New Blu's On the Block - February 19, 2013
Released: February 19, 2013
Sara Michelle Fetters
New Blu's On the Block
Blu-ray and DVD Releases for February 19, 2013
The frontrunner to win this year’s Best Picture Academy Award releases today, as does the second season of HBO’s massively popular series based on George R.R. Martin best-selling series of novels. Other than that, save for a couple of notable exceptions (including last year’s Oscar-winner for Best Documentary) today is a catalog-heavy release day, some of which I’m heavily tempted to buy sight unseen and imagine I’m not going to be the only one feeling that way about a number of them. Also on the docket, to notable 3D conversations, both of which are far, far, FAR better than they have any right to be, one of which (the non-animated one from the 1980’s that goes right into the so-called ‘danger zone’) downright shocked me as to both its quality and to the love and care its studio (Paramount) took in regards to its 3D presentation.
From my theatrical review (read it here): “Ben Affleck’s third film as a director Argo is his best effort yet, and while it doesn’t necessarily do anything new or tell a story that’s ever in doubt watching it is such a tensely terrific experience it’s hard to imagine another studio effort released in 2012 being anywhere near as thrilling. In short, the movie is awesome right from the word go, bringing to light a story so absurd and out of this world it almost goes without saying that it had to be true.” While I don’t think it should win the Best Picture Oscar (which it almost definitely will at this point), that doesn’t mean I didn’t adore this movie something fierce, Affleck’s latest placing seventh on my 2012 Top Ten list.
On the Waterfront – Criterion Collection
Easily the best film being released today, the only reason Elia Kazan’s timeless classic doesn’t get top billing is because of the unrestrained hoopla following the aforementioned film at the moment. But this 1954 opus, containing a career-defining performance by Marlon Brando and the winner of eight academy awards, is still startling in its brutal emotional effectiveness, transporting viewers straight into the skull of its wearied protagonist that is gut-wrenching in its vitality. A movie to be seen, savored, studied, treasured and obsessed over, Criterion’s new two-disc Blu-ray release borders on definitive making it one of the must-own titles likely to be released in all of 2013.
Game of Thrones – The Complete Second Season
I didn’t see the first season of HBO’s massively popular Game of Thrones, their serialized ten-episode adaptation of the first book in author George R.R. Martin’s best-selling fantasy series. After watching season two (and, admittedly being lost until about halfway through the second episode) I’m regretting that fact like you would not believe. This show doesn’t just live up to the hype, it hacks and slashes and burns and betrays and loves and seduces it’s way right through all the hyperbole with a blood-stained effortlessness that’s rather magnificent. Featuring a sensational cast, better writing and some of the best direction episodic television has seen in eons, these ten episodes held me spellbound all the way through, everything building to the type of heart-stopping conclusion that has me so eager to see what happens next I’m tempted to add HBO to my Cable bill just so I can watch sooner (March) rather than later (a year from now when season three sees a Blu-ray release). This show is awesome, and I don’t think anything more needs be said other than that.
A triumph for director Michael Mann (Heat, The Last of the Mohicans) in more ways than one, this astonishing drama about a tobacco company whistleblower (staggeringly well played by Russell Crowe) coming to grips with what his honesty has brought down upon him and his family is perfect in just about every way. Al Pacino is incredible, Christopher Plummer steals just about every scene he’s in (portraying “60 Minutes” newsman and icon Mike Wallace) while Mann orchestrates all of the based-on-fact shenanigans with a youthful exuberance belying his cinematic years. It should be noted, the movie lost out on the Best Picture Oscar (it was nominated for seven, losing them all) to American Beauty while the other competitors were The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile and The Sixth Sense. I ask you, over a decade after the fact, which movie has held up the best and probably should have taken him the win? The answer, quite obviously, is this one.
Monsters, Inc. 3D, Top Gun 3D
Did the world need 3D conversions of these two audience-friendly favorites? No, not really, but considering Pixar animates in the format to begin with converting Monsters, Inc. wasn’t probably all that difficult and, considering Disney’s recent fascination with taking their (and Pixar’s) animated classics and re-jiggering them for re-release, not exactly a surprise. But Top Gun? Really? Was this even close to necessary? Not at all, but I have to admit that doesn’t make results any less, and any less surprisingly, spectacular. Paramount’s conversion is one of the best I’ve ever seen, this new release literally, and if you pardon the rather obvious paraphrasing, taking my breath away and riding me straight into the danger zone in outright glee. For more on this new edition of Top Gun, check out our recently posted 3D Blu-ray Review.
From my theatrical review (read it here): “Less is more where it comes to director Scott Derrickson’s latest fright fest Sinister, the absurdly tense shocker a definite step up from the filmmaker’s previous efforts The Exorcism of Emily Rose and his misguided The Day the Earth Stood Still remake. Co-writing the script with newcomer C. Robert Cargill, the movie is a highly original horror flick that melds a somewhat traditional narrative with found-footage aesthetics transforming the picture into some weird, borderline unwieldy yet almost wholly compelling melding of The Shining and Paranormal Activity.” For more on this release, check out our recently posted Blu-ray Review.
Anna Karenina (2012)
From my theatrical review (read it here): “[Joe] Wright is a gifted director, of that there is still no doubt, and honestly I’m still not entirely sure I’m ready to dismiss Anna Karenina as nothing more than an immaculately designed highly ambitious disappointment. I want to see it again, need to see it again, the portions of it I loved I did so deeply and with little to no reservation. But the tragedy of Tolstoy’s epic is lost in all this visual stage-bound majesty, Anna’s journey a bizarrely empty one that sent me out of the theatre feeling as if I’d been left out in the barren Russian cold.”
From my theatrical review (read it here): “In the end, it doesn’t matter if the Manassas Tigers actually do go undefeated. It doesn’t matter whether or not they win their first football playoff game in the school’s storied athletic history. What matters is what Courtney and the youngsters he’s coaching end up making of themselves, what it is that all of them have learned about living life and becoming adults as the season comes to an end. Undefeated cuts to the heart of the matter and shows what real victory looks like, the scoreboard no longer important as rising from failure and transforming bad decisions into good one far more important than the final tally of wins and losses.” For more on this release, check out our recently posted Blu-ray Review.
From my theatrical review (read it here): “I have no idea what to make of Fun Size. Coming from the usually family-friendly minds at Nickelodeon, this effort the cable channel’s attempt to make their ‘Victorious’ star Justice a household name, the film is nonetheless an odd assortment of gags and ideas that never coalesce in any sort of comfortable fashion. Too juvenile for teens and college-aged kids, too stupid and facile for adults, yet also too raunchy and risqué for the younger elementary-aged set, I haven’t the first clue who the target audience for this actually is. Not terrible, yet not especially worthwhile, the finished product just sort of sits their aimlessly desperately trying to sort itself out, the fact that it isn’t ever able to do so hardly much of a surprise.”
The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
My goodness does this Douglas Fairbanks classic look amazing! The job that Cohen Media did on this hi-def release of this silent era classic borders on stunning, the film an action-filled extravaganza overflowing in imagination and wonder and now sporting a Blu-ray transfer that’s truly astonishing. Wondrous. Simply wondrous.
The Fred Astaire/Judy Garland classic gets a Blu-ray upgrade, and as this is one of my absolute favorite movie musicals I couldn’t be more thrilled. Irving Berlin-penned highlights include performances of “It Only Happens When I Dance with You,” “Steppin’ Out with My Baby” and, of course, the titular tune “Easter Parade.”
Just finished watching this before writing the column (the Blu-ray only just arrived for review) and, well, I’m not sure what to say. Director Kern Saxton’s effort is obviously a grindhouse-style throwback most definitely inspired by Quentin Tarantino’s fondness for this down and dirty era of 1970’s and ‘80s cinema, and by and large it’s a tiny bit better than many of the other imitations that have become so absurdly popular this past decade or so. At the same time the movie doesn’t offer up a heck of a lot, and other than a goofily inspired supporting performance by Mark Hamill (it’s like he’s channeling his work as The Joker in the animated “Batman” series and crossing it with some sleazy, scuzzy Ron Jeremy meets Kevin Conway’s freak show Barker character from The Funhouse) and I wasn’t particularly blown away by any single element. It’s strictly by-the-numbers and nothing more than serviceable, making it fine for genre fanatics to rent but certainly not a Blu-ray I’d ever encourage anyone, anywhere to buy.
Atlas Shrugged: Part II
Wait? They made a sequel? I remember one was threatened but was the anemic box office performance of the first Atlas Shrugged enough to slam a nail into this particularly series’ coffin? Guess not.
TerrorVision / The Video Dead
Okay, I cannot make a case that either TerrorVision or The Video Dead are good movies. Point of fact, they’re actually quite terrible, and even for a genre fan like me each of these films comes perilously close to scrapping the bottom of the barrel. All the same, I could watch either of these, especially the loopily idiotic and crassly juvenile TerrorVision, over and over again without any problem whatsoever. Not sure what this says about me (probably nothing good) but the truth is the truth and, well, while I might be a tiny bit embarrassed that doesn’t mean I’m afraid to admit it. So there.
OTHER NOTABLE BLU-RAY RELEASES
(Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon!)
· Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome
· Best in Show
· Hats Off to Dr. Seuss – Collector’s Edition
· Highlander 2 – Renegade Version
· Innocent Bystanders
· Irreconcilable Differences
· Julius Caesar (1970)
· Les Misérables (1958)
· Live Nude Girls
· The Monster Squad
· The Nest
· Night of the Demons 2
· The Package (2013)
· The Running Man
· Seeds of Destruction
· Special Forces
· The Terminator – Remastered Edition
· That Cold Day in the Park
NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
(Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon!)
North Sea Texas
From my theatrical review (read it here): “I can’t say I’m quite as taken with the Belgian import North Sea Texas as so many others seem to be. After watching it this past summer during the Seattle International Film Festival I felt no need in writing in-depth about it one way or the other, the only notes I took singling out Florizoone for delivering an impassioned, gently magnetic performance. But the movie itself? As handsomely produced as it was, as nicely understated as Bavo Defurne’s direction proved to be, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d watched this film before, the final product delivering little, if anything, I hadn’t seen numerous times before.”
Detective Mike Fletcher, a rugged and obsessive police officer, and his partner Kelsey Walker, are on the trail of a serial killer who prowls the streets targeting young streetwalkers. When his teenage daughter disappears, Fletcher discovers that the killer has kidnapped her after mistaking her for a prostitute. Fletcher's obsession goes into overdrive when he drops all professional restraint to get the killer and save his daughter. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
While the Cold War heats up on the world stage, rebellious youth in 1955 Moscow wage a cultural battle against dismal Soviet conformity, donning brightly colored black-market clothing, adopting American nicknames and reveling in forbidden jazz. Straight-laced 20-year-old Communist Mels finds these brazen 'hipsters' shocking until he falls under the spell of one, namely Polly, and joins the new revolution. Soon he's become one of them, cavorting in the latest flashy fashions, sporting an enormous pompadour and wailing on the saxophone. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Lake Placid: The Final Chapter
The crocs are back... and they're bigger, badder and more brutal than ever. After the deadly predators' last vicious attack, the government prevented their extermination. Sealed away in a nature preserve, they've been growing to record size, awaiting their next chance to feast on human flesh. Now, when a high school swim team takes a wrong turn directly into the crocs hunting grounds... dinner is served. As the teens race to avoid the hungry reptiles, they become caught in a showdown between a rogue game warden (Yancy Butler, Witchblade) and a demented poacher (Robert Englund, A Nightmare on Elm Street). It's the last serving of hysterical horror in a finale that shows terror is best served raw. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Trapped in a seedy LA apartment, Franklin Franklin (Matt Lucas) has a dead landlord on the kitchen floor and is surrounded by eccentric neighbors: the stoner (Johnny Knoxville) the wanna-be stripper (Juno Temple) and the artist (James Caan). To add to his chaos, a drunk investigator (Billy Crystal) is questioning him. But none of this fazes Franklin. He dreams of Switzerland, and waits each day for an envelope from his institutionalized brother. Then, one day the envelope doesn't come and Franklin becomes unhinged. Little does he know his crazy brother has the secret that will set him free. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
OTHER NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
(Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon!)
· Adventure Time: Fiona and Cake
· Top Gear – The Complete Second Season
NOTABLE NEW BLU-RAY ANNOUNCEMENTS
· Rust and Bone (March 19, 2013)
· Zero Dark Thirty (March 19, 2013)
· Les Misérables (2012) March 22, 2013)
· The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia (April 16, 2013)
· Champion (April 23, 2013)
· The Guilt Trip (April 30, 2013)
· Strictly Ballroom (April 30, 2013)
· Band of Outsiders – Criterion Collection (May 7, 2013)
· 3:10 to Yuma – Criterion Collection (May 7, 2013)
· Jubal – Criterion Collection (May 7, 2013)
· Medium Cool – Criterion Collection (May 21, 2013)
· Life is Sweet – Criterion Collection (May 28, 2013)