This week is loaded with new releases for either rental or purchase in both DVD and Blu-Ray formats. Among them, an Oscar winner, a terrific performance from a lead that is actually better than the film itself, and two classics from the Disney vaults.
To order any of the films reviewed below click on the link beneath the poster.
Here’s a statement: There’s not a dull moment to be had. Simply put, in Life of Pi director Ang Lee has made the epitome of movie magic using all current tricks available to him to create images so magnificent in their execution you’ll be asking yourself repeatedly, “How’d he do that?” There are moments that will leave you spellbound, but nothing comes close to the one certain image that occurs when Pi glances over the side of the lifeboat to see the face of the tiger looking back up at him from the water’s surface. It’s an image of astonishing humanity made manifest by computer generated imagery that will be hard to forget. Life of Pi is magnificent and a stunner in Hi-Def. Available in Blu-Ray.
After seeing the Sacha Gervasi drama called simply Hitchcock there’s little chance that you will know anything more about the infamous Hollywood film director from England than you did going in, but you will still have had a great time being in his company for a couple of hours, all the same. The film is merely a lightweight, surface look at the man, the relationship with his wife, Alma, and his leading ladies, but who really cares? With great performances from a well chosen cast and more genuinely funny moments than most recent comedies, Hitchcock is such a deliriously entertaining piece of work that to have made it into a full-on, warts-‘n-all dramatic biopic would have spoiled everything. Available on Blu-Ray.
Despite the expected changes from the famous Victor Hugo novel, the 1996 Walt Disney animated adventure/musical version The Hunchback of Notre Dame remains a great film with outstanding visuals, an excellent, Broadway styled score from Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz and wonderful voice work from Tom Hulce, Demi Moore and Kevin Kline. There’s no denying that the overall dark style is more suited to the tastes of adults more than children, but the film remains a masterpiece and should be seen. The clarity of the Blu-Ray images make this a must for the collection, plus the character of Esmeralda is such a raven-haired beauty I feel safe in saying that had she been real and not animated she would be enjoying an outstanding career in Hollywood right now. Available in Blu-Ray.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead developed the reputation of being a young queen of horror because of her teenage scream roles in such films as The Ring Two, Black Christmas and Final Destination 3. With Smashed she has come of age. It’s not only a role that plants her firmly out of the world of teenage terror, but showcases her talent as a fine, dramatic actress with a promise of more good things to come. In fact, Winstead is better than the film. While the actor fulfills and actually surpasses the promise of earlier work it’s a shame that Smashed never fulfills its own promise of a strong beginning. Still, the film is worth seeing, though not to get a fresher insight into the world of alcoholism but to watch a fine young actress come of age. Available in Blu-ay.
The First Time has an attractive look to it; colors are surprisingly vibrant and everything looks well framed, but it’s this overall glossy appearance that actually works against it. The film might have benefited from a slightly rough-around-the-edges form giving it a dose of reality. But reality isn’t something The First Time appears to be going for, underlined by the mannered performances of the two leads. Dylan O’Brien and Britt Robertson are capable teenage performers, but their delivery never rings true. They’re acting. They’re both working hard at their craft – and I’m quite sure their approach would work on stage and appear theatrically natural – but on film it’s anything but real. With the absence of fresh insight or frankly anything of substance, The First Time feels like a big screen adaptation of a short, two-person, one-act play expanded to a full length film but adding nothing new or special in the process.
To celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Disney and Amblin’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the studios have released a special 2-disc Blu-Ray edition full of extras, including a documentary, deleted scenes, commentaries and more. In 1988 the film was ground-breaking in its ability to seamlessly match cartoon figures with live characters, and it remains a visually stunning feature today. The manic, chaotic style can still look overly busy twenty-five years later, but it perfectly captures the tone created by the animated shorts of earlier times. A personal footnote: The scene where Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) and Roger Rabbit hide away in a downtown Los Angeles movie theatre was actually filmed in the State Theatre in Grays, Essex, England, about 20 miles outside of London. I mention this only because it was seated in the front row of the State Theatre, Grays, where I spent most of my movie childhood. Ah, the illusion of the movies. Available in Blu-Ray.
Look for more new releases next week.