Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Blu-ray Releases: The Week of Jan. 31st, 2011 - Let Me In, Alice!

It's not hard for me to declare Let Me In as the best horror movie of 2010 and certainly one of my top 5 movies of last year. Don't believe me? Well, the ultimate endorsement came from the horror-meister himself, Stephen King, who declared Let Me In, the "best American horror film in the last 20 years" and puts it on top of his best 2010 movies list. Yes, King may be a little biased towards that genre but you can't argue that the man knows a good horror film when he sees one. For sure, Let Me In isn't your typical teenage (in this case, adolescent) vampire movie that we've become accustomed to in recent years. It is ultimately more than that and that is why it is so good. However, it is not the only good movie out this week. Here are some of the other notable releases:

Let Me In [Blu-ray]Monsters Special Edition + Digital Copy [Blu-ray]Alice In Wonderland (Two-Disc 60th Anniversary Blu-ray/DVD Combo)Never Let Me Go [Blu-ray]A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop [Blu-ray]The Double Life of Veronique (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]All About Eve [Blu-ray]An Affair to Remember [Blu-ray]Boys Don't Cry [Blu-ray]Conviction [Blu-ray]Welcome to the Rileys [Blu-ray]

Before you watch Let Me In, go rent or buy its companion piece, the 2008 Swedish film, Let the Right One In and watch that first. Both films are based on the same novel, Let Me In by John Ajvide Lindqvist but each interpretation of the written work is slightly different. Directed by Tomas Alfredson, with the screenplay written by Lindqvist himself, Let the Right One In was well received both in Sweden and around the world. Although the basic premise of the movie is of the horror genre, Alfredson focused primarily on the intriguing relationship between the two young protagonists, one a reclusive boy who regularly gets bullied by his schoolmates and the other, a vampire girl who makes it her mission to protect her newfound friend. And that is what makes the film so powerful, flirting with the popular vampire elements but at the same time, keeping our attention focused on the childlike innocence and touching relationship between these two unlikely friends.

Now, Matt Reeves' (Cloverfield) re-imagining of Lindqvist's novel (I wouldn't call it a remake of Let the Right One In) follows a similar story path but brings it to a whole new level, keeping it both thoughtful and quietly chilling. Reeves, who wrote the screenplay and also directed the film, has done a magnificent job without getting any accolades from the industry. It is a shame that Let Me In did not even receive a single nomination for any of the major awards. Special mention should go to Chloë Grace Moretz, the child star of Kick-Ass, who plays the sympathetic vampire girl and makes it as memorable as her previous role as Hit-Girl. Let Me In comes to Blu-ray in a 2-disc set that contains versions of the movie on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Copy and it is on sale this week for $19.99 on Amazon and Best Buy. Recommendation: Buy it now! Right now!

A good alien monster movie made on a budget? That's unheard of in this day and age of million-dollar special effects blockbusters. But as evidenced by the existence of the British indie sci-fi film, Monsters, such a creature does exist and it reveals itself this week on Blu-ray. Written and directed by first-time filmmaker, Gareth Edwards, Monsters is a fine example of guerrilla filmmaking, where filming took place on location in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Costa Rica, and was often done without prior permission from local authorities and using local non-actors as extras. The budget for the entire production came in at just under $500,000 and it earned more than $3.5M worldwide (making about $240K of that in the US). Monsters received generally good reviews from most critics, ranking at 71% on Rotten Tomatoes but never really got off the ground. Monsters is not just another alien movie, it is also a parable for the nation's immigration policies post-9/11 when extra-terrestrial alien life-forms spread across the US-Mexican border area, leading to a military quarantine. Part sci-fi-horror, part romance and part road movie, Monsters did not do well at the domestic box office but should get a second chance in its debut on home video. Monsters come in a Special Edition package that includes the movie on Blu-ray and Digital Copy. It is on sale on Amazon this week for $15.99.  Recommendation: A great rental, buy it when the price drops to $12 or less.

Adapted from Lewis Carroll's classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Disney's 1951 animated film, Alice In Wonderland  is a classic in its own right. Now, on the film's 60th anniversary, Disney is releasing it in high-definition Blu-ray and Disney movie fans and collectors can rejoice at the prospect of owning the ultimate version of this beloved animated film. Featuring fully restored audio and video, together with a multitude of extras, this Two-Disc 60th Anniversary Blu-ray/DVD Combo package is a must-own. Alice In Wonderland stands tall among other Disney classics that have received the Blu-ray treatment and you owe it to yourself to add it to your collection. Recommendation: Buy it!

Never Let Me Go proved to be a hard sell for theater audiences when it was released in the Fall of 2010. Based on a 2005 novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go is a tender and haunting story about love and death with a decidedly sci-fi spin. Set in a dystopian Britain where three friends, played by Carey Mulligan (An Education), Keira Knightley (Pride and Prejudice) and Andrew Garfield (The Social Network), spent their childhood growing up in an idyllic boarding school called Hailsham. But their future is more disturbing than one could ever imagined as the truth of their existence is slowly revealed. Although it did disappointing business at the box office, Never Let Me Go should get a second chance this time around as it is a hauntingly beautiful story that strikes a mournful note. Recommendation: A good rental but this film may not be for everyone.

A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop is celebrated Chinese director, Zhang Yimou's (Raise the Red LanternHero) remake of the Joel and Ethan Coen's critically acclaimed 1985 film debut, Blood Simple. Now, before you say anything, note that Zhang is a big fan of the Coens and this film is a great departure from Zhang's previous works. The basic story of an adulterous wife and her lover, a jealous husband and a double-crossing officer of the law is still intact, of course. Supplanting the original setting from modern day Texas to a small Chinese village during feudal times, Zhang has moved as far away, visually speaking, from the Coens' opus as one can get. With the characters donning garish costumes and even adding unconventional slapstick humor and sight gags to his version, Zhang may not be remaking Blood Simple in the true sense of the original but remaking it in his own vision, his own style and treating it the only way he knows best, with utmost respect. A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures and is a regular single disc package. Recommendation: A good rental but only buy if you are a Zhang Yimou completist.

This week, from the Criterion Collection comes The Double Life of Veronique, the 1991 French-Polish language film from renown Polish director, Krzysztof Kieślowski. The story follows two women, one in Poland and the other in France, both look identical and played by the same actress, Irène Jacob. There is a fantasy element to the story as the two women, unaware of each another on a physical plane but seem to possess similar personality traits and be connected somehow. This movie is contemplative and slow and full of haunting metaphors, emotional juxtapositions and an eerie mystique. Don't even try to understand it, just go with the flow and enjoy Kieślowski's bizarre but poetic gift to cinema. Expect Criterion's usual excellence in presenting almost perfect audio and visual quality plus relevant and notable extras. Recommendation: The Criterion Collection is a boon to cinema-philes and if you are one, go buy it. Otherwise, a good rental for the curious.

This week, from 20th Century Fox comes three catalog titles, All About Eve (1950), An Affair to Remember (1957) and the movie that shot Hilary Swank and Chloë Sevigny to stardom, Boys Don't CryAll About Eve starred Bette Davis and Anne Baxter and a then unknown actress by the name of Marilyn Monroe and it won six Oscars including Best Picture. An Affair to Remember is considered one of the most romantic films of all time and it starred a dashing Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. Recommendation: All 3 films should be in your collection.

Also releasing this week are a couple of films that may have slipped from most people's radar when they were in theaters just months ago. The first is Conviction, a Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell film that is based on a true story of a single mother who put herself through college and law school in order to exonerate her brother who was wrongfully convicted of a murder. Then there is Welcome to the Rileys, which stars James Gandolfini (The Sopranos), Kristen Stewart (Twilight) and the recently Oscar-nominated Melissa Leo. It is a drama about a couple coming to terms with the death of their daughter and the unlikely stranger who brings them back together. Recommendation: Both films are worth at least a rental.

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