New Blu's On the Block - 3/22/2011


Rating: Various

Distributor: Various

Released: March 22, 2011


Written by Sara Michelle Fetters



New Blu's On the Block
Blu-ray and DVD Releases for March 22, 2011

It’s sort of a crazy week. There are quite a few big releases, but the problem is none of them are all that interesting or feel at all worthwhile to talk about. Most are box office failures with big stars and heavy price tags, while the lone exception is a kiddie flick based on a Hanna-Barbera cartoon that barely – and I mean just barely – broke the $100-million domestic barrier.


But there are few notable catalog titles, like the enduringly popular one I’ve decided to lead with that just so happen to be celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary and is making its Blu-ray debut. Also of note is a landmark documentary about a twentieth century titan from the Criterion Collection, a biblical epic from Fox hitting store shelves just in time for Easter and a silent classic with the great Buster Keaton courtesy of the folks over at Kino.


There are also a ton, and I do mean a TON, of family-friendly titles from Fox I’ve included in the “Other Notable Releses” section. If you’ve got a pack of kids running around you’ll probably want to give those a look as one, two or maybe more might be just the Blu-ray babysitter you’ve been looking for. 



Stand By Me (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)


Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me, an adaptation of Stephen King’s short story The Body, has managed to slowly become one of the more enduring coming-of-age sagas of the past quarter century. Filled with kids who would become household names (like River Phoenix, Kiefer Sutherland, John Cusack, Jerry O’Connell, Corey Feldman and Wil Wheaton) and made by a director fresh off of the success of This is Spinal Tap and The Sure Thing, the movie made an almost instant impact with audiences and critics alike, an impact it’s somehow managed to retain as the years have slowly drifted by.


Personally, while I haven’t seen the movie in what feels like ages Stand By Me has always been one of those films I’ve liked been never been able to understand the overwhelming and passionate adoration for. Some of it has always felt heavy-handed and schmaltzy as far as I’m concerned, and as great as certain moments of it are on the whole the movie has for the most part left me a tiny bit cold. It seems like Mitchell more or less agrees with me, stating in his recent review of the Blu-ray (read it here), “The movie tends to take the novella’s unsubtle elements and amplify them; everything you need to know about what’s going on in the characters’ hearts is spelled out for you, with the movie laying it on thick enough to use as mortar.”




How Do You Know (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

The Tourist (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)


And here we find the two biggest financial losers of the week, courtesy of Sony Pictures. Both cost well over $100-million to make, both didn’t come close (especially the former) to recouping even an ounce of those costs. In my theatrical review of How Do You Know (read it here) I stated that the movie was “an interesting, sometimes exhilarating, failure” and that director James L. Brook’s (Broadcast News) latest “never quite knows what it is or has a very good idea of where it is going.”


As for The Tourist, directed by The Lives of Others mastermind Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and co-written by Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) and Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects), I had extremely high hopes for this Hitchcokian looking romantic thriller teaming Hollywood superstars Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. Instead the movie sadly falls flat, and in my December review (read it here) I said that the movie was “[filled] with illogical twists and turns that don’t so much exist as I guess they tickle the collective funny bones of the hugely talented filmmakers behind them, the whole thing falls to pieces with a crashing thud, the final scenes so bizarrely horrible it’s almost hard to believe the trio has three Oscars between them.” Rachel sort of agreed with me in her just posted Blu-ray review (read it here), although she seemed a bit more okay with the overall product than I remotely was. 


The Times of Harvey Milk 
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Monumental Academy Award-winning documentary from director Rob Epstein chronicling the rise and assassination of San Francisco’s first elected gay city councilmember Harvey Milk. Fascinating, moving and monumentally insightful, this richly rewarding motion picture is the definitive cinematic treatise on the twentieth century gay rights icon (sorry Gus Van Sant). Sadly, Criterion did not send us a copy for review. All the same, considering their phenomenal track record I’d pretty much recommend anyone interested in this title pick up the Blu-ray sight unseen.




Yogi Bear (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

Yogi Bear 3D Combo (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)


From my December 2010 review of Yogi Bear (read it here): “For my part, here is what I view as being the bottom line: Aykroyd is actually kind of an inspired choice to voice Yogi, Timberlake doesn’t embarrass himself as Boo Boo, Faris still deserves better (but a few more of these and I’ll be beyond caring anymore) and there are some kind of great sight gags revolving around an endangered turtle. Everyone under the age of 10 at my preview screening enjoyed themselves beyond measure, and there was very little that could be considered crass or offensive to give parents pause.” Mitchell’s just posted review of the Blu-ray (read it here) doesn’t stray to far from my own observations, although we do differ slightly on our takes in regards to allowing the little ones to watch it.



Skyline (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)


Skyline was eighth on my list of 2010’s Worst Movies, and I’m not sure there’s all that more needing to be said. However, Brad Brevet over at Ropeofsilicon.com wrote an incredible piece eviscerating the film that I just have to point everyone to commenting at the end, “I can say this, though. For as bad as this film is, I didn't mind laughing at it. The kiss near the end almost floored me.” Those are sentiments I can agree with wholeheartedly. Just check out my own Theatrical Review and you’ll see what I mean.



Our Hospitality (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

Buster Keaton classic with the comedian starring as man going cross-country in order to claim an inheritance, finding himself embroiled in a longstanding family feud in the process. Casey Broadwater over at Blu-ray.com is effusive in his praise about this latest release from Kino, especially in regards to the hi-def transfer, stating, “Once again, Kino-Lorber delivers an exceptional transfer of a silent classic from the 1920s. Like the company’s Blu-ray reissues of The General, Steamboat Bill Jr., and the Sherlock Jr./Three Ages double feature, Our Hospitality looks fantastic in its upgrade to high definition, besting—by a country mile—any previous home video editions of the film.” 


The Venture Bros.: The Complete Season 4
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Questions are answered and truths are revealed. Learn how Henchman 21 copes with life without 24. See what happens when Brock and the Venture family are forced to part ways. Discover the final fate of H.E.L.P.eR. And all the while, the balance of the free world hangs in the hands of Dean Venture, who must kill Hitler. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)


The Bible (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

John Huston’s (The Maltese Falcon, The Dead) landmark (and not necessarily for the right reasons) 1966 biblical epic chronicling the first 22 chapters of Genesis makes its Blu-ray debut just in time for Easter, joining fellow beating fellow Hollywood religious opuses to stores a week before Warner’s King of Kings and MGM’s The Greatest Story Ever Told hit shelves themselves. Sadly, Huston’s legendary production did not make its way to us for review, so I can’t talk about its supposed bloated unintentional hilariousness, but considering its reputation I can tell you right now it’s going into my Netflix queue so I can see if reports of its superlative awfulness are as true as everyone who’s seen it seems to think.



The Vanquisher (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)


Operating under the code name “Gunja,” a female Special Ops agent with the Royal Thai Police is recruited to join Claire, an American CIA agent sent to track an Al-Qaeda member. The mission is called project Vanquisher. However, unbeknownst to Gunja, Claire is instructed to “close” project Vanquisher, leaving no witnesses or team members alive. Surviving an explosion set off by Claire, Gunja returns to Bangkok and assumes the role of lieutenant in the police force. Two years later, Gunja’s and Claire’s paths cross again during a rundown of an extremist thought to be planning a large-scale suicide bomb. Gunja must use her arsenal of guns, swords and martial art skills in a battle against time and her enemies to save herself and the lives of thousands. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)



Scary Movie 4 (Unrated & Uncensored) 

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I have nothing to say here, not a single gosh darn thing. Heck, the only reason I’m even mentioning that it’s getting released is that Mitchell received a review copy. Expect his write-up on the flick to be up on the site sometime before the end of the week. You can also read the original April 2006 theatrical review by former Moviefreak critic Gregory L. Amato by going here. 









Jackson County Jail / Caged Heat (Roger Corman's Cult Classics) (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

For once, calling these films “Roger Corman Cult Classics” isn’t a misnomer, both Caged Heat and especially Jackson County Jail living up to the designation. The latter is a hard-hitting, extremely dark and ultimately tragic tale of Midwestern justice as it relates to big city advertising executive who finds herself on the lam with a professional criminal after she’s rapped by a police officer. Yvette Mimiuex gives a raw, fearlessly naked performance as the woman let down by the law, while a young Tommy Lee Jones sets the screen ablaze as the young crook who is forced to take her under his wing. 

As for Caged Heat, I’m not exactly what to say about this one. Writer and director Jonathan Demme would go on to make films like Something Wild, Philadelphia and, of course, The Silence of the Lambs, but his joy in bringing this ribald women-in-prison flick to the screen is evident in every frame. Slick, silly and filled with every sort of prurient schoolboy fantasy take on the subject matter you can imagine, the filmmaker also offers up some pointed social commentary giving the film a bizarre gravitas worthy of discussion. You can read my full review of the DVD by clicking here.



Berkley Square - The Complete Series 

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“Berkeley Square” is a warm-hearted family drama set in turn-of-the-century London, where three young girls come together as nannies and grow to be friends. Matty is a tough East End girl who has worked her way up the domestic ladder of London society's finest families. Spirited Hannah flees to London with her child after falling disastrously in love with the eldest son of a grand Yorkshire family. Generous, yet naive, farm-girl Lydia becomes a nanny in a forward-thinking family light years from her own. Over the course of time, the three young nannies become enmeshed in each other's lives as they manage through the unpredictable twists and turns of love, happiness and secrets in the posh world of Berkeley Square. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)



Dark Fields (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

As far as I know this was one of the late David Carradine’s final appearances in a motion picture. Granted, the IMDb doesn’t even have a listing for this film, which considering it also stars Dee Wallace Stone and Richard Lynch is probably pretty telling. Otherwise, I don’t have anything else to say other than that the box art isn’t too bad. Not great, mind you, but better than the average straight-to-DVD horror thriller usually gets.  


Flambards – The Complete Series 
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England in the early 1900s. The story begins as Christina (Christine McKenna) is sent to live with her domineering, crippled Uncle Russell (Edward Judd, The Hound of the Baskervilles) and her cousins Mark (Steven Grives, The Sandbaggers) and William (Alan Parnaby, The Pickwick Papers) at Flambards, a rambling, decaying mansion. Life at Flambards is a conflict of cultures, with Mark and his father clinging to a traditionalist obsession for horses, whilst William, clever and sensitive, dreams of a career in the new technology of aviation. It is into this class-conscious, male-dominated household, fraught with family friction, that Christina arrives - and her presence generates a changing pattern of events and relationships. Based on K.M. Peyton’s Award Winning Trilogy of Novels (Description reprinted from Amazon.com) 



Hawkeye: The Complete Series 

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Against the breathtaking scenery of 18th century North America, Hawkeye delivers the adventure, beauty and hardship of frontier life! In the new frontier, French and British forces battle for a stronghold in the Hudson Valley. Facing savage dangers and rugged terrain, Elizabeth Shields (Lynda Carter) and her husband William (Lee Horsley) have come to Fort Bennington to open a trading post in support of the British force, leaving behind the comfort and security of the old world. This 4 DVD set contains all 25 episodes of this stunning television series created by the late Stephen J. Cannell and loosely based on James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com) 



The People I’ve Slept With (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)


Absolutely dreadful romantic comedy about a woman, Angela (Karin Anna Cheung), who takes pictures of the many men and women she’s slept with in her promiscuous life in order to keep track of them all. After she becomes pregnant, suddenly she has to revisit all of these past lovers in order to find out who the baby daddy is. I laughed once, that’s it, the entire way through this more or less putrid monstrosity, director Quentin Lee and writer Koji Steven Sakai crafting one of the more off-putting and masochistic scenarios in recent memory. 



The Twist (Folies bourgeoises) 

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A comedy from the late, great Claude Chabrol featuring a bizarrely eclectic cast including Bruce Dern, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Ann-Margaret, Stéphane Audran, Maria Schell and Sybill Danning that I’ve not been able to find a single thing out about. There isn’t a plot description at IMDb and neither does one appear on the product page for the DVD at Amazon.com. I finally found one at Rotten Tomatoes, their synopsis saying in its closing sentence, “Recalling many of Chabrol'’s most famous and dramatic films, including Wedding in Blood, Innocents with Dirty Hands and La Rupture, The Twist turns the director's calculated Hitchcockian suspense and erotic fatalism on its head as each character becomes more and more exaggerated and the situations more extreme.” So now I know sort of what it’s about. Sort of.



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