Best of the Week
Sound of My Voice - 20th Century Fox - Blu-ray, DVD
Release Date: Apr 27, 2012
Director: Zal Batmanglij
Cast: Christopher Denham, Nicole Vicius, Brit Marling,Davenia McFadden, Kandice Stroh. Full cast + crew
Odd, horror-movie-looking cover art aside, Sound of My Voice is one of this year's hidden genre gems. It's a sci-fi movie in the most intellectual sense, which isn't to say that it's pretentious or boring, just that it trades elaborate effects and set pieces for ideas and dialogue. This is a seemingly simple movie about a couple that decides to infiltrate a cult with the plan of outing their leader as a fake, but the more time they spend with her, the more they buy into her story of being a time traveler from the future. Then things get weird...
It's a brilliant, understated film that's all about writing and performance. If you like sci-fi movies like Primer or The Man from Earth, you will love this. Even if you're not already a fan of those films, give Sound of My Voice a shot. It'll make a convert out of you before too long.
Special Features: Three featurettes about the making of the film.
Better Than the Bad Buzz
Dark Shadows - Warner Home Video - Blu-ray Combo, Blu-ray, DVD
Release Date: May 11, 2012
Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter,Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley. Full cast + crew
kind of got dumped when it hit theaters, both by the press and the people who didn't even bother turning up for it. So maybe lowered expectations were a factor here, maybe I've got no attachment to the original TV series it's based on, but I actually don't get the hate. As far as Tim Burton and Johnny Depp collaborations go, it's obviously no Beetlejuice
, but it's no Alice in Wonderland
, either. It's just a funky, tongue-in-cheek movie that takes vampires and shoves them into a very Burton-esque world.
The script is fairly sloppy, often setting up ideas and plot threads that never pan out, and there are some extremely cheesy moments, but even with its problems it's not a monumental disaster. Depp's enjoyable, as is the entire supporting cast, and it looks and sounds great. I would hardly push that anyone see it as soon as possible, but if you've ever been a Tim Burton fan, it's worth a shot at some point.
Special Features: Warner Bros.' very familiar Maximum Movie Mode, which injects 37 minutes of making-of materials as you're watching the movie. Of course, those featurettes are all available separately, as are five deleted scenes totaling about six minutes.
What an odd mix of new releases we have this week. There's surely something to satisfy everyone out there, but this is hardly a week filled with hidden gems (aside from Sound of My Voice above). If you like grungy horror movies, Jennifer Lynch's kidnapping-with-a-twist movie Chained hits. If you like your horror more family friendly, Joe Dante's The Hole finally arrives on home video after a few years. It's no return to form for the Gremlins director, but it's an enjoyable enough film about kids who discover something impossible in their house. It'll play best the younger you are, so if you've got kids in the nine-to-fourteen range, this might be a new favorite.
Then there's The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, Headshot and Iron Sky, which respectively fill any need you have for new Asian fantasy action, Thai thrillers and wacky sci-fi comedies about Nazis on the moon.
Luc Besson is best known for his sci-fi and action movies, which is why he's an odd pick to direct a biopic about a political dissident, but something clearly attracted him to The Lady, a film about Burmese democratic symbol Aung San Suu Kyi. And speaking of unexpected directorial projects, People Like Us, a family drama, is the directorial debut of Transformers and Star Trek screenwriter Alex Kurtzman.
If for some reason you want to make a double feature out of movies featuring Elisabeth Olsen this week, you can thanks to Red Lights (the latest from the director of Buried) and Peace, Love & Misunderstanding. And lastly we have The Road, which is not a new adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's tremendous novel, but a new horror movie from director Yam Laranas (The Echo).
Another Beautiful Disney Classic
Cinderella - Disney - 3-Disc Blu-ray, 2-Disc Blu-ray, DVD
Release Date: Mar 04, 1950
Director: Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, Clyde Geronimi
Cast: Eleanor Audley, Verna Felton, Claire Du Brey, Luis Van Rooten, Don Barclay. Full cast + crew
Is there another studio out there with a better track record of giving their classic films fantastic Blu-ray debuts than Disney? Every time they reach into the vault and pull out a title for an HD upgrade, they do so with the utmost care and respect, and Cinderella
is no different. The Blu-ray transfer here is striking and it comes with a great new surround sound mix (and a lossless version of the original mono track for the purists). Anyone wondering how big a difference Blu-ray can make for an animated movie that's over 60 years old need only watch a single scene here to be struck by the quality.
And, of course, Cinderella is just a wonderful movie to begin with. It's not even in my top five for Disney animated classics, and it's still a more magical film than most animated movies made these days.
Special Features: There are a few different versions of Cinderella on Blu-ray hitting today, but the difference between them all is primarily packaging. If you want to go all out for the princess in your life, there's a limited edition Cinderella trilogy box set that comes with its own little vanity. As for what's on the disc, there's a pretty robust feature set of both new and old goodies. On the new front, there's a trio of featurettes about 10 minutes each focusing on the creation of some of the film's most iconic elements: the Fairy Godmother, Fantasyland and the glass slipper. And for those who dig new Disney animated as much as old Disney animated, the short film Tangled Ever After is also included.
A trio of very different but equally fan-friendly '80s movies arrive today: Pet Sematary, Masters of the Universe and The Princess Bride. The latter has already made its debut, so today's set is just another anniversary edition, while the former are BD debuts. Pet Sematary still holds up very well today thanks to its excellent source material. If watching old VHS tapes of this Stephen King classic as a child freaked you out, wait until you see it in HD. The flashbacks with the sister or more disturbing than ever. Masters of the Universe, on the other hand, isn't exactly going to win over an entirely new generation of fans now that it's on Blu-ray. If you already love this space/time-traveling fantasy/adventure/toy seller, the Blu looks and sounds great. Of course, that does nothing to change the silliness that's packed into every line of dialogue and every frame of this movie, but hey, long live the '80s!
Heading back even further, we've got John Carpenter's Dark Star, which is a movie that, for as cheesy fun as it is, just does not need a Blu-ray upgrade under any circumstances (though that's some lovely cover art), and a big box set of classic Universal Monsters on Blu-ray for the first time. It's an elaborate set that looks to be a must-own for anyone who loves Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolfman and the rest of the creature-feature gang, but it's also high priced in America. My recommendation would be to import the region-free U.K. version of the set, which is not only $50 cheaper, but it comes in a much cooler coffin packaging.
And speaking of monsters, Annie hits Blu-ray. But who cares about that adorable little orphan when there's also a hat trick of Jean-Claude Van Damme movies hitting Blu: Cyborg, Death Warrant and Double Impact. None are the best of JCVD's career, but oh how I want them all. And finally we have Wong Kar Wai's gorgeous In the Mood for Love, which gets the Criterion Blu-ray treatment today.
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