New Blu's On the Block - 9/28/10
Released: Sept 28, 2010
Sara Michelle Fetters
New Blu's On the Block
Blu-ray and DVD Releases for Sept 28, 2010
The next couple of weeks of Blu-ray are pretty close to a cinephiles’ dream. Heck, pretty much all of October is worth getting up and shouting about (just wait, you’ll see), while September – what with releases of old school favorites like Breathless, Forbidden Planet, Se7en, Charade, THX-1138, Mars Attacks!, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Player, Return of the Living Dead and The Twilight Zone: Season One – has been pretty gosh darn fantastic in its own right.
Now comes the final Tuesday of the month and it’s safe to say a couple of studios have saved some of their very best for last. Criterion gives us two masterpieces, Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line and Nagisa Oshima’s Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, while Warner Bros. unleashes arguably the greatest movie monster of all time, the 1933 original version of King Kong finally making its long-awaited Blu-ray debut. Sure a few of summer’s most talked about hits both major (Iron Man 2) and minor (Get Him to the Greek) also come to hi-def, but in all honesty all I really care about are those big three aforementioned catalog titles, everything else (even little-seen winners like Frozen and Babies) nothing more than interesting if forgettable afterthoughts when ultimately put into perspective.
The Thin Red Line
In the battle of 1998 WWII movies, Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line is bona fide masterpiece while Steven Spielberg’s very good if not entirely excellent Saving Private Ryan is the much easier to like also-ran. In my humble opinion (and by opinion I mean Gospel Truth so don’t even try to say I’m wrong because I narcissistically will refuse to listen to you) this isn’t just one of the great war pictures of all-time, it is one of the single greatest movies ever made. What Malick achieves here simply boggles the mind, his examination of the collective consciousness of men during the thick of wartime undeniably unforgettable.
Criterion’s Blu-ray comes with a new 2.34:1 transfer approved by both the director and by cinematographer John Toll. Dr. Svet Atanasov over at Blu-ray.com calls it an “exceptionally high-definition transfer while Gary W. Tooze over at DVDBeaver.com says only slightly tongue-in-cheek that he can now “safely say that I have a new 'demo' disc for my system” and that “like Days of Heaven, [it]is one reason to own a Blu-ray player.” Personally, I cannot wait to get my hands on this disc and as we did not get a review copy I had to sadly pre-order it from Amazon. Thankfully it is expected to arrive tomorrow, and maybe if I feel like it I’ll try and put up my own review of this stupendous, monumentally rapturous classic sometime soon.
This 1933 RKO classic from the minds of Edgar Wallace and Merian C. Cooper is one of the singular achievements in all of cinematic history. Say what you will about the obviously dated stop-motion effects or the now cliché nature of much of the story, this adventure romp is still as vigorous and as entertaining now as it ever was back during its original Depression-era release. Kong is one of the great creatures ever put to celluloid. But more than that, he’s somehow manages to become as the film goes on a flesh-and-blood character whose emotions are every bit as pitiable and as profound as any of the human actors also in the picture. Sure Bruce Cabot’s hero ends up being a bit of a wet noodle (one of the few things Peter Jackson’s overblown – and overlong – remake actually did improve upon), and as exciting as the sequences in New York and on top of the Empire State Building are a part of me has always felt they’re a tiny bit unsatisfying when compared to all that energetically effervescent silliness that took place inside of Kong’s jungle, but who really cares? This is pure, unadultered entertainment of the first degree, and a movie every true fan of cinema both modern and classic should want in their collections.
I’ve gone into a lot more detail in my King Kong Blu-ray review, and Warner’s Blu-ray of King Kong is virtually beyond reproach, and although the special features are all carried over from the 2005 DVD special edition that doesn’t make them any less awesome. This is one of the great hi-def releases of 2010, and I can’t tell you just how thankful I am I can look at my Blu-ray library and see that this definitive monster masterwork is now a part of it.
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence
Criterion’s second WWII classic of the week, director Oshima Nagisa’s Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence isn’t near as well known as it tragically should be. The story of a British POW (superbly played by David Bowie) and his relationship with the obsessive camp commander (Rock star Ryuichi Sakamoto, who also composed this film’s stirring score), this movie has held a strong place in my heart ever since my father dragged me to see it at Spokane’s Magic Lantern Theatre back during its original 1983 release. While I wasn’t very old at the time, there was something about the effect the picture had on my father that kept me thinking about it years later. Finally, when I was teenager helping to run a local video store, this was one of the titles I sought out and made sure we had available for rental even though I couldn’t remember all that much about it from a narrative standpoint.
Having seen it multiple times since what I can say is that this is a strong, viscerally emotional wartime drama with performances from both Bowie and Sakamoto that stick with you long after the picture has ended. Like The Thin Red Line, I did not receive this title for review but because of my close, intimate history with it I pre-ordered this one from Amazon as well. Maybe I’ll pound out a review in the next couple of weeks.
Iron Man 2
I have noting new to say about Iron Man 2 other than what I already wrote about the superhero adventure back in my May 2010 review (read it by clicking here). I think this paragraph sums it up best: “What I don’t like is how lumpy and nondescript the actual plot of the film is, or how it relies on pretty much the exact same climactic conventions of the first only this time adding a second hero to face off against a seemingly endless series of robotic Iron Man facsimiles. Like I said the first time around, after a while the whole thing starts looking like a CGI version of the battle between ED 209 and Robocop, and no matter how good the effects are the emotional emptiness of it all makes these scenes a tiny bit tiresome.”
This Blu-ray arrives with plenty of bells and whistles, and I am sure there are plenty of you out there who will be happy to add it to your collections. I’m just not one of them, and while I have nothing against the film I also don’t feel all that much for it in its favor, either.
Get Him to the Greek
On the flipside of things, even though Universal did not send us a copy of Get Him to the Greek to review I’m actually somewhat interested in spending the dough and adding this title to my collection all the same. While this raucous comedy didn’t change the rules or do anything unexpected I had a massive good time watching it, both Jonah Hill and Russell Band doing a fantastic job of making me laugh over and over again. The only thing holding me back is that movies like this one have a tendency not to hold up so well in repeat viewings, and spending $20 on a movie I may not enjoy as much a second time around has me seriously weighing things before proceedings. But like I said in my original review (read that by clicking here), “The film has a riotous anarchic tone that suits its Rock and Roll personality perfectly, and by the time it was over I was actually sad to see it end,” and with that in mind I may breakdown sooner rather than latter and add this to my collection fearful re-watch misgivings aside.
Adam Green’s (Hatchet) barely theatrically released horror-thriller about a trio of skiers (Kevin Zegers, Sawn Ashmore, Emma Bell) trapped on a ski lift after the resort closes is a terrific and intense exercise in primordial terror that had me more or less spellbound. While the final act could have used a little work (things get far too silly and nonsensical for my taste), this airborne Open Water clone deserved to be seen in theatres by far more people than actually had the opportunity to do so. Green shows he’s got some decent directorial chops and is more than a one-trick slash-and-hack pony (although maybe I’m wrong considering he sprinted from this right into making the soon to be released Hatchet II), the first two-thirds as good as any suspense or horror film I’ve seen this year.
The Blu-ray comes fairly loaded and an impressive array of special features, not the least of which are two separate audio commentaries featuring members of the cast and crew. Mitchell will have a full review of this disc online available for you to read soon.
The Killer Inside Me
Michael Winterbottom’s adaptation of Jim Thompson’s pulp novel caused quite an uproar when it debuted at last January’s Sundance Film Festival, apparently large portions of the audiences walking out in heated disapproval over its reported misogyny and violence. Sadly, when this screened for press here in Seattle I unfortunately was unable to attend, so I never got the chance to see whether or not this uproar and outcry was warranted for myself. I’ve heard from numerous fellow critics that it wasn’t, and while the picture was far from perfect it certainly had plenty of strong moments making it worth of watch, the whole thing supposedly anchored by a creepy and excellent performance by the always underrated Casey Affleck. All I can say for sure is that this one is going right to the top of the Netflix queue, as I don’t think I’ll be able to fairly weigh 2010 until I give Winterbottom’s latest a look.
Highly engaging documentary about a year-in-the-life of four babies from various corners of the world, this film almost can’t help but bring a smile to a person’s face. This Blu-ray comes with a featurette entitled “The Babies – Three Years Later” I’d be very curious to see, director Thomas Balmes reuniting with his pintsized cast to see what’s happened to all of them since filming came to an end. A worthy rental, and while not the strongest documentary of the year it’s still easily one of the most purely entertaining.
Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky
Here’s what I said about Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky in my June review (read it by clicking here): “While [director Jan] Kounen’s opus fascinates the clothes on its back don’t always fit in an entirely pleasing fashion. But the film understands that creation is often born from misery, that pain accompanies genius more often than it does not. He gets that lust and passion are not one in the same and that sex doesn’t always lead to love.” The bottom line is that if you’re interested in these historical characters by all means give this film a look. If you’re not, and all you want is a passionate historical love story, you better look someplace else because this picture is as cold, lean and lithe as the driven artists were who are right at the heart of it.
Viggo Mortensen doesn’t make a lot of films these days but tends to choose interesting roles, and in Good he plays John Halder, a writer whose career and social standing improves dramatically after his latest novel is picked up by powerful political figures in the Nazi Party and used to push their agenda. When he learns of the Reich’s horrific plans for the future and the troubling effects they will have on people close to him, John has to decide whether or not to take a stand or risk losing everything. Good co-stars Jason Isaacs and Mark Strong, among others. The Blu-ray features interviews with the main actors and other behind-the-scenes footage, totaling just about 90 minutes. A review will be up very soon.
-written by Dennis Crane
So, I just got this title over the weekend but as of yet still haven’t had the opportunity to watch it. There is a quote on the case from MTV.com saying the film is “Twilight meets True Blood with a dash of Rock Star,” a statement that admittedly doesn’t have me all that excited. Still with an eclectic cast that includes Iggy Pop, Moby, Henry Rollins, Alice Cooper, Dave Foley and Malcolm McDowell it can’t be all bad, right? Maybe tonight will be the night I give this Rock and Roll vampire thriller a look.
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES
NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
The Cleveland Show: The Complete Season One
The spin-off that gave Cleveland his very own show is getting a DVD release sporting the sort of extras you'd find on the Family Guy sets. The Cleveland Show is amusing in spots, and features a couple of outrageous characters. It's rental material, to be sure, and when you've exhausted your Family Guy repeats, move on to this.
C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation, The Tenth Season
William Peterson is gone since last year, and Laurence Fishburne picks up the lab coat and brings his own forensic knowledge to the crime procedural. The DVD bonus material is packed, as it usually is, with behind-the-scenes footage, interviews, audio commentary on 2 episodes, a bonus CSI: Miami epidode, and featurettes.
Legend of the Seeker: The Complete Second Season
The fantasy show about mythical events returns for 22 episodes in a 5-disc box set. The second and final season promises "the ultimate battle between good and evil" reaching new heights. The DVD features deleted scenes and two featurettes.
Scrubs: The Complete Ninth And Final Season
The last we'll see of J.D. and Turk, and Co., as the final season is now out on DVD complete with bonus materials like bloopers, deleted scenes, and interviews. The fact that the show lasted as long as it did is pretty impressive.
South Park: A Little Box of Butters
About once a year, Paramount likes to release themed South Park sets in a best-of compilation of episodes. Previously released were "The Hits: Volume 1" and "The Cult of Cartman - Revelations", both of which never went beyond those initial sets. Appropritately titled, "A Little Box of Butters" will give you all the Butters you know you want! :)