Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Blu-ray Releases: The Week of Feb. 21st, 2011 - Due Date, Superman

Happy President's Day! It's also school vacation week here in Massachusetts and we are starting out the week with what else but some more snow. The good news is, it'll all be over in a few hours and none of that white stuff is supposed to stick around for long. After all, Punxsutawney Phil called for an early spring and we had a glimpse of it last week when temperatures soared into the 60's for a couple of days. But enough about the weather. It's that time of the week again to look at the new release stuff. Fortunately, this week's Blu-ray releases have some great films that you might want to add to your collection. Here they are:

Due Date (Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)Weeds: Season Six [Blu-ray]Fish Tank: The Criterion Collection [Blu-ray]Sweet Smell of Success (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]Mesrine: Killer Instinct: Part 1 [Blu-ray]Memento (10th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray]

In the annals of the Robert Downey Jr. movie Hall of Fame, the comedy Due Date would certainly be ranked in the bottom half. Not one of the best moments of his bumpy career, Due Date was defiled by many critics and described as "shamelessly derivative and sporadically funny." Even with Todd Phillips (The HangoverOld School) in the director's chair and the odd pairing of Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis (another Hangover alumni), Due Date seldom hits the mark and relied heavily on puerile humor for laughs. Due Date is available in 2 formats, one a single disc Blu-ray and the other, a Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy pack. Recommendation: A rental at best.

One of the best Showtime original series (apart from Dexter), Weeds is a dark, very funny half-hour comedy about a single mother raising 2 teenage sons who had to resort to selling weed in order to make ends meet. Now already in its 6th season on the air, Weeds is still going strong and never fails to add a little twist to the ongoing saga of the dysfunctional Botwin family. My favorite hemptress should be your favorite hemptress too.Weeds comes in its regular 2-disc Blu-ray set (yes, the entire season fits on 2 discs) and if history holds, wait a few months to buy it when the price will usually drop to less than $20, which is a good deal for an entire season of such a great show. Recommendation: Wait for a price drop in a couple of months.

From the Criterion Collection comes Fish Tank, a little known but really, one of the best dramas I've seen in a while. Written and directed by Englishwoman Andrea Arnold, Fish Tank has won numerous awards including the 2009 Jury Prize at the Cannes Film festival and several BAFTAs, the British equivalent of the Oscars. It tells the story of a wayward 15-year old girl, Mia (played outstandingly by newcomer Katie Jarvis) who is stuck in a poverty-stricken neighborhood with no future to look forward to. When her mother's new boyfriend, Connor (Michael Fassbender), moves in to live with them, things become utterly more complicated for everyone. Fish Tank is an outstanding drama that is deeply rooted in British lower-class realism and will keep you enthralled till the end. One thing to watch out for is the now rarely used framing aspect ratio of 1.33:1, the equivalent of the old 4:3-sized televisions. So, do not try to adjust your set when you watch this. Recommendation: A must-view, even if you don't buy it, rent it.

Also from the Criterion Collection this week, we have Alexander Mackendrick's Sweet Smell of Success, the 1957 noirish film about the underbelly of the Broadway community and the unsavory gossip columns that can help make or break anyone who comes into their sights. It stars the late Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis as a gossip columnist and a press agent respectively, who come to a mutually beneficial agreement to smear the reputation of a musician, romancing Lancaster's character's sister, played by Susan Harrison. This is yet another outstanding release by Criterion that lives up to its reputation. Recommendation: A must-own for classic film fans.

The story of French public enemy number one, Jacques Mesrine may not be well known stateside but the film by Jean-Francois Richet (Assault on Precinct 13) that glorifies Mesrine's life and criminal career should change that. Titled Mesrine: Killer Instinct, this is a long film that has been divided into 2 parts, with the first one releasing this week and the other, Mesrine: Public Enemy #1, releasing in March. The critical success of Mesrine lies with its star, the gifted Vincent Cassel (Black SwanEastern Promises), who brings a bold and magnetic charisma to the title role. Recommendation: Put it on your Netflix list.

The mind-warping backwards-moving film, Memento introduced us to director Christopher Nolan, who has since become a tour de force in Hollywood with his films, InceptionBatman Begins and The Prestige. It also starred two then-up-and-coming actors, Guy Pearce (coming off the success of L.A. Confidential) and Carrie-Anne Moss (fresh from The Matrix) that accorded this indie film some form of name recognition that proved vital to its success. It was a breakthrough film for all involved and is still one of the most uniquely-structured film ever made. Sony released Memento on Blu-ray when the format first appeared but since then, encoding technology has evolved and improved, leading to the new Lionsgate 10th Anniversary Edition that gives this amazing film a new sheen in terms of A/V quality. And the best thing is, you can own this Blu-ray for $14.99 on Amazon. Recommendation: A must-buy and must-own film.

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