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This Week on DVD & Blu-ray (06-25-13)

June 25, 2013


Halle Berry: Action 9-1-1 Operator and Steve Carell: Washed-Up Magic Man! How’s that sound? Well, that’s what we got this week, as far as releases from major studios. Berry headlines “The Call”, is a thriller about a veteran LAPD 9-1-1 operator, who takes a life-altering call from a teenage girl who’s just been abducted and eventually realizes she must confront a killer from her past in order to save the girl’s life. I haven’t seen it, but to my surprise, I’ve heard good things. Then there’s “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone”, a comedy that earned some pretty negative reviews. Still, I’ll check out a movie that stars Carell, Steve Buscemi, Jim Carrey, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin and the late James Gandolfini. If those two do nothing for ya, read on….
A recent below radar release was “Phantom”, a Cold War submarine thriller that takes place in the late 60s starring David Duchovny, Ed Harris and William Fichtner. Probably not a great film, considering the dismal reviews, but it is based on actual events and I’m curious to see why, with such a capable cast, the movie was still a sinker. The sci-fi romance, “Upside Down”, is another recent release I haven’t seen. It stars Kirsten Dunst and Jim Sturgess (two actors who are hit-or-miss with many moviegoers) as two budding would-be lovers, who are separated by many factors, but the biggest one being – get this –  a freak planetary condition: they live on twinned worlds with gravities that pull in opposite directions-he on the poverty-stricken planet below, she on the wealthy, exploitative world above.  Sounds like an Oscar-nominated Animated Short from earlier this year. Too bad this is another one that was generally getting some abysmal reviews.
One notable Blu-ray release that stands out is “The Beatles: Help!”, a movie I’ve never seen, although I’ve played the album hundreds of times. It’s one of two fiction films that the band made (outside of die-hard fans, more people have probably seen “A Hard Day’s Night”) and it seems like “Help!” is much loonier as it finds the Fab Four on a globetrotting adventure that winds up being a little incoherent, but it doesn’t matter. It’s still serves a time capsule, seeing as how this was before the internet, social media and reality TV, giving viewers a refreshingly revealing, albeit silly side, of popular musicians. It’s also an excuse to hear “You’re Going To Lose That Girl,” “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away,” “Ticket To Ride,” and “The Night Before”, fresh and engaging tunes in HD sound.
Criterion unloads probably the biggest release of the week and that’s Claue Lanzmann’s “Shoah” from 1985. The film is a massive record of the Holocaust, logging in at over nine hours, compiling first-person accounts from historians, concentration-camp survivors and former SS officers. From what I’ve heard, it is one of the most thorough examination of the Holocaust and is essential viewing for those who only have a textbook understanding of the harrowing subject matter. As difficult as it is to watch (how many times have you seen Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List”?), there are thankfully moments of grace that balance out all the horrific details that Lanzmann doesn’t shy away from. The fact that uses no archival footage, choosing to show viewers the concentration camps as they are now (well, at the time), adds a unique approach to this difficult and reprehensible time in history. Considering its length, I can’t even imagine what kind of extra features Criterion has added. This is definitely one of those releases where it’s good to be aware of, but not something you just sit down and watch in when sitting, or….day.
I’m looking forward to catching up with two recent films, one Oscar-nominated and one a directorial debut. “No” is a film from Chilean director Pablo Larraín, which was nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars this past February. It also received the Cinema Art Award at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and earned high praise when the film saw a short theatrical release earlier this year to coincide with its Oscar nom. So, what’s it about? 
It focuses on an in-demand advertising man, played by Gael García Bernal, working in Chile during the late 1980s. He’s persuaded by a group opposing military dictator Augusto Pinochet, whose term is being challenged by the international community, to head their campaign with the bold goal of freedom from the enduring national oppression. The film is based on an unpublished play El Plebiscito, written by Antonio Skármeta, which revolved around the 1988 plebiscite, making for very intriguing and compelling (and possibly educational) subject matter for a film.
The other film is entitled “In the Family” and it’s the feature-length film debut of Patrick Wang from New York. The film, which is also written, co-produced and co-stars Wang, centers on Joey (Wang), a gay man living with his partner Cody in Tennessee, who loses custody of Chip, the six-year old son they are raising, after Cody dies in a car accident. Cody left custody to his sister, and now Joey must fight the legal system as well as Cody’s family’s prejudices in order to regain custody of Chip. That’s some heavy subject matter to tackle for a first feature and I’ve heard nothing but great things about it when it came out during its short theatrical run this past April.
There are a handful of titles getting rereleased in Combo Packs in nifty steelcases (if that’s your thing). Most of them are big-budget blockbusters that came out within the past 15 years (some of them not all that successful *cough* “Death Race”), with a somewhat well-received comedy (lookin’ at you, “Paul”) and a Coen Bros. cult classic (“The Dude Abides”). Fans of these movies probably won’t have any need to double or triple dip, unless packaging is important to you. The thing is, all of these packages have been on the shelves at Wal-Mart and Target in the States for at least a month, so I’m not seeing what the big deal is. Then again, if you didn’t know about them, maybe it is.
That’s it for this week. Enjoy the Rundown….
  • Australia’s First 4 Billion Years (Blu-ray)
  • The Beatles: Help! (Blu-ray)
  • Beauty and the Least (DVD)
  •  Best of Warner Bros 50 Cartoon Collection – Looney Tunes (DVD)
  • The Big Lebowski (Steelbook Combo Pack) (Blu-ray)
  • Borgen: Season 2 (DVD)
  • The Call (DVD/Blu-ray)
  • The Chronicles of Riddick (Steelbook Combo Pack) (Blu-ray)
  • Cody the Robosapien (DVD)
  • CSI: NY – The Ninth Season (DVD)
  • Dead Souls (DVD/Blu-ray)
  • Death Race (Steelbook Combo Pack) (Blu-ray)
  • Defiant Requiem (DVD)
  • Doom (Steelbook Combo Pack) (Blu-ray)
  • Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids: The Complete Series (DVD)
  • The Garfield Show: Pizza Dreams (DVD)
  • Heebie Jeebies (DVD)
  • Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Steelbook Combo Pack) (Blu-ray)
  • Hot Fuzz (Steelbook Combo Pack) (Blu-ray)
  • The Hulk (Steelbook Combo Pack) (Blu-ray)
  • In the Family (DVD/Blu-ray)
  • The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (DVD/Blu-ray)
  • The Incredible Hulk (Steelbook Combo Pack) (Blu-ray)
  • The Mummy (Steelbook Combo Pack) (Blu-ray)
  • Lord of Darkness (DVD)
  • MADtv: Season Three (DVD)
  • No (DVD/Blu-ray)
  • Paul (Steelbook Combo Pack) (Blu-ray)
  • Phantom (DVD/Blu-ray)
  • Pitch Black (Steelbook Combo Pack)(Blu-ray)
  • Pusher (DVD/Blu-ray)
  • The Rambler (DVD/Blu-ray)
  • Scarface (Steelbook Combo Pack) (Blu-ray)
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Steelbook Combo Pack) (Blu-ray)
  • Serenity (Steelbook Combo Pack) (Blu-ray)
  • Shaun of the Dead (Steelbook Combo Pack) (Blu-ray)
  • Shoah (Criterion Collection) (DVD/Blu-ray)
  • Todd & The Book of Pure Evil: The Complete Second Season (DVD)
  • Upside Down (DVD/Blu-ray)
  • Van Helsing (Steelbook Combo Pack) (Blu-ray)
  • Venus and Vegas (DVD/Blu-ray)






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