New Blu's On the Block - 12/06/2011


Rating: Various

Distributor: Various

Released: December 6, 2011


Written by Sara Michelle Fetters





New Blu's On the Block
Blu-ray and DVD Releases for December 6, 2011


Lots to talk about today, some of it good, some of it bad and a whole heck of a lot of it bordering on the incredible; just read on and you’ll see what I mean.



The Help

Is it an Oscar frontrunner? Are Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer virtual shoe-ins for Academy Award nominations? Does the script or the directing or anything else in regards to the film have a chance for nods as well? Well, it is an actor’s movie, and with the cast being as downright exceptional as they are (and with the actor’s branch of the Academy being so darn large) I think it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion it’s at least a significant player and going to be a large part of the 2011 Oscar party conversation.


As for the movie? It still holds up fairly well on subsequent viewing, although supporting players Jessica Chastain and Bryce Dallas Howard resonate a bit more the second time around than does Spencer, her shtick sadly getting a bit old when you watch the film again. Additionally, the overly melodramatic portions of the film as they relate to Emma Stone were far more noticeable when I watched The Help again on Blu-ray, and the heavy-handed nature of the middle section weighed on me ever-so slightly more while viewing it at home. Still, Davis is positively brilliant in the central role, and I do love the way everything comes to an end. This is a strong film deserving of a look, and while it won’t make my 2011 top ten I can’t really begrudge those who decide to place it upon their own. For more on the film, take a look at my August Theatrical Review, while reviews of both this Blu-ray and the DVD are forthcoming.



The Hangover Part II

Here’s what I wrote about this abominable mess of a comedy sequel back in May (read my full theatrical review here): “The Hangover Part II is flat-out one of the most disappointing, ill-timed, poorly constructed and downright wrongheaded sequels I have ever had the displeasure to see. On top of that, it isn’t funny, not at all, and other then a couple of a quick smiles, one giggle and maybe a tiny guffaw (at the very, very end) I don’t remember laughing a single solitary time.” Easily one of the worst films of 2011, for those that think I’m going a bit overboard in my condemnation of the flick check out Mitchell’s Blu-ray Review as he quite possible liked the film even less than I.



The Lady Vanishes

Alfred Hitchcock’s spirited 1938 masterpiece, a comedic quick-witted verbal thriller that almost plays like a Agatha Christie Miss Marple adventure, The Lady Vanishes its Blu-ray thanks to the folks over at the Criterion Collection. A true gem, Margaret Lockwood’s performance as a free-spirited dame who decides to investigate what she sees as the mysterious disappearance of an elderly passenger whom she has only recently made friends with is a delight in every way imaginable. Full of great bits of dialogue, stupendous images and paced with Hitchcock’s typical idiosyncratic flare, this is an early classic from the suspense master and as such should be a part of just about everyone’s personal hi-def libraries.



Tora! Tora! Tora!

Fox’s epic, 145-minute 1970 retelling of the attack on Pearl Harbor as told through both American and Japanese eyes comes to Blu-ray in a brand new special edition containing both the original domestic theatrical cut of the film as well as the Japanese extended version (about 3 ½ minutes longer), and the results are something extraordinary. I only just got this one this morning, so I’ve barely begun to make my way through the film and the subsequent special features, but one look at the opening 30 or so minutes is all a person needs to know this disc is a serious upgrade from all other previously released versions. Expect a full review soon.



The Debt

Two main reasons to watch this John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) directed Israeli espionage revenge epic? How about the combined talents of Jessica Chastain and Helen Mirren, both of whom are extraordinary playing the same headstrong spy at different points of her conflicted and extraordinary life. Another reason? This movie is smart, suspenseful, beautifully acted (Tom Wilkinson, Ciarán Hinds, Martin Csokas and Sam Worthington are all pretty great) and sensationally plotted, and if not for a rather lukewarm climax I’m almost positive we’d be talking about one of the year’s best films. As it is, The Debt is still an incredibly strong effort, both Chastain and Mirren delivering a pair of performances ranking as two of 2011’s finest.



Cowboys & Aliens

Here’s what I wrote about this one back in July when it first played theatrically (read my full review here): “It must be said upfront that, for all its problems and script deficiencies, Cowboys & Aliens is probably the most continually entertaining effort of director Jon Favreau’s still relatively young career…[Compared] to Made, Zathura and Iron Man 2 this intergalactic Western is by all means a much more fully realized and engaging motion picture, and for all its faults I did enjoy my time sitting in the theatre far more in regards to it than I did while watching any of those.”



Design for Living

Criterion’s second Blu-ray release of the week is a 1933 classic from director Ernst Lubitsch starring Fredric March, Gary Cooper and Miriam Hopkins, and is sadly a movie I have up until now never seen. Thankfully, Criterion sent over a review copy which I happily received in the mail yesterday morning. Sadly, it is the DVD and not the Blu-ray. Oh well, beggars cannot be choosers, I guess, and a full review of this release will be coming to the site very soon.



Point Blank (2010)

My goodness this movie is wonderful. Director Fred Cavayé’s dynamic potboiler is a full-throttle dynamite-fueled ticking clock thriller about a budding hospital nurse (Gilles Lellouche) who is forced to get safecracker and suspected murder Hugo Sartet (Roschdy Zem) out from his hospital bed after his pregnant wife (Elena Anaya) is taken hostage, and to say it rocks would be a serious understatement. This movie never lets up, never goes in the direction you think it will and delivers a rousing, pulse-pounding climax that’s fairly close to astonishing.



Life, Above All

Writing about Life, Above All is not an easy proposition. I had trouble coming up with what to say when I saw it earlier this year and ended up deciding against writing up a full theatrical review. Now that I’ve watched it again on Blu-ray, and faced with the prospect of reviewing that, I still don’t know what to put down on paper, the movie such an overwhelming emotional maelstrom compiling my thoughts into something coherent has been shockingly difficult. Just know that this movie, this marvelous, devastating, tragic and humane gem of a movie, is close to miraculous, and fans of international cinema with a point of view and something important to say should check it out without a second’s hesitation.



Mr. Popper’s Penguins

The pooping penguins are back, and for my part I could care less. This movie stunk, and for the life of me I can’t quite figure out how anyone, anywhere found a single reason to enjoy any part of it. Here’s my full Theatrical Review earlier this summer for those that are curious and interested in revisiting my pain.




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·         Alien Armageddon

·         The Dragon Tattoo Trilogy – Extended Edition

·         Is it Just Me?

·         Mission: Impossible – Extreme Blu-ray Trilogy

·         Out in the Silence: Extended Edition

·         Portlandia

·         Rapt

·         The Simpsons: The Fourteenth Season

·         Triple Tap

·         Vietnam in HD






Histoire(s) Du Cinema

 Jean-Luc Godard ‘s controversial and mesmerizing Histoire(s) Du Cinema finally makes its long-awaited domestic DVD release. An absolute must for anyone who even moderately considering themselves a student of the art of cinema.



Body Puzzle

Come Have Coffee with Us (Venga a Prendere Un Caffe Da Noi)

Murder Obsession

Three releases from RaroVideo, all of which have never seen the domestic DVD light of day and all are worth checking out. The most intriguing of the bunch is the ribals sex comedy Come Have Coffee with Us starring La Cage aux Folles favorite Ugo Tognazzi, the movie an intoxicating mixture of laughs, drama and social satire I thoroughly enjoyed start to finish.



Bobby Fischer Against the World

In 1972, America was chess-obsessed. The Soviet Union used chess to demonstrate its intellectual superiority to the West, but along came a young, lone American, who demolished the Russian masters of the sport. At the height of his career, Bobby Fischer was better known than any other man in the world. Relentless press attention, political pressure and a monomaniacal focus on chess ultimately led to his undoing. Filmmaker Liz Garbus uses the narrative tension of the 1972 match between Fischer and the defending World Champion, the Russian Boris Spassky, to explore not only the politically charged period of the early 1970s but also the nature of genius, madness and the game of chess itself. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)



The Piano in a Factory

When Chens estranged wife reappears asking for a divorce and custody of their daughter, the musician girl decides she will live with whoever can provide her a piano. Chens struggle thus begins. When efforts to borrow money and even steal a piano fail, Chen concocts a preposterous plan - he'll make a piano from scratch! He persuades a bunch of reluctant, but loyal, misfit friends to help him forge the instrument in a derelict factory from a heap of scrap steel. Though crude in design and tune, the factory piano awaits its first and final performance from his little girl. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)



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·         Big Love: The Complete Fifth Season

·         Law & Order: The Ninth Year

·         Captain Power – The Complete Series

·         Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXII

·         Sarah Jane Adventures: Complete Fourth Season

·         Skeleton Warriors – The Complete Series



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