Thought last week was big-time as far as new Blu-ray releases were concerned? Wait until you see the list of titles hitting store shelves today; it’s amazing.
Casablanca – 70th Anniversary Limited Edition Giftset
Not a lot here hopefully needs to be said. Last Wednesday, I went to Turner Classic Movie’s anniversary showing of this landmark wonder at a local Seattle Theatre, taking a friend who shockingly had never seen the darn thing. She was, not surprisingly, completely blown away, proving once again that a great film is a great is a great film, and no matter what era it is from or whether it is in B&W or color true cinematic excellence stands the test of time and can reach into the very heart of any viewer each and every time it’s viewed. Putting it bluntly, Casablanca is widely considered one of the top two, three or four movies of all-time. More importantly, all of those who consider it thus are not even close to being wrong.
David Lean Directs Noël Coward (Blithe Spirit, Brief Encounter, In Which We Serve, This Happy Breed) – Criterion Collection
If not for Casablanca, without a doubt this new release from Criterion would have led the week as far as I’m concerned. As it is, considering that 70-year-old chestnut has had multiple home viewing releases before, I’m almost tempted to state this impressive box set collection of four David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia) classics is by far the only must-own title on the board.
And is that set ever impressive. Brief Encounter is arguably one of my favorite films ever made, and right behind Casablanca maybe the greatest unrequited love story ever made. As for the other three titles, they’re equally as amazing in their own right, all of them telling unique, one of a kind stories derived from the pen of the legendary Noël Coward and directed by one of the major cinematic artists the world has ever had the good fortune to know.
A Night to Remember – Criterion Collection
I love me some James Cameron Titanic, and I’ll battle anyone to the verbal death who wants to call it an overrated abomination, but truth be told all its Oscars and box office dollars don’t hold a candle to the 1958 Roy Ward Baker classic A Night to Remember. One of the more intimately and dynamically intimate disaster dramas ever photographed, this almost documentary-like production cast a you-are-there spell that is as heartbreaking and as gut-wrenching as it is emotionally magnetic. On a side note, Criterion’s new Blu-ray release is one of the most spectacular hi-def presentations of a B&W classic that I’ve ever had the good fortune to see, but more on that in my forthcoming review.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Mitchell, who will be reviewing the Blu-ray, have been arguing about this film all morning, so it can be safely assumed his opinion of this Best Picture Academy Award nominee differs from mine. But I hold to my view that this was one of 2011’s best films, totally deserving of its Oscar nomination and arguably could have received a handful of more nods as well. As I stated in my January theatrical review (read it here) of director Stephen Daldry’s latest: “I won’t say Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is perfect but I will say I adored and loved it with all my being nonetheless. This is the type of film that might take a while to catch on with the masses, might need more years to marinate in the psyche before it breaks through as the instant classic I suspect it might be. For my part, I couldn’t urge people to see it with any less passion, my euphoria for Daldry’s latest virtually without end.”
A Dangerous Method
From my theatrical review (read it here): “A Dangerous Method is dry, it is clinical, but is also universal, this decade in the life of psychological titans as pertinent and as vital to review in the here and now of today as it likely was back in the early days of the twentieth century when it was originally taking place.”
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked
Ugh. More Chipmunks. You can read my Theatrical Review if you’re at all interested in what I thought of this elongated Carnival Cruise commercial. The short version? I didn’t much care for it.
The Bodyguard (1992)
Suddenly, this movie seems oddly relevant again, something I’d never have imagined back when I watched the darn thing in High School 20 long years ago. Granted, the death of an icon changes things, and as forgettable as Whitney Huston is in the movie, it is without a doubt her most indelible cinematic imprint (sorry fans of Waiting to Exhale, this one eats that lump of cheesy pabulum for breakfast). Granted, that has more to do with the story itself (pop diva gets death threats; ex-Secret Service Agent who now specializes in protection for noteworthy clients agrees to guard her) and with Kevin Costner’s cool, collected star turn. But, again, the reason we’re even talking about this release has more to do with the recent tragedy than it does with the actual movie itself. I’m just saying.
In the Land of Blood and Honey
Give Angelina Jolie credit, she didn’t tackle something easy or carefree for her initial foray into directing. She shot her Serb-Croat drama In the Land of Blood and Honey in both Serbian (the theatrically released version) and English (and alternate version available as part of the Blu-ray), didn’t flinch from the darker aspects of the story in the slightest and had no qualms in depicting the brutality at the heart of this conflict in as much intimate detail as possible. The movie punched the viewer in the gut and then slashed them across the throat, leaving them bruised, battered and somewhat bewildered by the time it came to its admittedly forgone conclusion.
As much as I respect all of that, In the Land of Blood and Honey is not for me. This is an aggressively depressing motion picture, one that I had a heck of time trying to get through to the end while watching it for the first time on Blu-ray (I sadly missed the press screening when it played theatrically). While I’m curious to see where Jolie the director goes next, I’m not entirely sure I can recommend the watching of this laudable, if not remotely enjoyable, freshman effort, but more on that when I write up a full review later this week.
South Park: The Complete Fifteenth Season
I kind of can’t believe this show has been on for so long. I can’t be the only one. Mitchell will have a full review of this series’ fifteenth season up soon.
Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel
Corman’s World is a fine documentary of one of Hollywood’s most important independent figures that I thoroughly enjoyed for every single one of its 89-minutes. At the same time, even with a cavalcade of interviews featuring a bona fide who’s-who of Hollywood (including Martin Scorsese, Jack Nicholson, Ron Howard, Joe Dante and Jonathan Demme), this is a pretty glossy affair, and I couldn’t help but wish the filmmakers would have taken the time to dig a little deeper as they celebrated Corman’s superhuman cinematic legacy.
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES
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· Assault on a Queen
· Camel Spiders
· Come Blow Your Horn
· It’s Only Money
· The Lion of Judah 3D
· The Quest (1996)
· Who’s Got the Action
· Who’s Minding the Store?
NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
I, Claudius – 35th Anniversary Edition
One of the greatest miniseries of all-time, Derek Jacobi soars in this rousing and hugely entertaining journey through Roman history the likes of which no television before or since had ever been able to equal. Celebrating its 35th anniversary, Acron presents a new DVD edition of the series featuring the original extended versions of Episodes 1 and 2, a 74-minute retrospective documentary and a featurette chronicling the failed 1937 attempt to bring this story to the cinema. Mitchell is supposed to be getting a review copy of this collection, but as of this writing it sadly has still not arrived.
Mitchell gave this release a whopping zero out of a potential ten on our rating scale, which is really kind of impressive if you think about it. Check out his full DVD Review if you’re interested in reading more. Why you would, however, I haven’t the first clue.
The Broken Tower
One of the most influential poets of his generation, Hart Crane lived a life of passion and turmoil. Shooting in three countries in the streets that the poet himself haunted, writer/director and star James Franco gives a no-holds-barred performance in a film as rebellious, heartbreaking and honest as Crane himself. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Six people, each on the road to self-destruction, wake up trapped in a surreal facility without knowing how they got there or why. Held captive by a mysterious man, the abductees are subjected to 'The Trials', a sadistic experiment in which they are forced to decide each other's fate over a nerve-racking game of dice. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
An unexpected first kiss causes Gabriel to feel the electrifying 'jitters'; of love and lust with the free-spirited Marcus; a perfect way to end a Summer studying abroad. Realizing he is gay, Gabriel returns home and is immediately scrutinized by his family and friends who notice he s different. But as the school year launches with Gabriel distracted with parties and his friends own dramas, Marcus returns, reigniting the hot, thrilling emotions of one s first crush. Jitters fires head-first into the topsy-turvey world of first love with an attractive cast and pulsating soundtrack, making it a smartly refreshing journey into the queer, teen experience. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Murder Investigation Team – Series Two
From the creators of The Bill, this critically acclaimed police thriller follows an intense team of investigators led by DC Rosie MacManus (Lindsey Coulson, EastEnders) and DS Trevor Hands (Michael McKell, Emmerdale Farm). The detectives rely on both new technology and old-fashioned instinct to find those responsible for gruesome crimes. Love triangles, family estrangements, greed, and lies lead to a series of wrong turns and dead ends, building the pressure to solve cases while the evidence is still fresh—and, sometimes, before the killer can strike again. Along the way, the investigators struggle to walk the line between professional loyalties and personal interests. Claire Higgins (Hellraiser), Kenneth Cranham (Rome) and Anthony Stewart Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) guest star in these final episodes. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Jean-Rene (Benoit Poelvoorde, Coco Before Chanel) is the boss of a chocolate factory and Angelique (Isabelle Carre, Private Fears in Public Places) is a talented chocolate maker. They are both emotionally-challenged people. Drawn together through a shared passion for chocolate, Jean-Rene and Angelique fall in love, but neither is able to express how they feel. Sadly, their crippling shyness is driving them apart. But eventually, they manage to overcome their lack of self-confidence, and risk baring their true feelings. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
Single-Handed: Set 2
His position as local Garda sergeant puts Jack Driscoll (Owen McDonnell, Wild Decembers) at the heart of his community—and often at odds with it. Relationships are everything in his small Irish town, where Jack's professional life is inextricably bound with his private life and those of his neighbors. When two new arrivals come from England (Matthew McNulty, Lark Rise to Candleford and Simone Lahbib, Wire in the Blood), eager to discover family history in the area, Jack learns that the solutions to current crimes frequently lie in the distant past. Filmed against the spectacular and foreboding backdrop of Connemara, the second set of Single-Handed contains three new feature-length crime dramas. Jack investigates the seemingly pointless killing of an elderly recluse, a murder dressed up as arson, and a local schoolgirl’s involvement with a Dublin pimp. Complex characterizations and riveting performances illuminate a world rife with moral ambiguity. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
OTHER NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
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· Betty White: Champion for Animals
· Eureka: Season 4.5
· Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXIII
NOTABLE NEW BLU-RAY ANNOUNCEMENTS
· Chuck: The Complete Fifth Season (May 8, 2012)
· Underworld Awakening (May 8, 2012)
· The Grey (May 22, 2012)
· Erin Brockovich (June 5, 2012)
· The Grapes of Wrath (June 5, 2012)
· The Sting (June 5, 2012)
· Zorba the Greek (June 5, 2012)
· Meatballs (June 12, 2012)
· Harry Potter Wizards Collection 2001 - 2011 (Sept 7, 2012)
· Secret of the Wings (Oct. 23, 2012)