Battle Royale – The Complete Collection
Kinji Fukasaku’s legendary epic of kid killing kid finally gets an authentic domestic release and not some shoddy bootleg, Anchor Bay giving the film the, um, royal treatment in regards to its Blu-ray debut. This complete collection comes with three Blu-rays, one for the director’s cut, one for Fukasaku’s original theatrical cut (mainly quicker paced and with less basketball) and the third contains the shoddy 2003 sequel Battle Royal II. The final disc is a DVD containing more special features than you can shake a stick at, all of it coming in collectible book-style packaging (similar to the Alien Anthology) sure to have fans of the film hungrily salivating.
As for the movie? It holds up remarkably well, although nothing equals my first viewing during the 2001 Seattle International Film Festival at our hallowed Cinerama Theatre. It feels more than a bit slight at this point, so many subsequent features using it for inspiration the effect of the barely pubescent ultra-violence isn’t nowhere near as startling now as it was then. But it’s still pretty great overall, and with the release of the somewhat similarly themed and plotted Hunger Games this weekend (but not as similarly themed or plotted as fans of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy of books already know) I imagine this cult classic will find even more fans here stateside than it did a decade ago.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011)
Another movie I listed in the second part of my Best of 2011 that could very well move up the list on further viewings, Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of John le Carré’s Cold War classic is as icy and as unnerving as they come. From my original theatrical review (read it here): “This is suspense filmmaking of the like we seldom see anymore, and in a world of souped-up video game inspired pyrotechnics here comes Alfredson and le Carré to remind us a little bit of quiet can be the most unsettlingly terrific weapon of them all.” For more on the film, check out my Interview with actor Gary Oldman.
The Muppets – Wocka Wocka Value Pack
From my November 2011 theatrical review (read it here): “The Muppets is an awful lot of fun, that fact is unmistakable. Much like this summer’s animated winner Winnie the Pooh, this return visit of a group of timeless characters who, not so much forgotten, found themselves just a tiny bit outside the mainstream consciousness is a joy in almost every sense of the word. Seeing Kermit and company put back on The Muppet Show is undeniably awesome, and for any fan of Jim Henson’s legendary creations this is truly one motion picture that simply cannot be missed.”
From my April 2011 theatrical review (read it here): “Hop is one of those movies I have almost nothing to say about. Other than some truly obnoxious and out of place sexual innuendos that serve no purpose and have no reason to be in the film other than to help it achieve a PG rating, this is a picture unashamedly geared towards little kids under the age of ten. Everything that is presented, everything that is shown, all of it is of such a kindergarten variety that it’d difficult to work up anything in the way of distaste or hate towards the finished product.” (Item releases on Friday, March 23)
From my December 2011 theatrical review (read it here): “This isn’t a movie for the faint of heart; it hasn’t been made for those who like their comedies clean or their drama devoid of cutting personal insights. Carnage is all about the human catastrophe; about the tragedies and heartaches we construct for ourselves on a daily basis and the lengths we go to conceal them from the world at large, all of it delivered with the signatory idiosyncratic flair of a maverick filmmaker unafraid of slitting wrists while sarcastically giggling as the blood freely splatters.”
The War Room – Criterion Collection
Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker’s landmark documentary chronicling the behind-the-scenes machinations of the 1992 Bill Clinton presidential campaign, this is the movie that helped turn George Stephanopoulos and James Carville into household names. A remarkable bit of fly on the wall filmmaking, those two men changed politics forever, they’re stewardship of the campaign a template Democrats and Republicans alike have been borrowing from and improving upon ever since. Now in the middle of another presidential election year, this release from Criterion is as essential a bit of viewing as just about anything else that’s hit Blu-ray so far this year.
Letter Never Sent – Criterion Collection
The second of three films made by director Mikhail Kalatozov and his trusted cinematographer Sergei Urusevsky (The Cranes are Flying and I am Cuba being the other two), Letter Never Sent is a hypnotic Russian melodrama filled to the brim with startling imagery that took my breath away. Criterion’s presentation of this little known masterwork is stunning, bits and pieces now ingrained within my psyche for the rest of time. An absolute must, this Russian import is arguably this week’s top new release.
From my December 2011 theatrical review (read it here): “The Sitter is shockingly successful at crafting laughs and engendering sympathies, mixing up the ribald and the emotional in a way that is far more effective than I’d ever have imagined it would have been before entering the theatre…The movie is funny right from the start, tells its story economically and never comes close to wearing out its welcome. I had a great time watching it, and much like [producer/star Jonah] Hill’s Get Him to the Greek I imagine it’s going to hold up on repeat viewings pretty darn well.”
A Lonely Place to Die
I’ve heard great things about this import, sad I missed it when it had its limited theatrical engagements late in 2011. As soon as it becomes available this thriller about a team of climbers in the Scottish Highlands discovering a half-buried Serbian girl and then trying to guide her to safety is going right to the top of my Netflix queue.
Lady for a Day
Frank Capra’s long thought lost classic (inspired by the works of Damon Runyan and his short story “Madame La Gimp,” later remade by the director in 1961 as Pocketful of Miracles) Lady for a Day is restored for Blu-ray, and according to the folks at Blu-ray.com and DVDBeaver.com results are positively stunning (or, at least as stunning as possible for a release this old and whose source material no longer exists – this transfer made from Capra’s own personal print of the film). Personally, after discovering this little gem on TCM ages ago I can’t wait to get a look at it, forking over the $18.99 to buy it from Amazon without any hesitation whatsoever.
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES
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· Eating Out: The Open Weekend
· Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life
· The Hills Have Eyes: Part II (1985)
· Lost Keaton: Sixteen Comedy Shorts 1934-1937
· National Lampoon's The Legend of Awesomest Maximus
· Tale of the Mummy
· That '70s Show: Season One
NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
An ex-Navy seal, his girlfriend and their friends head out on a road trip to New Orleans. When the group decides to stop at a roadside convenience store, they are introduced to the legend of Lockjaw, a Creature who is part man, part alligator...The Legend has it that an inbred local man lost his family to a monstrous white alligator. And because of the devastating loss of his family, he was driven to madness and was transformed into the Creature. The group decides to head deeper into the swamps to check out the birthplace of this Creature legend. As they journey further into the backwoods the group inadvertently unleashes the Creature and all of its TERROR! (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
From Time to Time
From Julian Fellowes, the writer and creator of Downton Abbey, From Time To Time is a haunting ghost story spanning two worlds, two centuries apart. With World War II finally coming to an end and his Father still missing in action, Tolly is sent to stay with his estranged Grandmother in their ancestral home. There he discovers he can mysteriously travel between the two worlds and begins an adventure that unlocks family secrets laid buried for generations. He must solve these mysteries to safeguard their future and reunite the family once again. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
In a run-down park on the outskirts of Rome, a two year-old girl is discovered and taken in by a family of hard-luck circus performers. A note in the child's pocket from a desperate mother reveals little about who she is or why she was left. As the bond grows between the girl and her surrogate family, this naturalistic drama becomes a revealing and soulful portrait of courage and discrimination, and of loss and togetherness. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Louder than a Bomb
Louder Than a Bomb tells the story of four Chicago high school poetry teams as they prepare to compete in the world's largest youth slam. By turns hopeful and heartbreaking, the film captures the turbulent lives of these unforgettable kids, exploring the ways writing shapes their world, and vice versa. Louder Than a Bomb is not about "high school poetry" as we often think of it. It's about language as a joyful release, irrepressibly talented teenagers obsessed with making words dance. While the topics they tackle are often deeply personal, what they put into their poems - and what they get out of them - is universal: the defining work of finding one's voice.
Winner of eleven film festival prizes, including seven audience awards, Louder Than a Bomb has been hailed as "powerful and exhilarating" (TimeOut Chicago), "inspiring" (L.A. Times), "irresistible" (Chicago Tribune), "vibrant and moving" (The Wrap), and "a get-up-and-clap kind of movie" (Paste). Roger Ebert named Louder Than a Bomb one of the ten best documentaries of 2011, and the film received a perfect rating on rottentomatoes.com. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
A clever romantic comedy examining with charm how the architecture of a city conditions the lives of two of its residents, Sidewalls is a touching, poignant film about love in an ever-changing metropolis. Paying unique homage to the city of Buenos Aires, writer/director Gustavo Taretto reflects on how urban chaos, as well as new technologies, can alternately unite and alienate people. Mixing animation, photography and graphic art, he reveals how the isolation and anxiety that come with modern life in a bustling city can inadvertently lead two hearts destined for each other to find themselves despite all odds. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
OTHER NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
(Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon!)
· The Adventures Of Tintin: Season Two
· Batman: The Brave and the Bold - Season Two, Part Two
· In the Garden of Sounds
· Scarecrow and Mrs. King: The Complete Third Season
NOTABLE NEW BLU-RAY ANNOUNCEMENTS
· One for the Money (May 15, 2012)
· Coriolanus (May 29, 2012)
· Hoosiers (June 5, 2012)
· Sea of Love (June 5, 2012)
· Scent of a Woman (June 5, 2012)
· Entourage: The Complete Eighth Season (June 12, 2012)
· The Gold Rush – Criterion Collection (June 12, 2012)
· Lethal Weapon Collection (June 12, 2012)
· Shallow Grave – Criterion Collection (June 12, 2012)
· Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (June 12, 2012)
· And Everything is Going Fine – Criterion Collection (June 19, 2012)
· Empire of the Sun (June 19, 2012)
· Gray’s Anatomy – Criterion Collection (June 19, 2012)
· The 39 Steps – Criterion Collection (June 26, 2012)
· Deliverance – 40th Anniversary Edition (June 26, 2012)
· The Samurai Trilogy – Criterion Collection (June 26, 2012)