New Blu's On the Block - 12/14/1010
Released: Dec 14, 2010
Sara Michelle Fetters
New Blu's On the Block
Blu-ray and DVD Releases for Dec 14, 2010
Another big week for Blu-ray, a handful of the year’s most talked about and successful films hitting store shelves both today and on Friday. But for my money, it’s a tiny little documentary down in the DVD section that has me most excited, Exit Through the Gift Shop one of the year’s best, most original and definitely one of its most entertaining films.
But it isn’t the only film worth talking about. Take a look at the list of new releases and see for yourself.
Despicable Me (Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy)
Despicable Me (3D Blu-ray Combo)
I still can’t quite comprehend how Universal’s Despicable Me has managed to make just over $250-million at the domestic box office. While I found this animated smash to be perfectly acceptable for younger viewers, I just didn’t think there was enough in the way of connective tissue or a decent enough narrative through line for adults to be as equally amused. It played like a scattershot comedy full of decent jokes and some good sight gags with nothing of substance holding it together, and suffice it to say while I fully expected it to do well I never considered it would become a bona fide family-friendly phenomenon.
With that being the case, Universal brings the adventures of super villain Gru (unrecognizably voiced by Steve Carell) and his three orphan wards to Blu-ray with a heck of a lot of fanfare. The studio is offering up both 3D and 2D collections, both of which come with identical special features and, for a limited time, also contain three new short films revolving around everyone’s favorite group of diminutive yellow minions. Considering how many people love this one, I’m sure it will sell like hotcakes, just don’t expect me to be one of those adding it to their hi-def libraries. You can read my theatrical review of the film by clicking here.
The Town (2010) (Releasing Dec. 17, 2010)
Another hit that I don’t quite get what all the fuss is about, Ben Affleck’s second directorial effort The Town was just named by the American Film Institute as one of the top ten American films of 2010 giving it an excellent shot at a Best Picture Academy Award nomination. Personally I’m at a loss to figure out what everyone sees in this one. While reasonably well made, containing a couple of nice action sequences and featuring some excellent performance (most notably Jeremy Renner’s), the movie is nonetheless a tired, cliché and overly familiar reworking of Michael Mann’s Heat set to a Boston beat. In my theatrical review (read it here) I said that finished product was “a workmanlike production constructed with skill” but also added that “the emotional connection needed to make it worthwhile never [materialized.]”
But audiences seem to have disagreed with me on this one, and I’d imagine that this Blu-ray “Extended Cut” of the film will meet with a lot of fanfare. I will admit to be slightly curious to see the 150-minute extended version, mainly because the extra footage could potentially go along way to erasing some of my unease regarding the plot’s rudimentary simplicity and lack of emotional resonance. A review of the Blu-ray by Mitchell is forthcoming.
The Other Guys
Director Adam McKay and actor Will Ferrell team up for a fourth time with The Other Guys, and for my part it is the only part of their cinematic partnership that I admit to enjoying saying in my August review (read it here), “There are plenty of original sight gags and ideas, and they definitely know the genre they’re spoofing inside and out, offering up just enough tasty goodness to keep their fans exuberantly happy.” The two-disc Blu-ray edition features theatrical and extended cuts of the film while also coming with a humongous array of extras those who loved this cops and robbers spoof are going to revel in. Dennis will have a full review of the Blu-ray up for you to read very soon.
24: Season 8
The studio and producers decided to end 24 at the right time, not forcing a ninth year out of the franchise which hit its creative peak during Season 5 (possibly the best season of them all). Afterwards, the show slowly but surely went on a downward spiral, that is to say, a creative decline. In another change of scenery, the action shifts from Washington D.C. to New York City this time, where Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) gets caught up in international and political intrigue yet again, racing against time to prevent a Middle Eastern leader from meeting an untimely demise, to put it mildly. Just when Jack thinks the day is over, however, the city faces an imminent threat, and meanwhile office politics cause problems in President Taylor’s camp and at the New York C.T.U. building (not an unusual occurrence, if you’ve been paying attention, haha). Many new faces appear this season, some welcome additions, others not at all. The Blu-ray presentation should look on par with the broadcast, but I’m saving the actual comments for my forthcoming review of the 4-disc set that’s going live over the weekend.
-written by Dennis Crane
True Grit (1969)
Unsurprisingly, Paramount has decided to release John Wayne’s Oscar-winning 1969 version of True Grit to Blu-ray just eight days before the Coen Brothers directed remake hits the multiplex. Hopefully the studio’s restoration here will be on par with their job on The African Queen, although the recently published review over at DVDBeaver doesn’t exactly get my hopes up. Still, reasonably priced over at Amazon (only $17.99!), and containing one of the Duke’s most iconic performances, this is one disc I’m just dying to get a look at for myself.
I loved Cyrus. The latest effort from brother Mark and Jay Duplass, this awesome little coal-black comedy had me close to rolling in the aisles both times I went to the theatre to watch it last summer. In my June review (read it here) I stated: “The movie is full of a flurry of great gags both visual and verbal, all of it anchored by a wonderfully self-assured script that boldly goes right for the jugular right from the start. The acting is uniformly excellent and there are a scene of such extreme hilarity just thinking about them again now has got me audibly chuckling even though I’m trying to type.” This is a great comedy, an even better movie and maybe one of the very best things I’ve had the pleasure to see this year. I’ll have a full review of the Blu-ray up in over the weekend. Until then, please check out my interview with co-writer and co-director Jay Duplass by clicking here.
So, I didn’t mind The A-Team when I first watched it back in June (read my review here), calling Joe Carnahan’s reworking of the popular 1980’s television show “one heck of a lot fun” and that “thanks primarily to the cast and as well as Carnahan’s ability to stage relatively imaginative action sequences the film kept my attention.” But 30 minutes of extra footage? That seems just about uncalled for. I could be wrong, but considering the film’s chief problems were over-length and an inability to come up with a satisfying conclusion it seems to me this isn’t a very good idea. Still, I’ll check it out, as this live-action cartoon kept me reasonably happy the first time I watched it and I imagine a second go-around – even one that’s 30-minutes longer – won’t be all that unpalatable. Doug should have a full review of the Blu-ray up soon so keep an eye out for it.
Legend of the Guardians: Owls of Ga'hoole (Releasing Dec. 17, 2010)
Legend of the Guardians: Owls of Ga'hoole (3D Blu-ray Combo)
I don’t have a lot to say about this one. While the vocal cast is excellent, Zack Snyder’s foray into the world of family-friendly computer animation didn’t do a darn thing for me. In my September review (read it here) I said that the picture was “a gigantic blob of animal-driven fantasy nonsense, and as sublime as all of it looks pretty pictures can only get you so far when the story consistently flatlines.” Available in both 3D and 2D versions, Mitchell will have a full review of Warner’s Blu-ray presentation up for everyone to read soon.
From the mind of French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Micmacs is a surrealistic visual treat that’s a heck of lot more fun than it probably has any right to be. In my May review (read it here) I called the film “pure cinema almost for the sake of pure cinema,” and that at its hear was “a surprisingly moving love story that ended up catching me almost by complete surprise.” Mitchell has just sent in his Micmacs Blu-ray review.
Nanny McPhee Returns
As sequels to family films go, Nanny McPhee Returns is a somewhat surprisingly wonderful one. In my August review (read it here) I admitted that the movie couldn’t hold a candle to the delightful 2006 original but was still the sort of enterprise that both adults and children could enjoy with “equal ease,” and that the final product “[touched] my heart and [brought] a smile to my face neither of which I [wanted] to let go of.”
Mother and Child
Until the last ten or fifteen minutes sadly flatlines, writer and director Rodrigo Garcia’s Mother and Child is a poignant, brilliantly acted and magnificently moving melodrama that held me tearfully captivated. The story of three women (a 50-year old woman, the 35-year-old daughter she gave up for adaptation and an African-American woman looking to adopt a child of her own), the movie is a powerhouse on almost every level, each piece fitting together in a way that kept my emotional investment running on high. But things fall apart, and while I’m still quite partial the full feature itself I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being somewhat disappointed by the way everything ultimately comes together. I will say this, for all the talk Annette Bening is getting for The Kids Are All Right (much of it more than valid), this is the performance she deserves an Oscar for, the actress delivering arguably the finest performance of her entire career. I’ll have a full review of the Blu-ray up in the next couple of days.
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work is without a doubt on of 2010’s most entertaining and just plain fun to watch documentaries. In my June review (read it here) I stated that the movie was “a superlative glance at the life and times of an iconic and groundbreaking woman deserving of more respect than she’s sadly probably going to get.” Considering this fine, thought-provoking and surprisingly poignant pictures didn’t even make the 2010 shortlist for potential Best Documentary nominees, maybe that statement was a bit more prescient than I knew when I wrote it. That said, watch this movie, even if you’re not a fan of Rivers, because by the time it’s over you’re going to be so glad you did whether or not you actually like the lady isn’t going to matter one single bit.
The Black Pirate
After his ship is pillaged by buccaneers, sole survivor Michel (screen legend Douglas Fairbanks) poses as the mysterious Black Pirate infiltrating the bandit’s camp in an effort to reclaim a stolen treasure, take back the ship and mount the rescue of a Princess (Billie Dove) in captivity. The Black Pirate was filmed entirely Technicolor, the Blu-ray featuring a high-def remaster from the 35mm restoration negatives, and several new bonus materials such as composer Lee Erwin’s organ score, 30 minutes of previously unreleased outtakes, a B&W “Talkie” adaptation, and a photo gallery. Other features include an audio commentary as well as 19 minutes of outtakes previously available.
-written by Dennis Crane
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES
NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
24: The Complete Series
There’s not much here to tell, other than this: there’s a bonus disc among this 56-disc, eight-season collection, also including the Redemption movie, that features the following exclusive material: Season 8 wrap reel, a Comic-Con 2009 panel, four segments of what’s called “Eight Days”, and a series of featurettes entitled “Jack Bauer: Evolution of a Hero”, “Presidents’ Friends and Villains”, “Memories and Moments” and “Goodbye”. I wouldn't be surprised if these show up on the Interweb eventually, but as far as 'complete series collections' go, one probably can't go wrong here as there is at least some type of added value material that's not available on the previously released, individual season sets.
-written by Dennis Crane
America Lost & Found: The BBS Story (Head / Easy Rider / Five Easy Pieces / Drive, He Said / The Last Picture Show / The King of Marvin Gardens / A Safe Place) (Criterion Collection)
This boxed set came out on Blu-ray a couple of weeks ago, the Criterion Collection releasing this set of seven films made in a particular time period by a team of producers who changed the game of what type of films Hollywood made at the time. Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces and The Last Picture Show are the films that stand out the most, and now film fans get a chance to discover some gems that not many people may have seen.
-written by Dennis Crane
Double Take (2010)
Director Johan Grimonprez combines documentary and fiction in this look at Alfred Hitchcock’s films from the late 50s and early 60s by using meticulous archive footage and a story by novelist Tom McCarthy where Hitchcock encounters his double during the production of The Birds. As the product description proclaims further, “Grimonprez traces the global rise of fear as a commodity, examining modern history through the lens of mass media, advertising and Hollywood.”
-written by Dennis Crane
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Wow. Double wow. Wow with a little dollop of sugar on top. I missed Exit Through the Gift Shop when it played theatrically, not able to get to the press screening and then kicking myself repeatedly afterwards for not being able to make the time. The reviews for this one weren’t just positive, they were downright orgasmic, this odd documentary about a filmmaker having the tables turned on him by his subject one just about every critic everywhere seemed to adore.
After watching the DVD I can see what the fuss has been about. The story of French amateur filmmaker Thierry Guetta and an extremely famous camera shy street artist known as Bansky, this movie is a total trip and a half. It’s been a while since I’ve watched something dissect the world of art with such pinpoint exactitude, Bansky realizing the filmmakers photographing him hasn’t the first clue as to what he is doing and so thusly takes the camera off of himself and points it in the other direction. A great film that works on a multitude of levels, it’s easy to see why this made the shortlist for potential 2010 Best Documentary nominees and while many others consider itself an obvious frontrunner to win the Oscar outright. You can read my full Exit Through the Gift Shop DVD review now.
Jay Baruchel plays high school student Leon Bronstein in this independent comedy coming from the Tribeca Film Festival. The twist is, Leon thinks he is the reincarnation of Soviet iconoclast and Red Army Hero, Leon Trotsky. After starting a hunger strike, his father sends him to public school as punishment, where he is determined to change the world, or so he’d like to think.
-written by Dennis Crane