Vanya on 42nd Street – Criterion Collection
Louis Malle’s (Au Revoir les Enfants) final film is given the deluxe treatment by the folks at the Criterion Collection, and part of me is more than a little sad I didn’t receive a copy for review. A simple film, Vanya on 42nd Street chronicles a group of New York actors hard at work rehearsing Anton Chekhov's play Uncle Vanya. Part film, part theatre and all brilliant, the movie is a dialogue driven tour-de-force that gets better and better as the years go by. Malle fans owe it to themselves to give it a look, while everyone else who just enjoys quality, thought-provoking intelligently made cinema should definitely do the same.
Fritz Lang’s Scarlet Street may not have the enduring skin-crawling staying power of his other landmark noir Woman in the Window (made with the exact same cast – more or less), but that doesn’t make it a fascinatingly unsettling journey into the smoke-filled shadow-strewn genre all the same. Edward G. Robinson is as brilliant as ever as a mild-mannered everyman facing a midlife crisis drawn into a seductive imbroglio from which there is probably no escape, while the film itself is filled with sights and sounds every bit as wonderful as any the iconic director of Metropolis and M ever put to screen.
Johnny English Reborn
Both of Rowan Atkinson’s Johnny English adventures hit Blu-ray today, and in all honesty I could really care less. Didn’t like the first one, skipped out on seeing the second, I have no interest in these titles whatsoever. All the same, plenty do, and as such here they are to hopefully keep you blissfully entertained.
Midsomer Murders – Set 19
Acorn Media brings one of their most popular series to Blu-ray, Midsomer Murders finally getting the hi-def treatment and fans certainly will not be disappointed. The show – currently in its fifteenth season in the U.K., this set representing the first half of the thirteenth – has always been a consistent sort of macabre crime-solving joy, and these four mysteries, in which a new detective is introduced, are certainly no exception. Here’s hoping Acorn cycles back (like they’ve done with Poirot, George Gently and Murdoch Mysteries) and starts bringing the first seasons of this wonderful program to Blu-ray as well.
Beneath the Darkness
Shockingly awful change-of-pace for star Dennis Quaid where he stars as a small town mortician and former football star who harbors a horrible secret involving his dead wife and a popular High School teacher’s husband who mysteriously disappeared right about the same time as her unfortunate demise. Some local teens (Aimee Teegarden, Tony Oller) stumble upon the truth only to realize none of the adults in town believe what they have to say. Pointless and increasingly implausible, the only fun here is watching Quaid chew the scenery. But even that gets old after a while, and by the time the film reaches its forgone conclusion all suspense has been drained leaving only the rapidly decomposing carcass behind.
I Melt with You
I’ve had the screener for this sitting here for ages but for whatever reason never felt the need to give it a look. After Mitchell expressed interest in reviewing the Blu-ray, even though I had received it, I didn’t even bother slipping off the plastic wrap and just sent it straight to him. After reading his 0-out-of-10 review of the film, that’s right, zero, nada, zilch, I’m thinking I made the right decision. From his Blu-ray Review: “Rarely does a movie make me actively root for the deaths of its main characters, but it took at the most fifteen minutes for this one to make me want these four bores to keel over…I Melt with You is a completely misguided, completely worthless waste. Honestly, I’d like to hunt down everyone involved and kick them in the teeth.”
Star Marko Zaror is certainly the real deal as far as being some sort of South American cinematic martial arts heavyweight. He flies through the air with dazzlingly speed and precision, the fight sequences in this extremely violent import at times bordering on the extraordinary. But is Madrill a spoof, like the OSS 117 movies? Or are we supposed to take this assassination tango seriously? Better question, does it even matter? The bottom line is that for all the eye-popping fight sequences this movie is a major bore, and after about 30 or so minutes the only thing I wanted it to do was end.
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES
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· Baba Yaga
· The Buccaneer
· How the Universe Works
· Justice League: Doom
· The Mountain
· Runaway Jury
· Top Gear: The Complete Season 17
· Where Love Has Gone
The Catechism Cataclysm
This is one of those odd, unclassifiable surrealistic gems that is better left seen and not described. There’s a priest. There’s a loser. They go into the wilderness Deliverance-style to bond. Calamity ensues. But never like you expect, and certainly not like you could anticipate. Destined to be some sort of cult phenomenon, writer/director Todd Rohal’s opus is not for the faint of heart but certainly made for the curious looking for something to keep them continually on their toes.
No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos
Absorbing documentary about famed cinematographers Laszlo Kovacs and Vilmos Zsigmond featuring interviews with a cavalcade of Hollywood luminaries including Dennis Hopper, John Boorman, Peter Fonda, Haskel Wexler, Irwin Winkler, John Williams, Richard Donner, Bob Rafelson and Peter Bogdanovich, this is an absolute must for anyone with an even passing interest in cinema as an art form.
The Israeli import Rabies is billed as the country’s first ‘slasher film,’ although in reality it is nothing of the sort. It instead a gruesome coal black horror-comedy hybrid working in much the same field, if not quite the same absurdist tone, as Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. Hard to explain, even more difficult to describe, the movie is a continuous logjam of circumstance and coincidence conspiring one against the other to leave its entire cast of characters either six-feet under or struggling to survive. For genre fans, I couldn’t recommend it more. That said, please know going in, the film is mostly filled with some of the most unlikable characters I’ve come across in ages, and finding someone to root for becomes increasingly difficult as the body count rises.
Answers to Nothing
When an 11-year-old girl goes missing in Los Angeles, a chain of events is unleashed that will affect several strangers all struggling to find their own paths to redemption. Dane Cook, Barbara Hershey and Julie Benz star in this tale of lost souls who will together find the Answers to Nothing. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
The Brief – The Complete Collection
Alan Davies (Jonathan Creek) stars in the seriocomic misadventures of clever criminal law barrister Henry Farmer, whose every day is a juggling act between surviving his messy personal life and pleading cases only he can win. Whether he’s trying to keep an innocent person from going to jail or save himself from financial ruin, Henry’s life is a symphony of chaos, both inside and outside the courtroom. His long list of problems includes a mountain of gambling debts, an affair with an important politician’s wife (Zara Turner, Sliding Doors), a distant son, and a sharp-tongued father—who’s also a judge. Working with tough colleague Cleo Steyn (Cherie Lunghi, Excalibur) and alongside a cast of colorful characters (including Christopher Fulford, Millions, and Linda Bassett, Calendar Girls), Henry will need all his wit and charm to secure justice for his clients and a reprieve for himself. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
French Fields – Complete Collection
Frustrated with his daily commute and clients who don’t pay their bills, accountant William Fields (Anton Rodgers, May to December, Lillie) is ready for a change. His wife, Hester (Julia McKenzie, Agatha Christie’s Marple), is always up for something new, so when William gets headhunted for a job in France, both are willing to give it a try. What will the Fields make of France—and what will the French make of the Fields? The complete collection includes all three series of this warm and witty Britcom. William and Hester dust off their phrase books, pluck up their courage, and soon discover there’s a lot more than the Channel separating the English from the French. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
An aspiring beauty queen finds herself in the wrong place at the worst possible time in this explosive crime thriller set amid Mexico’s increasingly violent drug war. After witnessing a shooting in a nightclub, the young woman is kidnapped and forced to work for ruthless gangsters in order to keep her dreams—and her family—alive. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
The Myth of the American Sleepover
In the tradition of free-wheeling tributes to adolescence like Dazed & Confused, The Myth of the American Sleepover follows four young people (a cast of brilliant young newcomers in their feature film debuts) on the last night of summer - their final night of freedom before the new school year starts. The teenagers cross paths as they explore the suburban wonderland they inhabit in search of love and adventure - chasing first kisses, elusive crushes, popularity and parties - and discover the quiet moments that will resonate as the best of their youth. Writer/director David Robert Mitchell crafts a tender coming-of-age drama that s at times both heartwarming and truthful. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
OTHER NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
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· Breakout Kings: The Complete First Season
NOTABLE NEW BLU-RAY ANNOUNCEMENTS
· Neverland (March 13, 2012)
· Wallace & Gromit’s World of Invention (March 13, 2012)
· Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (March 27, 2012)
· War Horse (April 3, 2012)
· Bounce (April 10, 2012)
· Kate & Leopold (April 10, 2012)
· The Witches of Oz (April 10, 2012)
· Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (April 17, 2012)
· Contraband (April 24, 2012)
· Dark Tide (April 24, 2012)
· Pariah (April 24, 2012)
· Haywire (May 1, 2012)
· Dirty Dancing Collection (May 8, 2012)
· Albert Nobbs (May 15, 2012)
· True Blood: The Complete Fourth Season (May 29, 2012)