New Blu's On the Block Blu-ray and DVD Releases for March 1, 2011
It’s a good day for Blu-ray, if only because Disney’s Bambi is now out for everyone to enjoy. Also notable is Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, the film nominated for six Academy Awards and even though it didn’t win a single one of them that doesn’t make this intensely satisfying drama any less extraordinary (it made my list of 2010’s Top Ten Films).
On the catalog front both Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight and Ben Stiller’s The Cable Guy make their high-definition debuts, and while I’m personally more excited about the former than the latter I think it’s pretty much a given I’ll be giving both discs a look when I finally get the chance.
Walt Disney Studios has done it again, their Blu-ray release of 1942’s tearjerker classic Bambi as extraordinary as any I could have dreamt of. Without question, this might be Disney’s greatest restoration of one of their cherished animated gems yet, this vivid, beautifully layered and spectacularly colorful woodland epic of a deer growing from timid fawn to confident adult a stunner in every sense of the word. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes, and I had to watch the film twice in quick succession just to make sure my own wants and desires for perfection (this is the first movie I ever remember seeing) weren’t getting the best of me. You can read my full review of this sumptuously invigorating Blu-ray here.
Here’s what I wrote about Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, nominated for six Academy Awards, last November (read my full review here): “I did squirm. I was made uncomfortable. I didn’t always like sitting in my theatre seat. But that’s hopefully par for the course with a movie such as this, and if I didn’t feel all of that and more than that would mean Boyle and company were not doing their jobs. I felt myself deteriorating at much the same rate Ralston was, making his ability to overcome his travails all the more exhilarating. This is the type of film where that lump in my throat was very much needed, and the moment he finally found his voice in order to plead for help was the very same one where I wanted to raise my own in cheers.” Expect a full review of the Blu-ray soon.
Steven Soderbergh’s outstanding 1998 adaptation of crime novelist Elmore Leonard’s book, scripted by Scott Frank, is as fresh, funny, stylish, exciting and sexy now as it was over a decade ago. It showcases star George Clooney at his most Paul Newman-like best and supplied then up-and-coming actress Jennifer Lopez with her very best role. The film also boasts show-stopping supporting turns by Steve Zahn, Ving Rhames, Albert Brooks and especially Don Cheadle, while Michael Keaton (reprising his role from Jackie Brown as Leonard favorite FBI agent Ray Nicolet) and Samuel L. Jackson show up for memorable cameos. According Gary Tooze at DVDBeaver, this Blu-ray is a worthy addition to any fan’s hi-def library.
I liked Ed Zwick’s Love & Other Drugs when I originally saw it last November. I found it fresh, funny and emotionally engaging, stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway willing to plumb depths and showcase vulnerabilities some of their peers wouldn’t attempt. The film had problems, and inconsistencies in tone were beyond obvious, but overall I apparently was one of the few critics who were able to put these issues aside and focus on the honesty of the material and the intensity of the performances above all else. In my original review (read it here) I said that there were moments “of cutting insight that had me flabbergasted” and that Hatthaway “throws herself into this thing body and soul and yet her performance never seems forced or false.” Having watched it again only hours before writing this column nothing has changed all that much save for how much more I loathe Josh Gad’s supporting turn as Gyllenhaal’s Neanderthal little brother. Otherwise, this is a highly entertaining romantic drama and one I couldn’t recommend more heartily. Expect a full review of this Blu-ray within the week.
Here’s what I had to say about this release last November (read my full review here): “Burlesque isn’t good, and no one should ever confuse it for being so. Its tired and rudimentary narrative can get on a person’s nerve, and if it wasn’t for the fact the film seems to be reveling in much of its own gloriously harebrained mediocrity there’d probably not be a lot here to talk about. Be all that as it may I enjoyed myself a heck of a lot more than it is arguably good for me to admit, and all things being equal as guilty pleasures go this is one song many people are going to find difficult to get out of their head.”
I have nothing new to say about Faster other than what I jotted down in my original November review (read it here). “[After] a while all of this just gets old,” I wrote just days after seeing it, “and it doesn’t matter if the director stages a crackerjack moonlight car chase or if a bathroom brawl has all the ferocity of a UFC title bout. There’s too much going on and, worse, all of it is treated with such overblown solemnity by the time the forgone conclusion is reached I felt like I’d been both pummeled and preached at for a good deal longer than I enjoyed.” I can’t imagine this is going to change now that the film is on Blu-ray, but then again I’m not exactly going to make it a priority to single it out to watch again so I can know for sure.
I’ve long kind of felt that director Ben Stiller’s The Cable Guy with Jim Carrey needed some sort of reevaluation, everyone at the time of its release too caught up in its star’s massive paycheck (a reported $20-million if I remember correctly) then they were with the movie itself. Well, our own Mitchell Hattaway has done just that and I can’t say his words are any kinder than those by other critics back in 1996 were. In his just posted Blu-ray Review he writes, “The movie needed a driving vision, but instead it got a group of people tossing in ideas willy-nilly… Some scenes (the dinner party, the trip to the theme restaurant) play like long sketches, tied to the rest of the movie by a tenuous thread.”
From A.O. Scott’s review printed in the New York Times(read it here): “The Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, who died at 50 in 1982, has been a figure of fascination since he burst onto the classical music scene, with startling virtuosity and an unusual brand of flamboyance, in the 1950s. His interpretations of the piano repertory — the work of Bach in particular — were fresh and provocative, and his self-presentation was both matinee-idol charismatic and winningly odd. As Gould’s celebrity grew, some of his peculiarities became as famous as his playing. He insisted on sitting in a special low-slung chair, so that his long arms seemed to angle upward to the keyboard. He wore scarves, gloves and overcoats in all kinds of weather. He rambled charmingly in interviews and hummed loudly onstage.”
A new seven-disc box set of all three of the original Pirates of the Caribbean adventures released now to promote the upcoming debut of the fourth adventure of Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, hitting theatres on May 20. I literally just received this one, so I’ll try and have a review up as soon as I can but considering each film runs right around 150 or so minutes don’t expect it to be posted all that quickly.
Gabriel Macht from Behind Enemy Lines and Terminator 2 and Terminator 3 baddies Robert Patrick and Kristanna Loken star in S.W.A.T. Firefight, a straight-to-DVD sequel to the 2003 Colin Farell/Samuel L. Jackson hit (itself adapted from the classic television show) that for whatever reason never spawned its own theatrical one. Normally I wouldn’t be interested in giving this one even a passing glance, but considering the guy who directed it is named Benny Boom – that’s the name of a B-movie action director if I’ve ever heard one – I might have to give it a look.
From the Blu-ray’s press release: “Directed by Richard Martini, [Cannes Man] is a classic Pygmalion story featuring an array of cameos from current stars, former stars, Hollywood insiders and work-a-day character actors. Johnny Depp and Jim Jarmusch, make a hilarious turn as they take a meeting with Sy and Frank who attempt to get them signed on to a project that doesn’t actually exist. Jon Cryer, Benicio del Toro, Lara Flynn Boyle, Dennis Hopper, John Malkovich, Kevin Pollack and Treat Willams also make notable appearances.” Mitchell will have a full review of the Blu-ray for everyone to take a look at soon.
Welcome to Mainframe. Home to Guardian Bob, formatted to mend and defend. Join the fast-paced action and adventure as Bob and his friends Dot, her brother Enzo and his trusty dog Frisket fend off attacks from the super viruses known as Megabyte and Hexadecimal in their relentless pursuit of chaos and the destruction of Mainframe. Known as the very first completely computer-animated half-hour TV series, ReBoot debuted in the United States on ABC’s Saturday-morning block in 1994 and has captured the hearts and imaginations of kids and gamers ever since!(Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Absurd sounding B-movie with Michael Madsen, DMX, Vinnie Jones, Armand Assante and Kat Von D about an Afghanistan war hero (Michael Matthias) who returns home to discover his family slaughtered and his brother reborn as the vampire king Kane. Okay, I’ll admit. I’ve already added this one to the Netflix queue. Sue me.
It’s hard to believe, but 1992’s The Cutting Edge has now spawned three sequels, this latest effort another ABC Family television movie once again starring Francia Raisa as figure skater Alexandra ‘Alex’ Delgado. This time Alex finds herself drawn out of retirement by a bad-boy speed skater played by Brendan Fehr, the two bickering, bantering and sparing their way to victory and love, the two not necessarily in that order.
Set in a fictional Lancashire town in 1929, In Loving Memory is a classic British comedy series that depicts the hilarious events that occur in an undertaker's business when the owner (Freddie Jones, TheElephant Man) dies, leaving his sensible widow Ivy (Thora Hird, “Last of the Summer Wine”) to carry on with the help of her naïve and clumsy nephew, Billy (Christopher Beeny, “Upstairs, Downstairs”). Whether dealing with stray coffins, local busybodies, dishonest rivals or faulty hearses, Ivy always manages to cope, while Billy's best intentions usually end in laughable disaster. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Extremely entertaining British crime series that’s sort of a mix of “Law & Order” and “C.S.I.” featuring a team of detectives charged with solving London’s most difficult crimes. The second episode involving a young woman found submerged in the concrete foundation of a building under demolition was my personal favorite, but all nine of the first season’s stories are pretty fun to watch. Samantha Spiro, as DI Vivien Friend, and Lindsey Coulson, as DC Rosie MacManus, play off one another like a modern day Cagney and Lacey, watching their relationship develop and deepen as the series progresses one its chief joys. I’ll try and have a full review of this three-disc DVD set up within the week or so.
We know about Napoleon and Josephine. But what about Napoleon and Desirée? Napoleon and Pauline? Napoleon and Georgina, Eléonore, Marie Walewska, and Marie-Louise? This British costume drama skips the battlefields and heads straight for the sumptuously appointed ballrooms and bedrooms where Napoleon woos, and sometimes weds, the women in his life. We meet him at 25, already a general in the French army but not yet worthy to wed a wealthy merchant’s daughter. We follow him through campaigns, affairs, and marriages as he conquers most of Europe and achieves absolute power. But will he ever have what he desires most: an heir?
Oscar-nominee Ian Holm (The Lord of the Rings) leads an illustrious cast in this classic British series seen on PBS and A&E. Also starring Peter Bowles (The Irish R.M., “To the Manor Born”) as Captain Murat and Billie Whitelaw (Hot Fuzz, Quills) as Josephine, with Ronald Hines (“Van der Valk”), Sorcha Cusack (Jane Eyre), Susan Wooldridge (“The Jewel in the Crown”), and Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show). (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Passions flare and tempers rise when three couples cross paths at a country house one weekend. It all begins with the arrival of Reg (Richard Briers, “Good Neighbors”) and his wife, Sarah (Penelope Keith, “To the Manor Born”). They’ve come to give Reg’s younger sister, Annie (Penelope Wilton, Match Point), a few days’ break from caring for their bedridden mother. However, Annie confides that she’s seeing someone--not Tom (David Troughton, “Fingersmith”), the single young vet who’s pursuing her, but her brother-in-law, Norman (Tom Conti, Shirley Valentine). Appalled, Sarah informs Norman’s wife, Ruth (Fiona Walker, “I, Claudius”) – and all hell breaks loose.
Emmy-nominated for best writing, this trilogy is adapted from the hit plays by Alan Ayckbourn. Designed to be watched in any order, it views the same course of events from three different vantage points. From Saturday evening to Monday morning, the action unfolds around the kitchen table, outside in the garden, and in the family room--each segment a masterful performance by a marvelous ensemble cast. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)