Coming in ninth on my list of the Top Ten Films of 2012 (and easily could have come in a heck of a lot higher), Compliance is an enervating spectacle thatís as provocative as it is difficult to forget. As I wrote in my original theatrical review (read it here), ďNot so much a thriller yet as terrifying as anything Iíve seen this year, definitely not a horror movie but so insidiously scary the chances Iíll be able to stop thinking about it however around zero and none, this is one fantastic motion picture. It took me places I definitely did not want to go, got me in a mindset so infuriating I was angry at myself for thinking the thoughts. Itís close to genius-level filmmaking, a claim I do not make lightly, and without question this is one of the finest features Iíll likely see in all of 2012.Ē
Two-Lane Blacktop Ė Criterion Collection
How had I never seen this film until Criterionís scrumptious Blu-ray arrived in mail for review? Seriously, I donít have an answer to that question. Iíd heard of Monte Hellmanís much revered road movie and have had many opportunities to give it a look, but for whatever reason I just never took the time to view it. For that I apologize. This movie isnít just terrific, itís goes beyond that to some magical nether region where it must simply be considered one of the great pieces of stream-of-consciousness cinematic road trip Americana ever to be put to celluloid. In short, it is AWESOME, Criterionís Blu-ray presentation as immaculate as any to ever come out of the production house.
From my theatrical review (read it here): ďNothing all that interesting happens, and as far as surprises go thereís not a lot to talk about. While the visuals are impressive, even at a midnight screening filled with enthusiasts ready to hoot and holler every crazy, blood-splattered moment there wasnít much here that ever got my pulse racing. Dredd didnít do much for me, and while my final judgment is hardly as negative as it could have been that doesnít mean my passing of sentence labeling the film as instantly forgettable is anything close to a positive.Ē
From my theatrical review (read it here): ďFrankenweenie isnít so much an extended version of director Tim Burtonís famed 1984 short film of the same name as it is a reinvention of it. Taking the idea of the original, young boy loses his beloved dog in a tragic accident only to bring him back to life Mary Shelley-style, this new version working from a script by frequent Burton collaborator John August (Dark Shadows, Big Fish, Corpse Bride) expands upon it exponentially, producing a life-affirming story of youth and friendship suitable all ages. While the images are gothic in nature and the creatures somewhat extreme the film itself is consistently universal, itís inherently childlike view of life, love and death as old school Disney as anything the studio has produced at any point in its revered animation history.Ē
Itís safe to say that if HBO has decided to screen Jay Roachís Game Change in theatres it arguably be one of the frontrunners as far as this yearís Academy Awards are concerned. This adaptation of the Mark Halpern and John Heilsmann book, the movie focusing almost exclusively on the John McCain campaignís disastrous decision to pick Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, is aces across the board, Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, Ed Harris and bevy of others giving sensational performances while Danny Strongís scathing script leaves few stones unturned while refusing to show a blind eye. A wonderful, eviscerating satire, the film ends up being far more touching and warm-hearted that you might initial expect, allowing the characters so much room to live and breathe I felt like I got to know the lot of them better here in a 117 minutes than I ever did during the entire 2008 presidential campaign.
Driving Miss Daisy, Grand Hotel, Mrs. Miniver
A trio of Best Picture winners from Warner Bros, all of which are making their Blu-ray debuts. While I like and enjoy them all, the standout, for me at least, is Mrs. Miniver, the stirring 1942 melodrama with a stunning Greer Garson as the matriarch of a middle class British family trying to hold everything together as WWII brings bombs, bullets and heartache to her homeland.
Cape Fear (1962)
Still one of the eeriest and most uncomforting psychological thrillers ever made (even more so that Martin Scorseseís 1991 remake), this tale of a small town lawyer (Gregory Peck) finding himself and his family being tormented by a vindictive hood (Robert Mitchum) he helped incarcerate eight years prior gets under your skin and refuses to let go. Filled with moments and vignettes that are impossible to forget, the movie is a tour de force for both Hollywood megastars, everything building to a blood-curdling conclusion thatís legitimately fantastic. A must see.
House at the End of the Street
From my theatrical review (read it here): ďThe last act is so head-slapping in its awfulness, so annoying in its idiocy, the cumulative effect borders on infuriating, and what could have been a nifty, intelligently constructed B-horror thriller sadly becomes nothing more than frustratingly mundane missed opportunity.Ē
Hit & Run
From my theatrical review (read it here): ďI get what [Dax] Shepard, who wrote the script and co-directs with David Palmer, was trying to do with Hit & Run. He wanted to make some sort of lean-mean late 1960s, early 1970s Steve McQueen meets John Frankenheimer style throwback, wanted to deliver his own sort of modern Vanishing Point with a romantic comedy twist. Itís laudable, the finished film having plenty of positives worthy of gentle applause. Yet the bottom line here is that, for a kinetic thriller, for a movie where adrenaline is supposed to be incrementally ratcheted up at the same level as a racing automobile's RPMs, the finished product just isnít all that exciting, my pulse never rising throughout any of the filmís breezily paced 100 minutes.Ē
From the talents behind Baraka, Samsara was shot over a five-year period and treks through 25 different countries in order to weave its visually propulsive spell. Not a lot happens, and Iím not sure replay value will be high, but for fans of this sort of documentary experience this one certainly sets a high bar offering up lushly magnetic sights and sounds easy to become obsessed with and even more difficult to forget.
From Jaume Balaguerů, the director of [Rec] and [Rec]2, the Spanish language thriller Sleep Tight is not for the faint of heart or for the easily offended. It is a disturbing, bone-chilling thriller about an aggressively unhappy apartment complex concierge who sets forth the task of making all he comes into contact with as depressingly unhappy as he is. His latest target is an almost always sunny female resident who flashes him the most perfect smile no matter what her real disposition or how she is actually feeling. Using a serious of increasingly horrific tricks, he invades her privacy (and her apartment) to lay a series of psychological traps for her in the hopes of ruining that cheerful faÁade. If you think you know how this one goes or where it will end up, please be assured you are wrong, the final act of Sleep Tight one of the most hideously uncompromising and uncomfortable that Iíve seen in what feels like ages.
The Assassins (2012)
Reason to watch historical Chinese epic The Assassins? Chow Yun-fat, without question, his dexterous performance as late second, early third century warlord Cao Cao (a character most recently seen in John Wooís thunderous epic Red Cliff) a true joy to behold in all the ways that matter. Sadly, there are not a lot of other reasons to give this film a gander, for as sumptuous as the production design is and as competent as the remainder of the performances are the film is just too over-stuffed and far too unfocused to have any lasting staying power. Itís serviceable, nothing more, but considering the breadth and scope of Yun-fatís stunning performance thatís nowhere near enough to make The Assassins even slightly worthwhile.
SEAL Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden
I keep meaning to watch this, but considering I listed Kathryn Bigelowís Zero Dark Thirty as my favorite film of 2012 itís safe to say my enthusiasm to jump into another story involving SEAL Team Six is fairly close to zero. Iím sure Iíll watch this at some point but, for right now at least, said some point isnít coming any time soon.
OTHER NOTABLE BLU-RAY RELEASES
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∑ Anger Management: Season One
∑ Archer: The Complete Season Three
∑ The Bone Collector
∑ Enlightened: The Complete First Season
∑ Fear (1996)
∑ French Kiss
∑ Guns, Girls and Gambling
∑ The Hour: Season 2
∑ Jack & Diane
∑ The Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis
∑ Midsomer Murders Ė Set 21
∑ One Fine Day
∑ Pathfinders: In the Company of Strangers
∑ Red Dwarf: X
∑ Stolen (2012)
NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
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Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best
From my theatrical review (read it here): ďA magical thing happens, and almost without my realizing it [star Ryan] OíNanís screenwriting and directorial debut comes to life in ways I never anticipated. It burrowed its way under my skin, captivated my senses, its quirky sensibilities filled with cagey emotional nuances I found particularly beguiling. This movie spoke to me, moved me, cast a rhapsodic spell over me I didnít want to see come to an end, and by the time it was finished I felt like Iíd discovered the American musical equivalent to the Swedish import Sound of Noise I enjoyed so blissfully earlier this year.Ē
Like every morning, Madalena makes bread for Antonio's old coffee shop. Like every day, she crosses the railways where no trains have passed for years; she cleans up the gate of the locked cemetery, and listens to the priest's sermon before sharing lunch with the other old villagers. Clinging to the image of her dead husband and living in her memories, Madalena is awakened by the arrival of Rita, a young photographer who is arriving in the ghost village of Jotuomba, where time seems to have stopped. A deep relationship is forged between the two women, which gradually builds to have a profound effect on both of their lives, as well as the rest of the villagers. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Now is Good
Tessa Scott (Dakota Fanning, The Twilight Saga) knows her days are numbered, so she dives headlong through every wild, crazy act of teenage rebellion that she can dream up. Her daring to-do list leads her to being arrested and creating chaos in her family but her boldness helps her find love with Adam (Jeremy Irvine). Don't miss this intoxicating tale of light in the darkest hour, based on Jenny Downham's controversial, award-winning best-seller Before I Die. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
OTHER NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
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∑ Dallas: The Complete First Season
∑ An Idiot Abroad: Season 2
∑ Smash: Season One
NOTABLE NEW BLU-RAY ANNOUNCEMENTS
∑ Flight (Feb 5, 2013)
∑ Anna Karenina (2012) (Feb 19, 2013)
∑ Wreck-It Ralph (March 5, 2013)
∑ Hitchcock (March 12, 2013)
∑ Lifeforce (April 30, 2013)