my experiences with the director’s previous efforts I was all that excited to give it a look. But there are those of you out there who probably will be, and considering Lionsgate’s track record where it comes to going all out on their Perry releases I’m sure this Blu-ray will be more than satisfactory.  

 

 

It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Here’s what I had to say about It’s Kind of a Funny Story back in October (read my review here): “Writing and directing husband and wife duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck follow up Half Nelson and the criminally little seen Sugar with an adaptation of Ned Vizzini’s acclaimed novel It’s Kind of a Funny Story offering up a modern day One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with a decidedly adolescent bent. The movie is another winner for the duo, and although portions of it reek a bit too much of overly familiar cliché thanks to a solid second half it ends up being a picture I can recommend without too many reservations.”

 

 

Tamara Drewe

I so wanted to like director Stephen Frears Tamara Drewe more than I actually did. I’m a huge fan of author Posy Simmonds’ graphic novel on which it is based, I feel like star Gemma Arterton is a rising talent worth keeping on eye on and that supporting cast (populated by Brit character actor all-stars including Roger Allam and Tamsin Greig) is one of the best any film in 2010 had to offer. Sadly, the movie is highly uneven and incredibly flat, its biggest and most unsolvable problem being that the title character around whom the majority of the action revolves is hugely unlikable. I plan on giving the film another shot sometime soon, and there are plenty of moments I simply adored, but on the whole this is one motion picture where my feelings are decidedly mixed. You can read my entire Blu-ray of the title by clicking here.

 

 

My Soul to Take

To know one’s relative surprise, Wes Craven’s My Soul to Take did not screen for press back when it was first released to theatres. Considering its incredible rating of 25 on Metacritic, I’m guessing this was probably a wise idea. Be all that as it may, am I the only one that feels like this story of a supposedly executed serial killer jumping from body to body to resume his bloody rampage 16 years after the fact – targeting the children of those who sent him to his grave – sounds a heck of a lot like a cross between Craven’s own Shocker and A Nightmare on Elm Street? No wonder he’s run back to the Scream franchise, because it seems like when left to his own devices (he only directed the wonderful Red Eye, the script was not his) he hasn’t an original idea left in his head and has now succumbed to borrowing ideas from his own wildly uneven body of work.

 

 

Middle Men

Middle Men is a movie that based on its premise alone should have been at least somewhat good. Sadly, that was not the case, director George Gallo’s long delayed latest easily one of the worst films I had to suffer through in 2010. As I wrote back in August (read my full review here), “[The] longer things went on the more I began to wish the movie would just put me out of my misery and end. Gallo’s pacing isn’t slow, it’s glacial, and like a coming ice age things start to freeze so solidly the only thing hot was my desire to leave the theatre.”

 

 

 

I Spit on Your Grave (1978)

I Spit on Your Grave (2010)

And here we are, two versions of the all-time exploitation champion featuring the story of a young woman in the secluded countryside beaten, raped and left for dead by a group of gas station Neanderthals who, after miraculously surviving, returns to the scene of the crime to exact brutal and bloody revenge. How much can you take? How much brutality can you stomach? What’s your threshold for wall-to-wall pain, horror and irredeemable degradation? I haven’t seen the remake, but the 1978 original is as tough and as difficult to watch as they come, and the only reason I’d even consider recommending it is because of star Camille Keaton’s gut-wrenching, full-throttle performance as woman pushed way beyond her breaking point who demonically decides to do something about it.

 

 

Wild Target

I just finished watching this one and hope to have a full review of the Blu-ray up soon. Until then, just know that this barely released, sometimes charming, sometimes frustrating, almost always at least partially enjoyable British hitman comedy from director Jonathan Lynn and staring Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt, Rupert Grint, Rupert Everett and an utterly perfect Martin Freeman has just enough going for it to make it worthy of a rental. Not perfect by a long shot, but for a rainy mid-afternoon lark a person could do one heck of a lot worse.

 

 

Ong Bak 3

Was hoping Magnolia would send us a review copy, especially because I found both Ong Bak and Ong Bak 2 to be highly enjoyable even though they were incredibly silly and not all that well plotted. This supposed final chapter in star, co-writer and co-director Tony Jaa’s trilogy apparently picks up exactly where the second film left off, seeing him regain his strength and sanity in order to exact final revenge against the murderous warlord he ruined his life and ordered the death of his parents. I’m sure I’ll see it at some point (the completist in me just has to), but as I don’t have that review copy I must admit as far as my Netflix queue is concerned I’m not exactly making it a top priority.

 

 

Beauty & the Briefcase

I mention this title only because a review copy of the Blu-ray arrived in my mailbox this morning, otherwise it would have been listed in the “Other Notable Release” section. Still, this Hilary Duff romantic comedy made for the ABC Family cable channel got good ratings and decent reviews when it originally aired. Read my review here.

 

 

OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES

 

   
     

 

 

NOTABLE DVD RELEASES

 

 

America America

Director Elia Kazan’s mesmerizing portrait of his family’s trek to America is a sensational, one-of-a-kind experience that deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. Unavailable on DVD save as part of the Elia Kazan Collection released at the end of last year, this fantastic Oscar-winner (for Gene Callahan’s Art Direction, film was also nominated for Best Picture, Director and Original Screenplay) is a tour-de-force achievement that kept me spellbound for every single one of its exhilarating 168 minutes. Easily one of the week’s most exciting new releases, you read my just-posted DVD Review to learn more.

 

 

Bad Day to Go Fishing

This Uruguay import is a fresh, funny and immensely entertaining drama and true winner for first-time writer/director Álvaro Brechner. Kind of like Barton Fink meets The Wrestler, this odd, intoxicatingly disjointed whimsical frolic is an entertaining menagerie of quirk and emotion that kept me watching all the way through. I’ll try to post a full review of DVD as soon as I can, until then just know this is one import I strongly recommend picking up for a rental right away.

 

 

Hideaway (La Refuge)

Mousse (Isabelle Carré) and Louis (Melvil Poupaud) are young, beautiful, rich and in love, but drugs have invaded their lives. After Louis fatal overdose, Mousse soon learns she is pregnant (actress Isabelle Carré was pregnant while shooting). Feeling lost, Mousse escapes to a beautiful beach house far from Paris and is soon joined in her refuge by Louis gay brother, Paul (French singer Louis-Ronan Choisy in his first screen appearance). The two strangers gradually develop an unusual and deeply moving relationship as François Ozon continues his unique exploration of the nature of family and blood ties. (Product description reprinted from Amazon.com)

 

 

Kalamity

Haunted by memories of his ex girlfriend Alice a heartbroken Billy returns home to Northern Virginia seeking solace from old friends. But what he finds is more disconnecting than comforting: his best friend Stanley has become mysterious and withdrawn from those around him. Billy attempts to find out what is going on and as he probes Stanley s recent activities his friend s behavior seems increasingly bizarre and frightening. The discovery of blood stained evidence among Stanley s possessions pulls him deeper into the nightmare and eventually leads to a violent confrontation that not everyone will survive. (Product description reprinted from Amazon.com)

 

 

The Guardian: The Final Season

Nick Fallin is a hotshot lawyer working at his father's ultra successful Pittsburgh law firm. Unfortunately, the high life has gotten the best of Nick. Arrested for drug use, he's sentenced to do 1,500 hours of community service, somehow to be squeezed into his 24/7 cutthroat world of mergers, acquisitions and board meetings. Reluctantly, he's now The Guardian - a part-time child advocate at Legal Aid Services, where one case after another is an eye-opening instance of kids caught up in difficult circumstances. (Product description reprinted from Amazon.com)

 

 

Project Runway: The Complete Eighth Season

Supermodel Heidi Klum returns to Lifetime as she hosts the hit reality series where aspiring fashion designers compete for a chance to break into the industry. Season 8 is loaded with new challenges and episodes are longer than ever. Features guest judges Selma Blair, Betsey Johnson, Kristen Bell and January Jones. (Product description reprinted from Amazon.com)

 

 

The Romantics (2010)

Even though it boasts an incredible cast featuring Anna Paquin, Josh Duhamel, Katie Holmes, Malin Akerman, Elijah Wood, Candice Bergen, Adam Brody and Jeremy Strong, Paramount Pictures did not feel good enough about Galt Niederhoffer’s adaptation of his own novel The Romantics to even garner it a Blu-ray release. It’s DVD only for this barely released theatrical title, and with a paltry score of 43 from Metacritic I can kind of see why they felt that was the way they needed to go with this one. Still, I’ll give it a look at some point, and while I’m not planning on vaulting it to the top of Netflix queue if it ever becomes available via Instant Play I’ll probably watch it sooner rather than later.

 

 

See You in September

Painful romantic comedy with Estella Warren and Justin Kirk the less said about the better. It’s basically about a pair of social misfits with commitment and abandonment fears who – of course! – discover they might just be made for one another. In all honesty, I’m not sure how I made it through all 90 minutes without turning the darn thing off, it’s just that bad.

 

 

Unmade Beds

Young Argentinean director Alexis Dos Santos fulfills the promise of his acclaimed debut Glue with Unmade Beds, a sexy tale of two young people adrift in London. Axl (Fernando Tielve of Guillermo Del Toro's The Devil's Backbone) is a Spanish kid trying to track down the British man who fathered him 20 years ago. Vera (Deborah François of The Page Turner and the award-winning L'Enfant) has come from France to get over a heartbreak. They both wind up living in a wild, bohemian apartment and embark on adventures of discovery and romance. 

Axl finds out his biological father is a real estate broker and pretends to be in the market for an apartment just so he can get to know his dad. Vera tries hard not to fall in love she won t even tell a new boyfriend her name but sometimes the heart knows better. With driving pop music, nights of ecstatic dancing and mornings spent untangling threesomes, Unmade Beds is a dazed and confused tale of youthful possibility. (Product description reprinted from Amazon.com)

 

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