New Blu's On the Block - 10/26/10


Rating: Various

Distributor: Various

Released: Oct 26, 2010


Written by Sara Michelle Fetters



New Blu's On the Block
Blu-ray and DVD Releases for Oct 26, 2010

Today is the day many obsessed with Blu-ray have been waiting for. Three major releases, two of them of classic science fiction properties and the third a Stanley Kubrick favorite from the folks at Criterion many consider to be his very best. My favorite movie (so far) of 2010 also sees a release, as does a certain shoe-obsessed sequel that falls decidedly on the other side of the cinematic quality spectrum.



The Alien Anthology

This release pretty much speaks for itself. Four films, two versions of each, over 65-hours of archival and never-before-seen content, if this six-disc collection does for Blu-ray what Alien Quadrilogy  did for DVD than this release is going to set a whole new standard to which all future collections will be judged.


Both Ridley Scottís Alien and James Cameronís Aliens are without a doubt my favorite two (but in both cases I do prefer the theatrical releases, not the directorís cuts) but just because thatís so that doesnít mean I donít feel both Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection are not without their merits. I could watch any four of the pictures at the drop of a hat, and the excitement Iím feeling on getting my hands on this particular set is beyond palpable.


Hopefully that will happen in the next couple of days, and if it does expect a full review from one of us here at MovieFreak sometime very soon.



The Back to the Future Trilogy

Our second high profile science fiction collection of the week, while director Robert Zemeckisí and producer Steven Spielbergís seminal trilogy hasnít met with same kind of fanfare as Foxís Alien collection that doesnít make this release any less awesome. According to DVD Beaver and Blu-ray.com the first film has never looked or sounded better than it does here (although I guess the packaging itself leaves lots to be desired), Universal finally stepping to the plate and delivering up a hi-def transfer of one of its classic properties thatís actually worthy of applause.


Another title I canít wait to get my paws on, this one features hours of special features including a brand new six-part documentary that when added together runs well over two hours and covers just about every aspect of the trilogyís creation. Sadly, Universal didnít send us this one but I did score an early copy from a friend who happened to get two copies, so expect a review as soon as I can get out from underneath my backlogs of Blu-ray reviews Iím still in desperate need of getting finished and uploaded to the site.



Paths of Glory

Stanley Kubrickís 1957 classic hits Blu-ray thanks to the folks at Criterion and the word on the street according to Blu-ray.com is extraordinary. Arguably one of the most powerful war films ever made, this saga of three soldiers defended by their stalwart commander (superbly played by Kirk Douglas in one of his most unforgettable roles) in front of a kangaroo court whoíve already engineered their guilt before the trial even begins is a one of a kind experience impossible to forget.


This release comes with a list of special features only the folks at Criterion could compile, including a brand-new audio commentary from noted critic Gary Giddins and an illustrated audio interview with Kubrick conducted in 1966. Another must-buy in a week with four of them, this one at least will make a fall smaller dent in your pocketbook than those aforementioned sci-fi collections will.



Winterís Bone

As of right now, Winterís Bone is still my favorite film of 2010. Back in June I wrote (read my full review here), ďThis terrific cultural and psychological thriller is a horrifying descent into mystery so mesmerizing I couldnít have taken my eyes off of the screen had I even dared try, the film made all the more potent thanks to [Jennifer] Lawrenceís superlative performance.Ē This is a movie that simply must be seen. Haunting and emotionally devastating, this stirring character study a guaranteed lock to get a Best Actress nomination for Lawrence and has an outside shot at least a handful of other nods including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor John Hawkes and Best Supporting Actress Dale Dickey.


I interviewed director Debra Granik back in May and actress Lawrence not too long after that. You can read that first one by clicking here and expect a write up of the second to be posted on the site within the next couple of days.


Mitchell has just reviewed the disc, you can now read his Winterís Bone Blu-ray review.




The Girl Who Played with Fire

Part two of late Swedish author Stieg Larssonís Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire didnít entertain me quite as much as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo did back at the start of 2010. In my July review I said (read it here) this sequel was a ďrather slapdash effortĒ and that ďeven with its two stars delivering crackerjack performances this sequel just doesnít work enough to warrant the ticket price.Ē Not that I wonít check it out again on Blu-ray just to make sure, and fans of the first film and of the novelist will still want to give it a look. All Iím saying is just donít anticipate as being as wowed by this second chapter in the series as you probably were by the first one, the film not quite coming together as richly as director Niels Arden Oplevís masterful original did.



Sex and the City 2

Sex and the City 2 isnít just one of the worst movies of the year, it is arguably one of the worst sequels ever made (and Iím including all those terrible horror sequels made over the decades in that statement). This misfire killed any chance of a third picture ever being made, and those hoping the adventures of Carrie Bradshaw and friends were going to continue better get used to being disappointed because itís just not going to happen. In my May review (read it here) I stated plainly that, ďI couldnít stand this monstrous claptrap of a motion picture, its frivolousness and obnoxiously noxious bad taste leaving me more or less stunned by just how horrific it actually was.Ē



House (1977)

Nobuhiko Obayashi's House is a movie I know nothing about and yet still canít wait to see. Just read Criterionís description of the film: ďHow to describe Nobuhiko Obayashiís indescribable 1977 movie House (Hausu)? As a psychedelic ghost tale? A stream-of-consciousness bedtime story? An episode of Scooby-Doo as directed by Mario Bava? Any of the above will do for this hallucinatory head trip about a schoolgirl who travels with six classmates to her ailing auntís creaky country home and comes face-to-face with evil spirits, a demonic house cat, a bloodthirsty piano, and other ghoulish visions, all realized by Obayashi via mattes, animation, and collage effects. Equally absurd and nightmarish, House might have been beamed to Earth from some other planet. Never before available on home video in the United States, itís one of the most exciting cult discoveries in years.Ē


While Criterion didnít send this one to us for review I was still able to get my hands on it thanks to a special price on Amazon too low for me to be able to ignore. Iím expecting it to arrive tomorrow, and if time allows maybe Iíll throw up a review so you can all read what I thought of my House experience.



South of the Border

For this documentary, director Oliver Stone traveled across five countries in an effort to explore the social and political movements, as well as the mainstream mediaís misperception of South America, while interviewing seven of its elected presidents. He gained unprecedented access, speaking with Presidents Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Lula da Silva (Brazil), Cristina Kirchner (Argentina), as well as her husband and ex-President Nestor Kirchner, Fernando Lugo (Paraguay), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), and Raul Castro (Cuba). The consensus seems to be that while the subject matter and film are interesting, Stone didnít go in depth enough.


-written by Dennis Crane



Dancing Across Borders

Dancing Across Borders is another one of those movies released this year that Iíve seen but for whatever reason never got around to reviewing. This documentary about Cambodian Sokvannara "Sy" Sar is intimate and hugely involving, his cross-cultural journey as he manages to transform himself into an expert ballet dancer one for the ages. Definitely worth a look, this is a movie I should have written more about (especially because so much of it involves the Pacific Northwest Ballet which is right in my Seattle backyard) when I originally saw it. Just know that it is a strong effort and one not easy to forget, and for dance fanatics in particular it is a story certain to resonate.



Maniac (1980)

Quite the disturbing and graphic piece of a slasher movie, Maniac tells the story of Frank Zito (Joe Spinell), a very disturbed man who, when haunted by the traumas of unspeakable childhood abuse, takes to the seedy New York City streets to stalk and slaughter young women, and because the horrific memories are so vile they influence his mind and actions, which he views as revenge toward his abusive mother who raised him. However, as he gets involved in a relationship with beautiful photographer, his schizoid impulses seem to remain. Maniac is directed by William Lustig, who is also responsible for the Maniac Cop series.


-written by Dennis Crane




The straight-to-DVD horror effort Altitude is more intriguing in concept than it is in execution. A group of friends flying to a concert find themselves in danger as their newbie pilot (Jessica Lowndes) attempts to gain altitude to avoid a coming storm only to find the controls locked and the plane unable to level out. Is there something wrong mechanically? Or has some malevolent force taken control of the aircraft sending them on a one-way trip to damnation? For a while there is some fun in finding out, but Paul A. Birkett's script is filled with unappealing one-dimensional characters and flies (excuse the pun) right off the overly silly ďTwilight ZoneĒ deep end during its frenetic and silly climax. Director Kaare Andrews does what he can, and the special effects are surprisingly decent, but in the end my eyes were rolling far too often for me to be able to take this standard schlock effort anything close to seriously. Expect a full review of the Blu-ray from Mitchell soon.



Santa Claus: The Movie

Wait. Lionsgate is seriously releasing the infamous so-bad-itís-good 1985 monstrosity Santa Close: The Movie with Dudley Moore, John Lithgow, Burgess Meredith and David Huddleston on Blu-ray? Really? Of all the titles in their catalog this is the one they decide to put out there for audience consumption? How did I not get a review copy of this because, goodness knows, by jolly old St. Nicolas I certainly want one.



Star Wars: The Clone Wars Ė The Complete Season Two

If youíre a Star Wars fan you know about The Clone Wars. If not, the basic idea here is an animated telling about the adventures and exploits during the clone wars of Obi-Wan Kenobi and his apprentice Anakin Skywalker, also introducing the viewer to new and old characters. The second season arrives on DVD and Blu-ray in the form of 22 episodes, complete with bonus material such as four behind-the-scenes featurettes, a 68-page production journal with original sketches and artist notes, and what is called the Jedi Temple Archives, an extensive database of early animation tests, conceptual art, and 3-D turnarounds. I personally havenít seen the show, but the reviews are quite positive, so even if you only have a general interest in the Star Wars saga, this release might be of some interest.


-written by Dennis Crane












Wild Grass

Acclaimed French auteur Alain Resnaisí Wild Grass is darn near indecipherable. Back in July I wrote (read my full review here), ďDoes [the movie] make sense? Not usually. Is it easy to understand exactly what it is that Resnais is going for, possible to decipher the differing themes behind his images? Sometimes, but not often. This is the iconoclastic director working at his most threadbare and obtuse, and as beautifully composed, constructed, designed and shot his latest is none of that makes it any easier to ascertain exactly what it is heís trying to say.Ē



CSI: New York Ė The Sixth Season

The second spin-off series of the successful CSI forensics drama, set in New York, returns for its sixth season, with all episodes available on a six disc DVD set. Bonus material follows the way of the previous sets, including a number of featurettes and more. Fans of CSI: New York may be interested in this release. Unfortunately I cannot comment on the quality of the content itself, the storylines, as I have not followed up with the show since early in the first season.


-written by Dennis Crane


You Don't Know Jack


You Donít Know Jack

Al Pacino (in an Emmy-nominated performance) is Jack Kevorkian in this critically acclaimed HBO biopic directed by Barry Levinson and co-staring Susan Sarandon, James Urbaniak, Danny Huston and John Goodman. Having not seen this one, Iím eager to get into the Netflix queue so I can see for myself what all the fuss has been about. Needless to say, Iím expecting once again to a view a motion picture made by a Cable channel thatís better than the majority of the theatrical films Iíve had to sit through this year.


Everyone Else


Everyone Else

Iím always happy to discover new films from Germany making their way to home video here, and this relationship drama looks interesting. Vacationing in the Mediterranean, a seemingly happy husband and wife begin to bond with another couple there, but also find their connection to one another tested. View the trailer. 


-written by Dennis Crane


Nice Guy Johnny 


Nice Guy Johnny

Edward Burns returns with another directorial effort (my favorites heís done are Sheís The One and The Brothers McMullen), a romantic comedy about a young man named Johnny (Matt Bush), engaged to a girl who demands he drop his dream gig as a sports radio deejay and work for her dad, who gets whisked away by his womanizer Uncle Terry (Edward Burns) to the Hamptons for a weekend of fun. When the beautiful Brooke (Kerry Bishe) enters the picture, Johnny finds that he will have to make the toughest decision of his life, stay in the moment or return to his fiancťe. View the trailer.


-written by Dennis Crane


Passenger Side 


Passenger Side

Iíve seen the trailer for this independent feature a while back, so itís nice to see a DVD release happening now. Passenger Side tells the story of estranged brothers Michael and Tobey (played by Adam Scott and Joel Bissonnette, respectively) who go off on a day-long odyssey across a wild and weird Los Angeles in search of Tobeyís reason for living, coming into contact with surprising, comical characters and leading them to an unexpected destination. View the trailer.


-written by Dennis Crane




Kisses (2008)

Another indie feature I saw the trailer for some time ago, Kisses makes its Region 1 debut from Oscilloscope Studios, having been released in Ireland and neighboring Europe about two years ago. The film follows two kids, Dylan and Kylie, as they run away from home on Christmas and spend a night of magic and terror on the streets of inner-city Dublin. I havenít seen the film, but the performances look authentic and the story a heartwarming one. Judge for yourself, and view the trailer.


-written by Dennis Crane




Chaser (2008)

This Korean action/mystery only now makes its way to DVD, courtesy of IFC, but in its native country and elsewhere itís been a success, telling the story of a dirty detective turned pimp finding himself in financial trouble as several of his girls have recently disappeared without clearing their debts. Trying to track them down, clues lead the detective to a former client whom one of his girls is meeting with right now. Apparently, Chaser is based on a true story, which should make for an even more interesting viewing if you like the genre. Find out for yourself and view the trailer.


-written by Dennis Crane


 Law & Order UK: Season One


Law & Order UK Ė Season One

Taking some of the better, or best, stories from the franchise and adapting them for the British justice system and various particulars, the first season of Law & Order UK may seem (too) familiar to fans of the original series, but those in the mood for a good police drama should give it a shot, as reviews have been positive overall. Starring, among others, is Jamie Bamber of Battelstar Galactica fame.


-written by Dennis Crane



Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?

A documentary that played at various venues in Seattle so many times and on so many occasions to say I still have seen it is almost akin to admitting Iím not taking my job as seriously as I should. Needless to say, this look at a singer-songwriter the Beatles once dubbed their favorite American musician is definitely one I am still looking forward to and by all accounts director John Scheinfeldís film is a very good one. Another title to add to that ever-expanding Netflix queue.



Tonight - 4 Decades of The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson

Talk about a boxed set! A deluxe collection that features over 30 hours of entertainment from four decades of The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson that has never before been released to DVD. Hand selected by an original producer, the set features over 50 shows from the show, in what is essentially a best-of collection. Bonus material includes just over an hour of ďrescuedĒ footage from shows that aired in the 60s, and features all-new interviews with some of the most celebrated and regular guest stars that appeared on the show.


-written by Dennis Crane



The Adonis Factor

Agreeable if slight documentary the picks up where last yearís The Butch Factor left off, director Christopher Hinesís latest focuses on perceptions of body image inside the gay community. Doesnít say anything all that radical or unexpected, but still expertly made and certainly not without its merits. A rental for sure, and one made almost exclusively for the community it takes a microscope to, but one those looking for something both informative and entertaining should consider giving a watch.



Cannibal Girls

Awesome 1973 gore-fest directed by Ivan Reitman and starring Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin thatís an absolute hoot and well worth picking up for a watch. Basically Arsenic and Old Lace meets Blood Feast, this cannibal classic concerns a newlywed couple (Levy and Martin) on their honeymoon who inadvertently stop at a bed and breakfast run by some flesh-eating young women who would love to see them become part of the menu. I just got this one from Shout! Factory a little while ago and havenít had the chance to write up a full review (but promise to do so soon), but just know that for fans of the genre (or of the director and/or stars) this is little-seen underground blood and guts comedy I got a serious kick out of.



Lake Placid 3

So, I admit it, when this premiered on the Syfy Channel I gave it a watch. In retrospect, that was probably a bad decision on my part, but I will say this spectacularly cheesy sequel is far superior to the downright insipid Lake Placid 2. Not that this is saying all that much, this bloody gore-fest with cheap special effects nothing all that special and certainly not a DVD Iíd ever recommend anyone Ė not even B-horror movie aficionados Ė should even remotely consider picking up for a look.



Plan B

Interesting Argentinean romantic comedy that starts strongly before finally losing its way a bit near the end, this film follows Bruno (Manuel Vignau) as he befriends and attempts to seduce supposedly straight Pablo (Lucas Ferraro) in attempt to prove heís gay and get back at his former girlfriend Laura (Mercedes Quinteros) who is currently dating him. Movie gets way too silly and full of slapstick during its second half, building to a conclusion thatís nowhere near as satisfying as it should be. Well acted by the leads and certainly with plenty of great moments, sadly just not quite enough of them.



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