Saturday, August 7, 2010

Blu-ray Releases & Dinner Pairings: Week of August 3rd, 2010

This week, some of the notable and new home video releases on Blu-ray and DVD include the following:

Kick-Ass (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack + Digital Copy)The Ghost Writer (Single-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)Diary of a Wimpy Kid [Blu-ray]After.Life [Blu-ray] A Prophet [Blu-ray]

Let's start with the star release of this week and it is "Kick-Ass," inspired by the comic book of the same name. The story centers around a geeky teenager, Dave (played by Aaron Johnson) who decides, on a whim, to become a "superhero" even though he has no superpowers to speak of. Using the pseudonym "Kick-Ass," Dave goes out to fight crime but only to find his own ass kicked in his first attempt, resulting in serious injury. With some nerve damage and metal plates inserted into his body, Dave finds that he is able to withstand a considerable amount of pain, more than the usual human being. Soon, he teams up with a father-daughter crime-fighting duo, Big Daddy (Nic Cage) and Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz) to battle against the local crime boss Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong). At first glance, this movie may seem like a child-friendly movie but it stays true to its source material and received an R rating  for profanity and violence. "Kick-Ass" has received mostly positive reviews from critics and is worth at least a rental, if not a spot in your movie collection.

"Kick-Ass" Dinner Pairing: How about a kick-ass juicy 10 oz. Angus burger cooked medium-rare with bacon and egg, melted aged cheddar cheese and some freshly fried french fries. Call it the all-American kick-ass Big Daddy burger, fit for all superhero wannabes (and sidekicks as well)!

Next is "The Ghost Writer," the Roman Polanski-directed political thriller starring Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor. Brosnan plays a former British Prime Minister, Adam Lang and McGregor, an acclaimed (and unnamed) ghostwriter, who is hired to complete the PM's memoirs. Taking over from his predecessor, who was killed in an accident, the ghostwriter stumbles upon clues that links Lang to the CIA. At about the same time, Lang is accused of authorizing the illegal seizure of terrorist suspects and renditioning them to the CIA for torture, a possible war crime. In typical Polanski flair, "The Ghost Writer" will keep you at the edge of your seats as it carefully navigates all the possible outcomes with precise pacing and well placed red herrings. Not an instant classic but a well-directed and well-acted film that should be on your Netflix list.

"The Ghost Writer" Dinner Pairing: A stodgy political thriller featuring a British Prime Minister should conjure up images of Beef Wellington, a traditional British fare recently made famous by Chef Gordon Ramsey on his scripted reality cooking shows. Named after the Duke of Wellington, this dish is made up of a beef tenderloin coated with pâté and mushrooms and wrapped in puff pastry and baked. For some intrigue along the same lines as the movie, maybe you can try using lamb instead of beef. Here's a simple recipe.

"Diary of A Wimpy Kid" brings the beloved children's book series of the same name to life on the big screen. Middle school is an awkward time for many kids and things are no different for our protagonist, Greg, played Zachary Gordon. Greg, for all his good intentions, wants badly to fit in with the "cool kids" in school but finds a big stumbling block in the form of his good-natured, portly, red-haired best friend, Rowley (Robert Capron). It is a funny movie about how Greg navigates the booby-trapped minefield of middle school (often not successfully) and is able to teach us some valuable life lessons while at it. Kids who have read the book series will get a big kick out of this movie and is sure to entertain everyone else as well. Great recommendation for family movie night.

"Diary of a Wimpy Kid" Dinner Pairing: Let's just say we'll do away with the school cafeteria food presumption and kick it up a notch with some lobster mac and cheese, for which I have the recipe here. You'll love it and I'm pretty sure the kids will too.

The other notable releases this week include "After.Life," that on the outset, seems like an intriguing psychological thriller starring Liam Neeson as an undertaker who can speak to the dead, who in this case is Anna, played by Christina Ricci. The question is, is she really dead or is there something more sinister coursing through the funeral home? Though it may have not been positively reviewed, "After.Life" may be worth a night of cheap horror with a tub of caramel popcorns (my favorite) on hand.

Saving the best for last, Jacques Audiard's foreign language gritty crime drama, "A Prophet," is a movie of the highest quality. The actors may not be familiar at all to stateside audiences but that just adds to the authenticity of the story. Malik (Tahar Rahim), a young man of Arab descent, is sent to prison for a crime that he denies being involved in. The prison is controlled by members of the Corsican mob and Malik finds himself terrorized by Reyeb (Hichem Yacoubi), who is a snitch and is about to testify against the mob. Of course, the Corsicans will try to stop that from happening and recruits Malik to end Reyeb's life and receive their protection in exchange. Not content with just being a mob stooge, Malik rises through the ranks within the prison and his actions in the past may yet come back to haunt him. A powerful tale of survival within a brutal system, "A Prophet" is highly recommended viewing.

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