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FEATURE ARTICLE

New Blu's On the Block - 4/19/2011

 

Rating: Various

Distributor: Various

Released: April 19, 2011

 

Written by Sara Michelle Fetters

 

Editor-in-Chief

www.moviefreak.com

 

New Blu's On the Block
Blu-ray and DVD Releases for April 19, 2011

 

Some of 2010’s best motion pictures are making their way to Blu-ray, including the recent winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture. There are some additional highlights as well, not the least of which are a pair of classics from the folks at the Criterion Collection.

         

 

The King’s Speech

This year’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor, The King’s Speech is a very, very good motion picture deserving of pretty much all of its fanfare and acclaim. Personally, the movie came in at number six on my 2010 Top Ten, and in my original review (read it here) way back in November of last year I wrote, “This was a movie that had me wrapped around its little finger so tightly I never wanted to be released, the end result a crowning achievement all involved can feel honored and proud to have been an integral part of.” Mitchell wasn’t quite as enamored with the film as I was, but that didn’t stop him from raving about almost every aspect of it himself in his recently posted Blu-ray review of the title.

 

 

 

Kes

Sweetie

Ken Loach’s Kes was named by the British Film Institute as one of the ten best British Films of the entire 20th Century. While I’m not sure I’d go quite for, this remarkable and emotionally astute coming of age comedic melodrama is fairly close to perfect, and having never seen it (heck, having never even heard of it) before Criterion’s miraculous Blu-ray edition arrived I wasn’t close to prepared for just how sensational this intimate stunner ultimately proved to be.

 

Almost equally as great is Jane Campion’s sublime 1989 debut Sweetie, a wonderful domestic journey of two sisters navigating their crazy messed-up Australian family life with the pains and perils of mental illness as the primary catalyst driving the narrative forward. A profound and moving exercise that showcased Campion’s skills and both a writer and director to perfection, this is one of those movies I find I can turn to at any moment, and every time I watch it I find something new to love about it.

 

 

Rabbit Hole

From my original December 2010 review (read it here): “The genius here is that [writer David] Lindsay-Abaire and [director John Cameron] Mitchell know how to stand back and watch, understand that even in great tragedy great moments of warmth, light and humor can also be found. This isn’t a movie that revels in pain, doesn’t try to yank on a person’s heartstrings as if they were The Edge strumming an eclectic guitar. The filmmakers let the words and the actions of the characters speak for themselves and in such goes to a place of profound intimacy that touched me beyond measure, and while surprises in and of themselves are few that didn’t make the tears I sometimes shed any less genuine.” I’ve just posted a full review of the Blu-ray which you can find right here, while for those interested in going even more in-depth into this release you can read my interview with director John Cameron Mitchell by clicking here.

 

 

Somehwere

From my original December 2010 review (read it here): “There is a simple beauty to this form of filmmaking that is undeniable. I was completely captivated first frame to last, couldn’t take my eyes off of what [director Sofia] Coppola was choosing to show me. Everything plays like a snapshot of a life aloof, a life potentially wasted, a life currently in flux; the whole thing a series of brief vignettes of a father trying to decide who he is and what the next step should be.”

 

 

The Way Back

From my original January 2011 review (read it here): “The film is very much a minimalist experience, recalling in many ways [director Peter] Weir’s early days crafting eerie Outback mindbenders like Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Last Wave. The landscape becomes its own character, beating, berating and battling Janusz and his companions as they crept along. It is the crushing, soul-sucking villain of the piece, the one thing that threatens to destroy them all eradicating their desire to move on raining death and destruction with heartless malevolence.” I love this movie, and I liked it even more watching it again at home. You can read my full review of the Blu-ray by clicking here 

 

 

Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure

Okay, I’ll admit, I enjoyed this High School Musical direct-to-video spin-off far more than I probably should have. In my recently posted Blu-ray review (read it here) I wrote, “While obviously not a great movie, this family-friendly musical frolic is hardly a chore, the final product so ingratiating and easygoing I found it terribly difficult to dislike.”

 

 

 

Gulliver’s Travels (2010)

Gulliver’s Travels (2010) (3D Blu-ray)

From my original December 2010 review (read it here): “Someplace, somewhere, Jonathan Swift is hanging his head in shame. It almost goes without saying that director Rob Letterman (Monsters vs. Aliens) and writers Joe Stillman (Planet 51) and Nicolas Stoller’s (Get Him to the Greek) adaptation of his timeless classic Gulliver’s Travels isn’t very good. In fact, there are moments where the team’s modern day version starring Jack Black is downright offensive, the majority of the picture a tired and joyless exercise in tedium that had me bored out of my mind.” I just got the Blu-ray today, so expect a full review of that sometime in the next week or so.

 

 

Ip Man 2

From my January 2011 review (read it here): “[Director Wilson] Yip and writer Edmond Wong have done a great job fixing the first film’s shortcomings while managing to retain many of its strengths. They tell a fairly straightforward story this time around, keeping things focused on Ip’s observations of Hong Kong and its people and how he reacts to what is going on around him. This is his story, his journey and, in the end, his battle to win, and by keeping things as simple as possible the filmmakers have managed to make the character live and breathe in a fashion that’s continually interesting.” My recently posted Blu-ray review of the title is equally as positive, and you can read by clicking here.

 

 

 

Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation

“Finish him!”

 

What more is there to say than that? I’ll post full reviews of these Blu-rays in the next couple of days, until then just know that the 1995 original is still a silly guilty pleasure, while the 1997 sequel is as worthless and as terrible as any movie I’ve arguably ever reviewed.

 

 

Street Kings 2: Motor City

Ray Liotta and Shawn Hatosy star in this direct-to-video sequel to Street Kings as two cops who join forces to solve the killings of an undercover narcotics team. Other than that, I know nothing. Nothing at all. All the same, we are supposed to be receiving a review copy of the Blu-ray so expect someone here at MovieFreak to know more about the movie than I do sometime relatively soon.

 

 

Short Circuit 2

Number 5 is still alive! At least, he was way back when in 1988 when I first saw this pointless (is embarrassingly entertaining) sequel to the endearing 1986 original. I don’t really have anything else to add, the simple fact that this somewhat forgotten ‘80s relic is getting a Blu-ray release at all kind of speaks for itself.

 

 

OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES

 

    

 

 

NOTABLE DVD RELEASES

 

 

Bambi (Two-Disc Diamond Edition)

The Blu-ray for this classic Disney animated marvel was released way back on March 1, and in my review (read it here) I wrote, “Bambi is a classic in every sense of the word. It is a picture I will continue to cherish into the foreseeable future, and a movie I’ll exhibit again and again to those I love for as long as time allows.”

 

American Dad! Vol. 6

In a new strategy that fans of the show will appreciate, Fox has decided to release the complete fifth season on DVD as part of Volume 6, the 3-disc set comprised of 18 total episodes. The set is filled with commentaries, plus such extras as deleted scenes, uncensored audio on select episodes, and The Making of “Rapture’s Delight”.   –written by Dennis Crane

 

 

 

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: The Complete Sixth Season

This is what fans have been waiting for ever since the fifth season came out last May, the sixth and final season of the show finally making its way to DVD in a 3-disc set with all 24 episodes.     –written by Dennis Crane

 

 

 

Falco

The true story of 80's pop star Falco is revealed in this lush and audacious film, chronicling his meteoric rise from child prodigy to overnight music sensation. After worldwide success from hits like Rock Me Amadeus and Vienna Calling, Falco tried to escape industry pressure by fleeing into a world of sex and drugs, bringing about his downfall. Featuring extraordinary recreations of the iconic music videos and an appearance by rock goddess Grace Jones, FALCO captures the period of musical and stylistic excess of the 80's with verve and humanity. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)

 

 

Gas Hole

What caused America to go from being a leading exporter of oil to the world s largest importer? What are the economic and sociological forces that have contributed to that change and impede its solution? Gas Hole is an eye-opening documentary about the history of oil prices and sheds light on a secret that the big oil companies don t want you to know that there are viable and affordable alternatives to fuel! It also provides a detailed examination of our continued dependence on foreign oil and examines various potential solutions -- starting with claims of buried technology that dramatically improves gas mileage, to navigating bureaucratic governmental roadblocks, to evaluating different alternative fuels that are technologically available now, to questioning the American Consumers reluctance to embrace alternatives. Narrated by Peter Gallagher, hear from a wide range of opinions from representatives of the US Department of Energy Officials, Congressional leaders both Democrat and Republican, Alternative Fuel Producers, Alternative Fuel Consumers (including actor Joshua Jackson), Professors of Economics and Psychology and more. Anyone who buys gas should see this film! (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)

 

 

Hyenas

Gannon, a man whose family was brutally murdered, returns to the scene of the crime to find justice for his family while seeking his revenge. With the recruitment of the town’s hunter, Gannon learns of a growing breed that hunts in packs waiting to eat you alive. Together they will stop at nothing to bring this growing breed to extinction. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)

 

 

I Want What I Want

Based on the sensational best seller, I Want What I Want  helped pave the way for the release of many other films dealing with transvestite and transsexual themes. Acclaimed British actress Anne Heywood (The Fox, The Chairman) stars as Roy, a young English man who works at a real estate agency and lives with his widowed father (Harry Andrews, Superman). Roy's existence is a fight against loneliness as he is obsessed by a secret desire that no one understands. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)

 

 

If God Is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise

My goodness but is this Spike Lee documentary (made for HBO) fantastic. Focusing on the rebuilding efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina five years after his equally sensational When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, this searing and emotionally charged epic is a soaring testament to hope and heartache that held me spellbound for every one of its mesmerizing 240 minutes. This two-disc DVD comes with a typically wonderful audio commentary by Lee as well as over 60 minutes of never-before-seen interviews adding even more insight and weight to a motion picture documentary that’s already pretty darn marvelous to begin with.

 

 

Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story

Baseball is seen as the quintessentially American sport with good reason. Emerging by the mid-nineteenth century as the nation's most popular game, baseball provided each new wave of immigrants with an avenue into American culture. Jews and Baseball traces the Jewish involvement in the history of the sport from the game's earliest days, through the tumultuous war years to today's All-Star games. By analyzing various stages in this history, including how the legendary Sandy Koufax pioneered rights for players and Hank Greenberg's support of Jackie Robinson, the film demonstrates how Jews shaped baseball, and baseball shaped them.

 

Narrated by two-time Academy Award® winner Dustin Hoffman, this lively and thorough account of Jewish America's love affair with baseball sheds new light on America's national pastime. Includes interviews with former player Al Rosen, sports historian Maury Allen, celebrity enthusiasts Larry King and Ron Howard, and all-stars Shawn Green and Kevin Youkilis, as well as a rare interview with baseball legend Sandy Koufax. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)

 

 

Lorna Doone

Wonderful 1990 adaptation of the R.D. Blackmore classic starring Polly Walker, Clive Owen, Sean Bean and Billie Whitelaw, this BBC television version features wonderful cinematography and rip-roaring action all of it anchored by core performances fitting the spirit of the production flawlessly. Extremely entertaining, this quickly paced tale of romance and revenge is perfect fodder for a quiet rainy weekend night at home snuggling on the couch with that perfect someone.

 

 

Mind to Kill: Series 3

Welsh DCI Noel Bain is back for eight more adventures of murder and mayhem as he returns to the job after a leave of absence only to find everything has changed. Philip Madoc continues to be superb as Bain, while the addition of the detectives daughter to the force ends up working far more eloquently than it probably has any right to. These series three episodes are absolute dynamite, fans of the character and the show sure to be more than satisfied by what this four-disc DVD collection has to offer.

 

 

Vision - From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen

Lushly shot in original medieval cloisters of the fairytale-like German countryside, Vision is the profoundly inspirational portrait of Hildegard von Bingen, a woman who has emerged from the shadows of history as a forward-thinking and iconoclastic pioneer of faith, change and enlightenment. A visionary in every sense of the word, this famed 12th-century Benedictine nun was a Christian mystic, composer, philosopher, playwright, poet, naturalist, scientist, physician, herbalist and ecological activist. Reuniting with recurrent star Barbara Sukowa, New German Cinema auteur Margarethe von Trotta brings the story of this extraordinary figure to cinematic life. In a staggering performance, Sukowa portrays Hildegard's fierce determination to expand the responsibilities of nuns within the order, even as she fends off outrage from some in the Church over the visions she claims to receive from God. She was truly a woman ahead of her time. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)

 

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