What’s this? An extensive look at new releases from the United States and sometimes abroad as well. Please click the links from each film to check it out on Amazon and buy it if you like because it keeps this site running. Also, considering this is the first of a weekly series, please send comments and emails our way because that’s the only way we can get better. If you like it, even cooler. If I might have forgotten a release, please link us to the release and I might have just forgotten, but these are films I’ve either seen or think the world should see. All a matter of opinion, but we all know that. On with the show.
The first film is one that our own Tolkien fan Ryan Gallagher did not like (and I have yet to see) is The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson’s return to the Shire and Middle Earth. A film that was bound to disappoint, especially with the heavy hand of 48 fps in tow, it’s been a mixed bag from fans alike. Some love it, some hate it. It’s one that I sadly didn’t make the time to see on the big screen, in 3D and in the intended frame rate that Jackson wanted everyone to see and which alienated many moviegoers. The reviews are looking good for the home video presentation, though, except in the extras department. But I think we all know that these films always double, triple and quadruple dip down the line. Extended edition for Christmas, anyone?
Next up was a film that barely missed my top 10 this year, the impressive Kathryn Bigelow film, Zero Dark Thirty. Lauded as one of the best (and rightfully so), this film based on the true story of the Bin Laden siege is a thrilling movie, one that is powered by Jessica Chastain’s impressive performance as Maya, the woman who finds Bin Laden. No, that’s not a spoiler. But it’s a film of bravado, something Bigelow has always done well (Point Break being one perfect example) and it looks to have an impressive looking disc, but like The Hobbit, it seems the extras department is a bit lacking. Definitely pick this one up, especially for those last 40 minutes of the film. Crank up that audio and sit in the dark.
Here’s one release that I’ve been hoping, waiting and dreaming about since the bare bones and lacking in the visual department DVD came on the scene many years ago. Badlands, Terrence Malick’s first feature film and his third film in the Criterion Collection, stars Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek as Kit Caruthers and Holly Sargis while they fall in love and also as they go on a cross country killing spree. Based on the real life Starkweather killing spree, it’s an impressive debut feature film with two amazing performances with Sheen and Spacek shining through. With all of the usual bells and whistles that impress, this is one of the must own films this week by far and it’s not just because it’s Criterion. Or maybe that’s exactly why it’s a must own.
A big musical by Tom Hooper, the one thing I kept hearing from people was that Russell Crowe couldn’t sing (even though he has a band of his own). But then it started winning awards and getting some nods from critics saying it was a good to great adaptation. And finally checking it out, it was a really good version of the classic story. Hugh Jackman was impressive, as was Anne Hathaway. And comic geeks can keep saying Wolverine and Catwoman were in the same movie. The Blu looks outstanding and am happy Hooper decided to make the musical the way he saw fit.
The other big Criterion release this week is Powell and Pressburger’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, a Technicolor marvel of its time and today looks as striking as it did in 1943. Having been a fan of their films and anything put out by their production company The Archers, Colonel Blimp is an epic war film told in flashback, going through The Boer War and both World Wars. One of Martin Scorsese’s favorite films (which is perfect that he filmed a lengthy introduction to it, showing that love), it’s truly one of their most sweeping affairs and now that it’s been given the Blu-grade treatment, it’s now the best time to own this wonderful film. Many more fantastic extras are included, such as the original commentary Criterion put out when they released it in 1998 with Powell and Scorsese. Buy it with Badlands and you’ll be just fine.
Ahh Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann, a film that I share a checkered past with. I’ve owned the film twice on DVD in my life, both times somehow either being lost or stolen from me in between moves and the like. I’ve always liked this strange ‘man in the wrong time’ film, and am happy to see our friends over at Shout! Factory are releasing this cult gem on Blu-ray with some special features as well. Amazingly this film has two Criterion connections, one being that the film was co-written, produced and scored by Michael Nesmith from The Monkees and it stars Fred Ward, rugged leading man that should have been more of a star, if I can give my opinion. Ward was in Altman’s Short Cuts, by the way. This film beats Back to the Future: Part III by a decade in its premise of a man from the present going back in time to the wild west, and it’s a fun romp that deserved a sequel or two (just like Ward’s Remo Williams film). Of course Lyle Swann is an expert motorbike racer who just so happens to stumble across a top secret time travel device and that pretty much is the story in a nutshell. You get a making of with the director William Dear and Michael Nesmith, looking back at the film, and what sounds like a fantastic commentary track with Dear. This is another film in Shout! Factory’s fantastic library of genre titles.
VCI Home Entertainment brings us Eugène Lourié’s Gorgo (1961), one of the many Godzilla and King Kong clones that popped up all across the glove, this one being from the UK. And it sure is a doozy, having gone the rounds in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (both screenings airing the same day, as the rights promptly expired) , Gorgo is a kaiju film that borrows a lot from many films that came before it, but has the British charm going for it that puts it a step above some of the other clones (or even one that also came from the same country and the same year, Konga). I’m really curious to see what VCI have done to the print, which they put out back in 2000 and has long been out of print.
Coming from Kino’s Redemption/Jezebel line, Zeta One is a film I remember watching many years ago at a party where a friend had a crappy looking copy and said, “Oh man, this film is so awful, we need to watch it and get drunk.” And get drunk we did, making the film’s plot holes and insanity (with plenty of boring lulls throughout) not matter at all, instead accentuating the fantastic funk soundtrack and the fashion that’s truly a cross between Barbarella and a Bond film (which this film is wonderfully aping without a sense of decency), which makes me even more intrigued it’s been given the Blu-ray treatment. An English nudie cutie that deserves a re-watch? Well, for me that’s a definite yes.
I’ll be honest. This is a film that I was extremely excited to see when I heard of its production and who the two stars were. I’m a huge fan of both, being enthralled by every Marion Cotillard performance (yes, even The Dark Knight Rises, a film that I had many many problems with. But Josh knows that already) and having loved Matthias Schoenaerts’ standout and star making performance in one of my favorite films of 2011, Bullhead, meant I was salivating at the thought of the two of them acting with one another. And of course when I heard the director of A Prophet, Jacques Audiard, this meant it was on the top of my list. Then something happened. I started hearing iffy reviews and then came people’s top 10 lists and I didn’t see it popping up anywhere (Mind you, I didn’t look at everyone’s list. I’d still be doing that now) and I just kept putting off seeing the film at a theater here in Brooklyn. Fast forward a few months later and I’m intrigued again, even with that awful cover art that kind of makes it look like a romantic comedy. I’ll be tracking down this release, which has what appears to be a lengthy hour long making of and a commentary track with Audiard, Writer Thomas Bidegain, and Journalist Arnaud Calistri (which is in French but they have English subtitles, so don’t worry). Will this film be on my top 10 ‘I wish I saw this for 2012’ list? I’ll soon find out.
Here’s a film I had no interest in seeing. I still don’t. Maybe someone else does and will tell me I should have sat down and watched it. But for now, there’s thousands of films ahead in my mind queue.
A British comedy I had never heard of? Coming out from a company I had never heard of (Inception Media Group) and hearing that the print looks rather great, this is one of those curveball releases that come out every so often. A so called minor masterpiece in the comedy department, this is one I’ll hope to be checking out as soon as I can get my hands on a copy.
The Other Son
Cohen Media Group comes from out of nowhere again, this time with a more recent film called The Other Son, which tells the story of two men, an Israeli and a Palestinian who find out they were switched at birth. Hearing great things about the presentation in the video and audio departments, and with subject matter that seems to feel at home with Kino or Criterion, it seems that Cohen Media Group have struck gold again with a film that looks at people who are sadly forever at conflict but there might be a silver lining to it all. At least in the eyes of the filmmaker, Lorraine Lévy. Can’t wait to check it out.
The Great Magician
Tony Leung has been absent from film since 2009’s second part of John Woo’s Red Cliff, so when I heard he was going to star in a magician based film, that looked like a cross between The Illusionist and Let the Bullets Fly, directed by Derek Yee is a great director and what seems to be a film that has all the pieces to make a thrilling comedic classic, it seems to have not reached those heights, especially reading from CriterionCast friend James Marsh’s release over at TwitchFilm. It seems like a good 2 hours to spend, but from many sources it seems to be a better Netflix watch as opposed to an outright buy.
A film that I happily got to check out about a year and a half ago, Eric Lartigau’s film The Big Picture shows the story of Paul who has the perfect life, perfect wife, perfect sons and a perfect job. But that all goes to hell when he finds out his wife is cheating on him and he’s killed his wife’s lover and has to go on the run to find his perfect life under the lover’s identity. It’s one that I kept on wanting to import because I was afraid it would be forgotten over here, but luckily for us MPI Home Video is putting it out here on Blu-ray.