City of God
I reviewed the City of God Blu-ray last week, and to say I was satisfied is a total understatement; you can read what I wrote about Fernando Meirelles’ 2003 modern classic by going here.
To many people, including me, Peter Jackson’s 1994 stunner Heavenly Creatures is still the director’s best movie, including any of the entries in his Oscar-winning The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Based on a true story and featuring a breakout performance by future Academy Award-winner Kate Winslet, this was the first motion picture that showed Jackson to by far more than a one-trick gross-out pony, the movie filled with so much imagination, suspense, humor and emotion the total effect is almost startling.
As for Todd Haynes’ crazy, messed up, sometimes muddled and almost always exhilarating Velvet Goldmine, this is another one of those cases where the passage of time has been incredibly kind to a motion picture that was arguably a bit more interesting and progressive than must of us gave it credit for being back in 1998. Hallucinatory, adventurous, sexually provocative and musically aggressive, this Glam Rock chestnut just gets better and better with age.
Kung Fu Panda 2
Here’s what I wrote about this sequel back in May (read the full review here): “While not as fresh or as inspired as the first film, this second chapter in roly-poly panda Po’s journey is not without its charms. By focusing on the rotund kung fu master’s parental saga, by telling the story of how he came to become the son of noodle-making goose Mr. Ping, the movie is a sweetly sentimental peon to family and how DNA alone does not always make a loving father.” I’ll have a full review of Paramount’s excellent Blu-ray release of this title posted soon.
Meet Me in St. Louis
I adore Meet Me in St. Louis. Since receiving this stupendous Blu-ray digibook from Warner Bros I think I’ve watched this one three times, reveling in the colors, textures, music, emotions and performances to the point of exhaustion. The honest truth is that Vincente Minnelli’s 1944 classic staring his future wife Judy Garland is an all-time holiday favorite I can’t get enough of, and now having the opportunity to watch it in high-definition is like getting the world’s best Christmas and birthday presents all in one delightfully sensational package. I’ll have a full review up soon.
Branded to Kill
If you’ve never seen a film by idiosyncratic wild man Japanese director Seijun Suzuki, Tokyo Drifter and Branded to Kill are two perfect places to start. These crazed genre classics are difficult to describe yet absolutely impossible to takes one’s eyes off of while they’re playing. Both are great, but the wacky and unpredictable Branded to Kill would probably be my slight favorite of the two. Either way, a person can’t go wrong choosing to watch either of these Japanese New Wave gangster classics, and personally I can’t wait to get me hands on the Criterion Collection’s Blu-ray upgrades of both titles.
Could this week get any better? Seriously? The Rocketeer on Blu-ray? Disney’s 1991 pre-WWII graphic novel failure (directed by Captain America: The First Avenger handler Joe Johnston) that the studio has gone out their way to act like never happened is actually getting a 20th anniversary fully restored hi-def release? Can this be real? Sure is, and even though the only special feature is the movie’s original theatrical trailer I couldn’t be anymore enthusiastic about it. Quite frankly, I love this movie, adore it probably far more than I should, and the fact it’s become something of a minor cult favorite these past two decades tinkles me multiple shades of pink.
Fright Night 3D
Fright Night (2011)
Fright Night (1985)
Again, as if to reiterate that this week is truly an awesome one, both versions of Fright Night (Tom Holland’s relatively minor 1985 genre classic and Craig Gillespie’s relatively inspired remake released earlier this summer) make their way to Blu-ray, and I couldn’t urge horror fans more vociferously to add both to their personal collections. Granted, while the DreamWorks version (which you can read my August theatrical review of by going here) is readily available at outlets everywhere, you can only get the original, released exclusively by niche label Twilight Time, by going to the Screen Archives Website or through secondary sellers on Amazon.com. Be that as it may, I say buy them both as each version of Fright Night (the 1985 originally is marginally superior, but only marginally) is so gosh darn fun I can imagine getting tons of enjoyment from each films for many years to come.
Stars and Stripes Forever
I have never seen director Henry Koster’s (The Robe) biopic about iconic American composer John Phillip Sousa staring Clifton Webb (Laura). Heck, in all honesty I’d never even heard of it before Fox sent over the press release announcing its Blu-ray release. Now that its sitting here in my lap, I guess that means I have to give it a look. Thankfully, after looking up a few archival reviews I’m now sort of looking forward to doing just that, and at only 89 minutes in length it isn’t even like it’s going to take too much time out of my day when I finally decide to do so.
Another Buster Keaton classic is supposedly given a sterling Blu-ray presentation from the folks at Kino Video (check out the review at Blu-ray.com); another Kino Video release we sadly we were not sent a copy of to review. Someday those guys will respond to our emails and phone calls. Until then, the continued hit on my checking account balance will continue to be somewhat substantial.
Wish I liked this one more than I did, especially because star Rooney Mara shows many flashes of awesomeness that made her such an obvious choice for David Fincher when he went about casting for his version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. But the movie, your typical coming-of-age melodrama set in a hoity-toity all-girls boarding school, has some nice ideas and shows flashes of emotional maturity but hasn’t the first clue as to what to do with either of them to make everything add together in any sort of meaningful way. I disappointment, to be sure, but such a minor release that I seriously doubt anyone is going to take particular notice of it one way or the other.
Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame
Fun. Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, FUN, director Tsui Hark’s (Once Upon a Time in China) wittily entertaining and imaginative medieval martial arts frolic is a surmising mixture of laughs, suspense and action that held me giddily spellbound. Hugely entertaining and filled to the brim with outstanding visuals, this is one mystery-adventure genre fans should make a point of seeing for themselves.
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES
· The Expendables: Extended Director’s Cut
· Kill Katie Malone
· The Legend is Born: Ip Man
· Sherlock Holmes (1922)
Here’s what I wrote about this title back in August (read my full review here): “Circumstance isn’t perfect. There are times it drowns in heavy-handed melodrama and threadbare generalizations that annoy. But overall writer and director Maryam Keshavarz’s highly personal coming of age epic hits home like a sledgehammer, so much of it achieving a delicate, almost winsomely poignant grace certain segments become instantly unforgettable. Anchored by three electric performances… the movie is a moving examination of relationships and awakening sexual longings amidst the chaos of a politicized landscape that worms its way like virus right to heart of a loving family’s home.” For more on the film, check out my interview with the stars of the film Nikohl Boosheri and Sarah Kazemy.
The Black Power Mixtape 1967 – 1975
During the rise of The Black Power Movement in the 60s and 70s, Swedish Television journalists documented the unfolding cultural revolution for their audience back home, having been granted unprecedented access to prominent leaders such as Angela Davis, the SNCC's Stokely Carmichael, and Black Panthers founders Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. Now, after more than 30 years in storage, this never-before-seen footage spanning nearly a decade of Black Power is finally available. Director Goran Hugo Olsson presents this mixtape, highlighting the key figures and events in the movement, as seen in a light completely different than the narrative of the American media at the time. Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu, Abiodun Oyewole, John Forte, and Robin Kelley are among the many important voices providing narration and commentary, adding modern perspective to this essential time capsule of African-American history. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
With Daddy Longlegs (formerly known as Go Get Some Rosemary), Josh and Benny Safdie have crafted a realistic fairy tale that captures the magic and perils of parenthood, invoking memories of their inventive dad from their own childhood. Divorced and alone, Lenny (the perfectly cast Ronald Bronstein) is the father of two young boys he gets to see a couple of weeks a year. He cherishes these days with the kids, being both stern parent and lovable buddy, inventing myths and somehow living them, all while working overtime in the big city. When the going gets tough, Lenny uses some unusual, perhaps even hazardous, techniques to keep the kids safe from the world. Because of the film s fluid style, we feel that we are in the boxing ring alongside Lenny, as flawed as he is charismatic, champion of each day, yet totally black and blue. As the storm of society continually rains on him, Lenny laughs through it all. Isn t life crazy? (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Eames: The Architect and the Painter
The husband-and-wife team of Charles and Ray Eames are widely regarded as America's most important designers. Perhaps best remembered for their mid-century plywood and fiberglass furniture, the Eames Office also created a mind-bending variety of other products, from splints for wounded military during World War II, to photography, interiors, multi-media exhibits, graphics, games, films and toys. But their personal lives and influence on significant events in American life - from the development of modernism, to the rise of the computer age - has been less widely understood. Narrated by James Franco, Eames: The Architect and the Painter is the first film since their death dedicated to these creative geniuses and their work. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Monica & David
Monica & David is the love story of two adults with Down syndrome and the family who strives to support their needs. Monica and David are blissfully in love and want what other adults have an independent life. Full of humor, romance and everyday family drama, the film uses intimate fly-on-the wall footage to reveal the complexity of their story. While Monica and David are capable beyond expectations, their parents, afraid of mainstream rejection of adults with intellectual disabilities, have trouble letting go. Directed and produced by Monica s cousin, first-time filmmaker Alexandra Codina, Monica & David is a crowd-pleasing romance that swerves around the mind and goes straight for the heartstrings. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
OTHER NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
(Support this site! Click to buy from Amazon!)
· Def-Con 4 / Hell Comes to Frogtown (Double Feature)
· Family Guy, Volume Nine
· Sledge Hammer! The Complete Series
· Switched at Birth: Volume One