Senior Theatrical Editor
New Blu's On the Block
Blu-ray and DVD Releases for Aug 17, 2010
It’s another slow week on the Blu-ray front, Criterion once again releasing the highlight picture while the rest is a remarkably varied mixed of intriguing indies, excellent catalog titles, Miley Cyrus and one of the year’s biggest box office disasters. There are also a couple of standard definition DVD releases worth pointing out, those listed at the end of column after all the hi-def goodness has been dealt with. Without further ado, onto this week’s releases!
Black Orpheus (Buy from Amazon and Save!)
Black Orpheus is stunning. The winner of both the Palme d’Or as well as the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film, director Marcel Camus’ adaptation of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice of is a true delight in almost every sense of the word. I’d go into it more but I think it’s best to just refer you all to my Blu-ray review of the title and just leave you with the knowledge that I think this is the week’s only must-buy release. Seriously, grab it today. Immediately. You won’t be disappointed.
The Last Song (Buy from Amazon and Save!)
This movie was not made for me (read my theatrical review by clicking here). I haven’t liked a single one of motion pictures born from the mind of Nicolas Sparks, and as I just suffered through Dear John over the weekend I can safely say I’ve now seen all of them. I will admit, The Last Song has probably been the one I have been able to tolerate the easiest for some reason, and while this isn’t a title I’m personally fond of I do think fans of both the author and of star Miley Cyrus are going to be relatively happy. Better, this is a relatively solid Blu-ray presentation, and if you’re curious to know more about what I mean on that front then please click over to my The Last Song Blu-ray Review for my complete thoughts of this release.
Hamlet (1996) (Buy from Amazon and Save!)
While Sir Laurence Olivier’s 1948 take of Shakespeare’s classic will probably always remain the best filmed version of the play, there is something about Kenneth Branagh’s daring and audacious 1996 attempt at Hamlet that will always find warm place in my heart. The only big screen effort to showcase the entire uncut play (running 242 minute), this visually thrilling opus is a feast for the eyes and ears. Warts and all (and, mainly because of some nutty casting choices, there are definitely some warts), this is an imaginative and freewheeling adaptation I pretty much love making to buy or not buy on my part (a review copy sadly never arrived) not so much a question as it is a forgone conclusion.
Dexter – The Complete Fourth Season
This show just gets better and better witch each season, and in Season Four the stakes grow even bigger; for Dexter (Michael C. Hall) and his family, his sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter), and the Miami police, as a serial killer (John Lithgow in a masterful performance) begins his cycle of violence again, throwing everyone into a death match game where there are no rules (to put it mildly). Aside from solid performances from everyone involved, it is well worth mentioning that the writing on Dexter never grows stale or predictable, and the writers have some surprises in store for viewers this season.
The Blu-ray release of this series always boasts excellent 1080p video and strong DTS-HD 5.1 audio, so all is good on the technical front. Unfortunately, Showtime rarely gives shows their due when it comes to producing bonus material, and this set is yet another disappointment in that department.
The scant supplements are accessible “only” via BD-Live connectivity: a movieIQ feature, a couple of episodes from two other Showtime series (pointless), and a series of interviews with Michael C. Hall, Clyde Phillips, David Zayas, Jon Lithgow, C.S. Lee, Julie Benz, Lauren Velez, Jennifer Carpenter, and James Remar. No commentaries or featurettes -- a show of this caliber deserves better treatment, and Showtime is committing a crime. I think I may know who Dexter's next victim may be...
- Written by Dennis Crane
Nanny McPhee (Buy from Amazon and Save!)
I loved Nanny McPhee when it first arrived in theatres back in 2006 (read my theatrical review here). I have only grown to love it more over the past four years, my excitement almost know no bounds in regards to the sequel Nanny McPhee Returns hitting theatres on Friday. Be that all is it may, I’m perfectly happy with my DVD version, and as nicely rendered as this Blu-ray is supposed to be I can’t say I’m going to be spending the money on an upgrade.
Furry Vengeance (Buy from Amazon and Save!)
Brendan Fraser plays an evil property developer (either that, or he’s just madly in love with money) who gets in trouble with a local band of creatures (either that, or they’re just generic animals) whose habitat is threatened by his latest project. The film is aimed at the young crowd, because it features animals violating Brendan Fraser (either that, or they're just having some harmless fun), and the environmental message here is so obvious it is rather foul.
The Blu-ray supplemental material includes a director audio commentary and deleted scenes, the usual gag reel, and two featurettes, “Working with Animals” and “The Pitfalls of Pratfalls”. This is another single Blu-ray/DVD combo (flipper) release from Summit Entertainment, which means the disc is double sided.
- Written by Dennis Crane
The Good, the Bad, the Weird (Buy from Amazon and Save!)
I’m still kicking myself for missing the press screening for this title earlier this year, Korean director Ji-woon Kim’s (A Tale of Two Sisters) latest supposedly a total blast those I trust thoroughly enjoyed. This hyperactive action/fantasy/western hybrid is immediately going in the Netflix queue, probably right to the very top of it.
City of Your Final Destination (Buy from Amazon and Save!)
Another one I missed the press screening for and never felt the urge to head to the theatre and pay for, I’ve been told by many that director James Ivory’s (Remains of the Day, Howard’s End) is solid enough entertainment if far from his best effort. With a cast featuring Anthony Hopkins, Laura Linney, Hiroyuki Sanada and Charlotte Gainsbourg I’m certainly intrigued and as a review copy didn’t arrive I may just have to add this one to the Netflix queue as well.
Cemetery Junction (Buy from Amazon and Save!)
A direct-to-DVD release co-directed by Ricky Gervais and starring Ralph Fiennes, Emily Watson, Matthew Goode and Felicity Jones (amongst others) that I’ve never even heard of? How did this happen? This one is definitely going in the Netflix queue. Definitely.
OTHER NOTABLE BLU-RAY RELEASES
NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
Cougar Town – The Complete First Season
Friday Night Lights – The Fourth Season
One Tree Hill – The Complete Seventh Season
Ugly Betty – The Complete Fourth and Final Season
It’s a plethora of television. I’ve heard good things about “Cougar Town,” but unfortunately reviewer Roy Earle did not agree, and his thoughts are featured in the Cougar Town Season 1 DVD review.
Meanwhile, “Friday Night Lights” is easily the most underrated and undervalued title to grace a major broadcast network. The fourth season arrives on DVD with 13 episodes. After this, it’s just one more and the football field will be closed forever.
Anyone who knows me already knows about my soft spot for the show so read on in my One Tree Hill Season 7 DVD review, while “Ugly Betty” was a title I just never completely understood the fascination for.
L'enfance Nue (Criterion Collection)
One of director Maurice Pialat’s (Loulou) absolute best gets the Criterion treatment. If only they’d also have released this wonderfully moving and startlingly devastating title on Blu-ray as well. Oh well. A girl can’t have everything. Either way this film is a classic and is worth picking up sight unseen.
The Lost Skeleton Returns Again
I’m only mentioning this title because I sort of love writer/director Larry Blamire’s cult favorite The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra and because I have a review copy of this DVD staring me in the face daring me to watch it. Click for my DVD review.