Newsletter - FOR THE WEEK

OF January 18th, 2010


This Week's Highlights

Om swastyastu! - A sad news this week as we lose auteur pioneer Eric Rohmer who passed away at 89.

Here is a stacked newsletter with 20 new reviews or comparisons this past seven days. Criterion and Masters of Cinema DVD packages and we have a strong Asian representation with films by Jia Zhang-ke, Ahn Hung Tran and Bong Joon Ho plus even more from Douglas Sirk to Paul Thomas Anderson - another 20 new additions (Lean and Huston to Blu-ray) to the release calendar and a new Contest.

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DVD and Blu-ray of the Year 2009

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LATEST ADDITIONS to the Calendar: (PRE-ORDER & save!):

24 City (Jia Zhang-ke, 2008) - Cinema Guild

Doctor Zhivago Anniversary Edition [Blu-ray] (David Lean, 1965) - Warner Home Video

The African Queen (John Huston, 1951) Paramount

The African Queen [Blu-ray] (John Huston, 1951) Paramount

The African Queen (Commemorative Box Set) [Blu-ray] (John Huston, 1951) - Paramount Home Video

Johnny Got His Gun (Dalton Trumbo, 1971) R2 UK Arrow Films

Bronson [Blu-ray] (Nicolas Winding Refnf, 2009) - Magnolia

Five Minutes of Heaven [Blu-ray] (Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2009) - Mpi Home Video

Collateral [Blu-ray] (Michael Mann, 2004) Paramount Home Video

Mad Men: Season 3 [Blu-ray] - Lionsgate

Paris [Blu-ray] (Cedric Klapisch, 2008) MPI

A Serious Man [Blu-ray] (Ethan + Joel Coen, 2009) Universal Studios

Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire [Blu-ray] (Lee Daniels, 2009) - Lionsgate

Melies Encore: 26 Additional Rare and Original Films by the First Wizard of Cinema (1896-1911) - Flicker Alley

The Informant! [Blu-ray] (Steven Soderbergh, 2009) Warner

Presumed Innocent/Frantic [Blu-ray] (Thriller Double Feature) - Warner

Planet 51 [Blu-ray] (Jorge Blanco, 2009) Sony Pictures

The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day [Blu-ray] (Troy Duffy , 2009) Sony Pictures

Pirate Radio [Blu-ray] (Richard Curtis, 2009) - Universal Studios

Cold Souls (Sophie Barthes, 2009) 20th Century Fox


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ONE VOICE (not Ellsworth Monkton Toohey):  I have a handful of discs that I strongly recommend this week. Revisiting Magnolia pushed the film to yet another level of emotional impact - and appreciation for Anderson's writing. I can't begin to convey my love for this film, so I won't bother to try. Atonement has so much beauty in it and like Magnolia the Blu-ray is reporting magnificent audio. Two jaw-dropping films - now avilable in 1080P. Wow.
I had a wildly entertaining evening with Ellen Page in
Whip It. A true joy. I also would like to tout Identity as a twisting mystery-cum-horror with an ensemble cast. Flawed and never ending but you get far more than your money's worth. Give it a spin one dark rainy night. One of my favorite children's films (and I have seen many) is Meet the Robinsons - it's one of those movies that gets even better with repetition. I just cherish the ending. Leonard seems equally as encouraging in covering both Bong Joon Ho's Memories of Murder and Danny Boyle's Sunshine. I will definitely revisit both in high-definition. On the DVD front - 3 recommendations; Jia Zhang-ke's 24 City, Sirk's There's Always Tomorrow and Criterion's package of Chantal Akerman in the Seventies. This trifecta couldn't be more diverse but they have our solid endorsement. I've always been a big fan of Tran but can't bring myself to suggest seeing the bizarrely scattered I Come With the Rain. It had potential but saying it 'never came together' is an understatement. Finally, This Is It is certainly entertaining as a somewhat revealing documentary.


Fame (2009) BD - In the contemporary remake of the 1980 fan-favorite, Fame 2009 follows a crew of dancers, singers, actors and artists over four years at a stand-in for the New York City High School of Performing Arts, which offers students from all walks of life a chance to live out their dreams for real and lasting fame...the kind that comes only from talent, dedication, and hard work. Blu-ray Release date: January 12th, 2009

This Is It BD - "This Is it," Michael Jackson told his fans in London, announcing his forthcoming concert tour. "This is the final curtain call." The curtain fell sooner than expected. What is left is this extraordinary documentary, nothing at all like what I was expecting to see. Here is not a sick and drugged man forcing himself through grueling rehearsals, but a spirit embodied by music. Michael Jackson was something else. Blu-ray Release date: January 26th, 2010

Post Grad BD - Ryden Malby ("Gilmore Girl "Alexis Bledel) has a master plan: Graduate college, get a great job as a book editor with the most prestigious publishing company in L.A., hang out with her best friend, Adam (Zach Gilford; Friday Night Lights), and find the perfect guy – And therein lies the rub, seeing as how Adam is not gay and has been in love with Ryden all his life. Ryden's plan spins out of control when she’s forced to move back home with her eccentric family. Michael Keaton (Batman), veteran comedienne Carol Burnett, and Jane Lynch (“Glee”) co-star in this offbeat romantic comedy from producer Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters, Up in the Air). Blu-ray Release date: January 12th, 2009

24 City - A masterful film from Jia Zhang-ke, the renowned director of Still Life and The World, 24 City chronicles the dramatic closing of a once-prosperous state-owned aeronautics factory in Chengdu, a city in Southwest China, and its conversion into a sprawling luxury apartment complex. Bursting with poetry, pop songs and striking visual detail, the film weaves together unforgettable stories from three generations of workers – some real, some played by actors (including Joan Chen) – into a vivid portrait of the human struggle behind China’s economic miracle. DVD Release Date: January 12th, 2010

Whip It BD - "Whip It" is an unreasonably entertaining movie, causing you perhaps to revise your notions about women's Roller Derby, assuming you have any. The movie is a coming-together of two free spirits, Drew Barrymore and Ellen Page, and while it may not reflect the kind of female empowerment Gloria Steinem had in mind, it has guts, charm, and a black-and-blue sweetness. Yes, it faithfully follows the age-old structure of the sports movie, but what a sport, and how much the Derby girls love it. Blu-ray Release date: January 26th, 2010

Atonement BD - The hat trick of Ian McEwan’s 2001 novel, Atonement, was spinning a typical English country-estate melodrama while simultaneously deconstructing trad Brit lit and equating the writing process with divine providence. Successfully translating these ideas to the screen, however, seemed as likely as Heathcliff coming to a happy ending. Which makes Joe Wright’s big-screen version all the more impressive: He’s produced a gripping, romantic yarn without sacrificing the source’s meta-examination of fiction’s power. Not even the director’s swooning take on Pride & Prejudice (2005) could have prepared folks for this. Blu-ray Release Date: January 26th, 2010

I Come With the Rain BD - Acclaimed French-Vietnamese director Ahn Hung Tran (The Scent of Green Papaya) brings together top stars from America and Asia for his first English-language film, the 2009 neo-noir thriller I Come with the Rain. A stark departure from Ahn's previous works, I Come with the Rain stars Josh Hartnett as a troubled private eye on a mysterious job that takes him from Los Angeles to Asia. But what starts as a manhunt turns into a lurid journey of revenge and redemption. Three of Asian Cinema's biggest names - Japanese megastar Kimura Takuya (Love and Honor), Korean heartthrob Lee Byung Hun (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra), and Hong Kong actor Shawn Yue (Shamo) - co-star in this visually and emotionally enthralling thriller that matches its stylistic moodiness with harrowing violence, suspense action, and intense performances from the all-star cast. Blu-ray Release date: January 13th, 2010

Surrogates BD - Surrogates was not pre-screened for critics. Most of the time, I understand when a studio takes this route - it's a way to avoid undue negative publicity before the release of a movie that is recognized behind-the-scenes as being a turd. Once in a while, however, a non-screened movie turns out to be a pleasant surprise, and this is one of those instances. Surrogates is better and more thought-provoking than about 2/3 of the fare currently showing in multiplexes, yet it has been given a "no confidence" vote by Disney. Why? Who knows? Maybe the decision was made to cut this loose and spend as little on marketing as was viable without offending star Bruce Willis. Blu-ray Release date: January 26th, 2010

Memories of Murder BD - Along with Park Chan-Wook's Oldboy, Memories of Murder was sufficient evidence that this little peninsula, still in a state of surrealistically suspended war with its northern half-brothers, had a take on the art form that was worth investigating. Since then I have followed the films of Bong Joon Ho and Park Chan-Wook with an eagerness that in the past would have accompanied the films of Hitchcock or Billy Wilder. Blu-ray Release date: December 14th, 2009

Give 'Em Hell Malone BD - Russell Mulcahy’s “Give’em Hell Malone” is one of those anachronistic film noir filled with characters more appropriate in ‘40s and ‘50s detective movies featuring heroes with names like Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe. As the film opens, Thomas Jane’s Malone, a private dick with a very big gun that he brandishes expertly, is killing his way through a hotel full of bad guys to get to a metallic case that he has been sent to retrieve. Shot up to hell and back, but still alive, our hero seeks out some answers from his handler Murphy (Leland Orser), eventually discovering that they were both hired by the vivacious lady in red Evelyn (Elsa Pataky). Blu-ray Release date: January 26th, 2010

Magnolia BD - Over the course of the film, some of the characters are redeemed...others are not. Included among the doubles and doppelgangers that populate this film (two wives, two children, two child geniuses, two saviors, and at least one angel), we're presented with two patriarchs, Earl Partridge and Jimmy Gator, who's past and present mirror one another's. Both have committed nearly unforgivable sins against their children and families. Both are dying of cancer. Both are forced to confront the meaning of their lives and the pain they've caused...and both recognize that they've committed horrible acts against those they love, acts which for so long have prevented them from experiencing and sharing love. As death approaches, both men seek redemption. Blu-ray Release Date: January 19th, 2010

Sunshine BD - A crew of 8 astronauts and scientists are on a mission to save our planet from a frozen future. It seems that our Sun has lost some of its heat and the Icarus II is on a several year voyage in a last ditch attempt to kick start the star into behaving like its old self again. Icarus I met with a fate unknown somewhere in the vicinity of Mercury, beyond the point where communication with Earth was no longer possible. As the film begins, Icarus II is about to enter the same zone. They send farewell greeting to loved ones back home, though they still expect or, at least hope, to be able to return. Blu-ray Release date: January 8th, 2008

There's Always Tomorrow - Douglas Sirk is best known for his highly stylized Technicolor melodramas, but he also did superlative work in restrained black and white. There's Always Tomorrow is a virtuoso study in tones, ranging from the blinding sunlight of a desert resort to the expressionist shadows of the suburban home where Fred MacMurray lives in unhappy union with Joan Bennett. Barbara Stanwyck is the old flame who turns up by accident, rekindling for MacMurray the dangerous illusion that happiness is still possible. DVD Release Date: February 22nd, 2010

Meet the Robinsons BD - On a rainy night, a hooded young woman leaves her infant at the door of the 6th Street Orphanage. The boy grows into a pre-teen with a penchant for invention - not that any of his creations actually work - but Lewis keeps hoping that someday he will impress a pair of potential parents in the market to adopt. When he realizes that his chances for adoption decrease with age, he comes to believe that only his actual mother could love him. He gets the brilliant idea that her identity is buried deep in his memory if only he could access it, so Lewis invents a machine to do just that. Blu-ray Release date: October 23rd, 2007

Chantal Akerman in the Seventies - Over the past four decades, Belgian director Chantal Akerman (Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles) has created one of cinema’s most distinctive bodies of work—formally daring, often autobiographical films about people and places, time and space. In this collection, we present the early films that put her on the map: intensely personal, modernist investigations of cities, history, family, and sexuality, made in the 1970s in the United States and Europe and strongly influenced by the New York experimental film scene. Bold and iconoclastic, these five films pushed boundaries in their day and continue to have a profound influence on filmmakers all over the world. Criterion DVD Release Date: January 19th, 2010

Identity BD - What if every choice we ever make was already made for us? What if there really were no coincidences in life and our destinies were already predetermined? Ten strangers with secrets are brought together in a savage rainstorm: A limo driver (John Cusack), an '80s TV star (Rebecca DeMornay), a cop (Ray Liotta) who is transporting a killer (Jake Busey), a call girl (Amanda Peet), a pair of newlyweds (Clea DuVall and William Lee Scott) and a family in crisis (John C. McGinley, Leila Kenzle, Bret Loehr), all take shelter at a desolate motel run by a nervous night manager (John Hawkes). Relief in finding shelter is quickly replaced with fear as the ten travelers begin to die, one by one. They soon realize that, if they are to survive, they'll have to uncover the secret that has brought them all together... Blu-ray Release date: April 3rd, 2007

The Invention of Lying BD - Imagine, if you will, a world without lying, where people comment only on what is, not what might be; where they say whatever pops into their mind about what they feel or think because the idea of hurting another person's feelings doesn't factor into the equation; where there is no fiction and where advertisers invite us to buy their products on the basis of the obvious – "Coke is famous" and "Pepsi is what you buy when they don't have Coke" – where creativity and imagination, evidently, is limited to technological pursuit. Success is granted to those with good genes; disappointment is the natural bequest for those lacking in beauty, smarts or money. It is a world without God and without hope – not for the young and certainly not for the old. Blu-ray Release date: January 19th, 2010

Whiteout BD - I was a bit surprised when I learned that Whiteout derives from a graphic novel about a series of homicides in Antarctica, a place noted for its unusually low crime rate – not that comics require superheroes or stomach-turning horror, and not that the movie version has either. In the Bonus Feature "Whiteout: From Page to Screen" we can see how the black and white drawings made the transition to the monochromatic images of the Antarctic. The thing is (said John Carpenter when faced with his remake): you still have to come up with a screenplay, and that's where Whiteout brings to mind the correction liquid that bears its name. Blu-ray Release date: January 19th, 2010

Blood: The Last Vampire BD - Critics have not been kind to this live action rendering of the original anime. After watching the movie, I decided to check out the anime (which clocks in at a mere 49 minutes) for myself. I could see the resemblance in the main character, Saya, her brooding glances, and the choreography of several of the various set pieces. Whatever we might think of the live action film, however - its juvenile script, jerky CG effects, lame rubber-suited lizardman, peculiar plotholes and less than stellar acting by the supporting characters - at least not every line reading sounds like an audition for a first year drama class. Blu-ray Release date: October 6th, 2009

Once Upon a Time in China 2 BD - The opening sequence beautifully encapsulates the threat of the White Locus Cult, who are violently anti-foreigner and determined to rid 1895 Canton of their evil influence. Master Wong Fei Hung (Jet Li), his student Foon, and his "Aunt 13" (Rosamund Kwan) are introduced on a train ride to Canton, one of many references to the modern way of life intruding upon China. Master Wong is on his way to participate in a medical conference. He and his friends are immediately drawn into the conflict. Blu-ray Release date: December 12th, 2009

 Next 2 weeks on the Calendar

January 18th, 2009


According to Greta [Blu-ray] (Nancy Bardawil, 2009) Starz / Anchor Bay

Eclipse Series 19: Chantal Akerman in the Seventies - Criterion (BEAVER REVIEW)

Che (Steven Soderbergh, 2008) Criterion (BEAVER REVIEW)

Che [Blu-ray] (Steven Soderbergh, 2008) Criterion (BEAVER REVIEW)

Death in Love [Blu-ray] (Boaz Yakin, 2008) Screen Media

Deadly Duo [Blu-ray] (Cheh Chang, 1971) Tokyo Shock

Magnolia [Blu-ray] (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999) Turner (BEAVER REVIEW)

Pandorum [Blu-ray] (Christian Alvart, 2009) Starz / Anchor Bay

The Queen of Spades (Thorold Dickinson, 1949) R2 UK Optimum

The Red Balloon [Blu-ray] (Albert Lamorisse, 1956) R'B' UK Network

Red Cartoons: Animated Films from East Germany - First Run Features

The Secret People (Thorold Dickinson, 1952) R2 UK Optimum

Streamers (Robert Altman, 1983) Shout! Factory

Suspiria [Blu-ray] (Dario Argento, 1977) RB UK - Nouveaux Pictures

Whiteout [Blu-ray] (Dominic Sena, 2009) Warner Home Video (BEAVER REVIEW)


January 25th, 2010


Action Man Collection (Action Man, Peking Blonde, The Big Game and The Day of the Wolves) VCI Entertainment

Atonement [Blu-ray] (Joe Wright, 2007) Universal (BEAVER REVIEW)

British Cinema Drama Collection (The Rough and the Smooth, The Scamp, Grand National Night, Kill Me Tomorrow) VCI Entertainment

Birdwatchers (Marco Bechis, 2008) R2 UK Artificial Eye

The Boys Are Back (Scott Hicks, 2009) Miramax Films

Bright Star (Jane Campion, 2009) Sony Pictures

The Donner Party (T.J. Martin, 2009) - First Look Pictures

The Escapist (Robert Wyatt, 2008) IFC

Une femme mariée [Blu-ray] (Jean-Luc Godard, 1964) Eureka - Masters of Cinema (BEAVER REVIEW)

First Films: Forman/Kaufman - Black Peter/Goldstein - Facets

Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold, 2009) - R2 UK - Artificial Eye

Fuel [Blu-ray] (Oktay Ortabasi, 2009) Vanguard Cinema

Give 'Em Hell Malone [Blu-ray] (Russell Mulcahy, 2009) National Entertainment Media (BEAVER REVIEW)

Goodbye Gemini (Alan Gibson, 1970) Scorpion Releasing (BEAVER REVIEW)

Hausu (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1977) R2 UK - Masters of Cinema (BEAVER REVIEW)

Import/Export (Ulrich Seidl, 2007) Tartan Video

Island of Desire aka: Saturday Island (Stuart Heisler, 1952) VCI Entertainment

The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (Jack Clayton, 1987) R2 UK Optimum Home Entertainment

Love Exposure (Shion Sono, 2008) - R2 UK Third Window

Lubitsch In Berlin (The Doll/Ernst Lubitsch in Berlin/The Oyster Princess/I Don't Want to be a Man/Sumurun/Anna Boleyn/The Wildcat) Eureka - Masters of Cinema

Mesrine - Parts 1 & 2 [Blu-ray] (Jean-François Richet, 2008) R'B' UK Momentum Pictures

Michael Jackson: This Is It [Blu-ray] (Kenny Ortega, 2009) Sony (BEAVER REVIEW)

Paris, Texas (Wim Wenders, 1984) Criterion

Paris, Texas [Blu-ray] (Wim Wenders, 1984) Criterion (BEAVER REVIEW)

Permissive [Blu-ray] (Lindsay Shonteff, 1970) R'B' UK BFI

Pontypool (Bruce McDonald, 2008) IFC

Pontypool [Blu-ray] (Bruce McDonald, 2008) R'B' UK Spirit Entertainment

Pride & Prejudice [Blu-ray] (Joe Wright, 2005) Universal

Privilege [Blu-ray] (Peter Watkins, 1967) R'B' UK BFI

Red Road [Blu-ray] (Andrea Arnold, 2006) R'B' UK Verve Pictures

Roberto Rossellinis War Trilogy (Rome Open City, Paisan, and Germany Year Zero) Criterion (BEAVER REVIEW)

Satan's Wife (Pier Carpi, 1979) MYA Communications

Shinjuku Boy / Gaea Girls (Kim Longinotto + Jano Williams) R2 UK Second Run

Soul Power [Blu-ray] (Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, 2008) Sony Pictures

Surrogates [Blu-ray] (Jonathan Mostow, 2009) Touchstone Home Entertainment (BEAVER REVIEW)

That Kind of Girl [Blu-ray] (Gerry O'Hara, 1963) R'B' UK BFI

Thirst [Blu-ray] (Chan-wook Park, 1009) R'B' UK Tartan Palisades

The Toolbox Murders [Blu-ray] (Dennis Donnelly, 1978) Blue Underground

Troma's War (Tromasterpiece Edition) (Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman, 1988) - Troma

Whip It [Blu-ray] (Drew Barrymore, 2009) Fox Home Entertainment (BEAVER REVIEW)

Wushu (Antony Szeto, 2008) Lions Gate

WWII in HD [Blu-ray] (Hunter Dunn, 2009) - A&E Home Video

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