New Blu's On the Block - 5/03/2011


Rating: Various

Distributor: Various

Released: May 3, 2011


Written by Sara Michelle Fetters





New Blu's On the Block
Blu-ray and DVD Releases for May 3, 2011


This week brings a pretty diverse lineup to Blu-ray, but a slew of titles you’ll maybe notice that are NOT mentioned are all of the re-releases of Miramax and Dimension catalog titles by Echo Bridge Entertainment. As far as I know only four of these are new to Blu-ray, while the rest feature the exact same features and transfers as previous editions. The exceptions are all listed in the ‘Other Notable Release’ section, but otherwise there’s not a lot to talk about as far as these titles are concerned.


With that, on to this week’s major releases!




The Green Hornet (3D Blu-ray Combo)

The Green Hornet (Blu-ray)

From my original January 2011 theatrical review (read it here): “Based on the famous 1940’s radio series created by George W. Trendle, as well as the 1966-67 television program with Bruce Lee and Van Williams, the new action-comedy The Green Hornet is a piece of comic book superhero tedium I found borderline insufferable. Executive produced, co-written (with fellow Superbad and Pineapple Express scribe Evan Goldberg) and starring Seth Rogen, the bullet-riddled mess of a motion picture isn’t so much awful as it is boring. It almost put me to sleep, and considering just how many explosions, near-escapes, fireballs, rockets and cracked heads it packs into its almost two-hour running time leading this viewer to the edge of narcolepsy is a pretty nifty trick.” I truly detested this one, and I can’t tell you how happy I am a review copy wasn’t sent my way and I didn’t have to watch it again.



Smiles of a Summer Night

Ingmar Bergman’s first international success (after gaining mostly local acclaim for his first 15 films) 1955’s spellbinding comedy Smiles of a Summer Night gets the Criterion Blu-ray upgrade treatment and results are typically spectacular. While special features mirror the original DVD release, picture and audio quality for this ribald and hilarious farce have never been better. I just received this over the weekend so expect a full review of the title in the next couple of days.



Fat Girl

For whatever reason, I have never seen French auteur Catherine Breillat’s 2001 effort Fat Girl. I’ve heard all of the extraordinary things said about, saw how many critics lists it made for both the top ten of its year as well as for being one of the best motion pictures released between 2000 and 2009, and yet I’ve just never been able to bring myself to try and stomach it. Now Criterion upgrades the title to high definition for its Blu-ray debut and, even though I sadly did not receive a review copy, I think I finally have to bite the bullet and give this supposedly unsettling drama of sisters, sexuality and deception a look.



The Dilemma

From my original January 2011 review (read it here): “[The movie is] just way too uneven, too masochistically sexist and startlingly homophobic for the good to outweigh the bad. It is a movie I can appreciate for the attempt but roast over the coals thanks to its execution. [Director Ron] Howard tries to get back to his character-driven comedy roots, endeavored to change things up after two Dan Brown adaptations and a very dark, and very good, Western people for whatever reason refused to appreciate. That’s great, and I applaud him for that, but just because I do that doesn’t mean The Dilemma is cause for celebration.”



Being Human: Season 3

Hot on the heels of the SyFy Channel’s American remake, the original UK “Being Human” returns to DVD and Blu-ray for a third gripping season. Leaving the memories of their much-loved former house behind, George, Nina and Mitchell settle into their new home - a kitschy B&B named Honolulu Heights that boasts many benefits for supernatural types… a large basement providing safe haven on a full moon, for starters. Season three boasts an impressive array of guest-stars, including Lacey Turner (“EastEnders”) as Lia, who Mitchell meets in Purgatory, Robson Green (“Wire In The Blood”) as primitive werewolf McNair, Michael Socha (“This Is England '86”) as McNair's son Tom, Paul Kaye (“It's All Gone Pete Tong”) as twisted vampire Vincent, Craig Roberts (Young Dracula) as teenage vampire Adam; Nicola Walker (“MI-5”) as social worker Wendy, James Fleet (“The Vicar of Dibley”) as George's father; and Jason Watkins making an eventful return as vampire leader Herrick. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)



Mao’s Last Dancer

Director Bruce Beresford’s (Driving Miss Daisy, Black Robe) latest effort is the inspirational true story of Li Cunxin, a Chinese ballet dancer who was forcefully inducted into the Beijing Dance Academy at 11, earned a scholarship to study dance in the United States at 18, married a U.S. citizen a few years later so he could remain in the country, eventually had his Chinese citizenship revoked and was forbade from ever re-entering the country, joined the prestigious Australian Ballet in 1995 and ultimately was allowed to return to China and returned to his home village in triumph. I missed Mao’s Last Dancer when it played theatrically last year, but as a review copy is supposedly forthcoming hopefully I’ll finally get a look at it sometime within the next week. The disc is currently a Target exclusive release so it is not available for purchase on Amazon at this time.



Twelve O’Clock High

Gregory Peck classic from 1949 about a hardened WWII general who must transform a select group of uncouth and ill-mannered Americans into heroic tough-as-nails bomber pilots, this movie is a high-flying adventure classic I can’t wait to get a look at in high definition. Sadly, a review copy was not sent over from the gang at Fox so I’ll have to add it to the Netflix queue in order to do just that.




All the Right Moves


A pair of early Tom Cruise favorites, the former showcasing the rising star as an embittered High School quarterback with dreams of leaving his small Pennsylvania behind who butts heads with his strong-willed coach (Craig T. Nelson) while the latter puts him in the middle of a star-studded ensemble (including Sean Penn, Timothy Hutton and George C. Scott) about a group of military cadets who take over their school with tragic consequences.



Murdoch Mysteries: Season 3

With a total of 25 Gemini nominations to its credit, this sharp, sophisticated mystery series features Yannick Bisson (“Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye”) as William Murdoch, a Toronto police detective at the cutting edge of Victorian science. Together with a forward-thinking pathologist (Gemini-winner Hélène Joy, “Durham County”), he applies revolutionary criminology techniques to crack the toughest cases. This season finds Murdoch making the acquaintance of H.G. Wells, teaming up a second time with Nikola Tesla, investigating art forgery and using the fledgling science of psychology to out the era’s most elusive murderers. Based on novels by Maureen Jennings. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)



From Prada to Nada

Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility gets a Mexican-American spin Camilla Belle and Alexa Vega portray a pair of relatively spoiled sister who suddenly find themselves penniless after their father’s sudden death and are forced to relocate to East L.A. and live with their estranged aunt (the great Adriana Barraza). This is a rather well-intentioned if not especially involving reworking of the source material, and while Belle is quite wonderful as the older, more reasonable sister former Spy Kid star Vega is completely out of dramatic element in just about every scene. You can read more in my forthcoming Blu-ray review of the title, a review I’ll hopefully have up in the next day or so.










A Somewhat Gentle Man

Wonderful Norwegian comedy starring Stellan Skarsgård as a recently paroled small time criminal who has just spent 12 years behind bars for committing a murder ordered by his former boss Jensen (Bjørn Floberg). After he gets set up mechanic, things begin to spiral more and more out of control as he enters into an affair with a married woman inadvertently returning to criminal life in the process. Perceptive, witty and very funny, this latest effort by acclaimed director Hans Petter Moland (Zero Kelvin) gets the job thanks to a strong script and an effortless wonderful performance from veteran Skarsgård. Easily the week’s most notable (and can’t-miss) release to hit DVD.




My second favorite DVD release of the week is this awesome BBC series starring Keeley Hawes (“MI-5”), Aidan Gillen (“The Wire”), Shaun Parkes (“The Inspector Lynley Mysteries”) and Holly Aird (“Waking the Dead”) about an elite investigate unit taking on cases revolving around identity theft. It’s exciting, intelligent a ton of fun to watch, each of these six tightly-wound episodes completely engaging. Gillen knocks it out of the park as a former undercover detective with a unique appreciation and understanding of the crime the team is investigating, while the steely Hawes presides over her group of detectives with Helen Mirren-like grace and ferocity.




Bloomington is a coming-of-age drama about a former child actress attending college in search of independence and who ends up becoming romantically involved with a female professor. Their relationship thrives until an opportunity to return to acting forces her to make life-altering decisions. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)



Drop Dead Diva: The Complete Second Season

For Jane Bingham, life really is more wonderful the second time around in this wild second season of the breakthrough comedic drama hit. Just when she’s ready to move on from her former existence as a shallow wannabe model and accept her sudden reincarnation as a plus-size, brilliant attorney, Jane gets thrown a whole new set of curves, including a hottie love interest, the shocking arrival of her “secret” husband, the discovery of a half-sister and a career-threatening courtroom showdown. Once again, Jane must chart a bold, new future for herself. Among the guest stars: Paula Abdul, Chad Lowe, Vivica A. Fox, David Denman, Devon Gummersal, Robin Givens, Cybill Shepherd and Natasha Henstridge. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)



Sync or Swim

Though synchronized swimming may strike some as a marginalized, even obscure sport, for others it clocks in as a way of life - particularly for the committed young ladies who aggressively train to make a spot on the U.S. Olympics Synchronized Swim Team. Cheryl Furjanic's documentary Sync or Swim provides a firsthand depiction of nine of these women as they undergo day-by-day training, attempting to perfect an excruciatingly difficult routine where split-second timing is everything. Over the course of the journey, the women must also band together to show emotional support to a member of the team who is rebounding from a sudden and utterly devastating personal crisis. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)






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