Friday, March 29, 2013

DVD & Blu-Ray Update March 2013

#1. Skyfall
After the the lifeless and mediocre Quantum of Solace, Skyfall manages to resume the top notch writing and character exploration initially set up in the first Daniel Craig Bond film, Casino Royale. Skyfall introduces a villain more in line with the classic era of Bond antagonists, played wonderfully by Javier Bardem, delivers some spectacular and exciting action sequences captured with glorious cinematography, offers the greatest Bond song since Goldeneye, and continues to explore the relationship between Bond and M in a compelling story that results in one of the best films of 2012.

#2. Mulan/Mulan II 3 Disc Special Edition
For whatever reason, Mulan does not have the reputation of being one of the great Disney films. Perhaps this was because the film was released near the end of Disney's resurgence and most were tired of the tried and true formula of a misfit hero seeking something more in their life with the help of comedic animals? Who knows...but as far as I am concerned, this film is excellent. The three main problems with the film are that the songs  (with the exception of "I'll Make a Man Out of You") are not particularly memorable, some of the antics of Eddie Murphy's Mushu character fall flat at points where it seems the writers were trying too hard to be comical, and the transition into the final act feels extremely forced (The final scene is also really lame). However, these are relatively minor problems in a film that has fantastic visuals in addition to the lively and engaging characters. Perhaps most impressive is the films ability to truly develop and explore the relationship between Mulan and the supporting characters. Disney tends to rush through the details of romances and motivations, but in this film a lot of attention is giving to forming these story points through conversations. Mulan is not nearly as flawless as some of the Disney greats, but the film is certainly strong and entertaining enough to belong in their company.

#3. The Hunchback of Notre Dame 2 Movie Collection
While I would argue that Mulan is a far better film that given credit...The Hunchback of Notre Dame is far less easy to defend. The main problem with the film is that the protagonist, Quasimodo, feels like a supporting cast member whose desire to experience life outside the church walls is pushed aside to focus on the motivations of antagonist Frollo and the romance between Esmeralda and Phoebus. Quasimodo is constantly a plot device used to progress their stories and only towards the end of the film does he finally become the primary participant. One could argue that considering his isolation from the real world, this is a perfect role for his character to play in the film, but even in that case the film still could have focused more on exploring his goals and thoughts rather than designating the task of motivating Quasimodo to the supporting cast. I do not share the hate most have for the Gargoyles, but they admittedly feel unnecessary and while some of their jokes offer laughs, at least as many fall flat. In fact, the comedy in this film is really weak and it drags the slapstick moments of hijinks on far too long. Conversely, the film is bold in it's exploration of the dangers of lust and the hypocrisy of religion while the animation, musical score, and songs are actually very damn good. It is a film with noticeable and cringe worthy flaws, but there is also a lot to admire about this film. Far from perfect, but an amusing watch.

#4. Wreck-It Ralph Collectors Edition
While the Disney Renaissance may have ended with Tarzan, some have argued that beginning with The Princess and the Frog Disney has begun a Third Golden Age. Considering the both Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph, the two films to follow Princess and the Frog, are excellent films, I would be inclined to agree with such statements. While the first two films are of the classic Disney Fairy Tale sort, Wreck-It Ralph would be the first modern times, high concept, type of Disney film (Oliver & Company, The Rescuers, ect.) of this proposed Third Golden Age and fortunately, it is a success. Granted, the films narrative is a little too predictable for its own good (even the biggest twist of the film, which admittedly caught me off guard, will have those who are surprised by it acknowledging that they should have caught on) and those who are bothered by puns will quickly find this film irritating. However, the film is filled with colorful characters who are brought to life with passion and personality by a great cast of voice-actors and even at its most predictable, the film is not afraid to go to cruel lengths to test our characters while hurrying through the more tiresome cliches. Fans of video games will find all kinds of little gems and gags geared directly towards them and the creativity behind the video game world is highly admirable (Sugar Rush game and theme are the best!). Also, as someone who gets a kick out of puns, the humour was right up my alley. Simply put, Wreck-it Ralph was made with a lot of love and is a lot of fun.

#5. Lincoln 4-Disc Combo Pack
Following Munich, the last truly great Steven Spielberg film before 2012, it was a difficult time to be a Steven Spielberg fan. While I would have and will continue to defend Spielberg as a genuinely great filmmaker, the period following Munich made it hard to do so. Indiana Jones 4, The Adventures of Tintin, and War Horse were fine films but no doubt failed to live up to the Spielberg greats and one could not help but groan at announcements of Spielberg's intentions to remake untouchable films such as Harvey or Old Boy. Then Spielberg may as well have walked up to me, given me the finger, and told me to never doubt him again with his newest film: Lincoln. Lincoln is a quiet and intimate film driven more by characters and performances than anything else. Both the content of the film and the way it is shot resembles 12 Angry Men in its ability to capture beautiful shots in simple locations such as offices with a script that is both intriguing and informative. Of course the brilliant Daniel Day-Lewis delivers a performance of legend, but every single actor and actress contributes greatly to this film in their ability to create such engaging characters. Considering the film literally consists primarily of people talking behind closed doors, those uninterested in politics may find themselves easily bored by this film. However, those like myself who are fascinated by the political world will be entranced by Lincoln, a film which presents a heist-film-like story where votes are the goal and both Abraham Lincoln and politics themselves are presented as flawed and in need to some rule bending in order to see justice prevail over ignorance. This is without a doubt one of the top 3 films of 2012.

#6. Peter Pan Diamond Edition
It had been years since I had last seen Peter Pan and while it was never one of my favourite Disney films as a child, I did develop a new found appreciation for the film when I finally revisited it on Blu-Ray. The voice acting is enthusiastic, making up for some characters who can, frankly, be annoying and/or uninteresting, the animation is imaginative and vibrant, and most importantly...the comedy is genius. Turning to physical gags and slapstick comedy, the film offers some big laughs, especially during the antics between Captain Hook and Mr. Smee. A classic film that gets a much deserved outstanding restoration on this Diamond Edition Blu-Ray.

#7. Breakfast at Tiffany's 50th Anniversary Edition
Little known fact about me: I have a huge 'thing' for Audrey Hepburn. Aside from the fact that she was beautiful beyond words, she was also an immense talent and legend with the kind of class all too uncommon today. Yes, I understand the flaws of creating an "idea" of someone. Like any human being she was probably far from perfect and had her own demons. However, as an actress, humanitarian, and public figure...she was nothing less then exemplary. Breakfast at Tiffany's features Audrey Hepburn in what is widely considered her most iconic role and for good reason. Her performance is extraordinary and is aided by an outstanding supported cast directed masterfully by Blake Edwards. Many have called Hepburn's character to be one of the earliest examples of the 'manic pixie dream girl' stock character featured in films such as Garden State or (500) Days of Summer. This statement really sells Hepburn's performance short. With Hepburn's talent, Edwards' direction, and George Axelrod's writing, together these artists have created a character far more fascinating and real than a brief four word description. A little cheesy? Perhaps. However in a time where 'real cinema', as pretentious douchebags would call it, must be harsh and dreary to reflect the tragic reality of life....a film like Breakfast at Tiffany's remains a testament that films for hopeless romantics like myself have their merit when handled with care and can become one of the greatest films of all time.

#8. Schindler's List 20th Anniversary Edition 
Many film snobs have written Schindler's List off as mere piece of Oscar baiting, emotionally manipulative, Hollywood fluff. They would be wrong. As someone who has seen his fair share of films centered around the Holocaust which take the lazy "it's the can you not cry!" route, I can say with absolute conviction that Schindler's List is a masterpiece. The film can have it's detractors such as Terry Gilliam or Michael Haneke (the former mistakes it as a film that depicts the Holocaust as a triumph while ignorant to the fact that it is by Spielberg's own admission one singular story which took place during the Holocaust, while the latter has had the scene they criticized proven to be historical fact by actual survivors), but at the end of the day...none of it matters. Shot beautifully with a haunting score from John Williams, the film uses the black-and-white effect to create a raw and authentic feel to the film that immerses the audiences into the horrors of history. Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, and Ralph Fiennes lead a supporting cast and every single performance in this film is outstanding. Not only is this one of the greatest Spielberg films (I would argue THE greatest) but it is also one of the most important films ever produced. This moving film shocks, enlightens, and humbles you in ways that make for not only a superb film, but a transformative experience. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Retro DVD/Blu-Ray Update Week #11

DVD Update #9 "Hero"
Date Posted: August 30 2008
Summary: Ninth DVD Update

Misson to Mars: Kickstarter Helps Veronica Mars Film

What a novel idea! What exciting prospects! What...lack of enthusiasm on my part. has to be one of the greatest ideas for a website since the dawn of the internet. Truly, creating a platform for people to use as a means to create funds for various independent projects and endeavors with the promise of some form of valuable reward for donators...why the hell didn't I think of that!

Many have used the site and method to raise funds for numerous noteworthy projects, but today we may have witnessed the most notable of them all. Rob Thomas, creator of the relatively short lived but ever popular and acclaimed teen-drama/mystery series titled Veronica Mars, called on zealous fans to help raise funds to greenlight a feature film based on the series. In less than twelve hours, the set goal was reached and now fans can expect a Veronica Mars movie in early 2014.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Retro DVD/Blu-Ray Update Week #10

DVD Update #8 "Multipurpose"
Date Posted: July 22 2008
Summary: A VERY small DVD update and some promotion. Also a Q&A vid. I don't care if nobody asks anything, I just figured I'd throw it in there so the video is not so pointless. P.S I'm sorry for the blurry footage. Here is the link to theReelDVDWatchers:

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Retro DVD/Blu-Ray Update Week #9

DVD Update #7 "Testament"
Date Posted: July 16 2008
Summary: 7th update after numerous takes! Link to a new channel where 7 dvd collectors review films they've seen. Sub to Us Please!