New Blu's On the Block - 4/26/2011


Rating: Various

Distributor: Various

Released: April 26, 2011


Written by Sara Michelle Fetters





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


It’s a catalog title frenzy this week on Blu-ray and DVD, with nary a recent theatrical release to be found.



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

Brian De Palma’s 1981 suspense classic gets the deluxe treatment from the folks at the Criterion Collection and the results are nothing less than spectacular. Without a doubt, this is the week’s only 100-percent must-buy release (especially for fans of either the director or of star John Travolta), and is a disc I’ve watched three times since I received my review copy just a few short weeks ago. You can read more in my recently posted Blow Out Blu-ray review. 



Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

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Director Terry Gilliam’s love-it-or-hate-it 1998 adaptation of writer Hunter S. Thompson iconic book starring Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro makes its high definition debut, Criterion porting over all of the extras from their previous DVD release. Personally, while I admire a great deal about this film (especially the performances) every time I’ve ever watched all it’s really done is give me a massive headache, making me not exactly all that bummed that we didn’t receive a copy for review.  



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

Another entry in the BBC Earth series (which began with Planet Earth and continued with Life), Human Planet is another sensational multi-episode documentary chronicling the planet we call home and humanity’s effect upon it. This one is a three-year, forty-nation journey, fans of previous BBC Earth titles sure to want to pick this one up the moment it goes on sale.  



South Park: The Complete Fourteenth Season Uncensored (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

The animated gang from the tiny town of South Park returns, all 14 episodes from the latest season available in this newly released set. While I’ve never been a big fan of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s baby, there is some hysterical stuff here, not the least of which is the unaired episode “The Coon” included in the set that had me laughing so hard I thought I was going to lose my lunch. Sadly, the DVDs were sent to us for review and not the Blu-rays, but be that as it may I’ll have me surprisingly positive (for me, at least; to repeat once again I’m not much of a fan) review up for everyone to take a look at in the next day or so.




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

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

Two surreal and highly unusual classics from Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky, both making their Blu-ray debuts. Sadly, Anchor Bay didn’t send us either title for review and, somewhat embarrassingly, I must admit I’ve personally never seen either film so I can’t comment one way or the other about them. Reviews at both Blu-ray.com and DVD Beaver are fairly positive, however, so I’m assuming fans will want to give them a look.



The Scent of Green Papaya (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

I remember seeing the French-Vietnamese co-production The Scent of Green Papaya for the first time back in 1993 and being so blown away by it I pondered walking back to the ticket booth and paying to watch it again immediately. This quiet, visually stunning meditative stunner from director Anh Hung Tran (Cyclo) captured my vary essence whole, pieces of it so melodious and awe-inspiring the imprint they left upon me hasn’t dissipated a single ounce almost two decades after the fact. Sadly, Kino did not send us a copy of the title for review, but I can tell you the moment it goes on sale at Amazon I’m adding this modern classic to my hi-def library without any hesitation whatsoever.



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

I have to admit, with all the controversy and talk still surrounding director Jean-Jacques Beineix’s 1986 sexually charged drama a quarter century after its release I’m a bit surprised that niche distributor Cinema Libre Studios is the one that gobbled it up for it Blu-ray debut. You’d think with all the hullabaloo someone like Kino or even Criterion would have tried to get the rights, giving it a full restoration and packing on the extras to give fans a reason to get excited. Be that as it may, having never seen this one I’m particularly excited to give the film a look, and as our friends at Cinema Libre have assured me a review copy is on the way said look will hopefully happen sooner rather than later.



Dementia 13 (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

Francis Ford Coppola’s outrageous and silly axe murder cult favorite he made for producer Roger Corman back in 1963 comes to Blu-ray from niche public domain label HD Cinema Classics and according to Blu-ray.com results aren’t exactly sensational. As for the movie itself, I caught this one late one night on TCM and it’s a total hoot, and for those interested in seeing how Coppola got his start Dementia 13 cannot be missed. It’s not the greatest film since sliced bread, but it’s visually inventive and awfully entertaining often in spite of its horrific dialogue and wooden acting. If reviews for this release were better I’d consider picking it up for my own collection. As it is, I still might Netflix the darn thing just to see if the transfer is as bad as everyone is making it out to be.












Upstairs Downstairs (2011)

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Outstanding new version of the treasured classic starring Jean Marsh, Art Malik and the great Eileen Atkins (amongst numerous other familiar faces) from our friends over at the BBC, this 180-minute remake of Upstairs Downstairs is without question the week’s top DVD release. Filled with exquisite performances and indelible moments, while this new take on the material can’t hold a candle to the timeless 1971 original version that doesn’t make watching it any less of a wonderful experience. I’ll have a full review up in the next few days.




20th Century With Mike Wallace: America at War

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The ten-part History Channel favorite comes to DVD and is both entertaining and informative, the veteran “60 Minutes” newsman delivering an outstanding overview of the America’s post-WWII military activity. This three-DVD set comes with a 12-page viewer’s guide and featurettes with interviews and updates on conflicts and military leaders featured in the series. A review copy only just arrived, so expect a full take on the set sometime relatively soon.

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

Wonderful six-episode BBC comedy from 1993 starring Martin Clunes, Griff Rhys Jones and Amanda Redman about soldiers doing their best to adjust to civilian life after their time in the military has been completed. While there are no special features or bonus extras to speak of, the star of the show here is definitely the series itself, all 300 minutes about as priceless as any I could have hoped for.



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

Surprisingly good independent thriller about a group of teens left to fend for themselves in a small desert community after one of their new members is left to rot in the heat of the son by an abusive stepfather. Young actors John Bain and Erica Hoag deliver a pair of wonderful, and frighteningly unnerving, central performances, while directors James Mann (who also wrote the script) and Brandon Nicholas build suspense beautifully taking things to a rather disturbing climax that got under my skin even if I can’t say it what happened was a total surprise. A solid effort worthy of look, maybe even two or three.



Doc Martin Collection - Series 1-4

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He’s surly, tactless, self-centered, and uptight—but he’s the only doctor in town.  


The doctor is in--but he’s not happy about it. After developing a crippling fear of blood, hotshot London surgeon Martin Ellingham (Martin Clunes, Men Behaving Badly) is forced to retrain as a GP and relocate to the charming seaside village of Portwenn. Dour, discourteous, and dismissive, he immediately clashes with Portwenn’s quirky villagers. In these four complete series, Doc Martin catches the eye of the most beautiful woman in Portwenn (Caroline Catz, Murder in Suburbia), tests the patience of his long-suffering aunt (Stephanie Cole, Tenko), and repeatedly hurts feelings as he heals bodies. Martin Clunes delivers an uproarious lead performance, aided by an outstanding supporting cast, in this award-winning fish-out-of-water comedy. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)



Growing Pains: The Complete Second Season

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Presented in a 3-disc set from Warner Home Video, the second season of Growing Pains makes its way to DVD five years after the first! For fans, this is certainly great news. Here is a synopsis from the press release: “Mike (Kirk Cameron) receives a car from his pleased parents after he's named Employee of the Month. (So how's he going to tell them he's been canned?) Mike's not the only one with secrets. Brainy Carol (Tracey Gold) wants everyone to think she has a romantic extracurricular life with a hunky football hero. And what's up with 10-year-old Ben (Jeremy Miller) and those 67 calls to a sex line? (No, it's not what you might think.) These events don't all happen at the same time, but they do all happen at the same place: the Season 2 home-sweet-ho-ho-home of the Seavers - dad Jason (Alan Thicke), mom Maggie (Joanna Kerns), and three on-the-go kids. Jason works as a psychiatrist. You think maybe it's time to add some family appointments to his calendar?”  

–written by Dennis Crane



The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner

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This Oscar-nominated documentary is both a poignant profile of former Gov. Booth Gardner as he battles the physical and mental onslaught of Parkinson's Disease; and an exploration of the contentious debate between proponents and foes of Initiative 1000; a controversial bill championed by Gardner that put assisted suicide to a vote in the State of Washington during the 2008 election. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com) 


Straight and Butch (Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon.)

In 2007, popular, gay Philadelphia TV host Butch Cordora (In Bed with Butch) had a vision: to publish a calendar that recreates iconic photos in pop culture. The catch? The photos would feature Butch along side a cast of exclusively straight male models. The second catch? They would all be posing nude. Watch as Butch and his team of photographers. models and assistants strive to restage everything from Rolling Stone covers to Beatles album art, all the while confronting public indecency laws, a painstaking model search, and creative conflicts - not to mention occasional stage front. Straight and Butch presents an often-hilarious behind-the-scenes glimpse of the creative process as it uncovers the naked truth about how much common ground exists between men who play on different teams. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)



Testees: The Complete Series 

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This former FX comedy series follows the lives of two down-on-their-luck roommates who volunteer as guinea pigs for a testing facility and then must (comically) deal with the consequences from the side effects.  This 2-disc DVD set collects all the show’s episodes from E One Entertainment.  

–written by Dennis Crane



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