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Insights from home entertainment industry experts. Home Media blogs give you the inside scoop on entertainment news, DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases, and the happenings at key studios and entertainment retailers. “TK's Take” analyzes and comments on home entertainment news and trends, “Agent DVD Insider” talks fanboy entertainment, “IndieFile” delivers independent film news, “Steph Sums It Up” offers pithy opinions on the state of the industry, and “Mike’s Picks” offers bite-sized recommendations of the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases.


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28 Feb, 2010

Picking the Oscars: 2010 Edition

With the single exception of missing Around the World in 80 Days’ best picture win for 1956 — this is what you get for mouthing off to your fourth-grade teacher and being forbidden by your parents to watch the show — I have seen every Academy Awards presentation since the 1954 gala.

And what a gala it was: Marlon Brando, Grace Kelly, Walt Disney, Elia Kazan, Frank Sinatra, Humphrey Bogart, Dorothy Dandridge, emcee Bob Hope trading insults with Bing Crosby, Jerry Lewis introducing Dean Martin to sing winning song “Three Coins in the Fountain,” William Holden and (in a filmed segment from Europe) Audrey Hepburn.

Over-analysis by every pundit and his cousin’s brother-in-law — plus the frigid precision of prognostication in the 2000s — has made the evening almost immeasurably less interesting than it used to be, though I suppose one can’t have lived through more than a half-century’s worth of these affairs without having a few opinions about what’s to come at this year’s ceremony, which takes place March 7.  So here are a few:

Best Picture

Am I the only one who thinks Avatar sags some and gets redundant in the middle? I like it well enough, but it and The Abyss are the only James Cameron movies I haven’t been able to go all the way with since before The Terminator (yes, I love True Lies). If Avatar wins, it’ll be among the less distinguished honorees in a while (special effects breakthroughs obviously excepted) — and this from a filmmaker whose manner likely puts off a lot of voters. On the other hand — and adjusting for inflated dollars — The Hurt Locker would be a contender for the most atypical Oscar winner ever and with the least box office. So could Inglourious Basterds (the year’s most self-conscious movie) sneak in there with an upset? Someone advanced this theory the other day, and I’m intrigued. For the record, my favorite 2009 movies were A Serious Man and Up in the Air, both best picture nominees.

Best Actor

Just as Sterling Hayden appeared in more great and certainly durable movies than Clark Gable, Jeff Bridges has starred in more black-belt cult movies than anyone: Fat City, Bad Company, The Last American Hero, The Iceman Cometh, Rancho Deluxe, Hearts of the West, Stay Hungry, Cutter’s Way, Tron, Nadine, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Fisher King, American Dream, Fearless, The Big Lebowski (which, by now, may have transcended cult status) and The Door in the Floor. Plus three more — along with Lebowski — I personally don’t care for: Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Winter Kills and Starman. Plus The Last Picture Show and Iron Man, which are definitely more than cult movies. All this is a way of saying that if Bridges is going to get an Oscar, it can’t help but make me (and so many others) happy for him. I’m just sorry it’s for Crazy Heart, which wouldn’t be much of anything if the actor didn’t elevate it about 500 notches. (Maggie Gyllenhaal’s nomination is a real stretch.) I’d prefer George Clooney for Up in the Air because old-school star power is such a lost art — though had Shutter Island been released in 2009 as originally intended, I might be going for Leonardo DiCaprio because he has the toughest lead actor role in recent memory: taking it right up to the top but stopping at the brim.

Best Actress

Of the 10 best-picture nominees, The Blind Side is the only one that can’t at be all be justified, given that it is, at best, only on the moderately high side of exactly what you expect while perpetually playing to the third balcony. I’ve liked Sandra Bullock since she played the waitress in 1993’s woefully underrated Wrestling Ernest Hemingway, but — as with Bridges and Crazy Heart — I’m in the “anti-Cliff Robertson/Charly” school that thinks a cited performance ought to serve a movie of at least minor distinction.

Though I love Carey Mulligan in An Education (damned good movie, too), I’d prefer to see her in something else before taking the plunge. I’d probably give the award to Meryl Streep — who, interestingly, has become a box office figure in middle age when she wasn’t earlier in her career. Like Jessica Lange and Michelle Pfeiffer, Streep was giving great performance after great performance two decades ago while the broad demographic that prefers to shell out for the likes of The Blind Side was staying away.

Best Supporting Actor

The biggest shaft of the entire 2009 run goes to un-nominated Christian McKay, who (as Orson) should be getting the Oscar for Richard Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles (a movie that sent the dean of American film critics, Andrew Sarris, spinning into ecstasy). Though favorite Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) is basically his equal, there have been a lot of memorably oily Nazis in movie history, but few characterizations of McKay’s caliber when it comes to playing a bigger-than-life figure (no pun intended — and besides, this is the relatively thinner 1930s Welles) we all know.

Best Supporting Actress

My top picks for 2009 were Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick for Up in the Air, who are both nominated. Assuming a vote split, this probably clears the path for Mo’Nique in Precious, which would be a fine choice — her character the ironic African-American equivalent of the white racist mother-from-hell harridan Shelley Winters played in A Patch of Blue. And Winters won the 1965 supporting Oscar.

Best Director

Here’s a legitimate set-up for The Hurt Locker’s Kathryn Bigelow to become the first woman to win a directorial Oscar — so if it doesn’t happen, it’ll be the story of the night. But she will win.

Passing thought: Though the Coen Brothers got a most deserved original screenplay nomination, it’s worth noting that A Serious Man is as directed-to-the-hilt as The Hurt Locker. In fact, I can’t fault the movie on any level.

 


23 Feb, 2010

No BD ‘Justice’ at Wal-Mart

Amazon.com's <i>Justice League</i> Lithograph
Amazon.com's <i>Justice League</i> Lithograph

A Wal-Mart in Long Beach, Calif., has resorted to some interesting strategies in positioning its new releases.

All new-release Blu-rays were put near the check-out lanes at the front of the store, forcing movie fans taking the short-cut through the garden section to cross the whole store to find the titles they want.

However, some new Blu-rays are relegated to online-only or limited-store status, such as the new Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. This Wal-Mart’s usual Blu-ray section in the electronics department was stocked mostly with Blu-ray double features.

The new policy was met with confusion by some clerks on the floor, who lamented that most of the offerings were older movies that didn’t offer the best HD experience.

Other retailers were more kind to the new direct-to-video Justice League. Target offered an exclusive bonus disc with the two-DVD special edition, Amazon.com offered lithographs with the two-DVD and Blu-ray versions for a few extra dollars, and Best Buy gave away figurines of the film’s Owlman character.

Best Buy also offered free Alice in Wonderland movie tickets (it hits theaters March 5) with the purchase of select Disney classics at $9.99 each, such as Tron or the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies.


22 Feb, 2010

Head-Scratching Over the Saturn Awards


The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films recently announced its nominees for the 36th Annual Saturn Awards, to be given out June 24 in Burbank.

Granted, this isn’t exactly the Oscars as it focuses on the so-called “geek” genres. And I won’t even nitpick why some horrible movies and TV shows were nominated at all, since it’s probably hard to fill all the available slots (so I won’t ask how anyone could consider “Heroes” for best network series, when even the tepid “Smallville” is a better show at this point).

But why is Avatar nominated for best fantasy film? This is the very definition of sci-fi and should be in the science-fiction category. Need to make room for it? How about taking out Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which if anything is more of a fantasy than is Avatar.

On the same subject, The Time Traveler’s Wife and Watchmen aren’t “fantasy” in the strictest sense either, since both rely on (barely) scientific rather than magical explanations for their flights into the realm of the impossible. (Though why Watchmen and Wolverine are in separate categories is beyond me.)

And how is Zombieland a horror film? Why not put it in the action-adventure-thriller category in lieu of the god-awful 2012?

I probably shouldn’t be surprised. This is, after all, the group that gave Batman Begins best fantasy film of 2005, and then put its sequel The Dark Knight (which presumably would be the same genre) in the action-adventure-thriller category, which it won in 2008.

It’s almost as if they are cherry-picking the categories so some movies don’t cancel each other out (so don’t be surprised when Star Trek wins best sci-fi and Avatar wins best fantasy).

Anyway, that’s enough ranting for now. Congratulations to all the nominees, and I sincerely hope you check them out on DVD or (better yet) Blu-ray. Which ones are available are noted in the list below.

Enjoy!


36th Annual Saturn Award Nominations:

I put a star next to what I would pick, though bear in mind I don’t get an actual vote

FILM CATEGORIES

Best Science Fiction Film
The Book of Eli (Warner, not yet on disc)
*Knowing (on disc from Summit)
Moon (on disc from Sony Pictures)
Star Trek (on disc from Paramount)
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (on disc from Paramount/DreamWorks)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (on disc from Fox)

Best Fantasy Film
Avatar (Fox, not yet on disc)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (on disc from Warner)
The Lovely Bones (Paramount, on disc April 20)
The Time Traveler’s Wife (on disc from Warner)
*Watchmen (on disc from Warner)
Where the Wild Things Are (Warner, on disc March 2)

Best Horror Film
The Box (Warner, on disc Feb. 23)
Drag Me to Hell (on disc from Universal)
Frozen (Anchor Bay, not yet on disc)
The Last House on the Left (on disc from Universal)
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Summit, on disc March 20)
*Zombieland (on disc from Sony Pictures)

Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film
2012 (Sony Pictures, on disc March 9)
Brothers (Lionsgate, on disc March 23)
The Hurt Locker (on disc from Summit)
*Inglourious Basterds (on disc from Universal)
Law Abiding Citizen (on disc from Anchor Bay)
The Messenger (Oscilloscope, on disc May 18)
Sherlock Holmes (Warner, on disc March 30)

Best International Film
*District 9 (on disc from Sony Pictures)
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (Sony Pictures, not on disc)
Lorna’s Silence (on disc from Sony Pictures)
Red Cliff (Magnolia, on disc March 23)
Taken (on disc from Fox)
Thirst (on disc from Universal)

Best Animated Film
A Christmas Carol
(Disney, not yet on disc)
Fantastic Mr. Fox (Fox, on disc March 23)
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (on disc from Fox)
Monsters vs. Aliens (on disc from Paramount/DreamWorks)
The Princess and the Frog (Disney, on disc March 16)
*Up (on disc from Disney)

Best Actor
*Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes
Tobey Maguire, Brothers
Viggo Mortensen, The Road (not yet on disc)
Sam Rockwell, Moon
Denzel Washington, The Book of Eli
Sam Worthington, Avatar

Best Actress
Catherine Keener, Where the Wild Things Are
*Melanie Laurent, Inglourious Basterds
Alison Lohman, Drag Me to Hell
Natalie Portman, Brothers
Zoe Saldana, Avatar
Charlize Theron, The Burning Plain (on disc from Magnolia)

Best Supporting Actor
Woody Harrelson, Zombieland
Stephen Lang, Avatar
Frank Langella, The Box
Jude Law, Sherlock Holmes
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
*Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

Best Supporting Actress
Malin Akerman, Watchmen
*Diane Kruger, Inglourious Basterds
Rachel McAdams, Sherlock Holmes
Lorna Raver, Drag Me to Hell
Susan Sarandon, The Lovely Bones
Sigourney Weaver, Avatar

Best Performance by a Younger Actor
Taylor Lautner, The Twilight Saga: New Moon
*Bailee Madison, Brothers
Brooklynn Proulx, The Time Traveler’s Wife
Max Records, Where the Wild Things Are
Saoirse Ronan, The Lovely Bones
Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Road

Best Director
J.J. Abrams, Star Trek
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Neill Blomkamp, District 9
James Cameron, Avatar
Guy Ritchie, Sherlock Holmes
Zack Snyder, Watchmen
*Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

Best Writing
Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell, District 9
James Cameron, Avatar
Spike Jonze, Dave Eggers, Where the Wild Things Are
Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Star Trek
*Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Alex Tse, David Hayter, Watchmen

Best Music
Brian Eno, The Lovely Bones
Michael Giacchino, Up
*James Horner, Avatar
Taro Iwashiro, Red Cliff
Christopher Young, Drag Me To Hell
Hans Zimmer, Sherlock Holmes

Best Costumes

Colleen Atwood, Nine (not yet on disc)
*Jenny Beavan, Sherlock Holmes
Anna Sheppard, Inglourious Basterds
Jany Temime, Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince
Michael Wilkinson, Watchmen
Tim Yip, Red Cliff

Best Makeup
Barney Burman, Minday Hall, Joel Harlow, Star Trek
Joe Dunckley, Sarah Rubano, Frances Richardson, District 9
Sarah Monzani, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
Gregory Nicotero, Howard Berger, The Book of Eli
Gregory Nicotero, Howard Berger, Drag Me to Hell
*Mike Smithson, John Rosengrant, Terminator: Salvation (on disc from Warner)

Best Production Design
Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg, Avatar
Scott Chambliss, Star Trek
Stuart Craig, Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince
Sarah Greenwood, Sherlock Holmes
*Philip Ivey, District 9
Alex McDowell, Watchmen

Best Special Effects
Tim Burke, John Richardson, Nicholas Aithadi, Tim Alexander, Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince
John DesJardin, Peter G. Travers, Joel Whist, Jessica Norman, Watchmen
Volker Engel, Marc Weingert, Mike Vezina, 2012
Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh, Burt Dalton, Star Trek
Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros, Matt Aitken, District 9
*Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham, Andrew R. Jones, Avatar


TELEVISION CATEGORIES

Best Network Series
“Chuck” (NBC, on disc from Warner)
“Fringe” (Fox, on disc from Warner)
“The Ghost Whisperer” (CBS, on DVD from Paramount/CBS)
“Heroes” (NBC, on disc from Universal)
*“Lost” (ABC, on disc from Disney)
“The Vampire Diaries    “ (CW, not yet on disc)

Best Syndicated/Cable Television Series
“Breaking Bad” (AMC, on disc from Sony Pictures)
*“Battlestar Galactica” (SyFy, on disc from Universal)
“The Closer” (TNT, on disc from Warner)
“Dexter”    (Showtime, on disc from Paramount/CBS)
“Leverage” (TNT, on disc from Paramount/CBS)
“True Blood” (HBO, on disc from HBO)

Best Television Presentation
Doctor Who: The End of Time (BBC America, on disc from BBC Video)
“Alice” (SyFy, on disc March 2 from Lionsgate)
The Prisoner (AMC, on DVD March 23 from Warner)
*Torchwood: Children of Earth (BBC America, on disc from BBC Video)
“The Tudors” (Showtime, on disc from Paramount/CBS)
“V” (ABC, not yet on disc)

Best Actor in Television
Josh Holloway, “Lost”
Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad”
Matthew Fox, “Lost”
Michael C. Hall, “Dexter”
Zachary Levi, “Chuck”
Stephen Moyer, “True Blood”
*David Tennant, “Doctor Who”

Best Actress on Television
Anna Gunn, “Breaking Bad”
Jennifer Love Hewitt, “The Ghost Whisperer”
Evangeline Lily, “Lost”
Anna Paquin, “True Blood”
Kyra Sedgwick, “The Closer”
*Anna Torv, “Fringe”

Best Supporting Actor on Television

Jeremy Davies, “Lost”
*Michael Emerson, “Lost”
Aldis Hodge, “Leverage”
Aaron Paul, “Breaking Bad”
John Noble, “Fringe”
Alexander Skarsgard, “True Blood”

Best Supporting Actress in Television

Morena Baccarin, “V”
Gina Bellman, “Leverage”
*Julie Benz, “Dexter”
Jennifer Carpenter, “Dexter”
Elizabeth Mitchell, “Lost”
Hayden Panettiere, “Heroes”

Best Guest-Starring Role in Television
Bernard Cribbins, Doctor Who: The End of Time
Raymond Cruz, “Breaking Bad”
Michelle Forbes, “True Blood”
*John Lithgow, “Dexter”
Leonard Nimoy, “Fringe”
Mark Pellegrino, “Lost”

DVD CATEGORIES

Best DVD Release
*The House of the Devil (on disc from MPI/Dark Sky)
Laid to Rest (on DVD from Anchor Bay)
Not Forgotten (on disc from Anchor Bay)
Nothing But the Truth (on DVD from Sony Pictures)
Pontypool (on DVD MPI/IFC)
Super Capers (on DVD from Lionsgate)
Surveillance (on disc from Magnolia)

Best TV DVD Release
Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead (on disc from BBC Video)
Torchwood: Children of Earth (on disc from BBC Video)
Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles — The Complete Second Season (on disc from Warner)
Primeval Vol. 2 (on DVD from BBC Video)
*Lost: The Complete Fifth Season (on disc from Disney)
Life on Mars: The Complete Series (on DVD from Disney)

Best DVD Special Edition
Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut
300: The Complete Experience (on Blu-ray from Warner)
*Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (on disc from Disney)
District 9
Terminator 2: Judgment Day — Skynet Edition (on Blu-ray from Lionsgate)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Best Collection
Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics Vol. 1 (on DVD from Sony Pictures)       
The Hannibal Lector Anthology (on disc from Fox/MGM)
Hellraiser Boxed Set (on disc from Anchor Bay)
Icons of Sci-Fi: Toho Collection (on DVD from Sony Pictures)
*Star Trek Original Motion Picture Collection (on disc from Paramount)
The William Castle Collection (on DVD from Sony Pictures)
 


22 Feb, 2010

New on DVD: 'The Informant,' 'Make Way for Tomorrow' and more …


Brothers

Prebook 2/24; Street 3/23
Lionsgate, Drama, B.O. $28.5 million, $29.95 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for language and some disturbing violent content.
Stars Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Sam Shepard, Clifton Collins Jr., Mare Winningham.
2009.
This remake of 2004’s Brodre (from Denmark) has the ability to gnaw at you around the edges if not always straight down the middle. It delivers on a casting coup that must have occurred to everyone at one time or another — Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal suggest one another so much that it’s almost surprising that the industry found room enough for both.
Extras: Commentary by director Jim Sheridan and two behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Read the Full Review

The Informant!

Street 2/23
Warner, Comedy, B.O. $33.3 million, $28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for language.
Stars Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Joel McHale, Melanie Lynskey.
2009.
Matt Damon got a best supporting actor Oscar nomination for Clint Eastwood’s Invictus, but the 2009 performance for which he’ll be more remembered came in the first Steven Soderbergh movie in an age not composed of aren’t-we-cute smirkiness (all three “Ocean’s” capers) or designed for instant oblivion in theatrical auditoriums holding 150 seats (Che, et al.).
Extras: Commentary with Soderbergh and writer Scott Z. Burns.
Read the Full Review

The Damned United

Street 2/23
Sony Pictures, Drama, B.O. $0.4 million, $28.96 DVD, $34.95 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for language.
Stars Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney, Jim Broadbent.
2009.
Unusual sports biopic about the late soccer coach Brian Clough (Michael Sheen) is made by its all-star lineup of some of the screen’s most recognizable character actors.
Extras: In addition to commentary by Sheen, director Tom Hooper and producer Andy Harries, the extras look at the real Clough and soccer in the 1970s.
Read the Full Review

Make Way for Tomorrow

Street 2/23
Criterion, Drama, $29.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Beulah Bondi, Victor Moore, Fay Bainter, Thomas Mitchell.
1937.
There won’t be a dozen movies out this year as great as Leo McCarey’s classic about elderly parents who lose their home and none of their five grown children can make it right.
Extras: Great interviews with Peter Bogdanovich and Gary Giddins discussing McCarey, and a booklet with adoring essays by biographer/historian Tag Gallagher. 
Read the Full Review

Dragnet

Available Now via Amazon.com CreateSpace
Universal, Drama, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Jack Webb, Ben Alexander, Richard Boone, Ann Robinson.
1954.
Whatever else this classic police drama is or isn’t, this medium-sized box office hit is a supreme artifact of its age.
Read the Full Review


18 Feb, 2010

Anchor Bay Gets Rights to Cult Film ‘I Spit on Your Grave’


Whatever you think of I Spit on Your Grave, a remake coming to DVD and Blu-ray in the first quarter of 2011, from Anchor Bay Entertainment, following a Halloween theatrical release in 2010.

CineTel Films is remaking the cult film, which has been reviled and reexamined since its release in 1978. The reasons for its controversial nature aren’t hard to grasp — the film features an extended gang rape scene, which is then followed by the victim exacting revenge upon her attackers over the course of the film. Detractors include Roger Ebert. But it’s easy to see echoes of the film’s themes of feminist revenge (Meir Zarchi’s original title for the film was Day of the Woman), in celebrated films such as Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill (I have no clue what Mr. Tarantino thinks of I Spit on Your Grave, but my guess is the “Grindhouse” director doesn’t agree with the thumbs-down guy).

According to bloody-disgusting.com, the film will be directed by Steven R. Monroe and stars new face Sarah Butler.

By: Billy Gil


16 Feb, 2010

Retailers Anxious for 'New Moon'

Best Buy's <i>New Moon</i> Exclusives
Best Buy's <i>New Moon</i> Exclusives

Why bother with new releases when the home video debut of the fourth-highest-grossing film of 2009 is still a month away?

In its weekly ad circular, Best Buy used half the space on its DVD page to plug titles hitting disc in March, and reminding fans to pre-order their copy today. Most prominent was an ad for the March 20 release of The Twilight Saga: New Moon. For a $10 deposit, fans can get an exclusive New Moon cell phone skin and steelbook packaging for their discs.

Target is taking preorders on its exclusive deluxe editions of New Moon, with a three-DVD set at $24.99 and a two-disc Blu-ray set at $29.99. Both editions come with an exclusive film cel.

Target also has recent theatrical hits on sale for as low as $9 each.

Best Buy had a selection of recent hits, both theatricals and TV DVD seasons, at $9.99 each.

Other than Law Abiding Citizen and Halo Legends, most stores downplayed new releases. A Wal-Mart in Long Beach, Calif., didn’t even offer Blu-rays of the new titles, instead stacking its Blu-ray section with cheap double-feature Blu-ray discs containing two similarly themed movies in the same package.


15 Feb, 2010

New on DVD: ‘Good Hair,’ ‘Hunger,’ ‘Contempt’ and more …


Last week, in talking about the new-to-DVD 1966 TV version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking Glass, I alluded to the 1933 oddball movie version of Alice in Wonderland. Now, it turns out that Universal is releasing it Mar 2 to cash in on the new Tim Burton Alice. The movie has a rep as a misfire, and I haven’t seen it since the early 1960s. But my curiosity is up due to the supporting cast: Cary Grant (Mock Turtle), Gary Cooper (White Knight) and W.C. Fields (Humpty Dumpty).

Now on to this week’s picks:

 

Good Hair

Street 2/16
Lionsgate, Documentary, B.O. $4.2 million, $27.98 DVD, ‘PG-13’ for some language including sex and drug references, and brief partial nudity.
Stars Chris Rock.
2009.
Comic Chris Rock tries to do for African-American cosmetology what Bill Maher did for God in Religulous — embarking on an odyssey to educate himself on the big-business aspect of hair and all the sub-categories this entails.
Extras: Commentary by Rock and producer Nelson George.
Read the Full Review

Hunger

Street 2/16
Criterion, Drama, B.O. $0.2 million, $39.95 DVD or Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham.
2008.
Brit video artist Steve McQueen’s justly acclaimed political prison drama focuses on the 1981 Maze Prison hunger strike masterminded by real-life Irish Republican Army prisoner Bobby Sands (Fassbender) amid his weakened final days.
Extras: McQueen recalls how the strike, which he says was vastly underreported by the Brit press, affected him during his youth; interviews with the cast and writer Enda Walsh and others; the BBC’s 1981 look at the strike; and an essay by critic Chris Darke.
Read the Full Review

Contempt (Le Mepris)

Street 2/16
Lionsgate, Drama, $39.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Brigitte Bardot, Michel Piccoli, Jack Palance, Fritz Lang.
1963.
Studio Canal appears to be challenging industry-standard Criterion to a game of HORSE when it comes to making arthouse classics look like opening night. Contempt is among the most gorgeous-looking European films of the era.
Extras: Jammed: an intro by film professor/historian Colin MacCabe, which packs an amazing amount of historical info into five minutes; and scads of look-backs clocking in at various length — some done at the time, some more recent.
Read the Full Review

The Music Man

Warner, Musical, $28.99 Blu-ray, ‘G.’
Stars Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddie Hackett, Ron Howard.
1962.
Warner Home Entertainment didn’t pull many muscles serving up the paltry extras on its Blu-ray of The Music Man, but this best picture Oscar nominee was shot in pristine Technirama, which means that, visually speaking, even lesser renderings invariably start a few gallops out of the gate.
Read the Full Review

The Perfect Furlough

Available Now via Amazon.com CreateSpace
Universal, Genre, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Tony Curtis, Linda Cristal, Janet Leigh.
1958.
The art of director Blake Edwards ceases to exist without letterboxing. Even fluff such as The Perfect Furlough needs the widescreen treatment. Tony Curtis plays a corporal given a Paris furlough with an Argentine actress (Linda Cristal) to boost the morale of his unit. Once the story gets out of confined spaces, and Edwards gets to the countryside, the movie is a pleasant diversion.
Read the Full Review

Bad Girls of Film Noir Vol. 2

Sony Pictures, Drama, $24.96 DVD, NR.
Stars Janis Carter, Cleo Moore, Ida Lupino
1946-56. Vol. 1’s companion amounts to a Cleo Moore film festival, though the one movie here the late buxom blonde isn’t in is best of the bunch. The set includes, in order of preference, Night Editor (1946), Over-Exposed (1956), Women's Prison (1955) and One Girl's Confession (1953).
Read the Full Review

 

 


9 Feb, 2010

Why No ‘Serious’?

<i>A Serious Man</i> and Wal-Mart's <i>Couples Retreat</i> exclusive
<i>A Serious Man</i> and Wal-Mart's <i>Couples Retreat</i> exclusive

One of the Oscar contenders for best picture hit DVD Feb. 9, but you wouldn’t know it if you browsed through Wal-Mart’s shelves. A check of a Long Beach, Calif., store showed no copies of the Coen Brothers’ comedy A Serious Man, on DVD and Blu-ray from Universal.

Granted, the film only made $9.2 million, and doesn’t seem like it fits with Wal-Mart’s core demographic, but the nation’s top retail chain was the only major outlet not to stock the title on shelves (though Best Buy didn’t list the Blu-ray in its weekly ad circular). Those willing to wait for shipping could get it at Walmart.com at $18.86 for the DVD and $19.36 for the Blu-ray.

Wal-Mart did have the only real exclusive among any of the new releases, offering a two-DVD version of the comedy Couples Retreat (the “Ultimate Vacation Edition”) containing more than 40 minutes of additional bonus content and a contest to win a trip to Bora Bora.

Best Buy promoted Couples Retreat with a sticker touting a free subscription to the USA Today e-edition with purchase of the DVD and Blu-ray.

And most copies of the movie at various retailers offered an instant $4 savings off the purchase of Role Models, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Knocked Up or The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Best Buy also ran a promotion for “Valentine’s Titles for Him & Her,” discounting to $4.99 such titles as Hitch, 27 Dresses, Talladega Nights, Minority Report, Mr. & Mrs. Smith and others that hardly seem related to the holiday of love.


 


8 Feb, 2010

New on DVD: ‘A Serious Man,’ ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ and more …


A Serious Man

Street 2/9
Universal, Comedy, B.O. $9.2 million, $29.98 DVD, $36.98 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for language, some sexuality/nudity and brief violence.
Stars Michael Stuhlbarg, Sari Lennick, Richard Kind, Aaron Wolff.
2009.
You know those days when you wish you could go back to bed and start over? Substitute “life” for days and you get the closest thing to a flawless movie the Coen Brothers have made since 1996’s Fargo — if not ever.
Extras: Three featurettes.
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Alice Through the Looking Glass

Street 2/9
Infinity, Musical, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Judi Rolin, Jack Palance, Agnes Moorehead, Nanette Fabray.
1966.
With curiosity high about Tim Burton’s March 5 take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, it makes sense to revive the NBC-TV musical version of Carroll’s Glass sequel. You can’t get too snarky over an oddity for the ages that casts Jimmy Durante as Humpty Dumpty.
Extras: Two entertaining short segments with co-producer Bob Wynn, who spins anecdotes about showbiz in general and this specific show — including worries about hiring Jack Palance because their Jabberwocky had previously decked a couple directors.
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Twelve Angry Men

Street 2/9
E1, Drama, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Robert Cummings, Franchot Tone, Edward Arnold.
1954.
Three years before the famed theatrical feature, Reginald Rose’s Emmy-winning teleplay was performed live on CBS’s “Westinghouse Studio One.” This solo DVD release is the marketing standout of a superb 2008 boxed set ($59.98) that anthologized the series. Also included on this DVD is another Rose teleplay (for 1954’s An Almanac of Liberty), which was included on the same boxed set.
Extras: A cool 16-page booklet with lots of backgrounders.
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Bad Girls of Film Noir Vol. 1

Street 2/9
Sony Pictures, Drama, $29.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Lizabeth Scott, Evelyn Keyes, Gloria Grahame.
1950-53.
Echoing Sony’s “Martini Movies” line, the lineup shrewdly combines film history with a luridly commercial hook, and deep-sea diving into the archives is always to be encouraged. In order of preference, the set includes The Glass Wall (1953), The Killer That Stalked New York (1950), Bad for Each Other (1953) and Two of a Kind (1951).
Extras: Two of a Kind’s Terry Moore interviewed today, plus a 1956 Blake Edwards teleplay called The Payoff.
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Welcome to Nollywood

IndiePix, Documentary, $19.95 DVD, NR.
2007.
Considering that the Nigerian film industry didn’t exist until 1990, it’s remarkable that it was the world’s third largest at the time this rather raucous documentary was made. The interviewed filmmakers, like their peers, bankroll the movies out of their own pockets, which has dire lifestyle consequences if the result doesn’t meet public favor.
Extras: Commentary by writer/director Jamie Meltzer.
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5 Feb, 2010

Will ‘Avatar’ Have the Same Staying Power on Disc?

<i>Avatar</i>
<i>Avatar</i>

Bravo, James Cameron.

You’ve managed to top the box office record of your own Titanic, which many once believed was unsinkable.

That you did it with what is essentially an amusement park ride designed to manipulate the audience into believing the hype is beside the point (and a bit impressive). But I don’t want to talk about the irony of how you made $2 billion with a movie that bashes capitalism.

I’m mostly curious what kind of staying power the movie is going to have on disc.

See, without the gimmick of 3D or the immersion of a giant Imax screen, Avatar’s visual effects really aren’t any more impressive than something like the first Transformers movie, or even The Phantom Menace.

It’s like porn for geeks. You can throw action and special effects at the screen only so much before the brain wants to see something new. To paraphrase from Boogie Nights’ Jack Horner, maybe the light show is dazzling enough to draw a crowd, but is the story good enough to make them want to sit there long after they’ve gotten their fix?

I don’t think so. The plot is so filled with clichés it’s pretty clear it was just crafted to provide a rudimentary framework to test the new technologies that were invented for the movie. It’s basically just a glossy update of Pocahantas.

But the effects are dazzling, and Cameron takes great relish in showing them off. This is a beautiful travelogue of an alien planet, and if you get past how ridiculous the story gets in the final act, it’s not too different from an otherworldly version of Planet Earth.

It’s kind of like a really big museum exhibit that might draw a huge crowd, but is it really something you really need to see again? This could be one of those discs you pop in to see specific scenes if the mood suits you, or even as background material for a party.

Word is the film will be released on disc by June, and then will only be available in 2D. Since 3D was such a major part of its hype, anticipation for a 2D version seems a bit underwhelming. But barring some revolution in home 3D (that doesn’t seem likely for a few years), this is all we’re gonna get for a while.

Sure, Fox could start playing the double-dip game, and put out multiple versions of the movie every few months. But how long are people going to tolerate that? This movie is big enough to justify a huge extras package the first time out, they’re already talking about not being in a rush to put it on disc, and they’ve had the better part of a decade to put together extras for it.

And it’s going to need a lot of extras to placate those casual fans who might want to add it to their collection. (Forget the hardcore fans who have been gushing over the movie since the trailer … they’re already too far gone to save).

I’m talking several commentaries and a comprehensive behind-the-scenes documentary just for starters, that really gives fans a keen insight into all those new technologies Cameron had to invent before he wanted to start making the movie.

And there had better be a lot of deleted scenes. I mean, just watching the movie, it seems like there was a lot that was left out. I can think of a few specific scenes that I would be surprised didn’t exist on the cutting room floor, just due to the gaping plot holes left behind by their exclusion. (For starters, where’s the scene in which Yosemite Sam Col. Quaritch chews out whats-her-name for abandoning the attack on Hometree?)

Of course, I’d be quite amused to have an alternate audio track that plays the songs and dialogue from Pocahontas or Ferngully: The Last Rainforest as one watches Avatar. The movie probably wouldn’t have to be edited much to match up the scenes.

And since it has a screensaver quality, why not put a screensaver mode on there? Make it music only, cut out the dialogue and the military hardware and just focus on Pandora.

Then, when 3D at home technology catches up, a second release would be warranted. But whatever’s on there, it’s going to sell huge and make even more money. That’s a given.

That being the case, though, why even release this movie by itself on DVD? If people are so desperate to own it, put it on Blu-ray only and force the folks to finally upgrade their system. Or, if that’s too extreme, go with a combo pack only, so that the unenlightened masses can still get it on DVD, but they’ll have that Blu-ray there nagging at them with the curiosity of what they are missing.

If Avatar really is the next generation of filmmaking, it seems like such a waste if it can’t do the same for home entertainment.
 

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