Itís week two of our new feature ďNew Bluís On the Block,Ē and while there are definitely a couple of quality releases here to say this Tuesdayís crop of new releases pales when compared to the ones of seven days ago isnít really up for debate. Still, there are some highlights here, most notably a new Blu-ray from Criterion. So, with all that said, here are the new Blu-rays we here at MovieFreak are interested in talking about.
Crumb (Save and Buy from Amazon)
Terry Zwigoffís intimate, powerful and highly unique 1995 documentary Crumb is by far the head of this weekís Blu-ray class. A portrait of noted underground American artist Robert Crumb, this is the film that put the acclaimed Ghost World and Bad Santa director on the map and to many a mind (including mine Ė and I absolutely adore Ghost World) is still the filmmakerís greatest creation. This is a fascinating film and one of the few documentaries I could watch over and over again without any reservations whatsoever, and like Hoop Dreams, Grizzly Man and The Thin Blue Line it is an important piece of work that is both an artistic masterpiece as well as just simply a superb motion picture.
Sadly we did not receive this Blu-ray to review but early reviews (like from DVD Beaver) have been beyond ecstatic. The film arrives on hi-def presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer approved by Zwigoff. Special features include both a new audio commentary from the director as well as a 2006 track he recorded for the film with critic Roger Ebert. The disc also comes with over 50 minutes of unused footage as well as the requisite booklet featuring an essay by Jonathan Rosenbaum, artwork by Charles, Jesse, Maxon, and Robert Crumb and an 8-page 'Famous Artist Talent Test' leaflet by Charles Crumb.
Date Night (Save and Buy from Amazon)
Date Night is a highly enjoyable throwaway featuring great performances by stars Steve Carrell and Tina Fey as well as some wonderful supporting work by the likes of James Franco, Kristen Wiig, Mark Ruffalo, Mila Kunis and Mark Wahlberg. There is a chance, however, that I was a tad too kind in my original review for the picture (read that here), Josh Klausnerís script more than wee bit on the thin side and Night at the Museum director Shawn Levy handling not doing a single thing to mask that fact. No, this is a movie where entertainment value is driven entirely by its two stars, and to call either of them less than magnificent would be a great disservice. As for this ďExtended EditionĒ hitting Blu-ray and DVD, my Date Night Blu-ray review is now live for everyone to check out.
National Lampoonís Vacation (Save and Buy from Amazon)
National Lampoonís European Vacation (Save and Buy from Amazon)
The Griswald familyís first two adventures come to Blu-ray (National Lampoonís Christmas Vacation being already available), fans of Chevy Chase certain to rejoice. In all honesty, Iíve never been a huge fan of any of these films, and while I find the first to be the best by far (and, yes, Iím including the perennial holiday favorite in that assessment) I canít really say it drives me over the cliff into fits of continuous laughter. That said, those scenes at the end at the amusement park (featuring a hilarious John Candy) are beyond sensational, and Iím tempted to pick up the Blu-ray for National Lampoonís Vacation for them alone.
Death at a Funeral (2010) (Save and Buy from Amazon)I didnít much care for director Neil LaButeís remake of Death at a Funeral (read my review here). I just found it to be a lot more forced and nowhere near as funny as Frank Ozís 2007 original. Still, it must be said that this new version is almost a shot-for-shot duplicate as far as writer Dean Craigís script is concerned, and fans of Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Tracey Morgan, Danny Glover, Regina Hall, Ron Glass, Loretta Devine, Keith David and especially James Marsden are sure to get at least partial enjoyment out of this Iím sure.
Multiple Sarcasms (Save and Buy from Amazon)
Potentially interesting 1970ís set New York drama starring Timothy Hutton as a sad, melancholy architect who begins to write a play featuring the many women in his life in order to hopefully destroy his own malaise. Thereís a great supporting role for the sadly largely forgotten Mira Sorvino, and newcomer India Ennenga is just wonderful playing Huttonís loving daughter. My problem with the film was that I hated the main character (read my review here), couldnít stand being around him, and by the time the film was over I was so happy to get away from him I almost skipped out of the movie theatre cackling like a madwoman.
The Joneses (Save and Buy from Amazon)
I sadly missed this David Duchovny/Demi Moore satire when it press screened here in Seattle, and while I heard (mostly) good things about it from my local peers I just never felt the urge to pay for a matinee ticket. The story of picture perfect family that isnít really a family at all hired to descend into suburbia and convince their neighbors to strive for the very same affluence they supposedly have in spades, this tiny production did manage some solid numbers at the box office. I was expecting a reasonably intelligent, farce staring a whole crew of actors (Duchovny, Moore, Amber Heard, Gary Cole and Glenne Headly) who seldom get the opportunity to rise to the level of their talent, and it turned out to be a fairly solid effort. Here is my The Joneses Blu-ray review.
In the Shadow of the Moon (Save and Buy from Amazon)
David Sington's fantastic 2007 documentary about the birth of Apollo program featuring interviews with many of the handful of astronauts who have walked on the moon arrives on hi-def and I admit to being highly interested in potentially picking it up. Iíve watched it a handful of times over the past three years and it is one film that just seems to get better and better (read my original review here) as time goes by. Like For All Mankind for those interested in space exploration this film is an absolute essential and my hope is that this new Blu-ray does it justice. Read my 2007 interview with director Sington by clicking here.
Whatís Up Doc? (Save and Buy from Amazon)
Am I the only one surprised that Warner Bros is releasing this 1972 Peter Bogdanovich romantic comedy on Blu-ray? Starring Barbara Streisand and Ryan OíNeal, while not one of my personal favorites this bubbly romantic comedy made in a 1930ís screwball style certainly has many wonderful moments, but when I think ďhi-defĒ I canít say this is exactly one of the first titles that comes to mind. Still, Iím understandably curious to see it again, and while Iím probably not going to pick it up for a purchase thereís little doubt that this one is going to find its way inside my Netflix queue.
Triage (Save and Buy from Amazon)
Director Danis Tanovicís No Manís Land almost made my list of 2000 Ė 2009ís Top 50 Films, and while his follow-up Evil is to my mind extremely underrated. Why this Colin Farell effort didnít get much in the way of domestic release is beyond me, and the bleak subject matter certainly wouldnít be for everyone (a war photographer returns from Kurdistan holding the key to a devastating secret) but I watched the film and you can read my Triage Blu-ray review.
An Empress and the Warriors (Save and Buy from Amazon)
Invisible Target (Save and Buy from Amazon)
The Legend of Fong Sai Yuk (Save and Buy from Amazon)
Tai Chi Master (Save and Buy from Amazon)
A quartet of new releases from Dragon Dynasty, an outlet that has not gotten the most favorable of marks for many of their past releases (DVD Beaverís review of the John Woo classic The Killer is pretty much par for the course as far as this label is concerned). Still, Iím curious if only for the chance to finally see Jet Liís The Legend of Fong Sai Yuk, one of his few early classic titles Iíve still yet to see. (Read my Blu-ray review)