New Blu's On the Block - 11/9/10
Released: Nov 9, 2010
Sara Michelle Fetters
New Blu's On the Block
Blu-ray and DVD Releases for Nov 9, 2010
It’s not a big week for Blu-ray. Yes, there are a couple of noteworthy titles, including a two pictures that underperformed at the box office (one based on a popular graphic novel, the other blossoming from the works of author Beverly Cleary) that should have done much, much better and will hopefully find new life now that they’re available for home viewing. Other than that, many will probably be interested in finding out what Criterion has done with director Lars von Trier’s latest controversial creation, and I’m sure Adam Sandler’s popular Summer 2010 smash will sell more than its fair share of copies.
Without further ado, here are a few of this week’s notable Blu-ray and DVD releases.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was arguably the most fun I had at the theatre all summer long. It was a fresh and original comedy that got better on subsequent viewing, and while it was far from perfect the energy level was just so high I almost couldn’t help but fall in love with it. Director Edgar Wright’s adaptation of the popular graphic novel by Bryan Lee O'Malley deserved a better fate than the one it sadly got, and back in my August review (read the full thing here) I stated it was “one of the year’s most effervescent romantic comedy gaming experiences I’m quite positive audiences will want to keep playing long into the night and way into the foreseeable future.”
Universal’s Blu-ray comes relatively loaded with four audio commentaries, 21 deleted scenes and a flurry of behind-the-scenes documentaries. The folks at Blu-ray.com give the release an out-and-out rave, and while the studio sadly didn’t send us a copy to check our for ourselves I for one plan on picking this up as soon as my residual pocket money allows. For a bit more on the film, check out my August interview with Wright and stars Michael Cera and Anna Kendrick by clicking here.
Criterion brings director Lars von Trier’s controversial 2009 interpersonal epic of loss, nature and psychological self-destruction to Blu-ray and it is probably the week’s most technically excellent release. From the audio and video specs, to the simply awesome lineup of special features, this is one of those hi-def presentations to which almost all others can easily be judged. The film is given superb treatment, and if you want to read my full review of the disc you can do so by clicking here.
As for the film itself, here’s what I wrote about it back in December of 2009: “This movie looks at the bonds between man and wife and then asks what it would take to, not just destroy them, but send them to a pit of Hell so sacrilegious even Dante would be at a loss of words to describe it. Von Trier has once again taken viewers to the brink. What they choose to do once they get there is entirely up to them.” You can read my full thearical review by clicking here.
Somehow Adam Sandler did it again. Although the film was almost universally critically reviled (it’s got a 9-percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a measly little score of 30 on Metacritic) it still managed to make an astonishing $162-million at the domestic box office according to the folks at Box Office Mojo. That makes it the second biggest hit of Sandler’s entire career (right behind Big Daddy and just in front of The Waterboy), and I guess that means I have to give him something akin to props no matter how little I want to. As for the movie itself, call me in the naysayer camp, writing back in June that I thought Grown Ups had “very few laughs and even fewer genuine moments.” If you’d like to read my full theatrical review go ahead and click right here.
Sherlock: Season One
Benedict Cumberbatch (Amazing Grace) and Martin Freeman (The Office, and newly cast in The Hobbit) star as the new Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson, respectively, in the contemporary take of the classic stories; Sherlock features thrills, comedy and adventure in the span of three feature-length stories. Check this out, it is pretty fun! (If you didn’t care for the Hollywood movie, this could be much more to your liking. If you did enjoy the movie, you’ll have a good time here as well.) The Blu-ray’s bonus material consists of Commentaries, a Featurette and the pilot episode.
-written by Dennis Crane
Ramona and Beezus
Like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Ramona and Beezus was another summertime release that I positively adored that nonetheless disappointed at the box office. Personally, for the life of me I can’t figure out how this one failed while the anemic and toxic Diary of a Wimpy Kid was a success, and here’s hoping Blu-ray and DVD are much kinder to this title than movie theatres were. In my original review (read it here) I wrote that this titles was “easily one of the summer’s most wondrous surprises” and that it was a “priceless motion picture” that was downright “terrifical.”
Charlie St. Cloud
This Tuesday on Blu-ray and DVD could be subtitled “Box Office Disappointments,” the Zac Efron starring Charlie St. Cloud another picture its studio (Universal again) had high hopes for but instead fizzled at the multiplex. Unfortunately, the film only had one Seattle press screening and they had it at one of the most out of the way and difficult to get to locations in the entire city so I went to the Cats and Dogs sequel instead. In retrospect that was probably a horrible idea, because no matter how underwhelming this film potentially was I doubt it was anywhere near as horrible as that 3D monstrosity from Warner Bros. Anyhow, I guess I’ll have to put it in the Netflix queue if I want to get a look at it as Universal sadly didn’t send a copy over to us for review.
[I quite enjoyed Charlie St. Cloud, it is a restrained film that moves at a deliberately slow pace, based on a well-written screenplay that is very much character-driven, and also features a bit of a supernatural angle that the script explores in an interesting way. Zac Efron’s performance actually makes the movie work for me; he handles the dramatic moments well, and is ultimately believable. –written by Dennis Crane]
Taylor Hackford directs the true story of the proprietors of Nevada's first legalized brothel, Grace (Helen Mirren) and Charlie Bontempo (Joe Pesci), who aren’t your typical married couple. When Grace falls for Bruza (Sergio Peris-Mencheta), a heavyweight boxer contracted to Charlie, passions erupt, leading to murderous consequences. The Blu-ray features director commentary, an introduction by Hackford and Mirren, and deleted scenes. A review copy should make its way to our office soon, and Mitchell is expected to have a look at it in the coming weeks.
-written by Dennis Crane
The Dry Land
Continuing the curse of Iraq War movies playing to empty houses, The Dry Land was a nice little independent effort containing a star-making performance from relative newcomer Ryan O’Nan. Here’s what I said about both him and the film back in my July review (read it here): “O’Nan’s star making performance manages to hold things together even when the script threatens to tear them apart, while the emotional center of the picture rings with a moving truthfulness that can’t help but hit close to home. While The Dry Land doesn’t paint a picture I hadn’t already seen it did craft one I still wanted to keep looking at, and in the end it was its human story of perseverance, regret and love that held me captivated even in spite of the overwhelming familiarity.” I think it’s worth checking out, at least as a rental, and I’m tempted to throw it in the Netflix queue in order to watch it again for a second time myself.
Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series
A new Doctor, a new companion, and an old enemy, the Dalek returning with a new evil plan hatched from the heart of war-torn London in the 1940s. Matt Smith plays the eleventh doctor, who awakens after his regeneration to find the TARDIS about to crash, and Karen Gillan is Amy Pond, who comes face-to-face with the doctor when he pulls himself out of the wreckage. What happens next you should just find out for yourself, but suffice it to say, wherever the Doctor goes, strange creatures and enemies (alien vampires, humanoid reptiles, the Weeping Angels and a silent menace) are never far behind. Exclusive to Blu-ray and DVD is Meanwhile in the Tardis, a series of newly filmed scenes written by Steven Moffat telling viewers what happens between episodes. Bonus material includes the old favorite, Doctor Who Confidential episodes, as well as Outtakes, Video Diaries and Monster Files. Fortunately, the review copy we requested from Warner/BBC has come in, so you can expect a review next week.
-written by Dennis Crane
A Christmas Carol (1984)
This made-for-TV version of the Charles Dickens classic starring George C. Scott might just be my very favorite of all-time (over Alastair Sim, over a musical Albert Finney, over The Muppets and definitely over an animated Jim Carrey). There is something just beautifully sublime about it, every role cast to utter perfection (Susannah York, Frank Finlay and the late, great Edward Woodward filling key supporting roles) with Scott dominating the proceedings with his towering, imperious performance. I’m not entirely sure why Fox is releasing this one on Blu-ray, but that doesn’t make me any less ecstatic to get my hands on. Hopefully (crossing my fingers) a review copy is forthcoming.
Ocean’s Eleven – 50th Anniversary Edition (1960)
There is a reason George Clooney assembled a cast of all-stars to remake this 1960 Rat Pack favorite and that’s because the film, even with a great idea and concept at its core, isn’t very good. It’s boring, way overly talky and takes forever to get rolling. While there are some great moments, and while the central heist itself is fairly suspenseful in a jazzy, big band sort of way, at 127 minutes this is a movie that takes itself way too seriously and does so without offering up a lot in the way of entertainment value. I’ll have a full review of this admittedly handsome looking Blu-ray (that sadly comes with no new special features despite being a fiftieth anniversary edition) up within the next day or so and you can read all my thoughts in regards to the film at that time.
Tremors is a total guilty pleasure creature-feature with great, absolutely “high-larious” performances from Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Michael Gross and Reba McEntire (yes, Reba McEntire) that I used to be able to watch over and over again on VHS back in the mid-1990’s without ever growing tired of. While this Blu-ray release doesn’t offer up any new special features different from the previously released HD DVD, my hope is that Universal has spent a bit more care on video and audio transfers this time around. Not sure if I’ll be picking it up or not, but if someone got this slickly entertaining giant worm comedy/thriller for me for Christmas I certainly wouldn’t mind.
Rock & Rule (25th Anniversary Edition)
Cult animated favorite featuring music from Debbie Harry, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Cheap Trick and Earth, Wind & Fire makes its Blu-ray debut celebrating its 25th Anniversary. Personally, I know nothing about this picture or its history so I can’t tell you a darn thing about it other than it has really cool cover art. I was promised a review copy but sadly it never arrived. Oh well. Into the Netflix queue this title goes!
Hunt to Kill
Steve Austin plays officer Jim Rhodes who has settled into a life in the Montana backwoods with his daughter, but when she is kidnapped, a band of bank robbers force him to locate one of their conspirators who has taken off with their money, which they really want to have back, and so Jim must use his survival skills to win the upper hand in a fight that’s clearly one-sided, and effectively, he must hunt… to kill. Mitchell will be tackling this
gem of an action vehicle soon.
-written by Dennis Crane
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES
NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
The Elia Kazan Collection
I won’t lie, the folks over at Fox let me know that their might, emphasis on the “might,” be limited review copies of this humongous DVD release sent out to various critics and that they’d put me on the shortlist of potential recipients and I was extremely excited about that. I mean, not only does this collection include the 2010 Martin Scorsese documentary A Letter to Elia, it also comes with 17 other discs containing classic films as diverse as On the Waterfront, East of Eden, A Streetcar Named Desire, Panic in the Streets, A Face in the Crowd and Gentleman’s Agreement just to name a scant few. Additionally, five titles (American, America, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Viva Zapata!, Wild River and Man on a Tightrope) will be available on DVD for the very first time, that in itself enough to get the pulse racing in just about every classic film fan out there. It is arguably the definitive look at one of the most controversial, if hugely talented, filmmakers of the Twentieth Century, and to say I was salivating to just get a scant look at it would be a massive understatement.
Sadly, a review copy did not arrive. Oh, well. C’est la vie. I guess I’ll just have to put it on my Christmas list.
The Boondocks: The Complete Third Season
I keep hearing how funny this show is, based on the comic strip and airing on the Adult Swim channel, but I’ve still never seen a single episode. One of these days that will change. For now, I’ll have Wikipedia sum up the show: “A social satire of American culture and race relations revolving around the lives of the Freeman family: ten-year-old Huey, his younger brother, eight-year-old Riley, and their grandfather, Robert.” Fans will surely want to pick up this set as it features the following value-added material: an introduction by Cedric Yarbrough and Gary Anthony Williams, four commentary tracks, four episode wraps, a featurette, animatic to screen comparisons, and a photo gallery.
-written by Dennis Crane
Californication: The Third Season
I was watching this show many months ago, catching up on seasons one and two, and the first couple of episodes of the third, but then I stopped because other shows came around, so perhaps it’s time to revisit this season then. From what I’ve seen, David Duchovny continues to enjoy the hell out of this character, playing Hank Moody, a novelist looking for his next gig, which turns out to be teaching at a local university or college, whose obsession with telling the truth and a self destructive behavior – drinking, getting high and failed/failing relationships with his ex-wife and 13 year-old daughter – are both destroying and enriching his career. If you haven’t seen the show, start right now; the first season is extremely enjoyable, and fitly, sexy and cool.
-written by Dennis Crane
Golden Girls: 25th Anniversary Complete Collection
As you can see from the promotional art above, this limited edition set – featuring every season of the show – comes in a collectible replica of Sophia’s purse and also includes character-themed playing cards. Bonus material appears packed, and includes commentary with Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Betty White, candid conversations with Betty, Rue and others courtesy of the Museum of Television & Radio, “A Look Back with The Golden Girls” featurette, and much more.
-written by Dennis Crane
Lie to Me: Season Two
The show’s conceit is certainly an interesting one, and just the type of ‘hook’ that got it made. A generally good first season focused primarily on the cases of Paul Ekman (the always enjoyable Tim Roth) and his ability to read facial expressions and emotions, and the second season continues that trend but also delves into the lives of the main characters. Last time we also got a Blu-ray release, but the studio apparently felt sales of that release weren’t good enough to also release Season Two in high-definition. With the third season airing on Fox right now, it’s probably a good time to catch up on Lie to Me.
-written by Dennis Crane
Men of a Certain Age: The Complete First Season
Supposedly a pretty good show, according to some critics and even my dad (who has seen a few episodes), Men of a Certain Age tells the stories of three best friends since college who are now in their 40s, Joe (Ray Romano), Terry (Scott Bakula), and Owen (Andre Braugher) as they must navigate through the second act of their lives, experiencing the changes and challenges of mid-life. The show got strong ratings for TNT last December and comes back for a second season very soon, this release perfectly timed and featuring bonus material of a certain kind, such as Commentary, Deleted Scenes, a Gag Reel, and a couple of Featurettes.
-written by Dennis Crane
Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vol. XIX [Limited Edition]
If I have to explain to you anything in regards to this release than just know upfront it isn’t for you and go on to the next title. For those in the know, this latest release in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 collection features Tom Servo, Crow T. Robot and Gypsy waxing poetic about schlock classics Robot Monster, Bride of the Monster (an Ed Wood masterpiece of ultimate badness), Devil Doll and Devil Fish. This limited edition collector’s set also comes with a robotic replica of Gypsy, and personally I think this just might be one of the coolest extras the folks at Shout! Factory have ever come up with. The DVDs themselves are also filled to the brim with special features including a new introduction to the film Robot Monster by J. Elvis Weinstein and an appreciation for Robot Monster by The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra director Larry Blamire. For fans, this reasonably priced collection is one that simply cannot be passed up on.
Pleasing romantic comedy about five friends, Greg (Daniel Carlisle), Molly (Emily Peck), Trip (Todd Kubrak), Chloe (Liz Osborn) and Bridget (Marja-Lewis Ryan), who meet, frolic, romance, cheat and play at their local Greenwich Village hangout The Four-Faced Liar. The movie, scripted by Ryan, offers up familiar scenarios but lovingly plays with them by adding a bisexual twist, everything coming together in a sweet if familiar way that left me almost entirely satisfied. Definitely worth a rental, romantic comedy aficionados sure to come away pleased.
On the plus side, director and co-writer Charles Officer’s Nurse. Fighter. Boy is filled with dynamic moments that held me spellbound and was anchored by a sensational performance from “The Wire” star Clark Johnson that caught completely off guard. On the downside, the movie is filled with far too many clichés and moments of disastrous cuteness undercutting some of its inherent dramatic impact. That said, this Canadian import is overall quite strong and extremely memorable, and even when it doesn’t quite work it still has more bubbling beneath the surface than just about any other domestic Hollywood release out there. A good movie that probably could have been great, audiences looking for something a bit different guaranteed to leave them with much to think about and ponder should probably give this film a look.
Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives
One of the most controversial pictures of the year (and a picture I’ve already said more than my fair share about) finally hits DVD so exploitation B-movie fans can see for themselves what the fuss has been about. Here’s some of what I wrote in my review of the film (read the whole thing here) just a few short weeks ago: “Like all films to stir up controversy, I get the feeling that the majority throwing stones at Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives haven’t even taken the time to actually see it. What they’ll find certainly isn’t without problems, but as a loving homage to the genre it plays in and as a moderately deft examination of gender and the cold, often heartless politics that surround it Luna and company get far more right than they do wrong. As a midnight programmer it accomplishes the job, doing it with far more flashy aplomb (as well as in far more awesome footwear) than it probably has any right to.” For those wanting to know more, click here to read an interview I conducted with writer/director Israel Luna and star Willam Belli back in June.