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FEATURE ARTICLE

New Blu's On the Block - 3/29/2011

 

Rating: Various

Distributor: Various

Released: March 29, 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 29, 2011

It’s a wild week on the Blu-ray and DVD front. There’s so much to talk about it’s almost biblical (and considering the content of three of the titles hitting shelves today I kind of mean that literally), and in my opinion it makes more sense to just get right to it and let everything speak for itself.

         

 

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

I decided to lead things off this week with Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan not so much because I think it’s the best title of the bunch (that would by Topsy-Turvy thank you very much) but because it is both a legitimately great motion picture and the one release that has seemed to generate the most discussion and debate.


This psychological ballet character study didn’t just win star Natalie Portman a well-deserved Academy Award, it also became a box office sensation that left people emotionally staggered. I know very few who come down somewhere in the middle on this one, most either loving it completely like I did (it made my 2010 Top Ten) or absolutely despising it right down to their very core.


You can read my full theatrical review of the movie by going here, while Roy’s somewhat less enthusiastic DVD review can be found by clicking here. We’ll also have a full review of the Blu-ray itself posted in the next couple of days or so.

 

 

 

Tangled (Blu-ray + DVD)

Tangled (3D Blu-ray Combo)

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My adoration for Disney’s fiftieth animated motion picture is well documented. In my effusive November 2010 review (read it here) I proclaimed that the movie “made me feel bushels of ecstasy as it resplendently filled my heart with glee,” while in my recent review of the Blu-ray (read it here) I stated that the title was “as close to the perfection of [Disney’s] classic hand-drawn catalog as they are probably ever going to get.” In short, this is a movie I am completely and totally in love with, nothing more needing to be said then that.

 

 

The Ten Commandments

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What would the upcoming Easter holiday be without an appearance by Cecil B. DeMille’s massive 1956 Biblical epic The Ten Commandments? Making its long-awaited Blu-ray debut, this visually rapturous and melodramatically overblown spectacle is one that truly must be seen to be believed. Critic Martin Liebman gives the two-disc set an almost perfect rating in his review over at Blu-ray.com, while Gary Tooze at DVD Beaver calls this 55th anniversary release of the title “a highly impressive upgrade” and states that the transfer is “light years beyond the DVD appearance.”

 

 

 

The Mikado (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)
Topsy-Turvy (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

The Criterion Collection brings us two films connected together by musical impresarios W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. The Mikado is a slight if still quite enjoyable 1939 adaptation of the famed operetta presented by the famed D'Oyly Carte company and directed by Victor Schertzinger (Road to Singapore, One Night of Love). In my recently posted review of the Blu-ray (read it here) I wrote the film was “a visual marvel filled with engaging sights… anchored by Gilbert and Sullivan’s marvelous songs.” While not perfect, fans of the duo should be on the lookout for this one because they’re definitely going to want to check it out.

 

But the big gun here in my estimation if Mike Leigh’s (Another Year, Secrets & Lies) 1999 Academy Award-winner Topsy-Turvy. Staring Jim Broadbent as Gilbert and Allan Corduner as Sullivan, the film chronicles the pair’s fractious working relationship as well as the birth of “The Mikado” itself, the movie a wondrous whirligig of fact and fantasy that ranks right up there with the director’s very best works. Criterion’s Blu-ray is absolutely stunning, and in my review (read it here) I stated that the disc “is without par” and that “fans should make sure and pick it up for their own collections the moment it goes on sale.” In my opinion, this is the week’s best film and the one title I’d strongly urge everyone everywhere to watch.

 

 

Mad Men: Season Four (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

Welcome to a Mad New World. Season Four of Mad Men, three-time Emmy winner for Outstanding Drama Series and winner of three consecutive Golden Globes, returns for a new year rife with possibilities. Last season stunned fans with its cliffhanger finale, as Don Draper’s professional and personal lives unexpectedly imploded. In Season 4, Jon Hamm and the rest of the breakout ensemble continue to captivate us as they grapple with an uncertain new reality. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)

 

 

Made in Dagenham (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

From my original theatrical review of Made in Dagenham (read it here): “Inspired and based on the 1968 strike by less than 200 women at a Ford Motor Company production plant in Dagenham, England, the film tells an inspired and inspiring tale that also manage to parallel current economic events going on around the globe. It is a story of doing what it right and demanding what is fair, and in modern world where corporations seem to have forgotten both of those things it is refreshing to be reminded what a small few can accomplish when prodded into action.” For more on this release, check out my full review of the Blu-ray by clicking here.

 

 

Fair Game (2010) (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

Doug Liman’s Fair Game is easily the best film The Bourne Identity and Go director has made so far. A thrilling procedural documenting what happened to Valeria Plame and her family after she was outed by the White House as a CIA spy, the movie is a breathless chronicle anchored by a mesmerizing performance by Naomi Watts as the main character. In my original theatrical review (read it here) I said, “[Fair Game] is a strong, brilliantly acted motion picture that’s difficult to tear one’s eyes away from, and even though where it all ends up isn’t particularly surprising getting there is far more entertaining, suspenseful and thought-provoking than I ever surmised it would be beforehand.” Rachel recently posted a full review of the Blu-ray. You can read that by going here.

 

  

 

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

Scream 2 (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

Scream 3 (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

Director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson’s trio of fright film favorites finally make their Blu-ray debuts just a few short weeks before Scream 4, which reunites all the surviving members of the original trilogy, hits theatres on April 15. The first flick is a bona fide 1990’s classic, and I remember watching it at its original Seattle promo screening like it were yesterday. The following two, especially the overly convoluted but still quite amusing second chapter, I still quite enjoy, but the law of diminishing returns is definitely in effect for both of them. Still, this a trilogy I’m dying (not literally, but I couldn’t resist the pun) to own on Blu-ray, and while review copies of each were supposed to be en route as they have not arrived I might have to breakdown and just order them from Amazon.

 

 

King of Kings (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

Our second Biblical epic of the week comes courtesy of director Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without a Cause) and concerns the life and times of Jesus himself. I’ve never seen this one myself, and as the review copy from Warner Bros. still has not arrived there is a chance I never will. Still, for those who are fond of the film Blu-ray.com’s Jeffrey Kauffman calls the transfer “stunningly gorgeous” and “one of the best big format transfers to Blu-ray that [he’s] seen.”

 

 

The Greatest Story Ever Told

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And here’s our third Biblical epic for the last Tuesday in March, this one directed by the great George Stevens (Giant) and featuring a performance by Max Von Sydow as Jesus that many consider to be the most definitive ever put to film. Mitchell received a review copy yesterday so expect a full review of the Blu-ray soon.

 

 

Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1

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Part two of director Jean-François Richet’s examination of famed French gangster Jacques Mesrine, Public Enemy No. 1 is a bit of a comedown from the sensational first film Mesrine: Killer Instinct. While star Vincent Cassel is still incredible in the picture, dramatically this one just doesn’t have the oomph and the energy that the proceeding one did, and for all its kinetic realism I just wasn’t particularly captivated by it. Still, if you watch Killer Instinct you’ll definitely want to check this one out as well as you’ll not be able to help yourself from wanting to know where this story goes and how it comes to an end for Jacques Mesrine.

 

 

All Good Things (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

The story of Robert Durst, the wealthy son of a New York real estate magnate, and his strange, surreal romance with Kathleen McKormack, who in 1982 disappeared and has never been seen since. While names have been changed (Durst is known as “David Marks,” Kathleen as “Katie McCarthy”), the story that famed documentarian Andrew Jarecki (Capturing the Friedmans) is telling is very much based on fact, this true-crime tale of New York largesse one of the most bizarre and captivating in recent memory. Starring Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, Frank Langella, Kristen Wiig and Philip Baker Hall, the movie is a mesmerizing drama that, while not nearly as suspenseful as I think it wants to be, is still an awfully hard one to turn your eyes away from once it gets going. I’ll have a full review of this Blu-ray release up sometime in the next few days.

 

 

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

From my recently posted Blu-ray review of the title (read it here): “Listen, Soylent Green has an amazing climax, I’m not going to dispute that. It also has some sensational moments, most of them concerning [Edward G.] Robinson, that I certainly found entrancing. But overall this movie didn’t do a darn thing for me, and for whatever reason I found much of it too staid and controlled, Fleischer’s direction so subdued it almost felt nonexistent. That last line is amazing, and the way it is depicted cinematically is electric and alive, but for the most part this is one of those talked about and fondly remembered science fiction films from the 1970’s I just don’t quite understand the enduring popularity of.”

 

 

The Secret of NIMH (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

Don Bluth (All Dogs Go to Heaven, Anastasia) has never been one of my favorite animated filmmakers, the majority of his films I’ve found unappealing, trite and not all that entertaining. The one exception is his stunning 1982 feature The Secret of NIMH. This has long been one of my absolute favorite animated films, and in my heart of hearts it ranks almost right up there with Sleeping Beauty, Lady & the Tramp and Beauty & the Beast. Sadly, this Blu-ray release of the film is shockingly underwhelming, and while I’m thrilled beyond belief to have it in my library I can’t help but wish MGM and Fox had put a bit more effort into bringing this one into the world of high definition. I’ll have a full review posted in the next day or so.

 

 

Treme: The Complete First Season

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Amid the ruins of an American city, ordinary people--musicians, chefs, residents--find themselves clinging to a unique culture and wondering if the city that gave birth to that culture still has a future. From the creators of The Wire comes a new series about adversity and the human spirit, set in New Orleans, in the aftermath of the greatest man-made disaster in American history. Welcome to Treme. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)

 

 

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

Poor Hilary Swank. The two-time Academy Award winner hasn’t been on that big of a role of late (Amelia tanked, while the well-reviewed Conviction didn’t do that well with the general paying public, either), but all the same I’d never expect to find her in a straight-to-DVD thriller that looks more like a Lifetime movie of the week then a major offering from a talented Hollywood heavyweight. Co-starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Christopher Lee, the movie concerns a woman under siege from her obsessed Brooklyn landlord leading to supposed thrills and chills galore. I guess we’ll have to wait and see on that front, as a promised review copy of the title sadly never arrived for me to get a look at.

 

 

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

Ah, come on now, you remember Teen Wolf, the 1985 High School comedy that featured Michael J. Fox as a lonely loser who becomes a basketball playing sensation when he starts doing his best Lon Chaney, Jr. impersonation? Of course you do, you’re just too embarrassed to admit that you were one of the many that turned this mangy mongrel of a flick into a minor box office hit. The question is, are you too embarrassed to pick it up for your collections now that it is available on Blu-ray? Mitchell certainly wasn’t, and he’ll have a full review of the title up in the next few days for you all to see in order to prove it.

 

 

OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES

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NOTABLE DVD RELEASES

 

 

Ken Burns: The Civil War - Commemorative Edition(Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

Ken Burns truly awesome documentary series The Civil War gets a brand new DVD release to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the conflict. This latest edition includes never-before-seen special features including new interview with Ken Burns, Shelby Foote interview outtakes and a bonus 16-page collector’s booklet with a selection of photos and battle details.

 

 

Upstairs, Downstairs: The Complete Series - 40th Anniversary Collection (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

Featuring over 25-hours of brand new bonus material, this 40th anniversary set of one of the most iconic series in all of television history is an absolute must for fans. Winner of seven Emmy awards, a Golden Globe and a Peabody, this stunning British program was required viewing in my home when it aired in reruns on PBS, and I can’t wait to get another look at it now as I’m sure I’ll appreciate it more in my thirties than I ever did as an adolescent.

 

 

Antony & Cleopatra (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

The first of two Charlton Heston efforts making their DVD debuts, this one is the actor’s directorial adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s classic plays featuring himself as Antony and Hidegarde Neil as Cleopatra. Haven’t had the chance to watch it, yet, but I am admittedly curious to give it a look.

 

 

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

Roger Corman production with Ben Gazzara is Al Capone, Sylvester Stallone as Frank Nitti, John Cassavetes as Frankie Yale and Harry Guardino as Johnny Torrio. Susan Blakely also stars as Capone’s mistress flapper Iris Crawford.

 

 

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

Climate catastrophe? The end of civilization as we know it? Are the current staggeringly expensive actions now being considered really helping to save the world - or are we just burning money? In this “eye-opening” (Los Angeles Times) documentary, author Bjorn Lomborg (“The Skeptical Environmentalist”) asks us to question the facts and the solutions. Why in the world are we spending so much money on “green” initiatives…for such little gain? Are there better ways to solve the problems? How else could that money be spent? No matter what our opinions are on the environmental movement, Cool It is an “engrossing” film (The New York Times) that asks us to rethink our polarized views. After all, nothing less than the planet is at stake. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)

 

 

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

A terminal diagnosis leads to a journey of self-discovery in this road comedy from writer-director Michael McGowan. Joshua Jackson gives a charming performance as Ben, an aimless young schoolteacher who learns he has cancer a few weeks before his marriage to Samantha (Liane Balaban). The fortuitous intervention of a used motorcycle and a Tim Hortons coffee cup advising him "Go west, young man," inspires him to set off across Canada, from Toronto to British Columbia, in search of… well, Ben isn't sure. But the characters and sights he encounters along the way -- a cancer survivor who offers marijuana and marital advice; a beautiful folk singer (Emm Gryner); the Stanley Cup; and the majestic beauty of the Canadian countryside -- make for a memorable experience. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)

 

 

The Cosmos: A Beginner's Guide

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Where did the universe come from? Where is it headed? Does it harbor intelligent life elsewhere? Today, sophisticated technology is bringing scientists closer and closer to answering those big questions. Join veteran science educator Adam Hart-Davis and his colleagues as they meet investigators probing the very nature of the cosmos--at the edges of space, as well as right here on Earth. Go far beneath Geneva as a supercollider attempts to unlock the secrets of the Big Bang. Follow humankind’s deepest space probe as it travels beyond our solar system. And see the spectacular, often violent events revealed by new-generation telescopes and sensors. This eye-opening, six-part series shows how scientists are using ingenious tools to achieve breakthroughs in understanding the stars, planets, and our place among them. You can read Mitchell’s full review of this title by going here. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)

 

 

Father of My Children (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

From my May 2010 review (read it here): “As an examination of the lasting artistic merits of a failed man the movie doesn’t give enough insight into Grégoire’s cinematic catalog to let us know whether they have any value or not. It’s all a big hodgepodge of ideas mixed with heartbreaking tragedy, finding the rhyme and reason of it all as difficult as getting seeds out of a grapefruit without squirting juice into your eyes doing it.”

 

 

The Genius of Design (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

For industrial designers, the world is never enough. They give shape and texture to the world to make it livable--indeed, beautiful--for the rest of us. This fascinating five-part documentary examines the art and science of design and the stuff it shapes, from computer chips to cityscapes and everything in between. See the evolution from artisans’ workshops to industrial mass production, and the profound changes it has wrought in our economy, society, and environment. Meet historians, critics, and legendary contemporary designers, including Dieter Rams (Braun electronics), J Mays (Ford), and Jonathan Ive (Apple), who reveal the thinking behind iconic products such as the VW Beetle, the Eames chair, and the computer desktop. Along the way, discover how design has influenced even the outcome of war. You can read Mitchell’s full review of this title by going here. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)

 

 

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

We are all searching for answers to the most basic questions: Who are we? Why are we here? Do we really matter?

 

In a world fraught with hostility and violence, an altruistic group of young men endeavor to understand the true essence of the human spirit by visiting forgotten souls such as homeless New Yorkers, Peruvian orphans and isolated Ghanaian lepers. By spotlighting heartwarming stories from around the world, this uplifting documentary shows viewers that every single person, no matter his or her lot in life, is beautiful. Gorgeously filmed and masterfully narrated, The Human Experience explores with depth and compassion what it means to be a human being. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)

 

 

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

An entry in Lionsgate’s “After Dark” series of horror films, this one concerning a group of friends who find themselves being menaced by an evil force inside a desolate corn field and one I freely admit to being curious about. I’ve already put it into the Netflix queue so I can give it a look.

 

 

IMAX: Hubble (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

I loved this documentary when I first saw it back in April of last year (read my theatrical review here), but I saw it in crystal clear IMAX 3D and that helped this one so enormously I couldn’t imagine afterwards viewing it any other way. Now Warner Bros. is bringing the movie out on DVD only, which seems awfully odd to me because if any picture screamed for Blu-ray (and probably a Blu-ray 3D release as well) this one has got to be it. Mitchell posted a full review of the DVD yesterday. You can read that by going here.

 

 

In Plain Sight: Season 3

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Mary McCormack Frederick Weller and Nichole Hiltz return to “In Plain Sight” the hit series about relocating and protecting career criminals… and some innocent folks too. U.S. Marshal Mary Shannon (McCormack) spends her days (and often her nights) working for WITSEC the highly secretive Federal Witness Security Program. Whether she’s counseling a former hit man about how to date someone who’s not a prostitute or guarding a co-conspirator in a massive mortgage fraud scheme Mary knows that her quirky-but-trusted partner the aptly-named Marshall (Weller) will always watch her back. Featuring phenomenal guest stars including Allison Janney (“The West Wing”) Donnie Wahlberg (the Saw franchise) Steven Weber (“Wings”) Mike Doyle (P.S. I Love You) Cristián de la Fuente (“Dancing with the Stars”) and Tess Harper (No Country for Old Men) this three-disc set contains every Season 3 episode of the smart suspenseful series in which “Mary McCormack shines” (Robert Bianco USA Today). (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)

 

 

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

As autism has exploded into the public consciousness over the last 20 years, two opposing questions have been asked about the condition fueling the debate: is it a devastating sickness to be cured or is it a variation of the human brain just a different way to be human? Loving Lampposts takes a look at two movements: the recovery movement, which views autism as a tragic epidemic brought on by environmental toxins and the neurodiversity movement, which argues that autism should be accepted and that autistic people should be supported. After his son s diagnosis, filmmaker Todd Drezner, visits the front lines of the autism wars to learn more about the debate and provide information about a condition that is still difficult to comprehend. This film is a great learning tool. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)

 

 

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

Another Charlton Heston pic making its DVD debut, this is another of the actor’s directorial efforts and was also written by his son Fraser. The film concerns a pair of travelers (Nick Mancuso, Kim Basinger) who find themselves stranded in a mountainous wilderness area after their plane suffers engine problems and who end up being menaced by a pair of recluse twins (both played by Heston). Again, haven’t had the chance to watch this one as of yet but I will soon. When I do, expect a review to be forthcoming.

 

 

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

Another “After Dark” title, this one revolving around a group of wayward travelers seemingly rescued by an apparently friendly truck driver only to discover that they’ve been kidnapped to be the prey for a group of carnivorous creatures hungering for human flesh. Again, I admit my curiosity upfront. I also admit that I’ve sent to the title to the top of my Netflix queue, something I’m not even slightly embarrassed about.

 

 

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

Shot by actor/filmmaker Adrian Grenier (Vince in HBO’s Entourage), this 95-minute feature documentary is an exploration of the tenuous relationship between celebrities and the people who make a living selling their images. After a chance encounter with a 13-year-old paparazzo, Austin Visschedyk, Grenier takes a step back to think about the celebrity- obsessed culture that has produced the boy. Adrian starts hanging out with the young photographer, learning the tricks of the trade, as well as what made the precocious teen want to spend his free time running around looking for celebrities and trying to get that “perfect shot.” (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)

 

 

Wheedle's Groove: Seattle's Forgotten Soul of the 1960's and '70s (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

Crowd-pleasing documentary about Seattle’s underground music scene during the 1960’s and ‘70s that had me nearly dancing in my seat when I saw it at last year’s Seattle International Film Festival. It’s awesome, which is really all you need to know. True music fans, especially ones who adore classic Funk and R&B, should throw this one in the Netflix queue or pick it up for rental immediately.

 

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