Tuesday, June 18 2013, 10:55 AM MDT
DVD and Blu-ray Releases for January 8, 2013
DVD and Blu-ray Releases for January 8, 2013
(KUTV) It was a massive week for new titles released on DVD and Blu-ray. As a result I’ll be playing a little bit of catch up over the next couple weeks as things slow down just a bit.
This week’s reviews include Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie,” the Blu-ray debut for 1927’s “The Jazz Singer,” the visual feast “Samsara,” Chow Yung-Fat as Cao Cao in the Chinese epic “The Assassins,” HBO’s Sarah Palin drama “Game Change,” the third volume of “Tiny Toon Adventures” and the BBC’s “Red Dwarf X.”
Other titles released this week include the second season of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s “An Idiot Abroad,” the second series of the BBC’s excellent drama “The Hour,” the first season of NBC’s “Smash,” the first season of HBO’s “Enlightened,” the horror films “Sleep Tight” and “House at the End of the Street” and a pair of action titles from Universal in the form of “Guns, Girls and Gambling” and “Hit & Run.”
Drama: Game Change
Family: Frankenweenie, Tiny Toon Adventures
Musical: The Jazz Singer (1927)
Television: Red Dwarf X, Seal Team Six
Samsara (DVD and Blu-ray)In 1992 director Ron Fricke brought his non-narrative film “Baraka” to cinemas. It was the first film to be shot on 70mm in some twenty years and while the film lacked a plot it did offer audiences a breathtaking visual journey around the world as it weaved its way through darkness and light. “Samsara,” also directed by Fricke, follows a very similar course and while the visuals are stunning the film doesn’t quite match the majesty of “Baraka.” Still, if you’re looking for a beautiful way to show off your high-definition home theater “Samsara” is a great way to do it.
The Assassin (DVD and Blu-ray)
“The Assassins” is a Chinese epic set during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (220 -280 AD). The film stars Chow Yun-Fat as Han Dynasty warlord and chancellor Cao Cao. The story is built around a young woman who from birth has been raised to be an assassin to kill Cao Cao. When the opportunity to kill Cao Cao comes she finds that all her training didn’t properly prepare her for the task. Not because of Cao Cao’s talents with the sword, but because of his unexpected kindness.
“The Assassins” is more of a drama than an action film and there are times when it leaves gaps in the story, the sort of gaps that those familiar with Chinese history would easily be able to fill in, but those unfamiliar with the events might see as plot holes. I still like the film quite a bit, particularly because of Chow Yun-Fat’s performance and the beautiful cinematography.
Game Change (DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
HBO’s behind-the-scenes look at John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign is well made, there’s no question about that. Ed Harris makes a wonderful McCain, Julianne Moore feels authentic as Sarah Palin and Woody Harrelson is perfectly cast as the over-stressed campaign strategist Steve Schmidt. But is it accurate? Schmidt, the real Schmidt, has gone on the record as saying that it is.
The film paints Palin as an unprepared and emotionally unstable woman thrust into a situation where her and the GOP’s ambition to win the election became more important than finding someone who was qualified to be a vice president. It praises her ability to win over audiences while uncovering her weaknesses when it comes to experience and knowledge. McCain, however, comes across as a good and respectable man.
Fankenweenie (DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo and 3D Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
I’m an unapologetic fan of Tim Burton’s films, but it has been a few years since the director made a film that really lives up to his reputation as a “creative genius.” “Frankenweenie” expands upon one of the director’s early short films and does so brilliantly. The story finds Victor, an extremely intelligent young boy, who brings his dog Sparky back to life using Dr. Frankenstein’s lightning method. Unfortunately Victor’s innocent approach to science leads to unexpected consequences. “Frankenweenie” was my favorite animated film of 2012. It is beautiful, smart and a tribute to old Universal horror films and classic monster films like “Godzilla.”
Tiny Toon Adventures: Crazy Crew Rescues! (DVD)
“Tiny Toon Adventures” was a cartoon series that ran in the early ’90s. It takes place in Acme Acres where young cartoon characters attend Acme Looniversity where they are taught by classic “Looney Tunes” characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig. The series was produced by Steven Spielberg and features plenty of pop culture references and the sort of slapstick violence that you’d expect from a “Looney Tunes” revival. It’s hyperactive fun and paved the way for “The Animaniacs.” This collection contains all the episodes from the second season as well as four episodes from the third season (including the “Elephant Issues” which only aired on television once).
The Jazz Singer (Blu-ray)
Released in 1927 “The Jazz Singer” was the first “talkie” (film with synchronized dialogue). The story follows Jakie Rabinowitz (Al Jolson), a young Jewish boy who would rather sing popular tunes than the traditional religious songs, which runs away from home to pursue his dreams of stardom.
This is the first time that I’ve seen more than a few clips from the film. I’m surprised by how clean the film looks. Warner Bros. has clearly invested a lot of time and care in the restoration. The bonus features are carried over from the previously released 3-disc DVD collection that was released in 2007 (only the film is presented in high definition).
Red Dwarf X (DVD and Blu-ray)
The popular British television series “Red Dwarf” returns for its tenth series following a three-year break. Where series 9 “Back To Earth” found the show embarking on a new sort of adventure, Series X returns to the confines of the “giant trashcan” spaceship Red Dwarf. Recorded in front of a live audience Series X is the sort of campy, lowbrow experience that you’d expect from the show. It’s a little too goofy for my taste redundant for my tastes, but longtime fans of the show will no doubt be pleased with the opportunity to reunite with Lister, Rimmer, the Cat and Kryten.
Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden (DVD and Blu-ray)
The story of the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s is likely to be the subject of many films. “Seal Team Six” was one of the first and was broadcast on the National Geographic Channel. It’s not terrible, but its not very good either. The film is presented in a faux documentary style that could be misleading as it mixes real footage with staged reenactments. The performances are fine, but never rise above the made-for-television standard. Director John Stockwell doesn’t give the film any sort of personality; it feels more like a low-budget action film than a piece of history. You’d be better off seeing “Zero Dark Thirty,” which may not be the absolute truth, but it at least feels like it is striving for honesty without an obvious left-wing political agenda.
(Copyright 2013 Sinclair Broadcast Group)