New Blu's On the Block - 7/26/2011


Rating: Various

Distributor: Various

Released: July 26, 2011


Written by Sara Michelle Fetters





New Blu's On the Block
Blu-ray and DVD Releases for July 26, 2011


Under a time crunch this week so keeping this intro short. There are some great titles worthy of checking out, however, quite a few of them oneís Iíd even suggest buying sight unseen.



High and Low

Akira Kurosawaís High and Low is another of the directorís magnificent triumphs. The central story focuses industrialist Kingo Gondo (Toshiro Mifune), a driven man on the verge of a major coup that will take him to the top of his profession. But when he believes his son has been kidnapped, everything is suddenly put on hold as the safety of his only child becomes his major concern. Yet there is a twist, and it is a major one, and it colors everything that happens for the next two or so hours of film. Gondo descends into a world culturally light years from his own, Kurosawa pointing a spotlight on Japanese culture and class divisions in a way that is pointed, powerful and emotionally potent.


Iíll have a full review of this title up soon, but until then just know this is another triumphant Blu-ray release from Criterion, and one I think viewers, especially those found of Kurosawa, should pick up the moment it went on sale.



Source Code

Source Code is one of the more enjoyable and thought-provoking pulp entertainments thatís come out of Hollywood this year. In my original theatrical review (read it here) I wrote, ď[Director Duncan] Jones has constructed a thoroughly entertaining jaunt worthy of multiple viewings. On one hand discussing complicated theoretical scientific possibilities, on the other nothing more than a mismatched love story filled with witty verbal repartee, the movie is a joyous frolic thatís as intriguing as it is agreeable.Ē Nothingís changed. I still feel the same way. Itís an awesome movie that just get more and more fun the second (and third, maybe even fourth) time around.


For more on the film, check out my Interview with Director Duncan Jones first posted back in April. Also check out Mitchellís recently posted Blu-ray Review, and while heís not as enamored with it as I am he still thinks the Moon filmmakerís sophomore effort is awfully good and highly worthwhile.




Animal House

The Blues Brothers

Two comedy classics Iíve never quite got the undying passion behind both make their Blu-ray debuts. I seriously doubt I need to say all that much about either film. If youíre a fan, youíll be buying both of these discs right away; if youíre not, youíre probably wondering why Iím spending so much time talking about them.



Winter in Wartime

I didnít have a lot new to add when I wrote my Blu-ray Review of Winter in Wartime other than what Iíd already stated in my original theatrical review (read it here). As I said back in April, ď[The] movie works because the central story works, [director Martin] Koolhoven keeping the focus on Michiel right where it belongs. This is his coming of age journey, his story of what war can do to a child, his wintertime growth to a far too quickly realized adulthood and watching it hit me right in the heart.Ē In short, itís a very good WWII coming of age adventure, and one interested viewers would be well advised to take a look at.



Lťon Morin, Priest

Intriguing, absorbing, sometimes infuriating, almost always fascinating drama from director Jean-Pierre Melville (Le Cercle Rouge, Army of Shadows) starring the great Jean-Paul Belmondo, this WWII drama about faith and sacrifice in the middle of inhuman aggression is an intricately layered curiosity. Beautifully photographed, spectacularly acted, Iím still not entirely sure what I was supposed to take away from this one after it was over, Melville crafting a wispy ghost-like parable that fades in and out of the viewerís consciousness like steam rising from a boiling pot of water. It is marvelous and frustrating, terrifying and maudlin, the whole thing a breathless foray into the human condition that is as unforgettable as it is polarizing. Iíll have a full review of this Criterion release up soon.



Life During Wartime

Whoa, Nelly, Iím not at all sure what to write about this one. Todd Solondzís latest annoyed me to no end when I first saw it last summer during the 2010 Seattle International Film Festival, my distaste for this pseudo-sequel to Happiness driving me so around the bend I listed it as one of the worst ten flicks of the entire year. Back then I wrote (read my original theatrical review here), ďLife During Wartime is the kind of film that leaves me scratching me head wondering what the person behind it was thinking in the first place. Itís the kind of movie I donít so much hate as find not worthy of even discussing, Solondz quickly becoming a misery-selling afterthought I no longer want to give the time of day.Ē


A full year later I have watched Life During Wartime again. I still do not like it, but my hate and vitriol has cooled a bit, and I do give Criterion credit for assembling such an amazing Blu-ray. Can I recommend it? No. Do I regret listing it as one of 2010ís worst? Sort of. Maybe. Iím not entirely sure.




This David Schwimmer directorial effort starring Clive Owen and Katherine Keener is something of a knockout. The disc arrived just yesterday for me to take a look at, but even after one late-night viewing Iím kind of shocked it didnít earn any more traction when it played film festivals late last year and am kind of shocked it didnít get more of a theatrical showcase. A timely story, one filled with heart, pain and real human emotion, Owen is spectacular here, while the rest of the supporting cast, including newcomer Liana Liberato, acquit themselves nicely. Iíll have more to say in my forthcoming Blu-ray review, an article I hope to have written in the next couple of days.



Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is ďAngelĒ meets The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon in this mediocre adaptation of what I guess is a fairly popular comic book series staring Brandon Routh as a supernatural detective who once upon a time was charged with maintaining the piece between vampires, werewolves and zombies on the streets of New Orleans. The movie is relatively well cast but offers up nothing in the way of imagination, suspense, humor or scares, everything building to a highly forgettable conclusion that had me yawning in boredom. Iíll maybe write up a full review of the Blu-ray if I have time, but the bottom line here is that, even for genre fans who usually go for this sort of thing, Dylan Dog is a mangy mongrel of a mess I couldnít even recommend as a rental.




Deeply unsettling Chinese ghost story that I didnít expect to enjoy near as much as I did, Matrimony is an incredibly creepy tale of woe and love (not necessarily in that order) that got under my skin and gave me the shivers. Beautifully, and eerily, photographed, this engrossing import gets the job done and then some, and horror fans looking for something of substance guaranteed to help them get their scare on should look no further than this.












Bodyguards and Assassins

Wonderful historical epic from director Donnie Yen that gets the blood racing, stops the heart and playfully toys with the intellect. Filled with eye-popping actions scenes that are beyond extraordinary, the movie is ultimately a very human saga of courage, faith and commitment set against the backdrop of a China on the verge of monumental change. Highly recommended.





From my original theatrical review posted back in March (read it here): ďThe central story itself never came to life for me like it should have, the pretentiousness of some of the dialogue and the constant self-possessed whining of the two main characters irking me to far too great an extent for the filmís strengths to outweigh its weaknesses. [Filmmaker Xavier] Dolan is on the way to becoming a major talent, that much is true, but just because thatís so it doesnít also mean Heartbeats is a movie Iím willing to recommend.Ē



Scream of the Banshee (After Dark Original)

From my DVD Review of the title: ďI got to tell you, as far as Lionsgateís continuing lineup of After Dark Originals are concerned Scream of the Banshee didnít do a heck of a lot for me. As far as supernatural B-grade monster movies go, the initial setup for this one is perfectly fine, itís what happens after the title creature is unleashed where I begin to have some problems. The bottom line here is that the movie isnít scary, isnít suspenseful and, in the end, isnít all that interesting, and other than a couple of inventive splatter effects the majority of the film barely kept my interest all the way until the end.Ē



The Task (After Dark Originals)

From my DVD Review of the title: ďOnce you get past the derivative nature of the idea, the After Dark Original B-horror show The Task starts our pretty decently. The central cast of contestants is pretty solid, the setting is undeniably creepy and the baddie Ė the prisonís former psychotic warden now walking the hallways as a ghost looking to continue his murderous ways Ė is a relatively scary oneÖ Sadly, the longer the movie goes on the less interesting it ultimately becomes, things moving forward in such a way that the central mystery separating fact from fiction isnít anywhere near as intriguing as it should have been.Ē



We Are What We Are

From my original theatrical review posted last March (read it here): ďWe Are What We Are (Somos lo que hay) is the eerie, uncomforting and devastatingly horrific debut for Mexican writer and director Jorge Michel Grau. It is an unflinching look at poverty and racism mixed with a vampiric saga of a family literally in need of blood, planning their survival after their patriarchís demise in the shadow of a world that treats their existence as almost ordinary.Ē



The Fish Child

Celebrated Argentine director Lucia Puenzo (XXY) returns with a gripping tale of forbidden lesbian romance and a crime heist gone awry that boasts beautiful cinematography and electrifying performances from its two female leads. Lala, a teenager from the most exclusive suburban neighborhood in Buenos Aires is in love with the Guayi, the 20-year-old Payaguayan maid working at her place. They dream of living together in Paraguay, at the shores of lake Ypoa. The murder of Lala s father rushes their plans. This is the starting point that spurs the escape through the highway that connects the North of Buenos Aires with Paraguay. While Lala waits to be reunited with her lover in YpoŠ by reconstructing her past (the mystery surrounding her pregnancy and the legend of a fish child who guides the drowned to the bottom of the lake), the Guayi is detained in a minors institute. She turns out to be hiding a crime from long ago. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)



Park Benches

As she does every morning, Lucie (Florence Muller, Public Fears in Private Places) joins her colleagues at the office with a smile. It s a working day just like any other. Then suddenly, all activity in the office stops and attention turns toward a window of the building across the way and a banner reading: Man Alone. Is it a hoax? A cry for help? Everyone has their own interpretation, and will try to discover what lies behind this mysterious message. With nearly 90 speaking parts and an all-star cast including the iconic Catherine Deneuve, Mathieu Amalric (Quantum of Solace) and Chiara Mastroianni (Persepolis), Park Benches is a treat for anyone who delights in unraveling the mysteries of everyday life. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)



The Sentiment of the Flesh

A dark psychological tale, The Sentiment of The Flesh finds two young medical students who are sexually attracted to each other which leads to a dark obsession with their shared fascination with the human body. In the tradition of David Cronenbergís Dead Ringers, The Sentiment of The Flesh delves into erotic fetishes that turn into a bizarre game of pushing sexual boundaries. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)



Soul Catcher

SyFy's british born, twin filmmakers, The Booth Brothers present their Biggest , Epic, Supernatural Adventure to date. Journey across Gothic landscapes and uncover the Haunting stories of abandoned Indian boarding schools built to imprison the once free spirit of Native Americans. Uncover ghosts, shape shifters and shadow people. Acclaimed documentarians bring Heart, Fear and Soul to this artistic, beautifully filmed true ghost story that takes you along the infamous Trail Of Fears and the decaying structures that shadow the past with its tragedy! (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)



Wish Me Luck: Series 3

While World War II rages, British women risk their lives as undercover agents in occupied France. As D-Day approaches, the team gets a critically important assignment: to help stage an uprising that will divert German resources from the landings in Normandy. Now heading the teamís London office, Faith Ashley (Jane Asher, A Voyage Round My Father) recruits two new agents to work in Le Crest, a Resistance stronghold in the French Alps.


Based on actual events in Vassieux-en-Vercors, a town in France famed for its acts of resistance during the German occupation, the final series of this gripping wartime drama features strong female characters, historical authenticity, and spectacular scenery. The suspense builds toward an emotional, action-packed finale. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)






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