If someone were to put me on a spot and force me to choose, as of this writing my pick for the best film of 2011 would either be Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris or this charming, delicate and ultimately marvelously emotional (and moving) melodrama from writer/director Mike Mills. As I wrote in my theatrical review back in June (read it here), “The follow up to the filmmaker’s wonderful 2005 effort Thumbsucker, this inventive and surprising comedic drama of fathers, sons, relationships, sexuality and life is an engaging emotional frolic filled with numerous delights. [Beginners] is a marvel of storytelling and character, telling a relatively familiar and potentially melodramatic tale in a way that feels different, new and profound.” For more on the film, check out my Interview with Mills and star Ewan McGregor I conducted back in May during the 2011 Seattle International Film Festival.
My Fair Lady
West Side Story
Two musical classics, only one of which I actually find all that magnificent, and you’d probably somewhat surprised to discover which one that is. Okay, it’s My Fair Lady, and while the film is a tad overlong and can run a bit slow at times it’s still so filled with cinematic delights it’s hard for me not to want to climb to the highest rafters and sing its praises boldly. Rex Harrison is a revelation, Audrey Hepburn charms while the sets, costumes, music and cinematography are all without any sort of par. In short, I think this movie is divine, and I don’t care if the rain in Spain stays mostly on the plain or not.
As for West Side Story, I’m not about to dismiss it, Robert Wise’s landmark musical too full of mesmerizing moments for that to happen. I just find its shaggy dog Romeo and Juliet story to be a bit of a snore, and while I truly adore Natalie Wood I can’t help but feel she’s hopelessly miscast as the ethereal Maria (although, her final monologue at the end is admittedly something of a stunner – there’s no denying that). Additionally, I just find a lot of it to be kind of silly, something I felt as a kid the first time I watched the movie and a feeling I’ve never been able to shake no matter how many times I’ve watched it since, including a recent trip to Seattle’s landmark Cinerama to view it in stunning 70mm. As for the new Blu-ray, it’s kind of incredible, and if not for one flabbergasting flub on the part of those who got it ready for its release during the opening credits (more on that in my forthcoming review) I’d have said fans should probably have bought this disc sight unseen.
Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn
Is Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn a sequel? Or is it just a remake, a more modestly budgeted re-imaging of the landmark Sam Raimi/Bruce Campbell first flick that allowed the duo to put more of what they originally imagined up on the screen? I guess yes on both counts, but in all honesty I’m not entirely sure. Be that as it may, Evil Dead 2 is a furiously funny and mordantly gruesome spectacle that just gets better and better as the years go by. I love it, I am incredibly found of this new Blu-ray 25th anniversary release from Lionsgate and I couldn’t urge the film’s massive cult following to pick it up right away. It’s groovy.
The Rules of the Game
Jean Renoir’s (Grand Illusion) classic 1939 ‘comedy’ is as scathing indictment of bourgeois life in France prior to WWII now as it ever was back during its landmark original theatrical release. A classic in every sense of the word, this movie is a brilliant parable that speaks to the best and worst of humanity and in many ways hints at the growing economic disconnect between rich and poor currently filling up the zeitgeist today. A masterpiece, this release from Criterion should be a part of every cinephile’s personal library and that is a statement not even remotely up for debate.
From my original theatrical review (read it here): “The feature debut for writer, director, producer and star [Evan] Glodell, Bellflower is an odd, unsettling, utterly captivating piece of dramatic hokum that enthralls and frustrates in almost equal measure. Polarizing audiences since its Sundance debut last January, the film has been making the festival rounds for the majority of the year before finally going into a limited theatrical release back at the beginning of August. It is infuriating and exhilarating, wonderful and annoying, cliché and revolutionary, and with more problems than I can easily count (or recount, for that matter) the simple truth of the matter is that I borderline loved it.” This movie is seriously growing on me, and watching it again on Blu-ray (more on that in a full review later – until then just know Oscilloscope’s treatment is top-notch) I was struck by just how effective much of it is. Stirring, at times heartbreaking, almost always emotionally invigorating, this is a thought-provoking high-octane independent production worthy of multiple viewings. For more on the film, take a look at my Interview with Evan Glodell conducted just after the film’s Seattle release.
The only disappointment amongst this week’s major Blu-ray releases, here’s what I wrote about Tom Hanks’ second directorial effort earlier this Summer (read my full theatrical review here): “I desperately wanted to like Larry Crowne, I truly did…The problem is the movie only waltzes in the real world while it tangos and rumbas in the realm of the fantastic and superficial. The final product is a silly and inert television sitcom masquerading as a timely melodrama, crafting three-dimensional human characters only to surround them with situations and outcomes reeking of the shallow and maudlin.”
The highly influential Honk Kong stunner from 2002 makes its Blu-ray debut thanks to Lionsgate, and sadly a review copy has not as of yet come my way. To say I’m saddened goes without question; to say I am probably just going to break down and buy the darn thing anyhow almost equally so.
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES
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· Being Human: The Complete First Season
· Farscape: The Complete Series
· Giorgio Moroder Presents Metropolis: Special Edition
· Griff the Invisible
· Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume One (Ultimate Collector's Edition)
· Main Street
· Pound of Flesh
· The Prophecy (1995)
· Tom Cruise Blu-ray Collection (Collateral / Days of Thunder / Minority Report / Top Gun / War of the Worlds)
· The Treasure Hunter
· The Ultimate Gift
A group of teens on a boat find themselves in a fogbound night only to run aground on the rocks of the mysterious 'Dog Island' right before their boat goes up in flames. As they gather on the shoreline, one of them goes missing, another is critically injured and four go searching for shelter. They then decide to venture into the still standing house to summon help from its occupants...if any. Luckily, there is someone still dwelling there, but unfortunately there's something else out on the island growling in the dark and it ain't no dog! And it is HUNGRY! (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
The Littlest Angel
Based on the fifteenth best-selling children's book of all time, The Littlest Angel tells the story of a young boy who arrives in heaven before his time. Home-sick and lonely, he will travel back to earth, with his friendly pup Halo, to retrieve a most selfless and precious gift for The Baby Jesus. Experience the love, laughter and magic of one of the most popular children's stories of all time. From the classic book by Charles Tazewell comes the CGI animated film, The Littlest Angel. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
One Nation Under God
It's time for a college road trip like you've never seen before. Michael Allen, Austin Meek, Will Bakke and Lawson Hopkins have grown up with all the right answers about God, but have yet to really ask any questions. With a free summer, a working car and a camera in hand, they'll travel the country asking: Who is God? Where is He? And how is He influencing America? In this hilarious and thought-provoking journey, they'll find refuge with Mormons, Muslims, atheists and hippies as they question everything in order to live for something. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
The exquisite Charlotte Gainsbourg stars in Julie Bertuccelli’s achingly beautiful follow-up to her sleeper hit Since Otar Left. Closing Night Film at Cannes in 2010, The Tree is a mystical drama of loss and rebirth in the Australian countryside. Not since classic 1970’s works Picnic at Hanging Rock and Walkabout has the harshly gorgeous outback landscape been such a lyrical yet foreboding metaphor for grief and coming of age. Blindsided with anguish after her husband s sudden death, Dawn (Gainsbourg) along with her four young children struggles to make sense of life without him. Eight-year-old Simone (unforgettable newcomer Morgana Davies) becomes convinced that her father is whispering to her through the leaves of the gargantuan fig tree that towers over their house. The family is initially comforted by its presence, but then the tree s enormous roots slowly begin to encroach on the abode and threaten their fragile existence. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
What Women Want (2010)
Chauvinistic advertising executive Zigang Sun (pop superstar Andy Lau, Infernal Affairs) is not known as a good husband, a good father or a good son. None of this bothers Zigang, since he’s focused entirely on his expected promotion to creative director. However, that opportunity disappears when his firm instead hires the female executive of a rival agency, Yilong Li (Gong Li, Miami Vice, Memoirs of a Geisha), to develop campaigns targeted toward women. When Zigang attempts to understand the opposite sex to compete with Yilong, a comic twist of fate gives him the ability to hear what women are thinking. While his new power makes him an expert on women and helps advance his career, it also leads him toward a relationship with his once-office-rival Yilong, and changes his outlook on what’s important in life and love. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
OTHER NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
(Support this site! Click title to buy from Amazon!)
· Crime Story: The Complete Series
· It Takes a Thief: The Complete Series
· Neverwhere – 15th Anniversary Edition
· White Chapel: The Ripper Returns