New Blu's On the Block Blu-ray and DVD Releases for Nov 16, 2010
Another big week for Blu-ray, and while I’m not a huge fan of all of the films making their appearance today in high definition the ones I am fond of I’m downright giddy about adding to my library. Additionally, a ton of catalog titles all make their appearance on Blu-ray 3D. These titles include Clash of the Titans (2010), The Polar Express, IMAX: Space Station, IMAX: Under the Sea, IMAX: Deep Sea and Open Season. There are a couple more, but I’ll be going into those in a bit more detail in just a second so there’s no reason to list them here.
Without further ado, here are this week’s notable newcomers to Blu-ray and DVD.
I’ve watched James Cameron’s Avatar four times in the theatre, but avoided this summer’s extended edition re-release mainly because I knew this three-disc Blu-ray was on the way and I didn’t like the film quite enough to pay IMAX prices for only a handful of new minutes. For my part I believe my decision was a good one. This return to Pandora features three versions of the film (the original theatrical release, this summer’s re-release and an all-new even more extended version featuring scenes of an overpopulated dystopian Earth) and I’m curious to see how all of them compare one to the other. Additionally, unlike the bare-bones Blu-ray released earlier this year this one comes packed with special features, and for those interested in knowing how Cameron was able to pull this massive epic off here’s their chance to finally find out.
As for the movie, while I enjoy it a heck of a lot I’m not about to proclaim this is even close to being Cameron’s best. Hugely entertaining? Yes. Full of spectacular eye-popping moments that held me spellbound? Double yes. Did I marvel at the believability of the motion capture used to depict the Na'vi and was I awestruck by just how emotionally complex and ultimately moving Zoe Saldana’s performance was as the female warrior who fell in love with hero Jake Sully? Beyond yes, and in every single Oscar article I wrote for last year I urged voters to give her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
But the movie is highly derivative of countless other pictures (Dances with Wolves and Fergully being the most obvious pair, but trust me there are plenty of other examples), and I do feel like Cameron repeats himself as far as some of his action sequences are concerned, pulling ideas out of his previous pictures and presenting them as if they were brand new. As much fun as this film is, and it is one heck of a lot of fun, it’s not the greatest thing since sliced bread no matter what the massive box office would lead a person to believe. It is grand, old-school epic entertainment, true, but not the end all-be all of science fiction, and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise hasn’t the first clue as to what it they’re talking about. For those who are interested, you can read my full theatrical review of Avatarhere, while a review of the Blu-ray written by our own Dennis Crane should be forthcoming.
Two classics from the folks over at the Criterion Collection, the first the last “silent” comedy (and I say silent with trepidation as sound is actually quite important to the film) and the final appearance of the Little Tramp from the great Charlie Chaplin, the second the only directorial effort of actor Charles Laughton and features one of the great, most iconic performances of Robert Mitchum’s entire career.
Modern Times is extraordinary. I’m in the process of writing a full review of this Blu-ray now and will hopefully have it up soon, but until then just know that Criterion has truly given the great Charlie Chaplin his due with this spectacular hi-def presentation. Not only does the film look incredible, it is packed with interesting and informative special features that held me nearly as captivated as the movie itself. Even those who consider silent films the ultimate anathema will find themselves completely swept up and absorbed by this picture’s ageless, hysterical and ultimately bittersweet narrative, its saga of a man dealing with a rapidly changing world in the middle of a Great Depression as poignant and as timely now as it ever was back in 1936.
As for Laughton’s 1955 eerie, unsettling masterwork, the film was unjustly maligned during its initial release and it wasn’t until much later that people realized it as the work of art it ultimately is. While its story of a strange, malevolent preacher (Mitchum, making his psychopathic character as akin to true, unadulterated evil as any depiction ever put to screen) terrorizing a pair of children he believes know the whereabouts of $10,000 in missing loot is fairly simple, the surreal execution of this tale by Laughton is anything but. Sadly, Criterion didn’t send us this for review but it’s safe to say I’ll be picking it up to add to my personal library all the same (especially because Barnes & Noble’s 50-percent off all Criterion titles doesn’t end until Sunday). I suggest anyone with even a passing interest in either the film itself or with Mitchum as an actor immediately do the same.
Robert Zemeckis’ version of the Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol is our second motion capture extravaganza of the week, and to say it is far less successful using the technology than James Cameron’s Avatar is would be a humongous understatement. This creepy, emotionally stilted CGI animated mess is a rather lifeless bore. In my theatrical review last November (read that here) I said that the film had “no heart” and there was “nothing beating beneath the surface.” Nonetheless Disney is bringing the film out today in two different hi-def versions, a 3D/2D combo pack and a Blu-ray/DVD combo for those who haven’t upgraded their televisions and players. Disney sent the Blu-ray/DVD Combo release, and the review will be posted later this week.
I adored Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids are All Right, writing about it back in July (read my full review here) that the movie was “a refreshingly honest and frank modern comedy that hits numerous emotional highs” and that it treated “both its characters and its audience with respect, everything building with a delightful effortlessness that’s both enchanting and deeply moving.” Nothing has changed, although I’m not entirely sure how Annette Bening has become the Best Actress frontrunner while her costar Julianne Moore has been seemingly left out in the cold. That weirdness aside, this is a great movie just about everyone who likes quality cinema should enjoy. For those interested in a bit more on the title, click to read my interview with Lisa Cholodenko I conducted just a few days before the film’s Seattle release.
All 29 episodes of the second season presented in 1080p high definition is a great proposition, but the fact that Image Entertainment has also loaded the set with new special features is an added bonus that is going to take many, many take hours to get through. First up are 25 new commentary tracks with various authors (such as The Twilight Zone Companion’s Marc Scott Zicree), writers (Mad Men’s Matthew Weiner), and directors (Battlestar Galactica alumn Michael Nankin), interviews with actors Joseph Ruskin and H.M. Wynant, two sets of vintage audio interviews, the suspense episode “Nightmare at Ground Zero” written by Rod Serling, 15 radio dramas, and what appears to be material previously available, commentaries by series stars, vintage audio recollections, 22 isolated music scores, sponsor billboards, Rod Serling promos for “Next Week’s” show, and more.
Furthermore, the release pattern for the series on high-def is great, the first season out two months ago, and The Twilight Zone Season 3 Blu-ray is already up for pre-order at Amazon, to be released on February 15, 2011. Sara reviewed the The Twilight Zone Season 1 Blu-ray in mid-October, and wrote that the Blu-ray is, amongst other praise, “the best, most comprehensive look at Rod Serling’s baby that I have ever seen.” Image has sent us a copy of Season 2 and a review will be forthcoming in the next two weeks or so.
Without question, director Frank Lloyd’s 1935 version of Mutiny on the Bounty remains heads and tails above any and all other adaptations of the literary favorite every made (and that includes versions starring Marlon Brando and Mel Gibson). That year’s Academy Award-winner for Best Picture, the movie is a swirling and unnerving powder keg of high seas action and emotional imbroglio amongst naval men that blew my socks clean off when I sat down to watch Warner Bros’ stunning digibook Blu-ray release of the picture (except a full review soon). Having never seen this version before, I was struck by just how magnificent it was, and even know I knew the story of the evil Captain Bligh and the heroic Feltcher Christian well viewing this disc was almost like hearing the tale for the very first time. Charles Laughton and Clark Gable are magnificent (both, along with fellow lead Franchot Tone, were nominated for Best Actor), and even though I’ve only had this Blu-ray for a week or so I’m proud to say I’ve already watched the picture even with its 132-minute running time three full times.
M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender has to be one of the most unjustly over-maligned motion pictures of the entire year. Sitting at a minute 6-percent on Rotten Tomatoes and a pint-sized 20 over at Metacritic, you’d think this film belongs up with Plan 9 from Outer Space as one of the worst movies ever put to celluloid. The simple fact is that while it admittedly isn’t very good, there’s still plenty enough of merit going on here that to list it amongst the all-time dregs just isn’t warranted, and while I’m not about to state this adaptation of the popular Nickelodeon cartoon series is worthwhile I’m not going to tell you it is worse than it actually is, either. The film will be released on Blu-ray today in three versions: a 2D combo release, a 2D single disc, and a 3D version (as a Best Buy exclusive only), and for those interested in reading what I thought of the picture back during its original theatrical release you can read my review by clicking here.
I am going to spend no more time on this title than absolutely necessary. First off, Warner Bros. is releasing both 2D and 3D versions on Blu-ray. Second, no one with even half an ounce of sanity should consider buying either of them (but we’re posting links to Amazon regardless, because, you just never know). Here’s what I wrote about the sequel back in August (read my full review here): “I get why Warner Bros. returned to this particular well. In the wake of the aforementioned adventures of Alvin, Simon and Theodore and coupled with the bizarre popularity of Beverly Hills Chihuahua greenlighting this sequel was probably a pretty easy decision. But just because that’s so doesn’t make it a good one, and even though kids will probably be entertained the rest of us will be wishing Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore had been euthanized at the scripting stage.”
Another movie I hardly want to think about again let alone talk about. Here’s what I wrote about this supposed comedy back in September (read my full review here): “Lottery Ticket is rough. There is a solid premise buried somewhere inside director and co-writer Erik White’s debut feature, and he’s hired an even more solid cast (including Loretta Devine, Ice Cube, Keith David, Terry Crews, Bill Bellamy and Mike Epps) to bring it to life. But nothing here connects, nothing feels genuine, and by the time things come to their inevitable conclusion the only thing honest about any of this is the utter disgust and disappointment I felt walking out of the movie theatre.”
Wow. This is like the week of releases of movies I just reviewed theatrically not too long ago. In the case of The Extra Man, I saw this one way back in May as it was the opening night attraction at this year’s Seattle International Film Festival but didn’t get to write about it until the very end of July. A nice, sometimes hilarious dramatic comedy featuring a sensational performance by the great Kevin Kline, the movie was a bit hit and miss as far as I was concerned. In my theatrical review (read that here) I wrote, “The end product, for all its winning moments, bits of delectable whimsy and subtle nuance, is frustratingly really rather slight, and as much as I want to say I loved it the sad truth borders on the opposite.”
Our second (and technically third) silent classic to make its way to Blu-ray today, this one coming also coming from the folks over Kino and containing easily one of my favorite Buster Keaton classics. It’s a pity we can’t seem to get on their press list, as I would have LOVED to have gotten the opportunity to review this one. Every time it’s on Turner Classic Movies I make a point of watching it, and if the price over on Amazon would go down just a tiny little bit I’ll probably give in and purchase it for my library.
A violent exercise in action extravaganza, well, sort of, The Tournament pits 30 of the world’s deadliest and most proficient killers (they might prefer assassins, but you can’t know for sure) against each other in a fight to the death, but that part is obvious. The interesting twist is that this happens only every seven years (which makes sense, as it gives the world time to produce new killers), in an unsuspecting town (can’t really advertise this type of competition so, again, make sense), and the only thing on their minds is “kill or die” (there can only be one winner to collect the sweet cash prize), all the while a group of gamblers watch the action unfold over closed-circuit TV footage. Ving Rhames, Kelly Hu and Robert Carlyle headline this action piece directed by Scott Mann, whose previous credits include a series of shorts and TV documentaries.
Ugh. Another film I saw during this past summer’s Seattle International Film Festival and one I wish I could forget. For whatever reason, however, audiences disagreed with me on this title, the odd, surrealistic and highly violent Japanese import becoming one of the festival’s breakout midnight sensations. Personally I just don’t get it. For me this played like nothing more than an absurdly gory episode of “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” and I got about as much enjoyment out of watching it as I did having to sit through that unquestionably terrible television show as a teenager when my younger brother had monopoly on the remote. That said, fans of stuff like Machine Girl (which I do sort of like) might get a kick out of this, everyone else stay as far away as possible.
This came out late last year, also timed for the holidays, so chances are if you’re a Sunny fan you may already own this hour-long special. This package features four exclusive Paddy’s coasters, and as far as I can tell, everything else is the same.
No need to speculate the reasoning behind this “Complete Series” release is fairly obvious; milk the (now defunct) franchise just one more time while it’s still relevant in the back of people’s minds. Presented on 24 discs, all 77 episodes are here along with previously available bonus materials.
The tagline advertises, rather boldly, “As Not Seen on TV!” Well, isn’t that special. Not really, because these are freely available on the Interwebs. Also, chances are, if you’re a fan of the show, you may have already seen these shorts anyway. Priced at 10 bucks right now, and that’s obviously cheap, but I’d recommend this to completists only.
Slapdash feature-length sitcom about a group of New York men exploring the bar scene, director Douglas Langway’s BearCity offers up the occasional good idea only to do nothing of interest with it. When it focuses specifically on how society, both gay and straight, attempts to marginalize the overweight and very hair “bears” at the center of the story, the movie offers up plenty of interesting and semi-touching insights worthy of exploration. Unfortunately, the majority of the picture is a “Sex and the City” bitch-fest filled with cliché dialogue, uninteresting characters and situations bearing little to no relation to real life. A sad waste of time, nonetheless will find itself plenty of fans eager to lap up its swill of sub par fantasy.
Ah, yes, a documentary about Troll 2, a film I had never seen until recently (read my Blu-ray review) and one I wish I could somehow get out of my head after now watching it. Sadly I missed this one during its Seattle run but have heard awesome things and can’t wait to get a look at it. Definitely going to the very top of my Netflix queue that’s for darn sure. If you’re interested in purchasing it, Troll 2 Blu-ray is now available.
Harvey Keitel is the main reason why anyone would want to check out this crime drama from 2006, which I never heard of, and judging by the 5.7 rating out of 701 votes on IMDb, there seems to be some merit to the flick, but likely not very much to be satisfactory. The story follows Vincent (Norman Reedus), who recently lost his wife and seeks her killer, his neighbor Alice (Emmanuelle Béart) who creates a perpetrator out of thin air hoping it will get Vincent to move on with his life, and cab driver Roger (Keitel), who Alice decides to seduce in her attempt to give Vincent a reason to live again. On a side note, Amazon lists the running time as 98 minutes while IMDb writes 103 minutes, which leads me to believe that this DVD presents an edited version of the film.
Intriguing looking thriller from In My Skin director Marina de Van starring Sophie Marceau and Monica Bellucci that I’ve heard plenty of great things about and can’t wait to get a look at. The film is loosely inspired byDavid Lynch’s Mulholland Drive and concerns itself with an author whose hold on reality begins to fail when her latest novel gets turned down by her publisher. Another title I’m putting in the Netflix queue immediately.
A movie I wanted to like a whole lot more than I actually did, Eyes Wide Open chronicles the love affair between Jewish Orthodox father of four Aaron (Zohar Shtrauss) and the young man, Ezri (Ran Danker), whom he welcomes into his home and butcher shop as his apprentice. As good as the actors are and as subtle as Merav Doster’s script tries to be I was just never drawn into the film the way I keeping thinking I would be. While there are plenty of emotionally effective moments there just weren’t enough of them to keep my attention, the final scenes having a sort of ho-hum quality that left me cold.
Star-studded Mexican import with Diego Luna, Victoria Abril and Aridna Gil about four dangerous women who conspire to hit back at the man who made all their lives miserable. Slight but admittedly wonderful, this revenge-fueled thriller is an occasionally dazzling (if not altogether original) heist epic filled with double and triple-crosses and is an engaging rollercoaster that’s hard to not enjoy. Not sure if I’ll run a full DVD review, just know that for both fans of the genre and for lovers of international cinema this is one title that’s a total kick in the pants (and I mean that in a good way).
Biopic of Minerva Mirabal and her sisters, the lot of whom stood up to Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo during the 1950’s. This was a movie I wanted to like a heck of a lot more than I actually did, actress Michelle Rodriguez getting her meatiest role since Girlfight and doing one heck of a lot more for it than the film sadly does for her. The whole thing is weighed down in too much maudlin sentimentality and director Juan Delancer paces things as if her were conducting a funeral march, and by the time the story reached its forgone conclusion I admit to being more than a tiny bit bored. Still, strong moments abound, and Rodriguez really does throw herself into the main character body and soul, I just wish there were more things about it that I liked that would help me get over my otherwise benign indifference.