New Blu's On the Block Blu-ray and DVD Releases for Sept 14, 2010
It’s another fairly packed week as far as Blu-ray releases are concerned, and one Gleeks everywhere are probably going nuts over. Criterion leads the way with the best release, an old favorite from just-announced Honorary Academy Award recipient Jean-Luc Goddard easily leading the way. But there are three Summer theatrical releases, two of which underperformed but all of which have niche audiences excited about potentially picking them up, coming our way today as well as a slew catalog titles ranging from the good (Se7en, Invasion of the Body Snatchers), to the bad (The Amityville Horror, The Order), to the so ugly it's actually brilliant (Starcrash).
A couple of recent Emmy winners are on the docket, while a perennial fright-filled suspense generating favorite that changed the television rulebook with theme music everyone and their unborn children can hum hits hi-def with a surreal vengeance affecting both sight and sound while blowing the mind to pieces.
There’s a lot I could say here, much of which I actually do say in my just-posted BreathlessBlu-ray review. The bottom line here is that director Jean-Luc Godard's 1960 debut is one of those game-changing motion pictures like Birth of a Nation, The Jazz Singer, Citizen Kane, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Pulp Fiction. To quote many, many others, in simple terms there was a period of time before Breathless and than there was the period of time after Breathless. It is a landmark motion picture everyone with even a passing love of cinema owes it to themselves to see.
While this new Blu-ray from Criterion offers up no new special features it is still an incredible disc worthy of applause. I’m not going to say people should upgrade if they already own the previously released DVD, but I will say that if a person does spend the money to do so they’re not even remotely going to be disappointed. Without question, this is the week’s best and most important release.
I’m expecting this Blu-ray set to arrive any day now and hope to have a review up very soon. For the most part, I didn’t watch a lot of creator Ryan Murphy’s Fox sensation during its highly acclaimed first season. What I did see was remarkably uneven, the highs higher than just about anything else on television and the lows downright flabbergasting. Even so, it’s easy to see why this show has exploded into the zeitgeist, its mixture of High School underdog pathos and old-school Hollywood musicals easy to become infatuated with. It’s all of it blended together usually quite awesome and contains an off-center attitude that’s honest, emotional and often times creepy, the performances of the cast so spot-on it’s easy to see why the show received a plethora of Emmy nominations, winning two (Murphy for Comedy Director and Jane Lynch for Best Supporting Actress, Comedy).
This Blu-ray comes loaded with over two hours of bonus material that I’m sure Gleeks will drool all over themselves obsessing over.
Image brings to high-def the complete first season – all 36 episodes in freaking 1080p – of Rod Serling’s anthology series of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and suspense stories. Each episode usually involves a certain twist that you don’t see coming, or dwelling on the gruesome. Some of the stories are just incredibly well told, the ideas mind-boggling even today. The high-def image will surprise you; the black-and-white image looking as good as ever. This five-disc set is packed with bonus materials, some ported over from previous releases such as audio commentaries on select episodes and promos, but the real reason why you’ll want to pick up this release is because of the Blu-ray exclusive, brand-new material like the rare, unofficial pilot called “The Time Element”, 19 new audio commentaries, interviews with actors, 18 radio dramas, 34 isolated music scores, and 1977 syndication promos. Talk about exhaustive! A review of the set will be coming up next week.
David Fincher’s perennial and highly intelligent, creepy thriller about two cops (Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman) tracking a brilliant and elusive killer who orchestrates a string of horrific murders is finally coming to high-def in Warner’s Blu-ray Book, featuring a booklet with information on the actors and Fincher, and discussions about the “nameless city” in the movie and “the ending that shook the world.” Video quality looks just great (it was digitally re-mastered a decade ago), the image incredibly detailed, rich blacks, solid depth, some film grain, and no artifacts; it’s pretty stellar. All of the extras from the 2000 Platinum Edition DVD have been ported over, such as the four audio commentaries, the “Mastering for the Home Theater” multi-angle exploration of the film’s digital re-mastering done for the DVD, an alternate ending with storyboards, additional scenes, an exploration of the opening sequence, “The Notebooks” of John Doe’s writings, and more. If it weren’t for Criterion’s Breathless, this would be the top release of the week, although I think they could share the top spot. Look for my full review over the weekend.
I did not hate producer Jerry Brukheimer and director Mike Newell’s video game adaptation Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time nearly as much as everyone else I know seemed to (read my theatrical review by clicking here). That said, it isn’t all that great, and even though it has its fun and energetic moments overall I have to admit the film is pretty darn close to being an over-produced waste of time. It doesn’t help that the climax makes roughly 85-percent of the film completely superfluous, the final scenes leaving a bad taste in my mouth no amount of earlier generated good will (thanks to some sumptuous action sequences and a giddily enjoyable supporting performance from a typecast Alfred Molina) could ever hope to overcome. Mitchell has just viewed the disc and you can read his Prince of Persia Blu-ray review.
A decent case could be made that I was overly nice to Letters to Juliet in my original theatrical review (read it by clicking here). I didn’t buy the central romance between star Amanda Seyfried and Brit boy-toy Christopher Egan. I thought the reasons for the young woman to leave fiancé Gael García Bernal and head off into the Italian countryside with Vanessa Redgrave in search of her long-lost love were specious at best, borderline despicable and narcissistic at worst. And, most important of all, I found the roundabout not remotely believable conclusion to be cliché silliness to the absolute extreme.
Yet, Letter to Juliet has created for itself a warm place in my heart it refuses to let go of. Redgrave’s storyline is wonderful, and the relationship between her and Seyfried is refreshingly mature. There is something about the two of them that won me over quite thoroughly, and even though I fully realize much of this film is hackneyed hooey just thinking about it again now has put a smile on my face so big all thoughts of what’s wrong with it have once again evaporated into nothingness.
In my Starcrash Blu-ray review of director Luigi Cozzi’s 1979 exploitation B-movie sci-fi Star Wars rip-off Starcrash I say that the movie, “blatantly makes little sense, could care less about the laws of physics, appears to be making up its narrative as it goes along and apparently is perfectly content with the fact that its heroes are basically embracing intergalactic Imperialism.” All you need to know is that this is a sensational trash classic that’s so horrible it’s borderline awesome, Shout! Factor once again doing a fantastic job bringing another Roger Corman title to Blu-ray with more pomp, circumstance and technical excellence than it arguably even remotely deserves.
I have nothing new to add about this film (read my theatrical review by clicking here). Queen Latifah is great, the script isn’t, it’s as simple as that. This Blu-ray comes with the usual assortment of extras including a couple of featurettes, a gag reel and comes BD Live enabled. Fans of the actress will want to check it out while everyone else should probably leave well enough alone. We hope to have a full review of the Blu-ray up for you to take a look at soon.
The best new show two years ago, Fringe got even better in its second year, exploring the alternate reality and the dangers that come with one side wanting the other to cease to exist. Season Two further develops the relationship between the three main characters (Olivia, Peter and Walter), and each of them is tested, which creates really good drama. The majority of the cases being investigated are intriguing and the sci-fi elements are purely awesome. Dig this show. You will, too. Warner brings the show to both DVD and Blu-ray once again, and the bonus material should be pretty interesting, although we are still awaiting word on whether we’re going to get the Blu-ray for review or not. More to come, hopefully.
The clever, funny comedy show that keeps gaining an audience on CBS and a nice fan following comes to Blu-ray for the first time in a 2-disc set. The image looks on par with the HD broadcast, but it’s not a revelation by any standards, as the image can be on the soft side although detail, contrast and colors look good. Extras still don’t have commentary, but there are two featurettes and a gag reel. A complete review will be up very soon.
In the humorous introduction to disc 1 (of 2) in the set, we find out from Glenn Howerton (who plays Dennis) that the fifth season was shot in standard definition, “so really there is nothing we can do to make it what they call ‘native HD.’ That’s the bad news. The good news is, our show is still funny as shit.” That’s true, but the disappointment remains. What the consumer gets here then, basically, is an upscale job from standard def with a higher bit rate. Season 5 is presented here on two discs, each one holding six episodes, for a total of 12 half-hour shows. If you love to laugh, this is a really good show. However I can’t really recommend the Blu-ray – even if it has some exclusive bonus material not on the DVD. There’s more to come in my Blu-ray review.
Just before the intro ends, Charlie Day asks a hot chick, “Do you wanna have sex on a pile of Blu-ray money?” That’s actually a funny joke, considering there might actually be a pile of it for the studio to, you know, do something with.
Milos Forman’s quintessential film turns 35 this year (in November). It’s a great film, one that passes the test of time; an uplifting, moving journey of a renegade (Jack Nicholson) who instills new-found joy and a purpose in the lives of a group of mental patients. This is the second time the film comes to Blu-ray, the first time in July of 2008 in a Digi-Book release. The high-def image quality was viewed as fairly good, but not great, and that is the case again here; many shots look incredibly detailed when compared to standard def, while other scenes are not as clear (although contrast is solid) and some quite grainy (but that’s actually how it’s supposed to be, in this writer’s opinion).
Now, Warner goes all out with this Collector’s Edition that ports over the audio commentary and deleted scenes, but more importantly adds the comprehensive, 87-minute documentary Completely Cuckoo in its full original length (an edited-down version existed on the previous release). Also included is Asylum: An Empty Nest for the Mentally Ill, a brand-new, 31-minute documentary that’s very well worth watching; film clips interspersed with old photographs and video footage, it features a new interview with Michael Douglas, as well as with subjects who have worked (and a man who was a patient) at the Oregon State Hospital. Those who own the Blu-ray already may or may not want to upgrade, as it really depends on the individual’s love for the film and their interest in the value-added material; the opinion of this writer is an upgrade is definitely worth it, considering the amount of production collectibles (52-page hard-bound book, original press book, playing cards, 4 mini-reproductions of worldwide theatrical posters, photo cards) and the two documentaries.
The movie itself is a fun way to spend a few hours. It’s an imaginative tale of friends and their plight with a house that’s, umm, haunted, monstrous, hungry? Read Sara Michelle's Monster House movie review. This is Sony’s second 3D release right now. 3D is still very new to the home entertainment market and even though 3D HDTVs and 3D Blu-ray players are available for purchase, how many people have actually invested in this technology to date? I don’t have any statistics, although I would predict not very many. As Amazon says, “This Blu-ray disc will display only in 2D without special hardware.” Also required are active-shutter glasses. I suppose those with the right hardware might be intrigued by this release.
Fox and MGM did into the latter’s catalog and releases four new Blu-rays varying greatly in quality. I hated the 2005 remake of The Amityville Horror (read my theatrical review by clicking here) and have trouble imagining who in their right mind would want to give it look in hi-def. Ryan Reynolds fans probably, but seeing as the film isn’t scary, isn’t suspenseful and isn’t thrilling horror fans are destined to be extremely disappointed. We’ll have a full review of the Blu-ray up for you to look at nonetheless very soon.
On the flipside come two titles I positively can’t wait to get my hands on, director Philip Kaufman’s 1978 nearly-as-good-as-the-original remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the gory and hilariously fabulous 1985 cult B-movie classic Return of the Living Dead. I’m expecting both Blu-rays to arrive shortly and will have reviews of both up as soon as possible. The good news? It looks like Fox/MGM has actually put some work in both of these Blu-ray/DVD combo packs. The bad news? Even with that said, I’m still assuming the majority of the special features will be on the sub par previously released DVDs and not on the Blu-ray itself.
Last but not least is the Heath Ledger starring religious horror thriller The Order from 2003. I’ve never seen it (a review copy was supposed to come, but I still haven’t received it), but the word isn’t exactly positive. Still, as a fan of the late actor I’m curious to check it out, and even if it does end up being terrible at least I’ll be able to say I’ve seen every single one of Ledger’s theatrical performances after I watch it.
I remember seeing the trailer for Paper Man some time ago, and it looked decent. It’s the kind of independent feature (a coming-of-middle-age comedy) that only played in 3 theaters (back in April), but might find an audience on DVD and Blu-ray. Jeff Daniels plays a failed author who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a teenager played by Emma Stone, mostly to the chagrin of his imaginary Superhero buddy (Ryan Reynolds) and his disapproving wife (Lisa Kudrow).
Adrian Lyne’s psychological thriller about a traumatized Vietnam vet (Tim Robbins) who thinks he’s going insane is mesmerizing yet terrifying, visceral yet creepy, and most of all, an underrated gem that will legitimately scare you, but also move you, as Robbins gives a brilliantly moving performance of a tortured soul. It’s great to see this flick coming out on Blu-ray, although reviews paint the image quality with an overall sense of disappointment. It’s up to the individual whether or not to pick this up, and as we did not receive a copy for review we can’t give a recommendation either way.
This little-seen FX comedy (by me and possibly most others) is coming to both DVD and Blu-ray in advance of its second-season premiere. In six half-hour episodes, The League tells the story of devoted football fans and the crazy things that go on in this (fictional-set) fantasy football league, although no one is really saying all this actually exists in such leagues (just kidding, but it might), from what I’ve seen in previews and clips there’s some genuine laughter.
Based on fact story of the Hawaiian princess Ka'iulani (Q'orianka Kilcher) starting with her exile to England at the age of 13 and ending with her return to Hawaii in order to unite her people and ease tensions with the United States (eventually leading to the island nation’s inclusion as the fiftieth American State). Never saw this when it was released to theatres as I wasn’t able to get to the press screening but have heard good enough things I think I’ll put it in my Netflix queue in order to give it a look.
Want to feel good about the American economy? Need a pick-me-up that will give you a better feeling about our political leaders in Washington, D.C.? If you answered yes to either question than you’ll want to stay as far away from director Alex Gibney’s (Taxi to the Darkside, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) latest documentary Casino Jack and the United States of Money. This examination of the Jack Abramoff scandal is virtually guaranteed to tick the average person off to no end, and I say that as someone who thought this film was more or less excellent.
Whenever Werner Herzog makes a narrative film, I get excited. Actually, no, I get excited every time he makes anything – my dream is him recording an audio book for ‘Where’s Waldo’ (and there’s a fake YouTube video for that, which is kind of funny, but I digress). So, Rescue Dawn was phenomenal, and his Bad Lieutenant update was (sort of) freakishly good. From the trailer, My Son looked like it could’ve been interesting, and the cast had me somewhat excited, but Mitchell has come back with his take on the film, and the result couldn’t have been more polarizing. Read his My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? DVD review.
Normally this would be too small a title for me to include, but I have to say this little documentary really blew me away something fierce so I’m listing it in this week’s column all the same. The film follows Alejandro Santiago, a middle-aged artist from Oaxaca, Mexico who returns home after a brief exile in France to find a virtual ghost town. Everyone has left to become a day laborer in the United States leaving storefronts vacant and homes empty. Inspired by this, he creates 2,501 life-size human sculptures to represent all of the migrant workers who have left the town, turning his entire village into a gigantic piece of art as well as poignant political statement.
This movie moved me to tears, director Yolanda Cruz doing a wonderful job telling balancing all of the myriad tales going on inside her film. Santiago proves to be a mesmerizing subject, the movie having an emotional effect upon the viewer that’s at times quite stunning. The DVD comes with extended interviews with many of the subjects, a photo gallery, deleted scenes and a collection of trailers. At a short 57-minutes the film flies by in an instant, and considering currently political debates raging across the country proves to be a must-see document worth seeking out.