Arguably the year’s most polarizing movie (so far), even so there can be no denying the magnificence of Liam Neeson’s performance, somewhat of a minor surprise considering how much he’s been slumming in high profile big budget crud of late (Wrath of the Titans, Battleship). As for the film itself, here’s what I wrote back in January (read my full review here): “Joe Carnahan’s The Grey is easily the filmmaker’s most intriguing, unusual and risky effort by a long shot. Light years better than either The A-Team or Smokin’ Aces yet while not reaching the same plane of excellence as the director’s stupendous Narc, this movie is nonetheless a fascinating, not always successful existential survivalist thriller worthy of a cheer or two. Never quite going where you expect it to, following convention only to shatter it a few moments later, building to the type of ethereal, obtuse climax Stanley Kubrick, Jack London or Terrence Malick would be proud of, the movie is an incredible and bewildering mess, coming oh so close to glory yet never quite achieving it.” Don’t misunderstand my reticence, I’m giving this film a hearty recommendation, flaws and all; it deserves to be seen.
From my February theatrical review (read it here): “Director Josh Trank, who also came up with the story with screenwriter Max Landis (son of American Werewolf in London director John), has done a pretty great job of shaking up both the ‘found footage’ and superhero genres with his debut feature-length effort. The movie is surprisingly character-based, using stock figures from a John Hughes High School comedy only to give them all more depth and nuance then you’d typically expect for something of this sort… Chronicle [is] a heck of a lot more fun than it arguably has a right to be.”
Beyond epic, Bernardo Bertolucci’s sprawling 1976 effort 1900 (Novecento) is easily one of the more celebrated and ambitious ‘flawed’ masterpieces ever made. Featuring a gigantic international cast (including Burt Lancaster, Robert De Niro, Gerard Depardieu, Sterling Hayden, Donald Sutherland and Dominique Sanda) and covering roughly about seven decades of Italian history (the film begins on Jan. 1. 1900), this five-plus hour effort is one of those staggering achievements that needs to be seen to be believed. Is it perfect? Heck no. Is it mesmerizing? In every sense. In other words, for cineastes eager to see a master craftsman at work I’d recommend giving this three-disc set (two Blu-rays, one DVD) a look without delay.
I never got around to reviewing Albert Nobbs when it was released theatrically. That was lazy on my part, this I know, but at the same time it sort of says volumes for the movie itself. Nominated for three Academy Awards (and arguably should have one for Janet McTeer’s stunning supporting performance), nonetheless this is a bizarrely forgettable drama that’s never quite as interesting as it should be. Star Glenn Close (also nominated for an Oscar) does her best, and director Rodrigo Garcia (Mother and Child) is hardly a hack, but the story at the center of all of this is as inert and as dry as an overcooked piece of flatbread, and no matter how initially intriguing as the scenario might be (woman poses as a man in 19th century Ireland in order to survive in a male-dominated profession) the subsequent motion picture never quite rises to the occasion.
One for the Money
Okay, so One for the Money, the adaptation of Janet Evanovich’s popular first novel detailing the seemingly never-ending adventures of New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, isn’t a great movie, but it’s hardly the disaster I was led to believe it was back in January. Katherine Heigl is perfectly cast in the title role, and the movie, directed by Julie Anne Robinson (The Last Song), moves at a healthy enough pace it manages to hide some, not all, of the screenplay’s numerous shortcomings. It’s a throwaway piece of pop entertainment that feels more like a made-for-cable mystery than it does a feature-length enterprise, which in other words means it is a perfect rainy day rental when the laundry is piling up and the dishes need washing. For more on the film, check out my Blu-ray Review.
Director Oren Moverman follows up his Oscar-nominated The Messenger with this aggressively messy and highly assertive Rampart, the chronicle of a Los Angeles cop (spectacularly portrayed by Woody Harrelson) who’s nearly as venal and disgusting as the criminals he hunts down. The movie is like a Bad Lieutenant for the new millennium (even if the movie is set in 1999), fearlessly getting as ugly as it wants to be and as depressingly downbeat as dares all to showcase a character whose shades of grey are as coal black as the coming darkness attempting to surround him in its tragic embrace. Not for the faint of heart, movie deserves to be seen all the same.
New York Stories
New York Stories is the ambitious omnibus motion picture brought to life by Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese back in 1989 while White Squall is the high seas misadventure from 1996 staring Jeff Bridges as the ill-fated captain of a vessel containing a number of teenagers directed by Ridley Scott. Great directors all, both films are nonetheless fascinating failures fans of all four should make it a point to watch. Each is filled with incredibly moments, Allen’s portion of New York Stories is especially close to brilliant, but neither lives up to their massive potential, becoming nothing more than fascinating footnotes in the careers of filmmakers whose prior and subsequent achievements more than speak for themselves.
The Odessa File
Based on the novel by Frederick Forsyth, director Ronald Neame’s (The Poseidon Adventure) take on The Odessa File is as solid as they come. Although never quite as engaging as it might be, the movie is still a cagey tale of suspense chronicling the efforts of German journalist Peter Miller (a perfectly cast Jon Voight) trying to uncover the whereabouts of a former Nazi SS commandant (Maximillian Schell) responsible for the murder of tens of thousands at a Concentration Camp during WWII. Takes a little while to get going, and Miller is something of a frustrating enigma much of the way through, for those unfamiliar with the novel the film nonetheless offers up numerous twists and turns building to the type of devastating gut-punch of a conclusion the author is widely known for.
Ken Burns’ (The Civil War) massive and mesmerizing chronicle of WWII The War comes to Blu-ray, and while I’m not altogether certain this 15-hour miniseries needed a hi-def upgrade I’m certainly glad it has gotten one all the same. If you already own The War, I can’t tell you to fork over the bucks for an upgrade. However, if you do not, and if you are even passingly interested in the subject matter contained within, I couldn’t urge the picking of it up more vociferously if I tried. Put plain and simple, this set is magnificent, and to my mind worth every penny of the purchase price.
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES
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· Before and After
· Born Yesterday (1993)
· Bringing Down the House
· D.O.A. (1988)
· Father of the Bride / Father of the Bride Part II
· Gone Fishin’
· The Grand Duel / Keoma
· Hell on Wheels – The Complete First Season
· Holy Man
· Mr. Wrong
· The Order (2001)
· Road Trip (Best Buy Exclusive) (Read Mitchell's Blu-ray Review)
· Terminal Velocity
· The Walking Tall Trilogy
· The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake
NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
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The Devil Inside
Haven’t seen it, review copy never arrived, so I don’t have much to say here. What I’ve head, however, is that this little ‘found footage’ horror enterprise starts great, is filled with some truly unsettling moments and has arguably the worst ending of any film made the past five or so years (a high bar indeed).
Man on a Mission: Richard Garriott's Road to the Stars
From my theatrical review (read it here): “[While] I’d have no problem recommending viewers take a look at Man on a Mission when it does inevitably end up on PBS or becomes available on Netflix instant play for the life of me I can’t urge people to spend their dollars on the exorbitant price of even a matinee ticket. This documentary reaches for the stars but never grabs hold of them, and for as much as I can relate to Garriott’s dreams watching him realize them almost put me to sleep.”
From my theatrical review (read it here): “Tran Anh Hung’s beautiful if mystifying Norwegian Wood is a perplexing enigma desperately searching for a way to ground its sprawling esoteric story of heartbreak, resilience, tragedy and love in some sort of way that will resonate in on more than a superficial level. The acclaimed writer/director of such masterworks as The Scent of Green Papaya and Cyclo does what he can to bring Haruki Murakami’s acclaimed novel to life, going out of his way to make it cinematically transcendent, and while moments do indeed soar into the heavens on the whole all the nebulous bits and pieces never quite assemble themselves in a way that’s entirely satisfying.”
We Were Here
A seriously fantastic documentary looking at the early days of the AIDS crisis in San Francisco during the 1980’s and ‘90s, this a moving and emotionally cathartic motion picture that refrains from any sort of self-pity or maudlin over-emotionalism making it a stirring chronicle that should be watched by just about everyone. Amazing.
Dragonslayer documents the transgressions of a lost skate punk falling in love in the stagnant suburbs of Fullerton, California in the aftermath of America's economic collapse. Taking the viewer through a golden SoCal haze of broken homes, abandoned swimming pools and stray glimpses of unusual beauty, Dragonslayer captures the life and times of Josh 'Skreech' Sandoval, a local skate legend and new father, as his endless summer finally collides with the future. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
During the Rwandan genocide in 1994, when neighbors killed neighbors and friends betrayed friends, some crossed lines of hatred to protect each other. As the country became a slaughterhouse, mosques became places of refuge where Muslims and Christians, Hutus and Tutsis came together to protect each other. Kinyarwanda interweaves six different tales that together form one grand narrative that provides the most complex and real depiction yet presented of human resilience and life during the genocide. With an amalgamation of characters, director Alrick Brown's moving film pays homage to many, using the voices of a few. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Michael, a seemingly meek insurance agent, has a secret: he's holding 10-year-old Wolfgang captive in a locked room in his basement. Chronicling a five month period, director Markus Schleinzer creates a tense portrait of how the most mundane lives can mask the ugliest truths. With rich cinematic detail and unnerving insight, Michael is a masterfully executed study of a monster. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
My Piece of the Pie
After losing her job at the local factory, single mother France (Karin Viard) enrolls in a housekeeper training program and lands a job cleaning the apartment of wealthy power broker Steve (Gilles Lellouche, Tell No One, Little White Lies). When Alban, Steve's 3-year-old son, arrives on the doorstep to stay with his dad, Steve soon realizes he might need more than a cleaner. And France realizes she might now have the perfect opportunity for payback against the man who almost single-handedly shut down the factory where she worked. Director Cedric Klapisch (Paris, Russian Dolls) crafts a winning dramatic comedy with My Piece Of The Pie, in which the gaps between social classes are often much smaller than they seem. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Directed by Emmy-Award-winning filmmakers Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine (Ballets Russes), Something Ventured maps the creation of an industry that went on to become the single greatest engine of innovation and economic growth in the 20th century. The story is told through the visionary risk-takers who dared to make it happen: Tom Perkins, Don Valentine, Arthur Rock, Dick Kramlich and others. The film also features some of the country's finest entrepreneurs and their stories with the venture capitalists to grow world-class companies like Intel, Apple, Cisco, Atari, Genentech, Tandem and others. Beginning in the late 1950s, this small group of high rollers fostered a one-of-a-kind business culture that encouraged extraordinary risk and made possible unprecedented rewards. They laid the groundwork for America's start-up economy-providing not just the capital but also the guidance to allow seedling companies to reach their full potential. Our lives would be dramatically different without the contributions that these venture capitalists made to the creation of PCs, the Internet and life-saving drugs. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Wind power... it's sustainable, it burns no fossil fuels, it produces no air pollution. What's more, it cuts down dependency on foreign oil. That's what the people of Meredith, NY first thought when a wind developer looked to supplement the rural farm town's failing economy with a farm of their own -- that of 40 industrial wind turbines. But when a group of townspeople discover the impacts that a 400-foot high windmill could bring to their community, Meredith's residents become deeply divided as they fight over the future of their community. With wind development in the United States growing annually at 39 percent, Windfall is an eye-opener for anyone concerned about the environment and the future of renewable energy. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
OTHER NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
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· Flashpoint: The Fourth Season
· Treasure Houses of Britain
· Victorious: The Complete Second Season
NOTABLE NEW BLU-RAY ANNOUNCEMENTS
· A Thousand Words (June 26, 2012)
· High Noon (July 17, 2012)
· Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) (July 17, 2012)
· Singin’ in the Rain – 60th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition (July 17, 2012)
· Grand Illusion (July 31, 2012)
· Total Recall – Mind-Bending Edition (July 31, 2012)
· Adventures in Babysitting (Aug 7, 2012)
· Blue Like Jazz (Aug 7, 2012)
· Grosse Pointe Blank (Aug 7, 2012)
· High Fidelity (Aug 7, 2012)
· Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion (Aug 7, 2012)
· Once Upon a Time – The Complete First Season (Aug 28, 2012)