New Blu's On the Block Blu-ray and DVD Releases for August 23, 2011
Been suffering through a horrendous case of the computer viruses, so I’m going to have to keep this short and sweet this week as I have a tremendous backlog of Blu-ray and DVD reviews to try and write-up thanks to it. Totally sucks, let me tell you.
On the plus side, there are a ton of great titles worthy of taking a look at this week, many of which we’ll be running full reviews of within the next few days. Enjoy!
One of the better films of 2011, here’s what I wrote about this sensational little gem back in March (read my full theatrical review here): “If I were forced to [rank them], The Visitor would probably be the one I’d name as my favorite, while on other days maybe I’d go with The Station Agent instead. But just because I’d go in their directions first doesn’t mean I think any less of Win Win. It might not rank first on my Tom McCarthy list but that doesn’t mean it’s anything even remotely close to a failure or a disappointment. In point of fact, it’s one of the best films I’ve seen in 2011 so far, and to back that up even further it’s also a strong contender to be one of my ten favorites come the end of the year.” I’ll have a full review of the Blu-ray up for everyone to read soon.
Two independent favorites from Miramax releasing on Blu-ray for the first time thanks to Disney’s deal with Lionsgate, it’s safe to say neither of these films have ever looked or sounded better. The Rounders Blu-ray, in particular, is just about perfect, and I have to admit sitting down to watch it was far more of a pleasure than I’d anticipated before slipping the disc into the player. That said, I still find myself feeling as if both films are overrated to a certain degree, and I’ve never understood the cult following that hovers around them like mosquitoes circling a campfire. Be that as it may, I couldn’t recommend the purchase of both of these discs for fans more enthusiastically, Lionsgate doing the films proud delivering Blu-rays worthy of applause.
Poetry has a real shot at being on my list of 2011’s best films. Secret Sunshine is arguably a modern masterpiece worthy of being singled out by the good folks over at the Criterion Collection. Both are helmed by South Korean auteur Lee Chang-dong, and true cineastes should do themselves a favor and make sure add them to their must-see lists. Sadly, for whatever reason we’re still not getting review copies from Kino, so all I can do in regards to Poetry is direct you towards my rapturous Theatrical Review and urge you to give it a once over. As for Secret Sunshine, happily Criterion did send me a Blu-ray copy of that particular release, and I hope to have a full review up for everyone to take a look at before the end of the week.
Here’s what I wrote about The Beaver back in May (read my full theatrical review here): “Jodie Foster’s (Little Man Tate, Home for the Holidays) third directorial effort The Beaver is an odd, touching and refreshingly sad slice of life drama with comedic undertones that will catch most viewers unprepared. Never quite what you think it is going to be, surprisingly violent both physically and emotionally, this is as lovingly off-center a motion picture as any released so far this year, the whole thing anchored by a central performance by [Mel] Gibson that’s up there with his very best.” I also had the good fortune to speak with the Hollywood superstar responsible for bringing this to the screen back in April. You can read my interview with her by clicking here.
First things first, Trollhunter shockingly plays much, MUCH better the second time around, so make sure you watch it twice as I was surprised just how much I enjoyed myself taking a look at it again on Blu-ray. With that in mind, here’s what I wrote about the Norwegian import back in June (read my full review here): “Trollhunter can be a major blast. [Otto] Jespersen is great as the oafish Hans, his indignity as he dons a metal suit of armor to extract a blood sample from a sick Ringlefinch or the way he bristles at filling out his ‘Slayed Troll Form’ fitting the character to perfection. The first encounter with the Tosserlad is so good it literally caused me to squeal in embarrassingly girlish glee, while some of the bureaucratic jokes (including the ones involving imported bear carcasses) are downright inspired. In short, for all its over-familiarity I liked this movie and had a heck of a time watching it, and as late night rentals or fodder for midnight matinees go Øvredal’s fantasy-fueled opus fits the bill nicely.”
I saw this charming Jackie Chan import back during the 2010 Seattle International Film Festival, and I was a little surprised at the time that it never found a domestic release here in the U.S. Thinking it over a little over a year after the fact, I sort of get it, as this is one of the action superstar’s more quiet, introspective and decidedly melancholic fables, heading to a somewhat tragic place his more low rent fans here stateside probably wouldn’t appreciate. Still, I overall liked this one quite a bit, Chan showing off his Chaplin meets Keaton comedic side but also proving how solidly emotional an actor he can be when handed the right material. Not for every taste, sure, but for viewers who like a little bite to their action-comedy (and aren’t afraid of mixing tears with laughter) this is one import worth adding to the Netflix queue.
So I missed this one when it was released earlier this year, and as a review copy didn’t arrive I can’t say anything has changed now that I’m sitting here writing this brief description. Truth is, documentarian Morgan Spurlock’s latest doesn’t actually interest me all that much, and while I’m sure I’ll get around to it at some point the thought of viewing this product placement extravaganza/examination isn’t exactly making my pulse race.
A pointless Disney straight-to-DVD sequel to one of its most timeless classics, Bambi II comes to Blu-ray with surprisingly little in the way of fanfare. I say surprisingly because in all honesty this is Disney we’re talking about, and they always blow the trumpets for their animated efforts – even the pointless ones – and the fact they’re giving the film its own stand-alone hi-def presentation you’d think they’d be going out of their way to make sure potential customers know its hitting store shelves. Heck, my review copy still hasn’t even arrived, and I was promised one almost a month ago.
Look! It’s more straight-to-DVD fodder, only this time it is a film I have seen, I’ve even written a full Blu-ray Review for the tiles, and I can tell you without any hesitation this is one thriller not worth getting your engines revved about. It’s fairly terrible, and other than some nice cinematography and some solid theme music and can’t think of anything else nice, nothing at all, to say about it.
This Keanu Reeves flick do NOT go straight-to-DVD, but considering it only opened in a handful of theatres before quickly disappearing it might as well have. Costarring Vera Farmiga and James Caan, I know as much about this title as I do Statham’s Blitz. However, unlike that title this one I will get familiar with, my review copy from Fox expected to arrive at some point tomorrow.
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES
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The good news? Season four of “Gossip Girl” offers up some of the most terrific episodes of the entire series. The bad news? That level of quality isn’t even close to maintained, the majority of the series an often annoying retread of plotline and themes from the previous three seasons that sadly go nowhere. I’ll have a full review up of this five-disc DVD set for everyone to read soon.
One of the Disney Channel’s most popular cartoon series, the pair of Phineas and Ferb get their own stand-alone movie that premiered earlier this Summer to gigantic number. I imagine people will be just as eager to grab it up on DVD, but I do have to admit considering the show’s enthusiastic following I’m a bit surprised it isn’t getting a Blu-ray release as well.
The good folks at Acorn re-release the first two entries in Helen Mirren’s landmark BBC series revolving around driven detective Jane Tennison, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic about the both of them. These two 200-plus minute mysteries are beyond stunning, each one meticulously plotted and amazingly acted. Not just by Mirren, mind you, she’s beyond incredible, but by the entire ensemble cast. Sure the much honored actress dominates, but that doesn’t mean spotlight roles do not abound for a whole cavalcade of British heavyweights including Tom Wilkinson, Colin Salmon, Ralph Fiennes, Zoë Wanamaker, Tom Bell and a whole slew of others. While I’d have loved a few bells and whistles (these releases are as bare-bones as they come) it’s the stories themselves that are the real stars here, and watching them again is a stunning reminder at just how great these stories were and how pointless the idea of an American remake on NBC – even if Maria Bello is starring – truly is.
I want to be more excited about this release than I actually am, but having only looked at the cover art for both Deathstalker and Deathstalker II before watching the movies themselves I can’t exactly ay this pair of 1980’s camp cult B-movie classics lived up to either what I imagined they would be or the hype that surrounds the both of them. If anything Barbarian Queen, which I already previously reviewed, is easily my favorite of the entire set, and it’s about as low rent and as bargain basement as these kinds of schlock epics get. I’ll have a full review of this release up soon.
When Shamoto's teenage daughter was caught stealing, a generous middle-aged man helps to resolve the situation. The man and his wife offer to have Shamoto's daughter work at their fish store. Shamoto soon discovers the horrific truth of the seemingly perfect couple...who force him to get his hands dirty in their brutal business. Inspired by true events, Cold Fish is a bloodcurdling suspense drama that unveils the underlying insanity of an ordinary man. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Over the course of his varied career, Koreyoshi Kurahara made exacting noirs, jazzy juvenile delinquency pictures, and even nature films. His free-form approach to moviemaking was perfectly suited to the spirit of the 1960s; he was one of the biggest hit makers working at the razzle-dazzle, youth-oriented Nikkatsu studio during the radical Japanese New Wave. The five films collected here hail from that era, and encompass breathless teen escapades, cruel crime stories, a Mishima adaptation, and even a Hollywood-inspired romantic comedy. Five-DVD Box Set Includes:
Intimidation - Koreyoshi Kurahara’s ingeniously plotted, pocket-sized noir concerns the intertwining fates of a desperate bank manager, blackmailed for book-cooking, and his resentful but timid underling, passed over for a promotion. Elegantly stripped-down and carefully paced, Intimidation (Aru kyouhaku) is a moody early film from one of the Japanese New Wave’s preeminent stylists. 1960, 67 minutes, Black & White, Monaural, In Japanese with English subtitles, 2.20:1 aspect ratio
The Warped Ones - A juvenile delinquent gets out of the pen and immediately embarks on a rampage of misdirected anger, most of it unleashed on an unsuspecting young woman. Shot through with the same kind of bebop bravado that Godard was experimenting with half a world away, the anarchic descent into amoral madness that is The Warped Ones (Kyonetsu no kisetsu) sounded a lost generation’s cry for help and kicked off Japan’s cinematic sixties with a bang. 1960, 75 minutes, Black & White, Monaural, In Japanese with English subtitles, 2.35:1 aspect ratio
I Hate But Love - Inspired by Preston Sturges’s Sullivan’s Travels, I Hate But Love (Nikui anchikusho) is a high-octane romantic comedy and road movie that follows a celebrity dissatisfied with his personal and professional life who impulsively leaves Tokyo to deliver a much-needed Jeep to a remote village. When his controlling girlfriend (also his career manager) follows, the two must reconcile while dodging reporters. 1962, 105 minutes, Color, Monaural, In Japanese with English subtitles, 2.35:1 aspect ratio
Black Sun - You’ve probably never seen anything quite like this manic, oddball, anti–buddy picture about a young, jazz-obsessed Japanese drifter and a black American GI on the lam in Tokyo. The two outsiders become outlaws, and Kurahara depicts their growing bond as an increasingly absurd culture clash. Black Sun (Kuroi taiyo) features original music by American jazz drummer Max Roach. 1964, 95 minutes, Black & White, Monaural, In Japanese with English subtitles, 2.25:1 aspect ratio
Thirst for Love - Kurahara adapted a novel by Yukio Mishima for Thirst for Love (Ai no kawaki), a tense psychological drama about a young woman who is widowed after marrying into a wealthy family, and becomes sexually involved with her father-in-law while harboring a destructive obsession with the family gardener. Kurahara’s atmospheric style is a perfect match for Mishima’s brooding sensuality. 1967, 104 minutes, Black & White, Monaural, In Japanese with English subtitles, 2.45:1 aspect ratio (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Suspenseful mysterious and action-packed “The Event” is “a Lost meets 24 thrill-ride” (OK! Magazine). When everyman Sean Walker goes looking for his missing girlfriend he stumbles upon a massive government conspiracy that is bigger than the President himself. Jason Ritter (“Parenthood”), Blair Underwood (“The New Adventures of Old Christine”) and Laura Innes (“ER”) star in this epic series from the executive producer of “24.” With “great effects and stunning twists” (The Oakland Tribune) “The Event” is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before! This five-disc set includes all 22 thrilling episodes presented in 5.1 surround sound plus hours of explosive bonus features you won’t see anywhere else. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
“NCIS” is more than just an action drama. With liberal doses of humor, it's a show that focuses on the sometimes complex and always amusing dynamics of a team of special agents forced to work together in high-stress situations. From murder and espionage to terrorism and stolen submarines, these special agents travel the globe to investigate all crimes with Navy or Marine Corps ties. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
“NCIS: Los Angeles” is a drama about the high stakes world of a division of NCIS that is charged with apprehending dangerous and elusive criminals that pose a threat to the nation's security. By assuming false identities and utilizing the most advanced technology, this team of highly trained agents goes deep undercover, putting their lives on the line in the field to bring down their targets. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
OTHER NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
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