Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Blu-ray Haul, Week Of 2/1/11

I don't usually buy movies anymore, unless the title in question is a movie I *really* like, or if the film comes highly recommended. I got a little of both worlds when I went to check out Tuesday's new releases today, Wednesday. Yes, despite that all new media releases on a Tuesday here in the U.S., I usually wait an extra day to go when the crowds have already dissipated and the store has finished shelving all the stock in the back room. Works out better this way.

But you didn't come here to read about all that. Below are the (count 'em!) four Blu-ray titles I felt worthy of my hard-earned cash this week. Perhaps you see one you like but didn't know was out? If so, let me know in the comments section below. I'm always interested in what other people's movie likes are.

Confession time: I'm not a big fan of the live-action Tim Burton version that released in theaters last year. For me, it was an overblown and muddled mess. For having some of my favorite stars in it--Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter--the acting was merely "okay." And being forced to watch it in 3D only made it worse. I was never a huge, frothing fan of the Lewis Carroll novel even after reading it twice (first as a pre-teen; second while at college). But for me this 1951 Disney animated classic has always been the definitive Alice story. I know that's blasphemy considering the liberties ole Walt took in making the tale more presentable to a larger family audience, but this movie is an indelible slice of my childhood. And as with all the classic Disney movies currently in my collection, this was also a must-buy. We used to have all the Disney classic cartoons on VHS when I was 9, which was about as good as animation got for us. Having Alice in Wonderland in the glorious vibrancy of the Blu-ray format now is like reliving the first moment we ever set eyes on this movie at grandma's house. I can smell the cookies baking in the oven already!

I saw the original Swedish film, Let The Right One In, of which this movie is a by-the-numbers remake, back in 2009. At the time, I thought it was a damn-near perfect little horror tale. But, call me crazy -- I think the 2010 American version is even better! Well, at least, it's a damn-near perfect little horror tale in its own way. Let Me In is just a tad more compact, better produced, and arguably better acted film than the foreign version. And, trust me: as someone who is a huge cinephile of subtitled flicks, I don't make this claim lightly. I guess the main selling point for me is, in fact, the acting of the two young leads, Kodi Smit-McPhee and ChloĆ« Moretz. Their maturity and creepy chemistry onscreen is spellbinding to say the least. Their obvious heart-felt dedication to the material bolsters the entire project and elevates it just a touch above the careful, tightly-wound narrative cues of the original version. Moretz in particular is awesome as the mysterious little girl lonely Owen befriends in his apartment complex one fateful night. Having seen her only months earlier as the potty-mouthed "Hit Girl" in Matt Vaughn's Kick-Ass, I left Let Me In of the impression that this young lady has quite the promising acting career ahead of her. Of all the movies I've purchased this week, this is the one I recommend highest to all my friends.

I had to pick this up simply on the strength of word-of-mouth alone. But, actually, I already knew a little bit about this indie flick thanks to the efforts of my best friend, Tarrell Childs, who tried to get me to go with him for the all of 2 seconds this movie was screened here in NYC, but who I ultimately had to turn down because of how damn busy I was over the holiday break. Which sucked for me. But now I get to right that wrong this week! It surprises me that this is already out on video so quickly, but I guess films of this nature get very limited theater time, and only in the major cities. All that I know of Night Catches Us is that it stars one of my favorite new actresses, Kerry Washington, and that it takes place in the year of my birth (1976) in Philly, PA. I also know it has something to do with the Black Panther party, but more importantly with the relationship between a black man and woman during this iconic and tumultuous time for both the Movement and the plight of African American civil liberties in general. I'm certain I'm going to enjoy this flick. In fact, I'm highly looking forward to checking it out when I get some down time this weekend. I have intelligent friends with great tastes in movies, so it's a no-brainer for me. If anyone else has seen this, please chime in below in the comments section with your impressions.

Again, this is a movie I didn't get to see before its release this week, but which I've been hearing strong word-of-mouth about over the Interwebs. And, since it's directed by one of my all-time favorite Chinese film directors, Zhang Yimou, I knew I would have to check it out on principle alone. After all, this is the man who's films I dissected in my senior thesis paper back in college. Ah, those were the good ole days! And unlike apparently 95% of the Internet, it seems only I can remember Zhang's cinematic efforts before Hero and House of Flying Daggers--he did already have a name made for himself before these movies, people! Anyway, this latest film of his appears to be a reworking of the 1984 Coen brothers' directorial debut, Blood Simple -- except way more of a screwball comedy this time around. Which is saying a lot if you've been following the zany career of the Coens over the past 25 years. A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop seems to involve all those elements present in the title, but with the added randomness of being set in the desert regions of Gansu province, circa the late 19th century. At the very least, I imagine this film will be rather, ah . . . different from its predecessor set in contemporary Texas. Again, let me know if you've seen this fun-looking flick. I'd like to compare notes.

And that about wraps it up for this week in new Blu-rays. It was a robust offering this time around, and I can't claim my wallet survived the experience all that well. But hey, what can I say? I *love* movies! Case in point, my DVD and Blu-ray collection conveniently listed over on DVD Aficionado. Check it out if you care to see the direction my eclectic home video interests run.


KLo said...

Blu-ray is totally worth it :-)

And I'm so glad that someone else agrees with me about the Tim Burton "Alice in Wonderland" ;) It's just ... too much ...

David Batista said...

Oh, so you're a believer in the Blu as well, Katie. Kewl! :)

And, yes, ... animation works better for Alice than CGI and blasted Green Screen.

The Frisky Virgin said...

There will never be an Alice story to compare with Disney's Alice In Wonderland. I didn't totally dislike the Tim Burton version, mainly because I dearly love Captain Jack Sparrow...wait...wrong movie. ;)

David Batista said...

Well, yes, if that movie did have one saving grace it would be Depp's Mad Hatter. But, Johnny's good in everything he does. No, seriously, I can't think of one movie of his where he was not spot-on perfect. It's uncanny!

thE gEOgrAphicAlly blind said...

Agree with you about Tim Burton's Alice and about how good Johnny Depp is. I totally prefer the Disney version.

And if Zhang YiMou is one of your favourite directors then you totally should watch the Impression of West Lake in Hangzhou. It's a stage play. I'll blog about it soon :)

David Batista said...

Oh, that would be wonderful, Shinloo! Can't wait to read your impressions.

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