Monday, April 30, 2012

Upcoming Blu-ray releases, April 30-May 3, 2012


US Blu-ray releases

May 1, 2012

About a Boy
Arches, Canyonlands & Natural Bridges
Assassins / Cobra / The Specialist
Beetlejuice / Charlie and the Chocolate Factory / Tim Burton's Corpse Bride
Believe In Me
Bird of Paradise
Blazing Saddles / Caddyshack / National Lampoon's European Vacation
Body Heat / L.A. Confidential / The Player
Body of Lies / Edge of Darkness / Pride and Glory
Bullitt / The Getaway / The Cincinnati Kid
Casablanca (70th Anniversary Edition)
Cilea: Adriana Lecouvreur
The Cowboys / The Green Berets / The Searchers
Darkness / Phantoms / Venom
Deep Blue Sea / The Long Kiss Goodnight / Snakes on a Plane
Definitely, Maybe
Dry Tortugas and the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center
Executive Decision / Point Break / Swordfish
eXistenZ / Malevolent / B. Monkey
Flicka: Country Pride
George Harrison: Living in the Material World
Jeremiah Johnson
John Q / The Pelican Brief / Training Day
Joyful Noise
The Losers / RocknRolla / Shoot 'Em Up
Meet Joe Black
Men in Black
Men in Black II
Mimic 2
Mimic: Sentinel
Mimic: Three-Film Set
The Mystery of Edwin Drood
New Orleans Jazz & Acadian Culturer
New Year's Eve
NOVA: Secrets of the Sun
Otis / Rest Stop: Dead Ahead / Rest Stop: Don't Look Back
People I Know / Albino Alligator / Ordinary Decent Criminal
Pillow Talk

The Tim Burton Collection:
Beetlejuice / Batman / Mars Attacks! / Batman Returns / Pee-wee's Big Adventure / Charlie and the Chocolate Factory / Corpse Bride

The Wizard of Gore / The Gore Gore Girls
Yellowstone Dual Personalities in Spring & Winter 

Canadian Blu-ray releases

May 1, 2012

About a Boy
Beautiful Planet - France & Italy
Beautiful Planet - Spain & Portugal
Bird of Paradise
Definitely, Maybe
Flicka: Country Pride 
George Harrison: Living in the Material World
Great Expectations
Jeremiah Johnson       
Joyful Noise
Medal of Honor
Meet Joe Black
Men in Black
Men in Black II
The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Nazis at the Center of the Earth
New Year's Eve
New Year's Eve / Valentine's Day
Pillow Talk

The Tim Burton Collection
Beetlejuice / Batman / Mars Attacks! / Batman Returns / Pee-wee's Big Adventure / Charlie and the Chocolate Factory / Corpse Bride

The Wizard of Gore / The Gore Gore Girls 

UK Blu-ray releases

April 30, 2012

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn
Alonzo King Lines Ballet
Battle Royale (3 Disc Edition)
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 / Rimsky-Lorsakov: Scheherazade
Braquo: The Complete First Season
Bruckner: Symphony No. 5
Demons / Demons 2
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
Dracula: Prince of Darkness
Fauré: Requiem
The First of the Few
The Ghoul
Hard Boiled Sweets
Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life
The Iron Lady
Menahem Pressler in Recital
Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Mozart: Piano Concertos: Barenboim
Ocean Circus 3D: Underwater Around the World
Puss in Boots
Renee Fleming in Concert
Shostakovich: Symphony Nº 8
Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker/ The Mouse King
Things to Come

The Tim Burton Collection
HMV Exclusive | Beetlejuice / Batman / Batman Returns / Mars Attacks! / Pee-wee's Big Adventure / Charlie and the Chocolate Factory / Corpse Bride / Sweeney Todd

Treme: The Complete Second Season
The Wicker Tree

French Blu-ray releases

April 30, 2012


May 2, 2012

Code Geass - Lelouch of the Rebellion
The Devil's Double
Devil Winds
Go for It!
The Haunting of Sorority Row
Hidden Camera
The Howling: Reborn
Lady Vengeance
The Muppets
Renee Fleming in Concert
Rogue River
Shallow Hal
Super Size Me
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
Texas Killing Fields

May 3, 2012

The Change-Up
Dneiperline: Love and War
Rise of the Footsoldier

Australian Blu-ray releases

May 2, 2012

War Horse
We Bought a Zoo

Sunday, April 29, 2012

What I Watched This Week, April 22-28

Welcome to the third installment of What I Watched This Week. I don't review everything I watch, but I have time for quick comments about the movies that I don't fully review.

Take Shelter (2011) (Blu-ray)

This was my second viewing.  Take Shelter is a tense drama showing us how events in our lives, both past and present, can impact our actions. Michael Shannon's performance had to work for the film to succeed and he pulled it off well. It's more about the journey than the destination, so don't expect a Hollywood ending.

Click here for my full review.

Overall score 4/5

Howard's End (1992) (Blu-ray)

This spent months on my shelf and I was a little disappointed after finally cracking it open. I was impressed by the performance of Vanessa Redgrave, and Anthony Hopkins did well with his limited screen time. The main character was played by Emma Thompson and she was good, but I felt she broke character a couple of times and let her true voice show. Howard's End is a romantic period drama set in England, as you would expect from a Merchant/Ivory production. I liked it, but I expected to love it.

Overall score 3.5/5

My Week with Marilyn (2011) (Blu-ray)

Unlike most movie lovers, I'm not fascinated by Marilyn Monroe, and I'm not yet a fan of Michelle Williams. I was therefore a little surprised that I enjoyed My Week with Marilyn as much as I did. Set in 1956, it portrays the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl, with Kenneth Branagh playing Laurence Olivier and Judi Dench playing Sybil Thorndike. But this was the true story of 24-year-old Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), who became Monroe's friend during the filming when other people around her were critical of her behavior and acting ability. I'm not sure whether I would buy it, but the story was quite engaging.

Overall score 3.5/5

War Horse (2011) (Blu-ray)

I don't like war films and I can't bear to watch animals being hurt, so I avoided War Horse in theaters. The exposition is rather obvious and the story is implausible and easy to predict, but it was actually quite well done. War Horse focuses on the story of the horse rather than who is winning the war. The ending is quite uplifting and there's a scene I particularly liked in which a German and an Englishman forget the war for a moment to take care of the horse. I wouldn't watch it again because the horse suffers a lot and too many men and other horses were killed during the story. It's an effective film if you aren't sensitive to such things.

Overall score 4/5

The Iron Lady (2011) (Blu-ray)

I'm a fan of Meryl Streep and believe that she should have won close to 10 Oscars by now, so I wanted to see her latest win. I grew up in England and was there throughout the Thatcher years, so I also have a strong dislike for the woman being portrayed. I was surprised by the style used to tell the story. It showed Thatcher today, arguably senile and definitely hallucinating, and mixed it in with flashbacks showing how her career came to pass. I was left thinking it was another great Streep performance, but the story itself was weak and lacking in details. I wouldn't want to see it again.

Overall score 3/5

Lady and the Tramp (1955) (Blu-ray)

I have seen numerous clips of Lady and the Tramp over the years, but I don't think I had ever seen the whole film until last night. It put a smile on my face from the start and it's definitely one of my favorite classic Disney titles from those that I have seen. Disney's Blu-ray presentation is flawless and it looks as if the film was made last year rather than 57 years ago. This is a story with plenty of heart and characters that are easy to love. I will definitely watch it multiple times. I particularly enjoyed the zoo scene and loved the general feel of the whole film.

Overall score 4.5/5

Click here to see what I watched April 8-14.

Click here to see what I watched April 15-21.

Return to index of every review on the site.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Take Shelter

Take Shelter (2011)
Drama, Thriller, 120 minutes
Directed by Jeff Nichols
Starring Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain and Shea Whigham

What would you do if you thought that you and your family were in danger of being killed by a deadly storm?

Take Shelter shows us a glimpse inside the mind of Curtis (Shannon), who has vivid dreams of an approaching storm. In his dreams, his wife and young daughter are in terrible danger. The film sometimes blurs the line between fantasy and reality and we see events unfold that are later revealed as dreams. His dog bites him in one such event and unidentified strangers attack him and his daughter in another episode.

We all have nightmares, but Curtis experiences more than just dreams. He also hears the storm approaching. While he is working outside with his colleague, Dewart (Whigham), Curtis hears a thunderbolt strike. Dewart doesn't hear a thing.

Do you trust what you see and hear without question? What would you think if you could hear things that nobody else could?

If what Curtis experiences is really happening, how is that possible? Is it some form of intervention from God? It is some kind of psychic ability? Is the subconscious mind revealing what Curtis knows on some level?

To complicate matters, Curtis was left alone outside a store as a child when his mother had a mental breakdown and just walked away. He visits her in a nursing home because he fears that he might be going down the same path. It's such a realistic possibility that we are drawn into his world. Is he going crazy? He seems rational most of the time, but then he experiences another dream or hallucination.

His wife, Samantha (Chastain), is more than patient. We get the feeling that their relationship is strong and she clearly loves him. In a good relationship, it should be possible to talk openly about such problems, but Curtis initially hides everything from her. This is done out of fear. He's afraid of what might be happening to him and he's embarrassed about his experiences. He visits a doctor and a psychiatrist without her knowledge and even makes a serious financial decision without discussing it.

Lack of communication is a huge problem in most relationships. If you are with the person you are supposed to trust more than anyone in the world, why can't you voice all of your fears? Curtis is eventually compelled to talk to Samantha because there's no other way to explain his bizarre behavior.

Take Shelter shows us what occurs in the mind of a tormented man. The tension slowly builds and we can sense that something is going to happen. Is Curtis going crazy, or will all of his actions be justified? I won't reveal that here.

The ending is somewhat controversial. I liked it a lot and think it was the perfect way to conclude the story. Shannon does a great job in the final scenes and there's one particular expression which speaks volumes. Unfortunately, I can't talk about it without ruining things.

The film only cost around $1 million to make, but it achieves more than many big-budget productions. The story felt real to me and I could easily empathize with everything Curtis went through. The two hours went by fast and the tension was incredible.

Overall score 4/5

Return to index of every review on the site.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

7 x 7 Link Award

I had never heard of the 7 x 7 Link Award until two days ago when one of my Blogger friends recommended me for the honor. Fernando Quintero appears to have read just about every movie review I have ever written and you can see his comments all over this blog. English isn't his first language, but you would never know it by reading his reviews. Check out his blog and follow him on Twitter if you like reading reviews by good writers who really care about film.

There are three rules to be followed in order to accept the award:

1) Tell everyone something that no one else knows about you.

This is a tough one. The first thing I wrote for this blog on April 25, 2011 was a short biography. It includes all the boring facts about me.  

There is one thing which only a few people know and I rarely mention it in case people think I am bragging in some way. I finished third-bottom of my class one year in high school and thought I was quite stupid. To test the theory, I took a written IQ test and mailed it in (before computers were around in every home). To my surprise, I was invited to sit a formal test. After finding out that my IQ was 158, it gave me a lot of confidence in my abilities. I realized that I had performed badly in school because I never actually studied anything and not because I was stupid.

Some websites mention that I should be capable of winning a Nobel Prize, but that's unlikely unless they award one for eating pizza.

There, my secret is out. Please don't think badly of me. I'll never mention it to you again.

2) Link to one of the posts that I personally think best fits the following categories:

a) Most beautiful piece

Define beautiful. Does it mean describing a beautiful film, or that my writing is beautiful? I'm much too close to determine whether anything I write is beautiful. My best guess would be My Neighbor Totoro because I'm almost in tears just thinking about it.

b) Most helpful piece

I'll use as a guide for this answer. The review which has attracted the most helpful votes is Kes. I imagine that an obscure British film from the late 60s is something that a lot of Americans haven't seen? Only 20 people have reviewed it on Amazon.

c) Most popular piece

I'll allow Blogger to decide this one. The post with the most page views is an index to the reviews on the site, but the most popular review is The Reader. I was extremely surprised to see how many people were interested in this one, especially as it has such a boring title. I hope a few who checked it out ended up seeing the film because it deserves to be seen.

d) Most controversial piece

This comes down to a choice of Avatar or Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Avatar, because I actually like it and think that it's an effective piece of entertainment, while many people hate it. Python because I launched a scathing attack on dumb comedy in the review. If pressed, I'll say that the Python piece is the most controversial.

e) Most surprisingly successful piece

I was asked by director Darshan Patel to review his short film, Grey. It proved to be very popular. It's possible that people were curious because so few reviews existed at the time?

f) Most underrated piece

The Three Colors trilogy is my favorite trilogy from those that I have seen and I made a significant effort to look at some of the themes in Red. It's my favorite entry in the trilogy and wraps everything up in a stunning way in a scene near the end of the film. Unfortunately, I have to accept that most people just aren't interest in that kind of film.

g) Most pride-worthy piece

It's satisfying when I can link events in my real life to those on the screen, so I enjoy writing reviews that are personal in some way. Examples would be Kes or 50/50, in which I reveal things about my upbringing. I'm also proud of the effort and emotion that I put into the Totoro review mentioned in the first part of the segment. But I am most proud of my Moneyball review. I drew on my life experience. That includes sports, marketing learned in college, and 13 years playing Fantasy Football. I even touched on philosophy. I think those experiences enabled me to create something truly original, and I'm proud of where my mind led me.

3) Pass this award on to seven other bloggers.

And so we come to the hardest part of this assignment.

I thought long and hard about which people to nominate. I read a lot of blogs written by people that I follow on Twitter. Some provide information, while others offer reviews and opinions about movies I am interested in. There are some talented writers out there and I have barely scratched the surface. I decided to choose seven people that hadn't won the award before (as far as I can tell). It sometimes feels like we are pouring ourselves into this passion and we don't receive much feedback. I hope that the people I have chosen get something out of this, but don't feel obligated to accept and choose seven people of your own unless you want to. For those who are not included, I hope you don't take it as an insult. I could only name one percent of my followers and it doesn't mean I don't value what you write.

My choices are all good writers and friendly people who will happily chat with you on Twitter. Here are the seven who I think deserve the award (in alphabetical order):

1) Anthony Kuzminski - 
Follow him on Twitter @thescreendoor 

Tony writes for as well as on his own blog (above). He first came to my attention when my friend @ravenval pointed out a post on The 50 Greatest Music Moments in Cameron Crowe Films. Take a look and you'll appreciate that this was no easy task. Writing well is one thing, but millions of people can do that. Tony writes with emotion and puts something of himself into his work. You can feel it while you are reading. His blog covers music and movies.

2) Brent Allard - 
Follow him on Twitter @criminalmovies 

Brent does a lot of Top 10 features focusing on actors or a particular theme. What really makes this blog different is the reviews. In my own reviews, I usually avoid too many spoilers. Brent often picks older titles and examines them in depth. The first half of the review shows an exhaustive description of the plot. If you have trouble remembering a movie, these details are good reference material. The second part of the review analyzes the movie in question. Take a look at One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to see what I mean. 

3) Dave B. - 
Follow him on Twitter @dvdinfatuation 

If you follow Dave on Twitter, you'll know that he's around often and willing to chat and help promote your articles. His site explains that he's on a mission to watch 2,500 movies on DVD and Blu-ray. He promotes the movies on Twitter by using facts about the movies as teasers. Try clicking on a few and read what he has to say. Here's his take on Psycho. 

4) David Neary -
Follow him on Twitter @DeusExCinema

David's site has a clean look and includes images, Top 10s, reviews and trailers. He's funny and makes his points clearly. Take a look at his review of Midnight in Paris. Do you agree that Brody should star in a Dali biopic? The site offers a good mix of features, and covers all kinds of movies, both new and old.

5) Marcel Lapointe -
Follow him on Twitter @MovieYearbook

I haven't been following Marcel's writing for long, but I'm very impressed with his content. If you followed my 100 movies series, you might be aware that it took me about 103 days to complete and I was reviewing theatrical releases at the same time. I don't have a job and that was tough for me to manage. Marcel is attempting to review one movie per day for a whole year. Sounds ambitious, doesn't it? There is a strong focus on current releases, so this is a great place to visit if you are on the fence about seeing a movie in theaters. Here's his review of Hugo. 

6) Russell_Oz -
Follow him on Twitter @Russell_Oz

Russell writes simply and clearly and with plenty of humor. One thing that I think is important for reviewers is honesty. There's no point in churning out the same opinion as everybody else if you don't agree with it. I get the feeling that Russell tells it as he sees it. See what you think of his review of The Descendants. The other cool thing about Russell's site is the recent addition of the Let's Talk feature. He picks one film a week and invites people to discuss it. I think I know a lot about the films I love and own, but I learned quite a bit in the recent discussion of Michael Mann's Heat. Take a look and you'll see why. 

7) Shloggs - 
Follow him on Twitter @shloggs

I don't even know his name, but I enjoy reading the reviews and features on his blog. Horror is the focus, but it's not the only thing covered. I enjoy reading articles that flow and his certainly do. Again, his writing seems real and honest. He's not trying to impress anyone. A reviewer is supposed to comment on whether a movie is worth seeing for its intended audience, rather than just summarizing the plot and adding nothing in the way of insight. I always feel that I know whether I'm likely to enjoy the movie after reading a review at Shloggs. Check out his John Carter piece for an example.

Well, that's it. I spent two days writing this article instead of reviewing the two or three films that I would usually have managed at this point in the week. Thanks again to Fernando for the nomination.

For the seven I nominated, don't feel obligated to respond with your own list. It would be cool if you have the time, but it is a lengthy process.

I notice that I have failed to list any women. I can assure you that it wasn't by design. Some of the contenders had already won and I just feel that the seven people I chose all deserved it.

If you made it to the end of this article, thanks for your time. I hope that you enjoy my blog and the other seven that I have recommended.

Return to index of every review on the site.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What I watched This Week: April 15-21, 2012

Welcome to the second installment of What I Watched This Week. I don't review everything I watch, but I have time for quick comments about the movies that I don't fully review.

I seem to have watched the two biggest box office successes of all time this week. Don't worry, I haven't sold out.

April 15 - 50/50 (2011) (Blu-ray)

This was my second viewing. I enjoyed it the first time and perhaps liked it even more on this viewing. It's one of the best comedies from 2011.

You can read my full review here.

Overall score 4/5


April 15 - Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990) (Blu-ray)

I think Die Hard 2 is a lot better than most people give it credit for. Maybe it's because they prefer seeing Willis take out enemies one at a time? This sequel is broader in scope and the danger felt real to me. I like the broader airport setting and William Sadler was an effective villain. Worth seeing if you like action movies. 

Overall score 4/5

April 15 - Needful Things (1993) (DVD)

I read the book and saw this in the theater, but my memory of it was slightly better than the reality, Still, some very good performances, particularly from Max von Sydow and Ed Harris.

Here's my full review.

Overall score 3.5/5 (down from 4/5)

April 16 - Titanic (1997) (TV)

I was warned about Titanic. Common complaints are that it's too long and it's just a chick flick. I was entertained throughout the three hours and liked a lot of things about the film. The structure worked, with an old woman in the present reflecting on the accident. Winslet and DiCaprio both did well, although both have gone on to better things.

I will be picking Titanic up on Blu-ray in September.

Overall score 4/5

April 17 - Heat (1995) (Blu-ray)

I took part in the weekly discussion over at 137exactly and it was the perfect excuse to watch Heat again and review it for the first time. The discussion taught me something about the film and I recommend it highly if you have seen the film.

Here's my full review.

Overall score 4/5

April 18 - Super 8 (2011) (Blu-ray)

I watched Super 8 for the second time and decided to review it. It feels like a combination of Stephen King and classic Spielberg and it's an ideal family film.

Here's my full review.

Overall score 4/5

April 19 - Sideways (2005) (Blu-ray)

I first watched Sideways a couple of months ago because I can't stop watching The Descendants and I wanted to see something else from director Alexander Payne. The initial viewing left me a little disappointed, but I think it was because expectations were sky high. After seeing it a second time, I'm glad I added it to my collection. The writing sets everything up, and the acting and direction are excellent too. I'll probably review this in full soon.

Overall score 4/5

April 20 - none

April 21 - Avatar (2009) (Blu-ray)

I've seen Avatar around eight times and this was my second or third viewing of the extended edition. It adds depth to the story and the demise of one of my favorite characters is given closure. I know that Avatar has received a lot of criticism, but I always enjoy it. The setting is what makes it such a fantastic experience and it enables me to overlook the shortcomings of the script.

I watched the movie again after deciding to upgrade my blog by adding images. That's still a work in progress and will take several days, but just seeing the images from Avatar made me excited about watching it again.

Here's my full review.

Overall score 5/5

Click here to see what I watched April 8-14.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Super 8

Super 8 (2011)
Mystery, Sci-fi, Thriller, 112 minutes
Directed by J. J. Abrams
Starring Elle Fanning, Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths and Kyle Chandler

Although it's listed as a science fiction thriller, Super 8 is an ideal family movie. The main characters are children and we are given enough information to identify with them. Even if we weren't like any of them ourselves, we almost certainly went to school with similar children.

The movie feels like a combination of Stand by Me and some of the best Steven Spielberg stories, such as E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The story feels like it could have been written by Stephen King and contains a slice of small-town America, combined with a fantasy element.

The opening scene mentions an accident at a steel mill in which Elizabeth Lamb is killed. Her husband, Jackson (Chandler), is a deputy, and her son, Joe (Courtney), is helping his friends make a movie. We spend a lot of time with these children and events are seen from their viewpoint. The group enlists Alice (Fanning) to play a role in their movie and she impresses them with her superior acting ability. Joe starts to develop feelings for her and it's this relationship which drives the story.

One of the most memorable scenes comes early in the movie. While the kids are filming, a train approaches. Charles (Griffiths), who is the director, wants to shoot a scene while the train is passing. A truck drives onto the tracks in front of the train and causes a massive accident. The scene is spectacular and will rock your home theater. After surviving the accident, the kids notice a carriage on its side and something is pounding on the walls from within.

That's the setup and I don't think there's any need to ruin things by giving away any more of the story. Courtney and Fanning give strong performances and their developing friendship is believable. Alice's father is a source of conflict and Joe's father has a role to play in the safety of the town. Part of the fun is watching events unfold and trying to solve the mystery. What is causing these things to happen? Why are people and animals disappearing?

Super 8 evokes a special feeling. It's partly nostalgia as we remember friendships in our childhood, and the movie feels as if it belongs in the 70s or early 80s. Technology wasn't as advanced as it is now and there is a closeness between the people in the town that is rare to see in today's world. The friendship between the children makes everything work and it feels authentic.

Although the early part of the movie relies on special effects, there is a real story here with a little depth. If you like Spielberg's classic movies, you'll probably enjoy what Abrams has done. If you were wondering whether Abrams includes lens flares like he did in Star Trek, they are present throughout the movie.

Overall score 4/5

Return to index of every review on the site.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Upcoming Blu-ray releases: April 21-26, 2012

US Blu-ray releases 

April 24, 2012

Amy Winehouse: Fallen Star
Badge 373
Bettie Page: Dark Angel
Cinema Verite
Dark Tide
The Fields
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Collection 1
Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos
Girl on a Motorcycle
A Hollis Frampton Odyssey (Criterion Collection)
The Innkeepers
The Jackal
The Jayhawkers
Joe Satriani: Satchurated – Live in Montreal 3D
Killer Nun
Let the Bullets Fly
Marvel Animated Features
Nazis at the Center of the Earth
The Organizer
Poirot: Series 4
The Red House
The Scarlet Worm
Shogun Assassin Box Set
Some Days Are Better Than Others
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979 TV series)
Titanic (ITV series)
Ubaldo Terzani Horror Show
Ultimate Avengers Movie Collection
The Wicker Tree

Canadian Blu-ray releases

April 24, 2012

Badge 373
Cinema Verite
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Collection 1
Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos
Girl on a Motorcycle
In the Land of Blood and Honey

The Jason Statham Collection
The Mechanic / Crank / Crank 2: High Voltage / War / Transporter 3

The Jayhawkers
Killer Nun
Let the Bullets Fly
The Organizer
Poirot: Series 4
The Sweet Hereafter
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979 TV series)
Titanic (ITV series)
The Wicker Tree

UK Blu-ray releases

April 23, 2012

Apollo 13 (Universal 100th Anniversary) (In the Frame review)

Arrow Horror Classic Collection
A Bay of Blood / Inferno / City of the Living Dead / Obsession / Phenomena / Tenebrae / The Beyond / The Bird With the Crystal Plumage / Cat o' Nine Tails / Vamp

Back to the Future (Universal 100th Anniversary)
Being Human: Complete Series
Being Human: Series 4
The Blues Brothers (Universal 100th Anniversary)
The Bourne Ultimatum (Universal 100th Anniversary) (In the Frame review)
Chase & Status: Live at Brixton Academy
The Complete Humphrey Jennings: Volume 2
Desi Boyz
Despicable Me (Universal 100th Anniversary)
Faces: The John Cassavetes Collection
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (In the Frame review)
Gladiator (Universal 100th Anniversary)
The Grand: Loser
The Grand: Loser 3D
Grave Encounters
Hansel and Gretel
Hirokin: The Last Samurai
I. D.
I, Superbiker 2 – The Showdown
Jurassic Park (Universal 100th Anniversary)
King Kong 2005 (Universal 100th Anniversary)
La Grande Illusion
The Lady
Mamma Mia! (Universal 100th Anniversary)
The Mummy (Universal 100th Anniversary)
Nanny McPhee (Universal 100th Anniversary)
Paul (Universal 100th Anniversary)
Pendragon: Out of Order Comes Chaos
The Samaritan
Sanshô dayû / Gion Bayashi
Shadows: The John Cassavetes Collection
Shaun of the Dead (Universal 100th Anniversary)
Sinners and Saints
The Son of No One
Ugetsu Monogatari / Oyû-sama
West is West
WWE: The Epic Journey of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

French Blu-ray releases

April 21, 2012

Alvin and the Chipmunks Box Set
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked
Le Havre

April 23, 2102

Joe Satriani: Satchurated – Live in Montreal
Le Voyage dans la Lune

April 24, 2012

American Pie
American Pie 2
American Psycho
American Wedding
Broken Arrow
Broken Lance
Catch .44
Cold Mountain
Garden of Evil
Garden State
Good Will Hunting
The Guild
Harvey (Universal 100th Anniversary)
It’s Kind of a Funny Story
Le Tableau
Life is Beautiful
Little Big Soldier
Rites of Passage
The Rum Diary
Sherlock: Season Two
Tales of the Night

April 25, 2012

A Dangerous Method
Another Earth
Five Minarets in New York
Tim Burton Collection
TRON: Legacy 3D
Up 3D

Australian Blu-ray releases

April 24, 2012

Dolphin Tale
Dolphin Tale 3D
Happy Feet Two
Happy Feet Two 3D
The Iron Lady
Three Colours Trilogy

April 25, 2012

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn
The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn 3D

April 26, 2012

Titanic (ITV series)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Heat (1995)
Action, Crime, Drama, 170 minutes
Directed by Michael Mann
Starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer and Jon Voight

It's difficult to hold the interest of an audience for almost three hours, especially in an age where people can't go five minutes without checking their text messages or tweeting about what's happening in a movie. Heat was made in 1995 when it was much easier to forget the outside world for three hours, and that's part of its strength.

The most obvious thing to mention is that Al Pacino and Robert De Niro appear on screen together for the first time, and it's the first time they two have appeared in the same film since The Godfather: Part II. Both actors are close to their best and their two meetings are memorable.

Lt. Vincent Hanna (Pacino) works for the LAPD. His job is his passion and he places it above personal relationships. He's on his third marriage and that is failing because he only gives his wife a fraction of his attention if he's home at all. Neil McCauley (De Niro) also has a passion, but he's on the wrong side of the law. He heads a group of thieves who are professional and extremely effective. Unlike Hanna, McCauley doesn't want any personal ties preventing him from being the best he can be.

McCauley has a favorite quote:

Have no attachments. Allow nothing to be in your life that you cannot walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner.

The movie shows us how effective McCauley's crew is when they rob an armored truck early in the movie. One of the crew, Waingro (Kevin Gage), is a loose cannon. His behavior leads to three unnecessary deaths so McCauley decides to kill him. Unfortunately, a passing patrol car distracts McCauley and allows Waingro to escape. He's a constant source of trouble for the remainder of the story.

McCauley's life changes when he meets Eady (Amy Brenneman). Instead of being a free agent, he's in danger of becoming tied down to a relationship. Will he abandon the idea that he can walk away from any situation in 30 seconds, or will she complicate things?

What sets Heat apart is the strong characterization. Mann takes his time establishing all of the characters, even if they have minor roles. As a result, we feel as if we know these people. McCauley's strengths and efficiency are obvious and we learn the roles and abilities of the other crew members. Mann doesn't stop there. We see one crew member, Chris Shiherlis (Kilmer), interacting with his wife (Ashley Judd). Chris has a gambling problem and it's affecting his marriage. His wife questions whether they should even be together. This type of depth is present throughout the movie.

Because we know the characters, it matters when something happens to them. Hanna's life is his job and he's essentially a hunter. McCauley is his current prey and we see Hanna using every available tool to find out what McCauley's crew is planning. As he learns more about McCauley, Hanna finds that he respects the man. They are similar in many ways and both are intelligent.

The most notable scene in the movie happens after Hanna pulls over McCauley in his car. He's not there to arrest him, but simply asks if they can have coffee together. The scene shows the personalities of both men and it's brilliantly written. Hanna mentions that it's his job to stop McCauley and that it's nothing personal. McCauley replies with a warning that he would have to take Hanna out if he got in his way. These are not threats, but calmly-stated facts. The scene is based on a real exchange between McCauley and Chicago cop, Chuck Adamson. If you think the scene is unrealistic, it really happened.

Heat is a drama more than anything else, but the brief action scenes are intense. The actors received training to make their shootouts appear authentic. Mann's focus on such details makes the whole story feel real. When we see people working at a crime scene, many are real forensic experts.

I can't promise 170 minutes of thrills, but the final scenes are among the most intense I've seen portrayed within the genre. All of the acting is good, but Pacino and De Niro understandably dominate things. If you enjoy character-driven stories, Heat is well worth your time.

Overall score 4/5

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Needful Things

Needful Things (1993) 
Crime, Drama, Horror, 120 minutes
Directed by Fraser Clarke Heston
Starring Ed Harris, Max von Sydow and Bonnie Bedelia

I first read Needful Things about 20 years ago, not long after it was published. One thing I like about Stephen King's stories is how familiar the worlds seem. Then he changes one or two small details and introduces a supernatural element. We still relate to the story because we identify so strongly with the setting he establishes. Like many of King's books, Needful Things is set in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine.

The movie is not an entirely faithful adaptation of the book, but that's partly due to the length of the original story. A few details are changed to help the story along and other elements are completely omitted. The remaining story still works well as a movie, but it could have been even better.

What would you do if The Devil lived in your town?

Leland Gaunt (von Sydow) opens a store in Castle Rock. Needful Things sells all manner of antiques and collectibles and Gaunt initially appears to be a friendly old man. His first customer is a young boy, Brian Rusk, who has a large collection of Topps baseball cards. After Gaunt asks him to wish for any item he can imagine, Brian thinks of a 1956 Mickey Mantle Topps card. When Brian closes his eyes and touches the card, he can see Mantle playing in a game from decades ago. The card is worth hundreds of dollars, but Gaunt asks for just 95c. The other part of the price is a deed.

The deeds are tricks played on other people. Brian is told to throw turkey droppings at freshly-washed sheets hanging on a neighbor's washing line. He barely knows the woman and so there's almost no chance she will find out that it was him. Gaunt uses this tactic with everyone who enters the store. He somehow has an item that each covets, whether it's sunglasses worn by Elvis Presley, a first edition of Treasure Island signed by the author, or a toy horse-racing game that accurately predicts winners of upcoming races. People are willing to perform tricks to acquire items they desperately want.

Most people don't have a clue what is going on, but Sheriff Alan Pangborn (Harris) sees what Gaunt is doing. The tricks start to become more cruel and dangerous, and some ultimately become fatal. Gaunt apparently travels from one town to the next and feeds off the evil and negative energy.

The biggest flaw in the movie adaptation is a speech designed to give the story a typical Hollywood climax. It seems out of place and unrealistic, but I understand why it was added. That aside, it's one of the best King adaptations. The acting is strong for the most part, with good performances from Amanda Plummer, Bonnie Bedelia and J. T. Walsh supporting the excellent work of Harris and von Sydow.

It's fascinating watching how a few evil deeds can impact a friendly small town. The story is simple, but it seems so plausible. 

What would you do to possess your own needful thing?


50/50 (2011)
Biography, Comedy, Drama, 100 minutes
Directed by Jonathan Levine
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard and Anjelica Houston

What would you do if you were diagnosed with cancer?

Will Reiser's screenplay is based on his own experiences after he was diagnosed. That doesn't sound like a promising subject for a comedy, but 50/50 is definitely funny. It's also quite moving in places and the subject matter sometimes provides genuine drama.

I know that some people will avoid seeing the movie because they either have cancer themselves or know someone with the disease. I understand that choice, but I lost my mother to cancer when I was 12 and I'm glad that I bought the movie. I have friends who deal with serious diseases by joking about it. You would never know that they were ill. Just because 50/50 is a comedy, it doesn't mean that it makes light of cancer.

The main difference between 50/50 and a movie such as The Bucket List is that the main character is in his twenties. We all know that we will die one day, but it seems wrong to have a life-threatening illness at such a young age.

Adam Lerner (Gordon-Levitt) works as a radio show writer. One day while running he experiences back pain. When he gets it checked out, it turns out that he has a large cancerous tumor in his spine. Rachael (Howard), his girlfriend, promises to give him all the support he needs. His best friend, Kyle (Rogen), insists that Adam will be fine. Adam's mother (Houston), who is already dealing with her husband's Alzheimer's, wants to move in with Adam help him through a difficult time.

Adam can scarcely believe what has happened and spends most of his time with Kyle. They regularly get drunk and high and Kyle tries to use Adam's disease as a hook to attract women. He seems to worry more about getting laid than the health of his friend. Rachael does her best at first, but when the reality of Adam's situation takes hold, she isn't as supportive as she expected to be. When crunch time finally comes, it's Kyle who is there for Adam.

We are shown some of the realities faced by people with cancer. Adam befriends other cancer patients at the hospital and they all have an optimistic outlook on life, despite the reality of their disease.

Another major character is Katherine (Kendrick), who plays Adam's therapist. She's 24-years-old and younger than Adam and he's skeptical when she reveals that he is only the third patient she's ever had. I enjoyed Kendrick's performance in Up in the Air and was impressed again here. Her character is much warmer in this movie and Adam likes her as a person despite her flaws.

The acting is good across the board. Gordon-Levitt is very good as Adam, without going over the top. Rogen's character is initially abrasive and somewhat annoying, but he proves to have hidden depths. The friendship felt authentic by the end of the movie. Anjelica Houston doesn't have a large role, but she makes use of every second.

The title refers to Adam's chances of survival when he looks up his disease on the Internet. The chances that you will like the movie are significantly higher.

Overall score 4/5

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

What I Watched This Week: April 8-14, 2012

I don't review everything I watch, so I thought I would start keeping track week-by-week. I'll make a brief note about each title and link it to a review if there is one.

April 8 - none

April 9 - Broadcast News (1987) (Blu-ray)

This was my third viewing, but the first on Blu-ray. It was just as good as I remembered it and Criterion's presentation was very strong.

It was the last entry in my 100 movies series so check out that review if you are curious.

Overall score 4.5/5

April 10 - Anatomy of a Murder (1959) (Blu-ray)

I borrowed the Criterion Blu-ray from a friend and it's the first time I have seen the film. James Stewart stars as a lawyer and is supported by Lee Remick, George C. Scott and Ben Gazzara. At 160 minutes, the film drags a bit in the first hour, but the payoff is worth it. While 12 Angry Men is the best film I have seen about the jury process, this is the best courtroom drama. I will eventually pick up the Criterion Blu-ray.

Overall score 4/5

April 11 - Reservoir Dogs (1992) (Blu-ray)

After taking part in a discussion over at 137 exactly, I realized that I hadn't seen Reservoir Dogs in a couple of years. I've seen the film several times before, but enjoyed it as much as ever.

Here's my full review.

Overall score 4.5/5

April 12 - Burn After Reading (2008) (Blu-ray)

I have seen Burn After Reading several times and it was the first Blu-ray I ever bought. It's probably my third-favorite Coen brothers movie behind Fargo and No Country for Old Men, so it amazes me that it isn't given more credit.

Here's my full review.

Overall score 4.5/5

April 13 - Le Cercle Rouge (1970) (Blu-ray)

I've had this Criterion Blu-ray on my shelf for months and finally decided to open it. The film stars Alain Delon, Yves Montand, Gian Maria Volonte and Bourvil and it's the story of a robbery. If you like foreign language films, I recommend it.

Overall score 4/5

April 13 - The Girl Who Played with Fire (2009) (Blu-ray)

I own both versions of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and reviewed David Fincher's version earlier in the year. In that review, I noted that there isn't a huge difference between the two versions. I thought Noomi Rapace did a good job as Lisbeth Salander. This sequel is good, but it doesn't live up to the first installment. Dragon Tattoo had a lot going on and was a genuine police procedural in the style of The Silence of the Lambs. We learn about Lisbeth and we like her because she's different from other characters we have encountered. She has abilities that we admire. In this installment, she still uses those abilities, but the reason for her actions is less interesting and less complex than those in Dragon Tattoo. There's quite a bit of action and it held my interest, although the ending leaves the story hanging.

It was the second time I had seen the movie.

Overall score 4/5

April 14 - The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (2009) (Blu-ray)

This Blu-ray had been on my shelf since March 2011 and I finally decided to watch it. It quickly resolves the thread that was left hanging at the end of The Girl Who Played with Fire, but it's the weakest of the three movies. We see Lisbeth spend 90 minutes doing very little and that's a total departure from the rest of the trilogy. When the story does finally pick up, it's a courtroom drama rather than an action-packed climax. The ending is satisfying, but the style of the movie is too different for me to like it as much as the first two installments. I hope that the inevitable US version changes the story or keeps it more interesting.

Overall score 3.5/5

April 14 - Mulholland Dr. (2001) (Blu-ray)

I've watched this film many times and it's my all-time favorite. That said, it's not something that everyone will enjoy. To find out whether you are likely to, take a look at my full review.

Overall score 5/5

April 14 - Kiki's Delivery Service (1989) (DVD)

The only DVDs that I have bought since Blu-ray arrived have been Studio Ghibli titles. Disney is taking far too long to release the Blu-rays in North America. There are at least five Hayao Miyazaki titles which merit a perfect 5/5 and Kiki's Delivery Service is one of them. It's a coming-of-age story focusing on a 13-year-old witch-in-training. Like all Miyazaki movies, it has plenty of heart. It's an utterly charming way to spend 105 minutes.

Overall score 5/5