Catalog titles dominate todayís new release column, as does the announcement that Barnes & Nobleís 50%-off Criterion sale has begun and will run throughout the rest of the month. But there is one notable exception as far as newer titles are concerned, and itís a doozy. In fact, had I seen this picture in 2011, thereís a strong possibility it might have unseated A Separation as my pick for the best film of the entire year.
Hereís what I wrote about this one earlier this year (read my full review here): ď[Margaret] isnít a near-masterpiece, it is in fact an instant one, and quite frankly had I seen it in 2011 it would have likely been number two or three on my list of the best films of the prior year. [Writer/director Kenneth] Lonergan beat me up, assaulted me, stripped me bare and left all my expectations of self and of sacrifice there on the theatre floor for all to see. At the same time, he elevated and elated me, got me to experience emotional plateaus I hadnít in ages, taking me back to the netherworld of teenage adulthood where the two joined together so furiously one could never be quite sure if they would ever rip themselves apart.Ē Without question, this movie is remarkable. Available exclusively (at the time being) through Amazon, this two-disc set also comes with a DVD containing Lonerganís 180-minute directorís cut and I personally cannot wait to give it a look.
Chariots of Fire
You know the music, but you might have forgotten just how wonderful this Academy Award-winning Best Picture still is. With the Olympics starting in just a handful of weeks now seems like the perfect time to revisit this moving sports-themed classic. In fact, as soon as I can get my hands on a copy Iíll be doing just that myself.
Altered States, Brainstorm, Coma, Outland
Four minor science fiction sensations from the Warner Bros vaults, each with their own plusses, minuses and backstories. The best of the bunch? Probably Michael Crichtonís Coma, itís at the very least the most consistently engaging (if now a bit dated). My personal favorite? Peter Hymasí interstellar remake of High Noon, Outland, with Sean Connery. The movie is a total kick in the pants and, to my mind at least, severely underrated. Most intriguing? Douglas Trumbullís visually audacious Brainstorm, a movie that borders on becoming a masterpiece until the cluttered and unfocused final third most due to the sudden and tragic death of star Natalie Wood before filming had finished. Totally whack-a-doo and complete unhinged? That would be Ken Russellís Altered States, his adaptation of the Paddy Chayevskyís novel as crazily bizarre as anything Iíve honestly ever seen. All four are recommended, but even at the low price-point you might want to rent before buying as, like Iíve already stated, all are not without their flaws.
Blade II, Spawn
Two more from Warner making their Blu-ray debuts, this pair of R-rated New Line Cinema comic book adaptations certainly have their fan bases, thatís for sure. For my money, itís Guillermo del Toroís wonderful Blade II thatís the gem of this particular ball, the man easily crafting the best film in the trilogy and the only one Iíd ever even consider adding to my personal library. As for Spawn, the less said about this 1997 release the better, and for the life of me I canít think of anyone I know who has every actually admitted to enjoying a single second of it.
From my theatrical review (read it here): ďIím struck by just how freeze-dried all of this feelsÖItís like Hurwitz and Schlossberg were so scared of shaking things up they ended up not even trying to do anything original. Sure they get their R-rating, yes they manage to fill the screen with nudity and gross-out nastiness, but to what effect? Walking out there just didnít seem to be any point to bringing everyone back for this fourth go-around, American Reunion proof that sometimes going home again isnít as good idea as itís purported to be.Ē
From my theatrical review (read it here): ď[When writer/director Paul] Weitz gets things right, when the emotions are true and the motivations feel genuine, I couldnít take my eyes off of the screen. I could relate to the Flynns, could understand the internal battles probably much better than I should probably admit. [Being Flynn] is a movie I know Iíll see again; more than that, I want to see it again. Itís captured a corner of a my imagination, getting me to think like I havenít in ages, and for all my mixed feelings those are traits Iíll happily celebrate now and until the end of time.Ē For more on the movie check out my interview with writer/director Paul Weitz.
The Flowers of War
Zhang Yimouís latest didnít find a lot of traction with either critics or audiences (Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Language Film aside), and not even the presence of current Batman Christian Bale helped out on either of those particular fronts. The movie is a sprawling, somewhat unfocused, visually stunning and, sadly, dramatically inert look at the 1937 invasion and subsequent massacre in Nanjing, and while Yimou once again splashed indelible images across the screen that continually mesmerize the rest of the movie sadly something of a 140-minute bore.
Cover Girl Ė Twilight Time
Sony once again packages another of its catalog titles over to the folks at Screen Archives Entertainment as part of their limited edition Twilight Time label, the lucky winner this time around the 1944 Technicolor musical Cover Girl with Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly. Iíve always loved this movie, and while I would have rather had more in the way of special features and extras (this deserved more than a bare-bones release, thatís for sure) once again Twilight Time has done an exemplary job as far as picture and sound are concerned. And, seriously, who couldnít help but love an isolated soundtrack where it comes to this particular picture, Jerome Kern and Ira Gershwin simply outdoing themselves as far as the songs and score are concerned. Even at the price, this Blu-ray comes highly recommended.
OTHER NOTABLE BLU-RAY RELEASES
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∑ The Astronautís Wife
∑ Bitch Slap
∑ Cherry Bomb
∑ Dark Nemesis
∑ The Devilís Needle and Other Tales of Vice and Redemption
∑ The Saphead
∑ Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines Ė Twilight Time
∑ Twins of Evil
NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
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I Kissed a Vampire
What started out as a semi-popular web series available on iTunes somehow managed to become a feature length musical, and the results, if I am attempting to be kind, bordered on dreadful. This Glee meets Twilight meets The Rocky Horror Picture Show amalgamation played during the 2010 Seattle International Film Festival (I even interviewed the two male leads) and, whoa, nelly, but was this film bad. Not sexy. Not funny. Not scary. Filled with relatively horrible songs. It just didnít work. At all. Not once. Consider yourself warned.
Seven Minutes in Heaven
Devastating Israeli import that brought me to honesty earned tears, this drama revolves around a horrific attack on a bus leaving countless dead and one woman, Galia (Reymond Amsalem), without her memory. Moving in ways you donít expect, breathless romantic, the movie builds to a remarkable conclusion that had me on the edge of cheers. Without a doubt, this is one of the weekís most impressive, and decidedly recommendable, releases.
David Arquette delivers a stunning, dramatic performance as Jack MacKenzie, a divorced father, recovering alcoholic and former hotshot Hollywood composer now working as a limousine driver. Still trying to cope with the tragic accident that cost him his marriage and career, Jack lives in a world of creative frustration, economic desperation and deep emotional pain. But when he becomes obsessed with a sexy, yet equally unstable, model/actress (Bijou Phillips of Raising Hope and Hostel: Part II), Jack's life will veer towards the very edge of madness. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Rino loves women. He loves how they look and how they smell and how they feel. Or, at least he s confident that he would love how they smell and feel if he ever got close enough to find out. Overweight, clumsy and socially awkward, Rino has never worked up the nerve to actually talk to any of them. When his parents decide to rent out the guest room he finally meets the girl of his dreams. Rino must embark on a path of self-discovery to conquer his fears of the opposite sex or forever remain a virgin. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Making Plans for Lena
His most successful film yet in his native France, Making Plans for Lena finds acclaimed auteur Christophe Honorť (Love Songs, Dans Paris) in top form with this rapturously sprawling family saga that veers from painful to funny to painfully funny expertly capturing all the feints and digs that pass for conversation at when loved ones reunite. Recently liberated from her job and husband, Lena (the captivating Chiara Mastroianni) heads home to Brittany with her two children to escape the chaos of Paris. But no such luck: from the moment she arrives she is confronted with unwanted advice, character analysis (that borders on character assassination) and a few other unexpected surprises. Alternately brusque and vulnerable, Mastroianni (Persepolis) has never been better, radiating a deceptive calm at the center of this emotional storm. The stellar cast also includes Marie-Christine Barrault (Oscar nominee, Cousin Cousine), Marina FoÔs, Jean Marc-Barr (Dancer in the Dark) and French heartthrob Louis Garrel (The Dreamers). (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
OTHER NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
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∑ Adventure Time: The Complete First Season
∑ Dark Shadows: The Complete Original Series Ė Deluxe Edition
∑ The Glades: The Complete Second Season
∑ Warehouse 13 Ė Season Thee
NOTABLE NEW BLU-RAY ANNOUNCEMENTS
∑ Marley (Aug 7, 2012)
∑ Spaceballs Ė 25th Anniversary Edition (Aug 7, 2012)
∑ Battleship (Aug 28, 2012)
∑ Darling Companion (Aug 28, 2012)
∑ The Cabin in the Woods (Sept 18, 2012)
∑ Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection (Dracula / DrŠcula / Frankenstein / Bride of Frankenstein / The Wolf Man / The Mummy / The Invisible Man / Phantom of the Opera / Creature from the Black Lagoon) (Oct 2, 2012)
∑ Prometheus (Oct. 9, 2012)
∑ Terror Train (Oct 16, 2012)
∑ The Funhouse (Oct. 16, 2012)