Feel-Good Movie of the Week
Chimpanzee - Disney Nature - Blu-ray and DVD
Release Date: Apr 20, 2012
Director: Mark Linfield, Alastair Fothergill
Cast: Tim Allen. Full cast + crew
I don't want to come off so aggressive about a movie that's so innocent, but if Chimpanzee doesn't put a huge, ear-to-ear smile on your face, you should return to your home planet. Though there's obviously a message of preservation throughout the latest Disney Nature documentary, what's particularly great about Chimpanzee is that it's not an advocacy doc. This is simply a beautiful film with a beautiful story about a young chimp named Oscar, how his world gets turned upside down, and the highly unlikely turn of events that follows. It's a wonderful, transportive piece of filmmaking and a great experience for all ages.
Special Features: A 38-minute long making-of that dives into the complex, multi-year process of filming in the jungle, as well as further explanation of just why Oscar's story was so surprising. There's also a brief, EPK-style bit of promotional material on just how proceeds from ticket and disc sales will go to preserving chimpanzee lives.
A Step Up from the Trailers
The Dictator - Paramount - Blu-ray and DVD
Release Date: May 16, 2012
Director: Larry Charles
Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley, Sayed Badreya, Jason Mantzoukas. Full cast + crew
The Dictator is the second major comedy this year that's better than it looked in the cringe-inducing trailer. However, unlike The Three Stooges, which is significantly more thoughtful than it looked, the difference here is pretty slight. There are still plenty of jokes that either sail by without ever connecting, or hit with such a blatant dud that you're left impressed by the magnitude of the failure. But there are also a number of earned, well-played, true laugh-out-loud moments. Not enough to make this any kind of a must-see priority, but it's certainly a step up from the bad buzz it got while in theaters.
Special Features: The unrated version includes an additional 15 minutes of vulgarity; plus there are even more deleted scenes, a music video and a Larry King interview.
Every year there are a handful of movies that stay under the mainstream radar yet thrive in arthouse theaters. Richard Linklater's Bernie, a dark comedy about a small-town mortician (Jack Black) who murders a wealthy widow, is precisely such a film. If you've stayed away from it because you expect it to be yet another cheesy Jack Black comedy, or never even had the chance to see it because it didn't come to your town, do give it a shot now.
Sticking with the arthouse theme, this week also sees the Blu-ray release of this year's Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language film, the Iranian legal drama A Separation, plus a rather heavy South Korean indie drama Breathless, and the Roland Emmerich-produced Hell. Okay, so the latter isn't an arthouse film, but it is a pretty cool post-apocalyptic survival film that has none of the trappings Emmerich's megabudget Hollywood disaster movies are known for. The first half is certainly better than its second, but even still, it's worth watching for fans of brutal post-apoc movies.
And lastly we have One in the Chamber, a straight-to-DVD action movie starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and Dolp Lundgren. It's sure to be the biggest action hit of 1997.
Disney's Animated Grab Bag
Disney usually makes a big show of things when they reach into the vault and pull out an animated film on Blu-ray for the first time. However, not every film in the Disney Vault has the pop culture legacy of, say, The Lion King, which is why these seven animated features are all hitting Blu-ray for the first time on the same day: The Aristocats, Lady and the Tramp II, Pocahontas and Pocahontas II, The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under, and The Tigger Movie.
Don't let their simultaneous arrival fool you into thinking that Disney doesn't care about the quality of these releases, though. The transfers on all of the films are top notch, though they are mostly hitting without a ton of new special features to entice the double-dip crowd. There are a few cool goodies on each disc - including a fun intermission mode if you press play while watching The Tigger Movie - and they certainly look and sound superb, particularly Pocahontas, though. So if you have youngsters in the house, or simply remain young at heart, and want to keep the Disney legacy going for all of their films -- not just the blockbusters -- these are certainly all worthy of your shelf space.
Good Will Hunting is the kind of movie that hit so hard and became so popular in the late '90s that in the decade since its release it has sort of morphed into a source of pop culture jokes, so it's easy to forget just how damned fine of a film it really is. All it takes is one rewatch to complete remove all the "How do ya' like dem apples?" jokes from your mind and you're back to remembering why this movie launched Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's career in a big and serious way. It's simply a terrific film.
And speaking of terrific films, one of the best geek films from the '80s hits Blu-ray for the first time this week. As far as this computer geek is concerned, WarGames is the finest, most accurate film about the habits and mindset of computer nerds ever made. But you don't have to have spent your entire youth living on a computer in the early days of the Internet to love WarGames. There's no nostalgia necessary to appreciate a wonderful movie about a kid who gets in over his head. If you can appreciate the geekery of it all, that's just gravy.
Both Good Will Hunting and WarGames are fine enough films on their own to still earn new fans now that they're on Blu-ray. I'm not sure the same can be said of Thinner or Halloween 4 and 5. If you're already a fan of any of the three, you'll surely appreciate the new option of owning them in HD, but none particularly stand out beyond being tailor-made for the late '80s, mid-'90s horror crowd. Though we do tip our hat to Thinner for the pretty rad new cover art.
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