DVD Reviews Archive for September, 2011

Wilmington on DVDs. Pick of the Week: Classic, Blu-ray. Strike

     PICK OF THE WEEK: Classic/Blu-ray Strike (Stachka) (Four Stars) U.S.S.R./Russia: Sergei Eisenstein, 1925 (Kino Classics) 1. Eisenstein  In 1925, Sergei Eisenstein, a rich architect’s son who had become a passionate convert to Communism during the Russian Revolution and afterward a brilliant theatrical director with the Proletkult Theatre of Moscow, directed two silent films…

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The DVD Wrapup: Transformers, Angel of Evil, Dumbo, Viva Riva!, Phantom Carriage, The Stool Pigeon, Hung, Kojak …

Transformers: Dark of the Moon: Blu-ray The third installment in the “Transformers” franchise, “Dark of the Moon,” locates the decisive battle for the preservation of mankind in downtown Chicago. The Windy City residents have experienced seen more than their fair share of disasters since Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over the lantern that triggered the Great…

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Wilmington on DVDs. The Rest: Transformers Dark of the Moon

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Also Blu-ray) (Three Stars) U.S.: Michael Bay, 2010 Mindless, soulless, heartless, mechanical, and shamelessly mercenary as it might be, director Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon — the latest in the often obnoxious movie series, starring Shia LaBeouf and a lot of Hasbro toys — is still one of…

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Wilmington on DVDs. Pick of the Week: New. Carlos

  Carlos (Three and a Half Stars) France: Olivier Assayas, 2010 (Criterion Collection) In his excellent political thriller/biographical drama Carlos, Olivier Assayas makes an epic of 20th century revolution, an incendiary subject, but a film hot at heart yet cool on the surface, out of the ugly, exciting  story of the terrorist “Carlos,” a would-be political idealist who became a killer…

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Wilmington on DVDs. The Rest: Captain America: The First Avenger, Dziga and His Brothers, The Killer is Loose, The Song of Songs,This is the Night

“Captain America: The First Avenger” (Two Stars) U.S.: Joe Johnston, 2011 I don’t mean to be a grouch, but Captain America — stalwart crime and monster-buster of  the  new Marvel epic Captain America: The First Avenger — struck me as one of the duller superheroes I’ve seen recently. That’s despite one of the more amazing special effects…

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Wilmington on DVDs. Pick of the Week: Box Set/Blu-ray. Visions of Europe

 (Three and a Half Stars) U.S.; Roy A. Hammond (aerial director/executive producer), Sam Toperoff (producer/editor/writer), 2001-9 (Acorn Media) One of the most visually stunning travelogue series ever, the “Visions” sets from WLIW in New York offer spectacular aerial tours of the great sights of Europe, shot in gorgeous high definition cinematography, accompanied by fairly typical…

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The DVD Wrapup: HitRECord, The Tempest, Bride Flight, Inspector General, The Caller, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Claude Chabrol, Mike Hammer …

HitRECord Recollection, Volume 1 The entertainment industry has been trying to mine gold from the Internet for almost two decades now, desperately searching for ways to distribute movies, music and other formats safely and economically. Some have succeeded, while most others have simply failed or disappeared without a digital footprint left behind. The wiseguys say…

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Wilmington on DVDs. Pick of the Week: Classic/Box Set. The Complete Jean Vigo

  (Two Discs) (Four Stars) France: Jean Vigo, 1930-34 (Criterion Collection)   I. Jean Vigo, The Rebel  He died at 29: Jean Vigo, in many ways, the spirit of youth, of art, of cinematic rebellion, of France between the wars. He was the sacred enfant terrible and the laughing rebel and grand martyr of French…

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Wilmington on DVDs. Picks of the Week: New. Bridesmaids, Le Quattro Volte

  Bridesmaids (Three and a Half Stars) U.S.: Paul Feig, 2011 (Universal) Kristen Wiig is one funny lady, and Bridesmaids — in which she is both star and co-writer — is one funny movie.  That’s hardly news. “Bridesmaids” is one of the best reviewed, best liked Hollywood comedies of the year. By current consensus, it’s…

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Wilmington on Movies and DVD; Straw Dogs (Peckinpah and Lurie)

  Film: Straw Dogs (Two Stars) U. S.: Rod Lurie, 2011 DVD: Straw Dogs (Blu-ray) (Three and a half Stars) U.S.: Sam Peckinpah, 1971 (MGM) I. Bloody Sam Straw Dogs, Rod Lurie‘s remake of Sam Peckinpah’s 1971 classic — with Dustin Hoffman as a Vietnam era intellectual forced to face the beast in himself and…

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The DVD Wrapup: Thor, Citizen Kane, Just Peck, Meek’s Cutoff, Leading Ladies, Bill Cunningham New York, Spartacus …

Thor: Blu-ray 3D Marvel Knights: Thor & Loki Blood Brothers You know things are bad on Earth, when superheroes from other universes are stripped of their powers and sent here as punishment, instead of refuge and a “chance for life,” as was Superman. Albania, maybe, but not the good ol’ U.S. of A. That’s exactly…

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Wilmington on DVDs. The Rest: X-Men The First Class, Thor, The Colossus of New York, Monkey Business

  X-Men: The First Class (Also Blu) (Two Discs) (Two and a Half Stars) U.S.: Matthew Vaughn, 2011 Maybe I’m getting tired of super-heroes and super-heroines. Or maybe X-Men: First Class just has too many of them. In any case, the latest Marvel movie, by my reckoning, puts a first-rate cast into a third-rate story,…

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Wilmington on DVDs. Co-Picks of the Week: New. Meek’s Cutoff, Secret Sunshine

  Meek’s Cutoff (Three and a Half Stars) U.S.: Kelly Reichardt, 2011 Meek’s Cutoff, like the Coen Brothers’ True Grit, is an art film Western for a contemporary audience, and an unusually good one — made by a director and writer (Kelly Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond), who show a real feeling for what it must have been…

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Wilmington on DVDs. Pick of the Week: Blu-ray. O Brother, Where Art Thou?

  CO-PICK OF THE WEEK: BLU-RAY   O Brother,  Where Art Thou?  (Four Stars) U.S.: Joel and Ethan Coen, 2000 (Touchstone/Disney)      O Brother, Where Art Thou? — for whose title alone Joel and Ethan Coen deserve a medal — is an outrageously entertaining and inventive movie that still hasn’t gotten its due. The Coen…

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Digital Nation: ‘Rescue Me’ From Uninformed Punditry About Hollywood and 9/11 …

In the lead-up to 9/11/11, two unrelated events prompted me to add my thoughts to the national conversation about one of the most disturbing and unconscionable attacks on non-combatants in history. Like most Americans, I’ve been given no deeply personal cause to obsess over the attacks. Neither do I need repeated visual reminders of the…

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Wilmington on DVDs. Pick of the Week: Box Set. Genius of Britain, The Scientists Who Changed the World/Stephen Hawking and the Theory of Everything

Sir Isaac Newton   Genius of Britain (Three Discs) (Three and a Half Stars) U.K.: Christopher Sykes, Michael Waterhouse & Jonathan Rudd (Series director)/Gary Johnstone, 2010/2007 (Athena/Acorn Media) Science was my weakest subject in high school. And since I didn’t much like what didn’t come easily to me, and really didn’t like passionless, styleless writing, and since most…

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The DVD Wrapup: X-Men: First Class, Hanna, The Arbor, Henry’s Crime, Scarface, Straw Dogs, Madea, Police Story …

X-Men: First Class: Blu-ray Let’s assume that the producers of “X-Men: First Class” had a very good reason for not naming the latest chapter in the franchise “X-Men Origins: First Class.” Like “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” it provides some of today’s most popular superheroes coherent back-stories and new cast members an opportunity to carve niches for…

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Wilmington on DVDs. Pick of the Week: Classics. The Sacrifice/Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky

  Four Stars Sweden: Andrei Tarkovsky, 1986 (Kino/Kino Lorber) In the mid-1980s, Andrei Tarkovsky, the greatest Russian cinema artist of the post-war era, traveled to Sweden to make what proved to be his last film, The Sacrifice. He was only in his 50s when he went to Sweden, but Tarkovsky, son of the famous Russian…

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Wilmington on DVDs. Pick of the Week: New. Hanna

(Also Blu-ray) (Three and a Half Stars) U.K.-U.S.: Joe Wright, 2011 (Universal) Hanna, an action film for people who love action movies and also for some who don’t, is Kick-Ass and The Bourne Identity filtered through Pride and Prejudice. And I don’t mean that as a knock. Director Joe Wright, who made the 2005 Keira Knightley…

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The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

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“Yes, good movies sprout up, inevitably, in the cracks and seams between the tectonic plates on which all of these franchises stay balanced, and we are reassured of their hardiness. But we don’t see what we don’t see; we don’t see the effort, or the cost of the effort, or the movies of which we’re deprived because of the cost of the effort. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice may have come from a studio, but it still required a substantial chunk of outside financing, and at $35 million, it’s not even that expensive. No studio could find the $8.5 million it cost Dan Gilroy to make Nightcrawler. Birdman cost a mere $18 million and still had to scrape that together at the last minute. Imagine American movie culture for the last few years without Her or Foxcatcher or American Hustle or The Master or Zero Dark Thirty and it suddenly looks markedly more frail—and those movies exist only because of the fairy godmothership of independent producer Megan Ellison. The grace of billionaires is not a great business model on which to hang the hopes of an art form.”
~ Mark Harris On The State Of The Movies

How do you make a Top Ten list? For tax and organizational purposes, I keep a log of every movie I see (Title, year, director, exhibition format, and location the film was viewed in). Anything with an asterisk to the left of its title means it’s a 2014 release (or something I saw at a festival which is somehow in play for the year). If there’s a performance, or sequence, or line of dialogue, even, that strikes me in a certain way, I’ll make a note of it. So when year end consideration time (that is, the month and change out of the year where I feel valued) rolls around, it’s a little easier to go through and pull some contenders for categories. For 2014, I’m voting in three polls: Indiewire, SEFCA (my critics’ guild), and the Muriels. Since Indiewire was first, it required the most consternation. There were lots of films that I simply never had a chance to see, so I just went with my gut. SEFCA requires a lot of hemming and hawing and trying to be strategic, even though there’s none of the in-person skullduggery that I hear of from folk whose critics’ guild is all in the same city. The Muriels is the most fun to contribute to because it’s after the meat market phase of awards season. Also, because it’s at the beginning of next year, I’ll generally have been able to see everything I wanted to by then. I love making hierarchical lists, partially because they are so subjective and mercurial. Every critical proclamation is based on who you are at that moment and what experiences you’ve had up until that point. So they change, and that’s okay. It’s all a weird game of timing and emotional waveforms, and I’m sure a scientist could do an in-depth dissection of the process that leads to the discovery of shocking trends in collective evaluation. But I love the year end awards crush, because I feel somewhat respected and because I have a wild-and-wooly work schedule that has me bouncing around the city to screenings, or power viewing the screeners I get sent.
Jason Shawhan of Nashville Scene Answers CriticWire