New in Home Entertainment – November 29, 2011

New in Home Entertainment

November 29, 2011

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
Rated R for bloody horror violence, language and brief nudity
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Tucker and Dale are just two nice-as-can-be country boys who are excited to be staying in their new vacation home/cabin in the woods when a group of teenagers mistake them for serial killers.  Comically, the teens find innovative ways of accidentally killing themselves as they try to take out poor Tucker and Dale.  Sure its a one-joke movie, but its a really funny joke that is told really, really well.  Tyler Labine (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and Alan Tudyk (Serenity) are each very talented character actors who provide strong enough performances to make what could have been a bad B-movie a respectable little indie comedy.  B+

Rushmore: The Criterion Collection
Rated R for language and brief nudity
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

It is with great joy that Rushmore has finally made the blu-ray plunge in grand fashion with this new Criterion edition.  For the longest time, whenever I’ve pulled this title out to watch, I’ve had to suffer from lousy quality with a full black box around the picture and horrible sound.  Criterion’s treatment here fixes all of that with as beautiful of a picture and soundtrack as you can imagine.  Wes Anderson’s glorious coming of age tale starring Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray is as funny and poignant now as it was in 1998.  And since it was filmed in and around Houston, there is a special attraction to the film.  I wish they would have coughed up a few more special features than what appeared on the original DVD, but at least everything has been updated in the sight and sound department.  A

Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Rated G
Available on DVD and Blu-ray/Blu-ray 3D

Famed director Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man) was offered a unique chance to take a small crew into the Chauvet caves of Southern France in order to capture the oldest cave paintings ever discovered.  Discovered in 1994 in pristine condition, the paintings themselves are fascinating and a rare look at humanity’s oldest-known art.  I don’t discount the fact that this is important stuff.  I just wish it wasn’t so boring.  I wanted to like the movie, but I just didn’t find it compelling.  Maybe if Herzog had covered more material than just what was found in the cave, the movie might have been something I could recommend.  But while loads of folks really loved the movie, making it a relatively successful documentary while in theaters, I unfortunately found it to be nothing more than an overly long and tedious documentary that made me feel a tinge of guilt for not fully appreciating its apparent significance.  C+

Farscape: The Complete Series

Available on Blu-ray

Fans of this whacky SyFy Channel series will be glad to see its newest blu-ray release.  While I was never really into the show, I have to admit that the material is fun just because it seems so custom-tailored for sci-fi geeks.  This is the kind of show that your childhood friend who spoke more Klingon than Spanish was into.  The question that many will be asking is whether or not to upgrade.  The show itself was shot and aired in 4:3 until the last season, so you won’t be seeing additional widescreen here unless you manipulate the picture.  Also, because it was a SyFy on a budget, you won’t be seeing a pristine 1080p picture as the original print is in much lower resolution, so many will find it to not be worth upgrading if they already own all of the DVDs.  Then again, if you have been holding out, this will most likely be the definitive edition of the show and should make you happy if you are the targeted audience.  B

The Birth of a Nation
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Largely considered one of the most controversial films of all time, D.W. Griffith’s monumental 1915 film about the Civil War and violent racism in America has been newly mastered in HD from its original 35mm elements.  In other words, you will most likely never see a better looking print of this film.  But while it was included as # 44 in the American Film Institute’s greatest American films list, this is definitely not a movie for the masses.  This is also not an entertaining film, but rather an eye-opening vision of some of the ugliness America has endured.  A-

J. Edgar

J. Edgar
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts, Armie Hammer and Judi Dench
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Rated R for brief strong language

    As the creator of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover was known as one of the most feared and hated men in America for almost 50 years.  While some feel that he spent years abusing the powers he was given, it is his private life that many have found to be most interesting.  This new biopic by Clint Eastwood explores both the public and private world of one of American history’s most intriguing characters.  

    I have to admit that I didn’t know a whole lot about J. Edgar before this film.  We had read a little about him in history in as much as to obtain the knowledge of “who created the FBI?”  I do remember my teacher discussing that he used to dress in women’s’ clothing but knew nothing more than a single fact and a rumor.  I only say this because I have no idea how accurate the film is.  Part of me trusts Clint Eastwood to create as factual a biopic as he is capable of.  That being said, if this is a true story, it’s a fascinating one.  The movie portrays Hoover as a man of pure ambition professionally and total confusion personally.  A man who knows what is acceptable to the world and how to get ahead in it, but who also must hide his homosexuality from it.  He makes a living of gathering secret and damaging information on the country’s leaders while at the same time hiding his true identity and damning secret from those that would persecute him.  In this regard I found the character study to be intriguing.  

    The acting here is inconsistent.  Actors of DiCaprio’s and Dench’s talents do well under the fast paced directing style of Eastwood, but Hammer, Watts, and other members of the cast come off as players who would have liked another take.  

    As for the production, there were also many inconsistencies.  I was pleased at how good the makeup looked on DiCaprio as the older Hoover (I actually thought it was Phillip Seymour Hoffman at first sight) and how poor it appeared on Hammer who looked like he was wearing a bad Halloween costume.  

    I was also disappointed in Eastwood’s minimalist score which played like cocktail lounge music throughout.  Clint is a talented composer, but this film needed a much better score than it received.  I would bet that hiring Alexandre Desplat, a composer who is much more adept at expressing emotion in softer films, could have improved the experience immensely.  

    Overall, I liked the idea of this movie quite a bit, but I was distracted by the execution.  There was a lot of potential for a masterpiece, but that promise was not delivered.  C+

New in Home Entertainment – November 8, 2011

New in Home Entertainment

November 8, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

The final episode of the Harry Potter franchise was a momentous occasion this past year, not just because it was the last of eight films, but because they ended on such a strong note.  Unlike the Twilight films, the Potter series has been overall a run of decent adaptations that have been well-liked by both fans and critics.  And while the Prisoner of Azkaban had remained my favorite in the series to date, Deathly Hallows part two has become my new fave.  Masterfully directed by David Yates, the film maintains the fast pace left by the previous installment and yet retains most of the great storytelling of the book by J.K. Rowling.  And if you have blu-ray you are in for a real treat as the special features are a must see.  If you’ve already seen the film once or twice (or more if you are a big fan) check out the pic in Maximum Movie Mode for an enhanced experience.  A-

The Change-Up

Rated R for pervasive strong crude sexual content and language, some graphic nudity and drug use
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

I’ve always liked Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman, but I sometimes question their judgment in the films they make.  I’m sure the idea of this film was appealing, but the execution was tremendously flawed.  From the opening scene where Bateman is shot in the face by his child’s excrement to the perverse sexual antics of Reynolds, this film takes an unoriginal but funny concept and gives us the worst possible results.  Perhaps it would be more entertaining if Ryan Reynolds were actually into the beautiful women he appears with on the posters, but instead he resorts to tasteless sexual experiences that might force you to lose some of the dinner you just ate.  There were so many directions this film could have been taken in that would have made it not just tolerable but perhaps a decent comedy as well.  Unfortunately, the creative minds involved went down the wrong path giving us a poorly written mess of a film with a lot of wasted talent involved.  D

Rated R for sexual content and nudity
Available on DVD

Oscar-winning documentarian Errol Morris (Fog of War) has always found a way of telling unusual stories in a fun and exciting way.  Tabloid is no exception as he follows the adventures of Joyce McKinney, a former beauty queen who was made famous in the 70’s for going to London, kidnapping the man of her dreams, and forcing him to have sex with her until he was rescued by the Mormon church.  It is such a whacky story that it is hardly to be believed, but Morris does an exceptional job of tracking down all of the different angles in a truly entertaining manner that will having you shaking your head in amazement.  It’s not the best of Morris’s work, but it is still a very good example of what he is capable of.  A-

Band of Brothers/The Pacific Special Edition Gift Set
Available on Blu-ray

Few will argue that HBO’s two miniseries, Band of Brothers and The Pacific, contain some of the best storytelling surrounding WWII.  Producers Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg have put together what many consider to be their legacy and this gift set embodies it perfectly.  Not only does it contain both series beautifully packaged with previously released special features, but it also adds in a never-before-seen documentary featuring surviving veterans of Easy Company and the 1st Marine Division whose stories are told during the course of the two spectacular miniseries.  A

New in Home Entertainment – November 1, 2011

New in Home Entertainment

November 1, 2011

Water for Elephants
Rated PG-13 for moments of intense violence and sexual content
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

After falling in love with the novel by Sara Gruen, I so badly wanted this romance that takes place in a depression-era circus to be legendary, but instead we merely got a good but forgettable love story.  The male part of the love triangle was well acted by Robert Pattinson and Christoph Waltz but Reese Witherspoon was royally upstaged by her female co-lead Rosie the Elephant.  It’s not that Reese was bad, but she was severely miscast in the role.  Still, the film was well-produced with some marvelous cinematography and a lovely score by James Newton Howard.  B+

Crazy Stupid Love
Rated PG-13 for coarse humor, sexual content and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

This romantic comedy about love, loss and pain comes on strong with a terrific first and second act, only to be brought down several notches by its ridiculous third.  Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore and Emma Stone put on a great show for most of the film but writer Dan Fogelman (Tangled) ran completely out of creative steam towards the end leaving the film with much more of a Hollywood feel than the movie deserves.  Due to the nature of the subject matter, I wouldn’t recommend it as a date movie, but it should play well as a movie that the girls will enjoy thoroughly with a bottle of wine and no men in the house.  B-

An Invisible Sign
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material and some disturbing images
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Watching this trailer, I was really looking forward to what looked like a quirky and fun cross between Amelie and Stranger than Fiction starring Jessica Alba.  But rather than the entertaining and creative experience I was hoping for, I ended up with a miserable ninety minutes that I wish I could have back.  The film is not light at all, but rather a heavy mess that is not in the least enjoyable.  D-

Cars 2
Rated G
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D

Critics enjoyed piling on to this latest Pixar release, but I simply can’t join the fray.  Cars 2 might be the least of the Pixar films, but when you are comparing to such perfection, that is not exactly fair.  This sequel, which follows Lightening McQueen (Owen Wilson) and Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) in a game of international espionage, is creative, funny and stunning to look at.  Where it does fall short is in the script department.  It’s not a bad script but not quite up to the standards of Pixar.  Pixar films are known for being spectacular four-quadrant films.  They are usually equally loved by males, females, young and old.  Here the adults have dismissed, while the kids seemed to have loved it.  The $549 million worldwide take in spite of poor reviews proves this point.  If you have a 3D television, the 3D is a step up for Pixar and really brings the film to vibrant life.  Also hitting stores this week are the 3D versions of the recently re-released Toy Story films.  B+