New Blu's On the Block - 3/8/2011
Released: March 8, 2011
Sara Michelle Fetters
New Blu's On the Block
Blu-ray and DVD Releases for March 1, 2011
Not a big week for new releases for either Blu-ray or DVD, but still an interesting one all the same. Not only does the great Hayao Miyazaki’s first animated adventure his Blu-ray, so does a 30-year-old Arthurian classic directed by John Boorman as well as an AMC series about the undead that some, like those at VanityFair.com, called the best new television series of 2010.
Also amongst this week’s releases are the recent Academy Award winner for Best Documentary, a third theatrical go-around with Johnny Knoxville and his freaky gang, and two star-studded box office disappointments, a morning television newsroom comedy that deserved to do one heck of a lot better and a jailbreak thriller with Russell Crowe that never lived up to its potential.
The Walking Dead
AMC’s outstanding six-episode adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s acclaimed graphic novel series is easily the best thing that show runner and director Frank Darabont has worked on since The Shawshank Redemption. Eerie, uncompromising and shockingly complex, this examination of the end of the world thanks to an undead apocalypse is a fascinating and disturbing journey first episode to last. Writer Roy Earle said in his recent review of the DVD set (read it here) that while there are “plenty of zombies walking around and feasting in the six-episode first season,” the reason for the show’s astonishing success is that these “decaying creatures take a back seat to the compelling human dramas that are played out between the survivors.” You can expect a full review of the Blu-ray from either myself or Mitchell (maybe even both of us) sometime by the end of the week.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Before Studio Ghibli existed, acclaimed animator, writer and director Hayao Miyazaki first came to fame by bringing Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind to life for cinematic audiences to behold. A stunning journey through a post-apocalyptic world where humanity’s existence hangs by a thread, this ecologically charged adventure is a rousing and energetic flight of inspiration and fancy that signaled the arrival of a major talent who would within the next two-plus decades be proclaimed a living legend. Disney’s Blu-ray presentation of the film is superb, nearly ranking up there with their presentations of their own hand-drawn animated classics. You can read my full review of this title by clicking right here.
I called Charles Ferguson’s Academy Award-winning documentary Inside Job “arguably the single most infuriating film I’ve seen all year” when I first saw it back in October of 2010 (read my full review here). Nothing has changed much since then, this examination of the economic collapse a picture that can get the dander up of just about anyone who makes less than a million dollars or so a year. Sony’s Blu-ray comes with an assortment of special features, not the least of which is almost an hour of deleted material that will get the viewer’s rage-filled dander up even more, adding more fuel to Ferguson’s indictment against the Wall Street and Washington, DC politico status quo even though this particular fire didn’t especially need it. Mitchell will have a full review of the Blu-ray for everyone to look at soon.
I loved Morning Glory and felt at the time it was one of the better comedies I’d seen in all of 2010, making my shortlist of Honorable Mentions as one of the year’s better motion pictures. In my original November review (read it here) I wrote, “This newsroom comedy may be more Working Girl than Broadcast News but that’s not a bad thing, director Roger Michell (Venus, Notting Hill) doing a superb job of keeping everything clicking at such a pleasingly robust pace I’m not sure I could have come away from the flick any happier.” Rachel McAdams should have been considered for a Best Actress Academy Award nomination (and at the very least should have been nominated for a Golden Globe), while Harrison Ford hasn’t been this light on his feet and completely engaged in the material in ages stealing just about every scene he’s a part of. This is a great, highly entertaining movie that hopefully will get the recognition on DVD and Blu-ray that it deserved when it hit theatres just barely four months prior to it going on store shelves everywhere today.
I’ve got nothing to new to say about this one. Here’s what I wrote back in November of last year (read my full review here): “Even though [Jackass 3D] ended up making me physically ill there was still plenty about it that had me in absolute hysterics. While I’d never tell anyone to pay inflated 3D prices to see it in a theatre as a rental watched with a collection of like-minded friends there is definitely plenty of fun to be had. Not that most out there will listen, and like a kick to the groin or a “Rocky” to the face I foresee Knoxville and his gang are going to be coming back for more relatively soon.”
The Next Three Days
Paul Hagis’s The Next Three Days was one of 2010’s biggest disappointments. Starring Russell Crowe as a driven father consumed with breaking what he believes to be hi wrongly convicted of murder wife (played by Elizabeth Banks) from prison, the movie never comes together in a satisfactory way. In my November review I said (read it here), “The problem is that the movie is a disjointed, poorly-paced mess that doesn’t always seem to know what it is doing with itself or where it is going.” Mitchell will have a full review of the Blu-ray soon. Maybe he’ll disagree with my assessment.
John Boorman’s (Deliverance) 1981’s classic Excalibur hits Blu-ray 30 almost 30 years after its original theatrical release, and while this Arthurian saga deserved a special edition fans would go crazy for this stripped-down bare bones release (the Boorman commentary track has long been available) is still in many ways more than satisfactory. You can read all my thoughts in regards to this new Blu-ray by clicking here.
Excerpted from my original November 2010 review (read it here): “Making his feature film debut, famed British comedian Chris Morris’ audacious Four Lines certainly pushes the boundaries of political correctness. An In the Loop or “The Office” style satire about terrorist cells and suicide bombers, the movie is a farcical kick in the pants that is as smart as it is uproarious. While it isn’t entirely successful beginning to end, the film has just enough on its mind and offers up more than enough laughs to make up for its shortcomings. Put simply I really liked it, the movie making me think and tickling my funny bone in almost equal measure.” You can read my interview with Morris by clicking here, while Mitchell will have a review of the DVD (sadly, the Blu-ray never arrived) for you all to read posted very soon.
Exit Through the Gift Shop
I reviewed the DVD for this Academy Award nominee last December (read it here), calling the documentary “a perplexing yet highly entertaining piece of pop entertainment that defies easy description, going places so unusually unique calling them one-of-a-kind might actually be too much of a simplification.” As far as I know the Blu-ray comes with the same set of special features and extras as its DVD counterpart, and for the life of me I’m not sure why Oscilloscope Laboratories waited three months to make this high-definition version available.
Other Notable Releases
· Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part Four
· Every Day
· Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie
· The Man from Nowhere
· The Miracle Maker: The Story of Jesus
· NFL Super Bowl XLV Champions: Green Bay Packers
· The Reef
Notable DVD Releases
Through the Wormhole
Hosted by Morgan Freeman, Through the Wormhole explores the deepest mysteries of existence - the questions that have puzzled mankind for eternity (Who-or what-am I? Are we alone? How did this begin? What happened before that?). This series will bring together the brightest minds and best ideas from the very edges of Science--Astrophysics, Astrobiology, Quantum Mechanics, String Theory, and more - to reveal the extraordinary truth of our Universe. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Around a Small Mountain
Acclaimed biopic of author Raymond Roussel directed by legendary French auteur Jacques Rivette (The Duchess of Langeais, La Belle Noiseuse) that sadly didn’t play much more than the festival circuit here in the United States. Should get a bit of a second life on DVD when cineastes finally get the opportunity to see the 83-year-old living legend’s latest triumph.
A Film Unfinished
Fantastic and highly disturbing documentary using Nazi-era found footage shot in Warsaw in May of 1942, labeled “Ghetto,” this movie is a terrifying examination of evil and the use of propaganda to suit inhuman goals unlike just about anything I’ve ever seen. Mesmerizing yet hard to watch, sickening yet informative, this is an unparalleled glimpse inside the Nazi mindset that should be discussed and debated for many years to come. The wonderful DVD from the folks at Oscilloscope Laboratories also includes an interview with author and researcher Adrian Wood, thoughts on the film from noted scholar Michael Berenbaum and an essay fro film scholar Annette Insdorf. The best extra, however, is the rarely seen 1945 short film Death Mils directed by Billy Wilder which includes some of the very first footage shot from within the German concentration camps post-liberation.
Hannah Montana Forever: Final Season
It’s the final season of the popular Disney show, an end I guess if you like to read and believe in tabloids couldn’t have come soon enough for Billy Ray Cyrus because, you know, the program he produced and helped create was exploiting his daughter and ruining his family. In all seriousness there’s not much to say here. Fans will want to pick this up immediately; everyone else will shake their heads and wonder what all the fuss has been about.
Helena from the Wedding
American independent that’s sort of a Peter’s Friends meets The Big Chill meets The Returns of the Secaucus Seven hybrid about newlyweds Alex (Lee Tergesen) and Alice (Melanie Lynskey) inviting friends up to their seclude mountain cabin only to have an unexpected gatecrasher show up and bring up issues no one wanted to talk about or deal with. Strongly acted by the entire cast but a bit too overly familiar for my tastes, writer and director Joseph Infantolino’s theatrical debut is nonetheless a rarely boring and sometimes thought-provoking drama filled with interesting characters who are never a chore to spend a little bit of time with.
Letters to Father Jacob
Finnish import about parolee Leila (Kaarina Hazard) forced to work as the assistant to blind Father Jacob (Heikki Nousiainen) who spends his days answering the letters of the unfortunate seeking guidance. Movie played the 2010 Seattle International Film Festival, and while it isn’t perfect it is still filled with many sublime moments that had me grinning from ear to ear. Sweet, simple and full of inspirational moments, the film is a tiny charmer that emotionally shines and shimmers more often than it does not.
Based on a novel by Sergio Bizzio, Rage (Rabia) tells the suspenseful story of a pair of Latin American immigrants who fall in love. José María, a hot-headed builder, and Rosa, a housekeeper, embark in a passionate relationship. When a violent confrontation with José María s foreman results in the other man s death, José María flees to the mansion where Rosa works, telling no one. Hidden even from her, he watches Rosa be mistreated by her boss as he yearns for the day they can be together. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Tales from Earthsea
Disappointing adaptation of Ursula K. Le Guin acclaimed novels by the folks at Studio Ghibli (Goro Miyazaki, son of Hayao Miyazaki, makes his directorial debut) that didn’t do a lot for me either of the two times I have sat down to watch it. Excerpted from my August 2010 review (read it here): “It is shockingly boring, mixing elements from all three of Le Guin’s original trilogy yet having no idea what to do with any of them. Watching the film was at times like watching paint dry, beautiful, meticulously realized paint to be sure but still nothing more than drying paint all the same.” I somewhat surprisingly received the DVD for review and you can read my full thought on it by going here.
An independent filmmaker gets more than she bargained for when she stumbles upon a story involving voodoo and the raising of the undead. I’m only mentioning this film because one, I kind of like the cover art and, two, I had the folks at Maya Entertainment send Mitchell a review copy so we can expect his thoughts on the film as a whole sometime soon. Other than that, I really don’t have anything else to say.