New Blu's On the Block - 10/05/10


Rating: Various

Distributor: Various

Released: Oct 5, 2010


Written by Sara Michelle Fetters



New Blu's On the Block
Blu-ray and DVD Releases for Oct 5, 2010

As briefly mentioned last week, if you thought September was loaded with some great titles making their Blu-ray debuts just wait until you get a load of October. This month is packed with potential hi-def goodness, everything from a pair of science fiction classics (one a Deloreon driving trilogy, the other once referred to as a ďquadrilogy"), to a pair of iconic Humphrey Bogart/John Huston flicks, to two versions of a theological horror film that broke all the rules, to an Alfred Hitchcock psych-out that made taking a shower a dubious proposition, to a certain midnight sensation that made doing the time warp a bona fide party.


But thatís only the tip of the iceberg. Thereís a couple of Baz Lurhmann favorites, the movie that almost sent Frances Ford Copolla to his grave and a little musical from some underground studio called Disney about a beauty and some sort of beast that I guess went on to be the first animated film to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture. Criterion unleashes legendary titles from Akira Kurosawa, Stanley Kubrick and Ingmar Bergman, while Michael Mann heads back into James Fennimore Cooper territory for a third time bringing us another cut of a motion picture I keep wanting to call his best but canít because he keeps tinkering with it.


Like I said, October is loaded, no Tuesday more so than this first one of the month. Just take a look at this list of releases and see for yourself.



Beauty & the Beast (1991)

Have you seen the trailers for this release on recent Disney Blu-ray releases? Iím so excited to get this title I could just die, the image quality in those brief previews alone getting me to the point of salivating. Of all the titles in Waltís treasured library, next to Fantasia (which comes out next month!) and Sleeping Beauty (which I already have) this is the one Iíve been waiting for more than any other. Arguably the studioís greatest achievement Ė which, I know, is a strong statement and a relatively difficult one to defend Ė this musical treasure was the first animated feature to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, and although Silence of the Lambs took home the statue I think I solid case could be made this is the title that should have won instead.


Like all Disney Diamond Edition releases, Beauty & the Beast comes packed with extras both old and new. This limited edition set also comes with both DVD and digital versions of the film, and is available in both Blu-ray and DVD packaging. Iíve been told we just received a copy of this title over the weekend and hope to be getting a look at it soon. Expect a full review within the coming days.



The Exorcist

This digibook edition of the spine-tingling 1973 classic comes to Blu-ray with a heck of a lot of fanfare. Not only does it include both the original and the 2000 directorís cut of the film, unlike the recent (and some would say disastrous - read my middle of the road thoughts here) hi-def release of director William Friedkinís The French Connection this time the filmmaker didnít muck up the image or change things up in a way that would infuriate the masses. Instead, he and director of photography Owen Roizman have teamed up to give both versions of the film the best presentations possible, and the anticipation I have to see their work is beyond palpable.


The digibook comes with a bunch extras both new and previously released, including new commentary tracks and interviews with Friedkin and author/screenwriter/producer William Peter Blatty. By an large it looks, at least on the surface, to be the definitive edition of this iconic horror classic, and one any Blu-ray enthusiast will be looking to pick up the moment of its release.




The Maltese Falcon

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Speaking of movies that need to be purchased right on the very spot, this pair of classics from director John Huston and star Humphrey Bogart are easily two of their very best. Fans of film noir will rush to grab The Maltese Falcon, while anyone even partially interested in great achievements in cinema should be ordering up The Treasure of the Sierra Madre before they finish reading this blurb. While neither release offers up new special features (and in the case of the former, actually dispenses with two of the previous DVD editions best, a pair of earlier adaptations of the Dashiell Hammett story one of which starred the great Bette Davis), upgrades in both picture and sound should more than satisfy any of those thinking of making the upgrade. The word on these hi-def discs is beyond sensational, and I for one am as eager as anyone to get my grubby little hands on the both of them.



The Karate Kid (2010)

I was told I should be expecting a copy of this hit Jackie Chan/Jaden Smith remake of the 1984 original to be arriving for review, but as of this writing it still hasnít shown up. Even so, hereís what I said about this China-set adolescent martial arts melodrama back in June (read my full review here): ď[As] far as pointless remakes go (and this one admittedly barely qualifies as a remake in the first place) there are more plusses than minuses as far as The Karate Kid is concerned. The acting is solid and the story of self-discovery and emotional maturation in the face of adversity still resonates. Even though it was a tad excessive the climax is still suitably rousing, and I liked Chanís Mr. Han quite a bit. If only it had been a lot tighter and tad more focused weíd have something wonderful to talk about here, but even with that being so Iíd still award the film a couple of points even if I canít quite give it the championship.Ē For the life of me, I canít think of anything else to add.



The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

Okay, so hereís my issue with this Blu-ray release of Michael Mannís The Last of the Mohicans: I adored the original 1992 version. There. I said it. I think the version released to theatres, I version I DVRíd when they broadcast it on TCM a couple of months back and have watched at least three times since, is just about perfect. Better than Manhunter. Better than Heat. I think Mannís adaptation of James Fennimore Cooperís adventure novel is a robust, full-bodied, deeply romantic achievement bristling with drama, tragedy and tears. It is a movie that makes me weep every time I see it, one that makes me love the power and majesty of cinema more profoundly than I can put into a few simple words.


Now comes this new Blu-ray version of The Last of the Mohicans and it contains what both Fox and Mann are calling the ďDirectorís Definitive Cut.Ē As I just received this title (and watched it pretty much the moment UPS dropped it on my doorstep) I will say this 114-minute version (with the Clannad song thankfully back on the soundtrack) is far more enjoyable than the 117-minute re-edit that was made available on DVD back in 2001. Even so, and even though picture and audio quality (Trevor Jones and Randy Edelmanís score has never sounded better) are beyond extraordinary, even though Iím dying to listen to Mann all-new audio commentary for the title, Iíd by lying if I didnít admit to wishing with every fiber of my being that the studio had included the original 1992 cut with this release. You can expect a full review of this release from Mitchell very soon, otherwise just know that my opinion on it is colored by the fact Iím still so much in love with the 1992 version I saw in theatres eons ago.




A lot of people seem really excited about this release, although for the life of me I canít figure out why. Yes, this will be the first time both Robert Rodriguezís Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantinoís Death Proof (by far my favorite of the two) will be available in their double-feature state since the films played theatrically. Yes, all of the wild faux (and, now that Machete is an actual feature, not-so-faux) trailers will be included. But other than that Iím not sure what the attraction is. Both films have received separate extras-loaded Blu-ray releases, many of those supplements not carried over to this set. They were also the uncut versions of the films, the so-called ďmissing piecesĒ (because of "unintentional" splices and "missing" reels) put back in by their respective directors. I donít know. Maybe because I wasnít blown away by my theatrical experience (read my review here) the first time around I canít rustle up the excitement necessary to go all ga-ga for this release. Lots of you will, of course, and maybe when I finally get around to checking it out for myself potentially Iíll end up doing the same.



A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Was I too nice to this remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street back in my original May review (read it here)? Apparently to some of you I was, a few emails calling me some not very nice names because I admitted to not hating what director Samuel Bayer did with it. But Iím sticking with what I said, which in case youíve forgotten included statements like, ďthere just isnít any point in revisiting either Freddy KruegerÖ or the teenage children living on Elm Street,Ē and, ďhad I actually paid to see this remake I could imagine being just as upset afterwards as the majority of my fellow critics seemed to be.Ē




Splice on the other hand was a science fiction-driven horror tale I actually did kind of like. Until it went off the rails into Syfy Channel predictability, I got a kick of watching classy actors like Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody wallow in all this B-movie genetic manipulation silliness. Summing up my feelings for the picture in my original review (read that here) I wrote that it was, ďsmoothly enjoyable, and while Iíd rather theyíd tinkered with the narrative DNA a bit more I still had enough of a bloody good time Iíd be curious to see what [director Vincenzo] Nataliís got up his sleeve next.Ē



Bones: The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray)

Bones: The Complete Fifth Season (DVD)

Next to ďSupernatural,Ē ďBonesĒ is probably my second favorite show broadcasting on network television. The continuing adventures of FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) and Jeffersonian forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) are ones I seem to continually enjoy, and while they donít have a lot in the way of depth of nuance theyíre just so gosh garn fun I canít get enough of them. Season Five offers up more of the same, and hopefully Fox will have a review copy to me to take a look at real soon. Until then, why not go back and take a look at the splendiferous Season Four? Television mystery just doesnít get any better than what youíre going to discover there.



The Secret of Kells

I should have reviewed The Secret of Kells earlier this year, having gone to a press screening and absolutely adoring this small-scale, beautifully animated Oscar-nominated charmer. The thing was, by the time it finally screened here and opened in Seattle it had been playing in theatres across the country for months, and for whatever reason I just didnít feel like putting forth the effort to write anything. Big mistake, as this truly is a special little import the whole family should take the time to cherish. Hopefully, now that it is on Blu-ray, people will take the time to do just that.



Mad Max

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior is the quintessential post-apocalyptic adventure, but just because thatís so that doesnít make director George Millerís initial foray into high-octane thrills Mad Max any less revolutionary. Not only did it introduce the world to Mel Gibson in his most iconic role (a role Tom Hardy is currently taking over in the now filming Mad Max: Fury Road), just try and think of how many pictures have come along since stealing both its designs, concepts and ideas. It is a streamlined form of pop B-movie adrenaline filled with signature moments throughout, and while it isnít quite as stunning as its sequel nevertheless itís still a classic action-adventure that holds up just as well today as it ever did back in 1980.



The Human Centipede

So, um, yeah. Quite frankly, I just donít know what to say about this one. If youíve heard anything about the film, you know why. If you have not, well, just now that this is a horror tale about a mad surgeon whose lifelong dream is to construct a human centipede connecting people through their gastric systems. Roger Ebert gave it a no-star review (read it here) thatís a heck of a lot of fun to read, and even though Iím a huge fan of sick and perverted B-movie horror this is one title Iím having an awfully difficult time getting excited about.



Stargate Universe: Complete Season One

Previously released in two volumes, this set collects all 20 episodes in one package. Bonus materials include audio commentaries, dozens of featurettes, and more. The series itself gets off to an exciting start in the pilot and then things quiet down a bit, picking up again at the midway point, with the second half of the season improving on the slower pace of the first half, and coming to a cliffhanger at the very end that will make you want to see the continuation; the new season has started airing on SyFy. The showís production values are decent, as is the acting. The scripts tend to alternate between mediocre to interesting, so thereís definitely a few clunkers here, but overall SGU is entertaining sci-fi.


-written by Dennis Crane



Blue Mountain State: Season One

This foul-mouthed comedy aired on the Spike cable channel not too long ago. The series tells the stories of the football team at Blue Mountain State, complete with all the hijinks, social anxiety problems, and drunken stories that you would expect. It goes for the Animal House type of outrageous comedy, but it doesnít really make it there. The bonus material consists of deleted scenes/outtakes, and two featurettes.

-written by Dennis Crane




30 Days of Night: Dark Days

Straight-to-DVD sequel to director David Sladeís mostly wonderful 30 Days of Night, this horror flick is not exactly getting kind notices from those who have seen it. Martin Liebmanís review over at Blu-ray.com probably sums up a lot of the thoughts about the picture that Iíve read best, the critic asking potential viewers to, ďImagine a movie made up of nothing but tired and predictable genre elements, complete with talk-along dialogue, generic action scenes, flat characters, mediocre special effects, and a climax so dull that getting up to go to the bathroom proves a far more interesting experience.Ē Of course, just because he and others keep saying such things doesnít mean this film isnít still getting into my Netflix queue. So there.



The Oxford Murders

Crime-thriller made in 2008 and given just a token theatrical release by Magnolia in September, this British-based mystery still boasts a relatively intriguing cast led by Elijah Wood and John Hurt as well as a trailer that admittedly has me curious to give it a look. It will probably not be worth my time, but as fodder for the Netflix queue are concerned this is another one Iím adding to the buffet.



Robocop Trilogy

Paul Verhoevenís 1987 original Robocop is a classic, no ifs, ands or buts about it. The sequels? Well, the less said about them, the better. Still, some will get excited for this and while bonus features are unknown one can theyíll hopefully be relatively substantial (although, while the second two films are making their Blu-ray debuts Iím pretty positive MGM and Fox are just re-releasing the previous, relatively sub par Robocop disc thatís already out on the market so donít hold your breath). If only MGM would grant Criterion the license to re-release their outstanding and currently out-of-print DVD edition of the first film so they could bring us that one on Blu-ray. Than we might have something neat to talk about.



The Mission

An Amazon exclusive, Roland Joffeís 1986 epic The Mission starring Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons makes its hi-def debut today. As flawed as it is, this is a title Iím actually pretty excited about picking up. A lossless soundtrack featuring Ennio Morriconeís legendary score alone is enough on its own to warrant the relatively inexpensive upgrade, the film filled with stunning and emotionally captivating moments that make up for most of its more melodramatic shortcomings.



Troll 2

So, I didnít even realize they made a sequel to 1986ís Troll until everyone started asking me if Iíd seen the documentary Best Worst Movie. Now having seen it (thanks to Fox and MGM rushing over the Blu-ray) Iím hard pressed to disagree that said documentary doesnít have it right. This movie is bad. Baffling bad. Ed Wood Plan 9 from Outer Space meets Bride of the Monster bad. Itís a laugh riot, and I imagine creative viewers could come up with a whole gaggle of drinking games to partake in while trying to watch it. On the plus side, it could be the worldís first vegetarian horror movie. At least, I think thatís a plus; as Iím still scratching my head trying to figure out how in the world this one even got made Iím just not sure.












Caprica: Season 1.0


Caprica: Season 1.0

The first nine episodes (if you count the pilot as one) of Caprica, the prequel series to Battlestar Galactica, is now available to own on DVD, on the same day as the premiere of the second half of the first season on the SyFy channel. Caprica takes a few episodes to get going, but once it does itís hard to get away from it, the characters coming to life and their actions creating solid drama and intrigue. The sci-fi elements are well represented here, and the writing team takes care to develop the stories and characters in a satisfying way. This is a pretty good show, and hopefully it will stick around long enough so we can all find out what happened that led to the events in Battlestar Galactica. If you are curious about Caprica, make the investment and pick up this DVD, which comes with deleted scenes and more.


Medium: The Sixth Season 


Medium: The Sixth Season

Iíve come to enjoy Medium very much over the past five seasons, and this sixth season continues the streak of telling involving stories of family drama and intriguing murder mysteries investigated by the Phoenix District Attorneyís office for whom title character Allison DuBois (Patricia Arquette) consults. The writing is almost always right on target, the acting very good, even from the three DuBois daughters, and each episode has something unique about it. This season, Allison and her family's world is turned upside down after her abilities are publicly exposed, resulting in sweeping changes both professionally and personally. All 22 episodes are here on six discs, complete with featurettes and deleted scenes.


 Monk: Complete Series Limited Edition Box Set

Monk: The Complete Series Limited Edition Box Set

All six seasons of the funny series are collected here. Perfect for gift-giving, in my opinion.



Ally McBeal: The Complete Fourth SeasonAlly McBeal: The Complete Fifth Season


Ally McBeal: The Complete Fourth Season

Ally McBeal: The Complete Fifth Season

What is there to say here except that the complete series is already available to own, complete with bonus materials. I haven't seen this series, but I've heard generally good things. If you're a fan of the show, I'd imagine there's an interest in these releases.


-written by Dennis Crane



Holy Rollers

Holy Rollers is not a great movie, but it is a good one looking at a segment of society not depicted on film all that often. While its saga of a young man drawn into the world of selling illicit drugs isnít a new one, because of the setting there is still a relative freshness to the material that allowed it to work for me. In my review posted earlier this summer (read it here) I wrote, ďI think this is a rather strong first effort for director [Kevin] Asch. He uses his locations to their utmost while also coaxing performances from his actors that o far beyond the relative familiarity of the subject matter.Ē Definitely worthy of a look, Holy Rollers isnít going to win any awards are blow a personís mind but it does entertain, and in the end isnít that the most important trait for a motion picture to have of them all?



Mid-August Lunch

As charming little Italian diversions go, Mid-August Lunch is delicious casserole of charm, wit and comforting emotions. Back in April (read my full review here) I wrote, ď[Gianni] Di Gregorioís directorial debut Mid-August Lunch (Pranzo di Ferragosto) is a sprightly food-obsessed lark whose simplicity belies its emotional ebullience. The film has a humanity that is relatively surprising, and while little of consequence actually happens the journey each of its five central characters goes on is one I could handle experiencing sitting in the theatre far more often.Ē A rental, yes, but one that will live discriminating viewers fully satiated and more than happily satisfied.



The Slumber Party Massacre Collection (Roger Corman Cult Classics)

Shout! Factory digs back into the Roger Corman vaults and finds more titles all you B-movie enthusiasts out there will undoubtedly go cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs for. First up is the Slumber Party Massacre Collection, and for slasher film aficionados this set is essential. The first film from 1982 is a laugh-riot, director Amy Holden Jones (Maid to Order, The Rich Manís Wife) and writer Rita Mae Brown neatly deconstructing the genre giving it a feminist spin that when watched in the right frame of mind can be one heck of a lot of fun. Made on virtually no budget and starring a group of no-name actors who can barely speak their lines without cracking up, the movie still manages to work most of the time, and even when the usually spunky and spirited heroines do something completely stupid something about the lets-do-anything approach to the material makes even nonsense semi-palatable.


The second film, made in 1987, also comes with a female writer/director, this time in the form of Deborah Brock (Rock 'n' Roll High School Forever). Again this is more of a comedy than a straight-ahead slasher film, and while a few of the characters remain the same the actors Ė who actually show some ability this time around Ė appearing are all new. The film is absolutely nuts, refusing to follow a narrative that makes even a lick of sense concluding things on a note so out there and bizarre it should probably be applauded. Again, not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but for fans of the genre one with plenty of merit all the same.


The capper to the trilogy was made in 1991 and is by and large a remake of the first film. Problem is, director Sally Mattison and writer Catherine Cyran (The Prince & Me 2: Royal Wedding) seem to be trying to make a straight-forward slasher film (albeit one were the identity of the killer is a question mark) instead of a bloody feminist comedy. In fact, the two stage a scene so repellant and off-putting I almost couldnít believe what I was witnessing, the near rape of one of the victims while the up-until-then spunky and sprightly survivors stand around and watch a sequence of extreme distaste that had me wanting to turn the darn thing off.


This two-disc set comes loaded with special features, including an extensive documentary on all three pictures as well as commentary tracks on each film featuring members of the cast and crew (the one on Slumber Party II easily being the best).  I havenít decided if Iím going to fully review this title or not as Iíve pretty much said all that needs saying right here.



The Evil / Twice Dead (Roger Cormanís Cult Classics)

Our next Shout! Factory Roger Corman entry, this double-feature DVD is one the studio should be proud of. One of the great things about it is the option to play both films as an actual twin bill, trailers and animated short urging viewers to get a snack included. Both films also feature commentary tracks with their respective directors, while Twice Dead also comes with a brief interview with actress Jill Whitlow where she gets to reminisce about her time playing with the ghostly undead.


As for the two films themselves, the star here is easily 1978ís The Evil with Richard Crenna, Joanna Pettet and one-time ďThe Tonight ShowĒ regular Victor Buono. The movie is basically your typical people with good intentions move into a haunted mansion tale but told with some 1970ís restraint and subtlety. Additionally, while itís no surprise who is going to die when the actual identity of ďthe evilĒ at the heart of all the turmoil somewhat is. Overall itís actually a pretty darn fun film, and on its own it actually makes this set semi-worthy of the purchase price. Again, I might right up a full review. I just havenít decided if I want to, yet.



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