Not going to spend a lot of time on a intro this week as the movies being released speak mostly for themselves. Enjoy!
The Lion King
What’s there to say? As I stated in my recent theatrical review (read it here) in regards to the film’s recent 3d re-release, “[The Lion King] oozes life, has vitality and momentum in spades,” while also noting that the movie features “magnificent set pieces…some of the most outstanding Disney has ever created.” In short, buy this Blu-ray immediately. It’s stunning. You can also read my just posted Blu-ray review.
Two from Quentin Tarantino, both being essential, Pulp Fiction being the most notable for a variety of reasons while Jackie Brown is actually my favorite film made by the idiosyncratic genre-bending auteur up to this point so far. Review copies of each film were promised, but sadly neither has arrived. That said, even sight unseen I can tell you right now I’m going to be adding each of these wonderful efforts to my collection, and I don’t even need a Coke or a Big Kahuna Burger as an incentive to do so.
Shocking the best and most entertaining entry in this seemingly never-ending series so far, here’s what I wrote about Fast Five back in April (read my theatrical review here): “It’s silly, over-produced, far too long (it’s 130-minutes for gosh sakes), has way too much plot and doesn’t even try to make a lick of sense. But it is also fun, tons of fun, actually, the whole thing an exuberant hodgepodge of homoerotic macho action and heist film clichés filled with winning dialogue and sensational, if utterly unbelievable, action sequences.”
From my original theatrical review posted last April (read it here): “Now comes Scream 4, a film that isn’t so much a sequel as it is a remake, and once again Craven and Williamson manage to rise to the occasion in a way that is hugely surprising and highly entertaining. This crazy boondoggle of a B-movie slasher mystery is so much fun watching it is a total hoot, and while the body count has risen and the gore level is higher the sass, smarts, suspense, cynicism and humor on display in spades in the original rematerialize in almost equal measure here as well.” For more on the film and bonus material, read my Blu-ray review.
Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom
I have never seen director Pier Paolo Pasolini’s final film. In all honesty, considering the controversy that has always surrounded it, I’ve actually been a tiny bit afraid about giving it a look. I’m not entirely sure why, of course, as I’ve sat through plenty of motion pictures that have turned my stomach and left me feeling untold gallons of revulsion, my affinity for B-slasher and exploitation flicks a well known fact. Yet this movie? This movie for some reason scares me, and part of me has always shied away from it thanks to that fact.
But no more. Criterion’s Blu-ray arrived in my mailbox just yesterday morning, so now I am compelled to give it a look. I’ll let you know if I survive my experience watching it within the next few days.
I listed Cameron Crowe’s 2000 opus fourth on my list of the Top 50 Films 2000 – 2009. Here’s what I wrote about it back in January of last year: “Cameron Crowe has long been one of my favorite directors, his Say Anything one of the purest and more heartfelt love stories I’ve ever had the pleasure to discover. But as much as I’ve enjoyed all of his films (including Vanilla Sky and Elizabethtown) it is the maestro’s Almost Famous that holds the biggest space in my heart. This soaring tribute to youth, literature and Rock and Roll hits me like a happily poisonous arrow to my heart. The film wrecks me whole (and I mean that as a compliment), so much of it speaking so clearly to me I still can’t believe it didn’t meet with greater box office and Oscar success.”
Masaki Kobayashi’s masterful 1962 samurai epic Harakiri gets a Blu-ray upgrade from the Criterion Collection and I must say, after only watching about 30 minutes of it (it only arrived yesterday morning), I was close to blown away. While the movie itself is phenomenal (the story of a unemployed samurai – the superb Tatsuya Nakadai – looking to commit suicide and the disbelieving staff of a local Lord who try to goad him into evisceration), this new hi-def transfer is borderline sensational. It looks and sounds so incredible I’m going to get back to watching the rest of it as soon as I complete the writing of this column, which is probably one of the reasons for my relative brevity where it comes to this week’s blurbs.
Peter Jackson’s sensationally gory and gruesomely hysterical zombie-vampire-mass hysteria B-movie Dead Alive hits Blu-ray, and considering it’s my favorite film from the Lord of the Rings filmmaker (and, yes, that includes The Two Towers and Heavenly Creatures) I cannot WAIT to get a look at it. Words cannot describe just how deliciously grotesque this highly inventive gross-out comedy is, the climactic lawnmower sequence alone worthy of the price of picking this disc up for you personal collection. Expect a full review from Mitchell to be posted soon.
Life is Beautiful
Of this pair of Italian language Academy Award winners, 1988’s Cinema Paradiso from director Giuseppe Tornatore is without question the obvious standout. This intoxicating coming of age marvel about a filmmaker recalling his childhood is delectable cinematic treat that just seems to get better and better with age. A transcendent piece of popular entertainment that’s an emotionally moving parable about living life to its fullest, this is one movie I couldn’t urge anyone and everyone to see for themselves more vociferously.
As for Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful made a decade later, in all honesty this Holocaust melodrama sprinkled with bits of slapstick comedy hasn’t aged nearly as well, and in hindsight I think the unabashed love affair international audiences had with it was a wee bit over the top. While the film does work, and while I still find it to be highly worthwhile, it’s not close to the filmmaker’s best effort, and it’s somewhat surprising how much of it falls entirely flat. Still, I get what Benigni was going for, and the stuff that’s great about the film – most notably the director’s own Oscar-winning performance – is still pretty darn great, and by and large I can’t begrudge anyone who lists it amongst their favorites from doing so.
Here’s what I wrote about this film back in June (read my theatrical review here): “Based on the popular novel by Joe Dunthorne, [Submarine] doesn’t exactly rewrite the coming-of-age genre handbook. But it is made with energy, verve, vision and ingenuity, and while the places it goes and the lessons that are learned aren’t exactly a surprise discovering them is still plenty enjoyable.” You can also read Mitchell's Blu-ray review for his take on the film and the disc itself.
From my April theatrical review (read it here): "Shot over a 2 ½ year period, Disneynature’s third motion picture African Cats is a beautifully journey to the African savanna chronicling the lives of three sets of families, a Cheetah and her five cubs, a Pride of lions with many cubs to protect and four male lions from the other side of the river intent on taking power. The film is stunningly photographed and full of drama, and while the overall feel doesn’t go too far beyond an episode of the PBS show 'Nature' that doesn’t make it film any less wonderful or easy to watch."
Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure
The movie that put both director Tim Burton and actor Paul Reubens on the map, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure gets a somewhat surprising Blu-ray upgrade and for the most part I couldn’t be happier. Sadly, Warner did not send us a review copy. On the plus side, the price on Amazon is so low at Amazon right now I’m tempted to pick it up as an impulse buy right this very second.
At times an inspired homage to the early days of Italian surrealistic horror cinema in the vein of Mario Bava and Dario Argento, this strange, psycho-sexual freak show never quite comes together in an altogether satisfying way. Beautifully photographed and featuring a superb musical score, nonetheless I wasn’t all that enamored with this 2009 import, finding its elliptical structure and intense imagery a bit self-indulgent as well as in service to a thin and unsatisfying narrative that ended up going nowhere. Still, it’s worthy of look, especially for genre fans, the film offering up just enough of merit to make it somewhat recommendable.
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES
(Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon!)
· Bette Midler: The Showgirl Must Go On
· Bored to Death: The Complete Second Season
· Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Read Sara's Theatrical Review)
· The Cider House Rules
· Crazy on the Outside
· Deck the Halls (Read Sara’s scathing Theatrical Review)
· The Heart Specialist
· Higanjima: Escape From Vampire Island
· Ken Burns: Prohibition
· The League: Season Two
· Legend of the Millennium Dragon
· Moby Dick (2011)
· Peanuts Holiday Collection
· The Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway
· Space Jam
· The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season (3-Disc Special Edition) (Read Sara's Blu-ray Review)
From my original theatrical review posted back in June (read it here): “Buck, the new documentary about noted cowboy and ‘Horse Whisperer’ Buck Brannaman, is a delight in every way. Transcendent, emotional, moving, informative and ethereal, this surprisingly tough-minded look at a man and his life’s work is a wonderful excursion that says just as much about the viewer as it does about the figure at the center of it all.” For more on the film, check out my interview with the film’s central figure by going here.
Surprisingly solid “Twilight Zone” style supernatural thriller about a young woman (Rachelle Lefevre), recently divorced and trying to avoid her violently unpredictable ex, who moves into a new apartment only to discover she’s getting phone calls from an occupant who killed committed suicide over three decades prior. Spooky and somewhat unpredictable, the movie is an intoxicating blend of chills and thrills that is sadly undone by an absurdly melodramatic climax that doesn’t come close to satisfying. Still, for genre fans this one is easily worthy of a rental, and I have a feeling I might even take a second look at it sometime in the very near future.
From my original theatrical review posted back in July (read it here): “Phase 7 (Fase 7) has got to be one of the oddest, most off-center and eccentric end-of-world thrillers I’ve seen in quite some time. The movie is paced like a British comedy in the vein of In the Loop or The Trip, while the dialogue feels completely off the cuff almost as if it were improvised on the spot. The characters interact with one another in an easygoing, nonchalant style, the whole thing played almost as if it were something of a half-serious lark.”
Sarah Palin: The Undefeated
Sarah Palin’s promo piece…I mean documentary…I mean self-congratulatory infomercial…I mean…I mean… well, you know what I mean, comes to DVD and I could personally care less. Granted, I’m not a fan, and anyone who is probably isn’t spending a heck of a lot of time reading what I have to say about her.
The High Cost of Living
What do you do when the best and the worst moment of your life happens at the exact same time? Henry (Zach Braff, Scrubs, Garden State) is not a particularly nice guy. He is a drug dealer because he is good at it. Nathalie (Isabelle Blais, Human Trafficking) is a beautiful young woman, married and about to have her first child. One night, Henry makes a wrong turn and their lives tragically collide. As Natalie s life unravels, Henry becomes her unlikely guardian angel - compassionate, charming and some much-needed calm in the storm of her life. She finds a welcome relief in the tall, rumpled stranger that seems only too willing to offer her refuge. But Henry has his own problems. His past misdeeds are catching up to him and he soon discovers that he is no longer able to outrun his past or his present. The inevitable impact of his choices forces both Henry and Nathalie to confront loss, love and life, and to ultimately decide whether the high cost of living is worth it. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
In this darkly romantic ghost story, a woman travels to an isolated cabin where she is stalked by an apparition who inhabits her space as his own. With the unexpected arrival of the woman’s boyfriend, the dark spirit’s haunting grows obsessive. Soon the woman begins to exhibit weirdly irrational behavior as the thin line between sanity and possession begins to unravel. Is she battling her inner demons, or is a much darker presence threatening them all? (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Jim (John Schneider) and his research team study the Canadian Lynx every year. This year, he has to take his rebelling 16 year-old daughter, Emmy (Danielle Chuchran), with him. But the lynx are missing. As Jim and his team--with the help of a local ranger (Jason London)--try to find out why, something stalks them--a predator no prey can escape. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
OTHER NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
(Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon!)
· According to Jim: The Complete Fifth Season
· Boy Meets World: The Complete Seventh and Final Season
· Fresh Fields: Set 2
· Friday Night Lights: The Complete Series
· In Treatment: The Complete Third Season
· Lie to Me: Season Three
· Rosemary & Thyme: Complete Collection