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FEATURE ARTICLE

New Blu's On the Block - 3/15/2011

 

Rating: Various

Distributor: Various

Released: March 15, 2011

 

Written by Sara Michelle Fetters

 

Editor-in-Chief
www.moviefreak.com

New Blu's On the Block
Blu-ray and DVD Releases for March 15, 2011

This week we’ve got two from Criterion, three Academy Award nominees (one of which took home two Oscars), a massive IMAX documentary and a little-seen indie comedy from Miramax that I moderately enjoyed even though most critics found it borderline horrible. Other than that, there’s not a ton to talk about, although if you look closely enough I’m sure you’ll find a title or two to fit any potential movie mood you theoretically could ever have.

         

 

The Fighter

I almost can’t believe this is hitting Blu-ray and DVD already, but as theatrical windows keep getting smaller I guess it makes sense that Paramount is rushing this one out barely three months after its theatrical premier and a few of weeks after winning Academy Awards for supporting actors Christian Bale and Melissa Leo. The movie itself just barely missed my 2010 Top Ten, the boxing fueled family melodrama a triumph I saw twice at the multiplex. As I stated in my original December review (read it here), “While the boxing is phenomenal, breathlessly staged to the point there were times I could swear I felt Mickey's devastating left hook slam into my jaw, it is the twisted and complex family drama that makes this film such an astonishing piece of work.” If I were going to recommend a person buy any of this week’s releases sight unseen, The Fighter would be the one I’d suggest.

 

 

 

Au revoir les enfants

Yi Yi (A One and a Two…)

Two from Criterion, both previously available from the folks at the Collection on DVD and making their Blu-ray debuts. Louis Malle’s 1987 classic Au revoir les enfants is my personal favorite, although Edward Yang’s 2000 release Yi Yi (A One and a Two…) nearly made my list of the Top 50 Films of 2000 – 2009, so it goes without saying that I like that one quite a bit, too. Even though one is French and the other is Taiwanese the two make for an almost perfect double-bill, each a family-driven saga of remembrance, regret, resilience and rebirth that I find deeply and profoundly moving.

 

Both feature stunning new hi-def transfers, sensational lossless audio tracks and all of the same superlative special features contained on the DVDs. Marvelous films each, I’ll have full Blu-ray reviews of both titles up in the next couple of days.

 

 

Hereafter

From my October 2010 review (read it here): “Working from a script by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon), director Clint Eastwood (Invictus, Unforgiven) once again goes in a direction no one ever could have anticipated with the multi-character drama Hereafter. Not so much about the afterlife as it is an examination of three disparate souls touched in distinct and individualistic ways by it, this is a movie that asks a multitude of questions but leaves the majority of the answers up to the audience to figure out for themselves. It is a movie that opens with a bang and goes out with a somber, and for me quite poignant, whimper, the human story at its core one I couldn’t tear my eyes away from.” You can read Mitchell's Blu-ray review now.

 

 

The Switch

I hadn’t heard a lot of great things about The Switch, directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck’s (Blades of Glory) adaptation of author Jeffrey Eugenides fantastic short story Baster, so color me hugely surprised that I enjoyed watching the Blu-ray a whole heck of a lot more than I anticipated beforehand. Well acted by stars Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston, featuring scene-stealing work by child actor Thomas Robinson, the movie works with startlingly intimate and charming efficiency for most of its first two-thirds. The last third is an admitted problem, and based on the film’s premise (accidental switch of sperm donor’s seed from one person to another unbeknownst to the mommy-to-be) there’s no way a happy ending is possible. Still, by and large I was moderately okay with this one, and can actually foresee myself watching it again sometime in the future. I’ll have a full review of the Blu-ray posted soon.

 

 

The Wildest Dream: The Conquest of Everest

Fantastic and awe-inspiring documentary chronicling American mountaineer Conrad Anker, who in 1999 discovered the body of George Mallory high on Mount Everest’s “Death Zone” and subsequently became haunted and driven to extremes because if his doing so. Thrilling on just about every level, I originally saw this in IMAX and was understandably blown away. Hopefully it will play just as well on Blu-ray, and according to Jeffrey Kauffman’s review at Blu-ray.com I’m happily led to believe it more than likely does.

 

 

A Marine Story

Frustrating, extremely well-acted drama about a recently discharged Marine (superbly played by Dreya Weber) returning to her California hometown hoping to restart her life and trying to decide if she’s ready to step outside of the closet. Movie starts well, has many strong moments, but then crashes and burns during the final third in a thunderous cacophony of nonsensical silliness that boggled my mind. Trading on coincidence is one thing, but writer/director Ned Farr’s film positively drowns in them, ruining a potentially intriguing story from having any chance of connecting with the audience.

 

 

OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES

 

 
    

 

 

NOTABLE DVD RELEASES

 

 

No One Knows About Persian Cats

My pick as the ninth best film of 2010, No One Knows About Persian Cats is a rollicking look inside Iran’s underground youth music movement that held me spellbound start to finish. To quote from my theatrical review (read it here), “While the bones here are familiar, if only just because of its setting inside Iran’s busy capital city the movie has an immediacy and a freshness unlike much else this year. As much as I thought I knew where all this was heading in reality I never had the first clue, everything culminating in a bit of brutally frank honesty that while completely unexpected still felt authentic and true.” Do yourself a favor and pick it up as a rental, I doubt few – if anyone – will find themselves disappointed.

 

 

Waste Land

Lucy Walker’s incredible Academy Award-nominated feature documentary is a total unnerving knockout I watched twice during the 2010 Seattle International Film Festival. Brazilian artist Vik Muniz travels from New York back to his homeland to visit the world’s largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. What transpires is one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking and astonishing stories of wastefulness and use, art and trash, that is beyond description. A triumph and a film that deserves to be seen by just about everyone.

 

 

Gamera Vs. Zigra / Gamera: The Super Monster

From our friends at Shout! Factory game the final two films in the Gamera franchise. Fans should be excited, everyone else will continue to scratch their heads and wonder what all the fuss is about. While not as much fun as previous entries in the series, you can still include me in that former group.

 

 

Hemingway’s Garden of Eden

Based on Ernest Hemingway’s final novel, at one time Hemingway’s Garden of Eden was supposed to get a nation-wide rollout from distributor Roadside Attractions. Without much notice, that expansion was suddenly cancelled. So where the majority of the film’s press and promotional screenings (like the ones here in Seattle), the film showing up OnDemand and popping up in a scant 14 theatres before now making its way quietly to DVD. What’s all this mean? I haven’t the first clue, but I’m taking it as a hint that the finished product might not be especially worthwhile, no matter how good the source material.

 

 

Red Green Show: The Delinquent Years (Seasons 1997 - 1999)

“All it takes is a little imagination, some mechanical ability, and neighbors who mind their own business.” So says Red Green, master of all things Canadian, manly, and duct taped. In this collection of seasons seven, eight, and nine of The Red Green Show, Red and the gang are growing older--but still not growing up. In three seasons of mayhem, the boys dream up more of the half-baked ideas, crazy contraptions, and unintended consequences that seemed like they would never end, but did, after 15 hilarious years.

 

These 47 episodes feature series regulars Ranger Gord, Bill Smith, Hap Shaughnessy, and, of course, Red’s beleaguered but beloved nephew, Harold. For more laughs than you can shake a hockey stick at, join Red, Harold, and all the guys at Possum Lodge for three more years of doing what men do when women aren’t around – and some things that are even worse. “A bona fide made-in-Canada classic with universal comic appeal” --The Globe and Mail (Canada). (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)

 

 

A Shine of Rainbows

A truly inspiring story of one ordinary family’s extraordinary journey. An orphaned boy named Tomás is adopted by Maire O’Donnell (Connie Nielsen) to live on a whimsical Irish isle filled with new friends, secret caves and a lost baby pup seal stranded on the coast. But when Maire’s reluctant husband Alec (Aidan Quinn) refuses to accept Tomás as his own son, the boy drifts down a fateful path of adventure and self-discovery, illuminating how rainbows can shine around--and within--us all. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)

 

 

Spooner

From Mitchell Hattaway’s recent DVD review (read it here): “When you get right down to it, Spooner is a sitcom. And not a good one, either. It’s predictable and pointless, an indie romance for people who plop themselves down every afternoon for an hour of ‘According to Jim.’ It was inevitable, I suppose, for the genre go this way, but it seemed to happen rather fast.”

 

 

Who Do You Think You Are?: Season One

From Roy Earle’s DVD review (read it here): “Who Do You Think You Are? plays like a fascinating mystery, as stars travel cross-country and, in some cases, across the globe to learn the stories of their ancestors… Aside from being entertaining, this documentary series is also a helpful ‘how to’ guide for viewers who might wish to explore their own ancestral roots. The various historians explain how old census records and visits to libraries can serve as an invaluable starting point for a search into one’s past.”

 

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