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DVD & Blu-ray Picks: April 2014

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DVD and Blu-ray Picks April 2014

DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

> DVD & Blu-ray Picks for March 2014
> The Best DVD and Blu-rays of 2013

Written by Ambrose Heron

April 11th, 2014 at 12:09 pm

DVD & Blu-ray Picks: March 2014

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DVD Blu Picks March 2014

DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

Gravity (Warner Home Video) [Buy from Amazon UK]
Brazil (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Buy from Amazon UK]
Short Term 12 (Verve Pictures) [Buy from Amazon UK]
Metro Manila (Independent Distribution) [Buy from Amazon UK]
The Stuff (Arrow Video) [Buy from Amazon UK]
Blue Is the Warmest Colour (Artificial Eye) [Buy from Amazon UK]
The Counsellor (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Buy from Amazon UK]
Kagemusha (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Buy from Amazon UK]
Predator (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Buy from Amazon UK]
Au Hasard Balthazar (Artificial Eye) [Buy from Amazon UK]
Philomena (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Buy from Amazon UK]
Saving Mr. Banks (Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.) [Buy from Amazon UK]
The Atom Egoyan Collection (Artificial Eye) [Buy from Amazon UK]
Frozen (Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.) [Buy from Amazon UK]

DVD & Blu-ray Picks for February 2014
The Best DVD and Blu-rays of 2013

Written by Ambrose Heron

March 8th, 2014 at 9:52 pm

Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967-2014)

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Philip Seymour Hoffman in Magnolia

The acclaimed actor passed away in New York yesterday aged 46.

Hoffman was a true modern great, second only perhaps to Daniel Day-Lewis (but far more prolific), who made the breakthrough from a great supporting actor to lead since the late 1990s.

He won the Oscar for Best Actor with his remarkable turn as Truman Capote in Capote (2005) and was also nominated three times for Best Supporting Actor, as well as receiving three Tony nominations for his work on stage.

Although he cropped up in minor roles in movies during the 1990s, such as Scent of a Woman (1992) and Twister (1996), he really started to come into his own with memorable roles in Happiness (1998) and The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999).

But it was his collaborations with writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson that brought him to a wider audience and linger in the memory: the shy boom operator in Boogie Nights (1997); the male nurse in Magnolia (1999); and most recently as a cult leader in The Master (2012).

In the DVD extras for Magnolia there is a 75 minute documentary, which is one of the best of its kind, and one of the highlights is seeing Anderson working with Hoffman.

His smaller roles in Anderson’s Hard Eight (1996) and Punch-Drunk Love (2002) were also examples of his working chemistry with the director who seemed to have a special connection with him.

Whilst I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Master (2012), he was sensational in it, bringing a unique charm and intensity to the character of Lancaster Dodd.

Hoffman was also a versatile supporting presence in mainstream films like Mission Impossible III (2006) and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) whilst maintaining his presence in classier fare like Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), The Savages (2007), Doubt (2008), Moneyball (2011) and The Ides of March (2011).

Roles in bleaker films such as Love Liza (2002) and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007) hinted at an ability to portray addictive characters, although whether or not this came easily to him, only he will have truly known.

In such a celebrated and varied career (around 50 films), it seems remarkable that he should be gone at the age of 46.

Time will tell what will be seen as his greatest role, though the sheer volume of work makes that difficult.

The obvious pick is Capote, but his role as theatre director Caden Cotard in Synedoche, New York (2008) would be my choice.

Charlie Kaufman’s directorial debut was a strange, puzzle-box of a movie but Hoffman’s performance was integral to the film, which remains a highly inventive and haunting meditation on how humans age and die.

One can only speculate on Hoffman’s inner demons that led him back to drugs and an early death, but for now the world of acting has lost one of its finest practitioners.

> Philip Seymour Hoffman at the IMDb
> Find out more about Philip Seymour Hoffman at Wikipedia

Written by Ambrose Heron

February 5th, 2014 at 12:49 am

Posted in News

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DVD & Blu-ray Picks: February 2014

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DVD Blu-ray FEB 2014

DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

DVD & Blu-ray Picks for January 2014
The Best DVD and Blu-rays of 2013

Written by Ambrose Heron

February 4th, 2014 at 1:53 am

DVD & Blu-ray Picks: January 2014

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DVD and Blu-ray January 2014

DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

> DVD & Blu-ray Picks for December 2013
> The Best DVD and Blu-rays of 2013

Written by Ambrose Heron

January 14th, 2014 at 3:11 pm

The Best DVD & Blu-rays of 2013

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The Best DVD and Blu-rays of 2013

DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS FOR 2013

  • Billy Liar (StudioCanal) / Blu-ray
  • The Impossible (Entertainment One) / Blu-ray and Normal
  • Amateur (Artificial Eye Blu-ray / Normal
  • One Hour Photo (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) / Blu-ray and Normal /
  • Rear Window (Universal Pictures) Blu-ray / Normal /
  • The Birds (Universal Pictures) Blu-ray / 50th Anniversary Edition /
  • Bullhead (Soda Pictures) Blu-ray / Normal /
  • The Sessions (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) Blu-ray with Digital Copy – Double Play /
  • Blow Out (Arrow Video) Blu-ray Special Edition /
  • My Left Foot (ITV DVD) Blu-ray / Normal /
  • The Unbelievable Truth (Artificial Eye) Blu-ray / Normal /

The Best DVD & Blu-ray Releases of 2012
2013 in Film

Written by Ambrose Heron

December 31st, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Posted in DVD & Blu-ray,Lists

Tagged with

The Best Films of 2013

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Best of 2013

* The following list is in alphabetical order *

12 Years a Slave (Dir. Steve McQueen): The British director brought us a stunning historical drama with its haunting depiction of US slavery. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender were the highlights of an outstanding ensemble cast.

All is Lost (Dir. J.C. Chandor): Robert Redford alone on a sinking boat provided a multifaceted drama of survival, with Redford’s best role in years. After his brilliant debut Margin Call (2011), Chandor is clearly a talent to watch.

Before Midnight (Dir. Richard Linklater): The conclusion (?) to a unique trilogy provided director Richard Linklater and actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy another opportunity to explore their charming characters in another beautiful setting.

Blue Is The Warmest Colour (Dir. Abdellatif Kechiche): An intimate epic of the heart, this year’s Palme D’or winner featured two outstanding lead performances (Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux) and a refreshing approach to portraying relationships on screen.

Blue Jasmine (Dir. Woody Allen): The rise and fall of a rich society wife (Cate Blanchett) provided rich pickings for Allen and his superb supporting cast featuring Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin and Andrew Dice Clay. A bittersweet treat with a memorable lead performance.

Captain Phillips (Dir. Paul Greengrass): This true life tale of a US tanker captain (Tom Hanks) taken hostage by Somali pirates (led by Barkhad Abdi) was an expertly constructed thriller that also managed to examine the sharp end of globalization.

Enough Said (Dir. Nicole Holofcener): One of the lighter pleasures of the year was a romantic comedy that was both clever and funny. A middle-age romance between two divorcees (Julia Louise Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini), it contained numerous delights.

Gravity (Dir. Alfonso Cuaron): Perhaps the most ambitious film of the year was this stunning drama, with two astronauts (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) adrift in space. Cuaron, DP Emmanuel Lubezki and VFX maestro Tim Webber took on screen visuals to another level.

Inside Llewyn Davis (Dir. The Coen Bros): The New York folk scene of 1961 provided the backdrop for this bittersweet tale of a struggling folk singer (Oscar Isaac). Intricately crafted, with a great soundtrack produced by T Bone Burnett and a great cat, this is top-tier Coens.

Nebraska (Dir. Alexander Payne): Another road movie from the director of About Schmidt (2002) and Sideways (2004) provided a great role for veteran Bruce Dern in the twilight of his career. Shot in atmospheric black and white, the supporting cast is also note perfect.

Short Term 12 (Dir. Destin Daniel Cretton): One of the unexpected delights of the year was this beautifully crafted drama set in a foster home. Brie Larson and John Gallagher Jr were excellent in the lead roles but there are many aspects to admire, not least Cretton’s direction.

The Act of Killing (Dir. Joshua Oppenheimer): One of the most disturbing and unique documentaries in film history, Oppenheimer secured a remarkable degree of access amongst the former death squads of the Indonesian revolution. A landmark work.

The Great Beauty (Dir. Paolo Sorrentino): Wonderfully rich look at the twilight of the Berlusconi era, with Tony Servillo again proving an excellent foil for his director. As usual for Sorrentino, the visuals and location shooting are of the highest order.

Upstream Colour (Dir. Shane Carruth): Returning from a 9-year absence, Carruth crafted a dazzling puzzlebox of a film, performing multiple duties (acting, writing, directing and music) alongside his impressive co-star Amy Seimetz. Fascinating, complex and brilliant.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Philomena (Dir. Stephen Frears)
Iron Man 3 (Dir. Shane Black)
Mystery Road (Dir. Ivan Sven)
The Look of Love (Dir. Michael Winterbottom)
The East (Dir. Zal Batmangajli)
The Wolf of Wall Street (Dir. Martin Scorsese)

Find out more about the films of 2013 at Wikipedia
End of year lists at Metacritic

Nebraska

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Will Forte Bruce Dern and June Squibb in Nebraska

Director Alexander Payne returns to his native state for another wry look at the American midwest and the characters who populate his goofy, desolate cinematic landscape.

In a marked change from the picturesque setting and vibrant colours of his last two films, The Descendants (2011) and Sideways (2004), here we go back the grey Nebraskan skies of his earlier work Election (1999).

Even more than that, Payne has opted for black and white, an unusual visual choice these days and one that invites comparisons to films like The Last Picture Show (1971), with its depiction of things ageing and slowly dying.

This central theme drives the story which revolves around Woody Grant (Bruce Dern), a grumpy and partially senile old man who seems convinced he has won a million dollars, just because he has received a certificate in the mail.

Despite trying to convince him that the letter is a scam, his son David (Will Forte) decides to accompany him on the long trip from Billings, Montana to their home state of Lincoln, Nebraska where they meet family and old friends, some of who believe his story about the $1m.

All of this unfurls in classic Payne fashion: there are shrewd observations about family dynamics; a lingering sense of comic frustration and some truly memorable supporting characters, including Woody’s wife Kate (June Squibb) and an old work partner (Stacey Keach).

Working from Bob Nelson’s original screenplay, this marks the first time the director hasn’t had a hand in writing one of his films. But the material is a nice fit and the road movie structure and odd-couple dialogue has parallels with Sideways (2004).

Although the backdrop couldn’t be more different, there is an acute eye for detail and the bittersweet nature of relationships, especially the effect time and money has on our lives. In its own way, this is a sly parable about the illusory nature of the American Dream.

At the same time there is a lot of heart beneath the surface of these lives and one suspects that Payne sympathises with Woody’s plight, whilst not being too precious about his shortcomings, as evidenced in comic scenes where he visits Mount Rushmore or loses his false teeth.

The decision to use black and white (it was shot in colour and converted in post-production) whilst creating an elegiac tone, also allows cinematographer Phedon Papamichael to indulge in different lighting choices, which are interesting for such contemporary material.

Dern has often been cast in secondary roles, but here at the twilight of his career he gives a wonderfully nuanced performance. He’s cranky and unpredictable, yet somehow manages to paint a sympathetic portrait of a man sliding into the fog of old age.

Forte provides an effective foil as his adult son trying to understand his father better, Bob Odenkirk is nicely vain as the other son (a local TV newsreader), whilst Squibb gets the most belly laughs as the dominant matriarch.

The musical score by Mark Orton, with its use of guitars and strings, also sets a distinctive mood throughout.

> Official site
> Reviews at Metacritic

Written by Ambrose Heron

December 6th, 2013 at 2:47 am

DVD & Blu-ray Picks: December 2013

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DVD and Blu-ray Picks for December 2013

DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

> DVD & Blu-ray Picks for November 2013
> The Best DVD & Blu-rays of 2012

Written by Ambrose Heron

December 3rd, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Heaven’s Gate

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Isabelle Huppert and Kris Kristofferson in Heaven's Gate

One of the most infamous commercial disasters in Hollywood history gets another re-release, but at the correct length there is much to admire in Michael Cimino’s 1980 western.

Heaven’s Gate has a formidable legacy as the film that bankrupted United Artists, virtually ended the high flying career of its director, and led to the major studios taking fewer risks as the sun finally set on the auteur-driven New Hollywood era.

Although the truth may be more nuanced, it certainly came to symbolise the worst excesses and indulgences of the era, whether that was deserved or not.

But how does it hold up now?

Part of the problem is that ever since its New York premiere in November 1980 (when it clocked in at 219 mins), Cimino and the studio decided to pull it from release after just a week and then issue a drastically recut version later that April (148 mins).

This makes it somewhat difficult to judge, given that most audiences haven’t seen the longer version, but thanks to this new re-release on Blu-ray and DVD, we can see the version that has been personally approved by the director himself.

There are numerous sequences that have been restored and one can finally say this is the version that should be seen.

Set in Wyoming amidst the Johnson County War of 1892, it depicts the brutal struggle of Russian immigrants, as the local cattle barons gradually try to exterminate them.

Amidst this backdrop unfurls a fictionalised story involving a U.S. Marshal (Kris Kristofferson), his Harvard class mate (John Hurt), a French bordello madam (Isabelle Huppert), a hired killer (Christopher Walken), a local bar owner (Jeff Bridges) and a ruthless landowner (Sam Waterston).

When revisiting this film at the proper length there is much to feast on: Vilmos Zsigmond’s stunning cinematography, the incredible use of the Montana and Idaho landscapes; and Tambi Larsen’s epic production design, which along with Cimino’s meticulous attention to detail creates a vivid depiction of the West.

For fans of the western genre there perhaps has never been as grand a vision put on screen.

The central love story doesn’t quite match up to the visuals, but the social and political themes are refreshingly bold for a mainstream American film.

Although films such as Shane (1953) had featured an avenging angel character, Cimino’s script delved deep into the class aspects of the American West.

As Jeff Bridges’ character says at one point:

“It’s getting dangerous to be poor in this country.”

Now there is a line that rings down the decades to the present day.

The central love triangle mostly works with Kristofferson and Huppert making a convincing couple, and although Walken and Hurt are basically miscast in their roles, there is enough realism in the rest of the supporting cast to create a compelling atmosphere.

Watch out too for the recurring motif of circles, from the opening graduation dance at Harvard, to the skating rink, the final battle and the wider theme of the overall story.

Despite its many qualities though, there still remain flaws, the biggest of which is not length but pace.

It may have been designed to show off the extravagant visuals but instead clogs up the narrative of the film and is arguably why opinion is still split on it today.

But it remains worth seeing on its own terms and as a kind of lament for both the Western genre and the filmmaking of the 1970s.

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • New Video Interview With Jeff Bridges
  • New Interview With Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond
  • Extracts From ‘Final Cut: The Making And Unmaking Of Heaven’s Gate’ – Michael Epstein’s acclaimed documentary based on Steven’s Bach’s book

> Buy the Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK
> Find out more about Heaven’s Gate at the IMDb and Wikipedia

Written by Ambrose Heron

November 26th, 2013 at 2:12 pm