Monday 26 November 2012

The Good, the Bad and the Blu-rays

As we fast approach Christmas, some of the big hits from this summer are making their way onto Blu-ray and DVD. It's not all new releases this week though, and is a particularly good week for fans of Quentin Tarantino.

Compiled in celebration of Tarantino's 20 years as a filmmaker (only if you don't include 1987's My Best Friend's Birthday, which I think Quentin would rather we didn't), the officially endorsed Tarantino XX blu-ray boxset includes all of his directorial efforts released so far, as well as True Romance thrown in for good measure. At around 60 quid it carries a hefty price tag, but is probably cheaper than buying all the films separately and has some fan-baiting exclusive special features.

Pixar's latest sees Kelly McDonald voice a very Scottish maiden in this tale of family strife and female empowerment... and Bears. Brave is Pixar's first real stab at creating their vision of a "Disney Princess", but apart from the obligatory and universally respected impressive visuals, Brave left some audiences feeling cold during its theatrical release. I've still not seen it, but as a Pixar completist I'm sure it'll end up in my collection soon.

I don't own a 3D TV, nor do I particularly want a 3D TV. But, If I were to own a 3D TV (and the accompanying Blu-ray player), this title would be high on my list of must owns. Originally released in 3D back in 1954, Hitchcock's classic suspense thriller really has added an extra dimension by reverting back to its original form, making it an essential part of any Hitchcock enthusiasts collection.

What it lacked in subtlety it made up for in vulgarity, Seth MacFarlane's Ted is released this week on DVD, Blu-ray and special edition Steelbook version. It's quite easy to gauge whether you'll like Ted or not. If you're a fan of Family Guy, then chances are you'll find much to enjoy here. If, however, you find MacFarlane's brand of humour distasteful, stay well clear, as Ted may be one of the most offensive films of the year. Joyously so in my opinion, as despite some ill-advised cameos from '80s icons, Ted manages to create a believable friendship between Ted's loveable bear and Mark Wahlberg's stilted man-child, John. Kudos to Giovanni Ribisi for providing a truly creepy foe for the pair.

On its theatrical run, I found the negative reaction to Marc Webb's Spider-man reboot to be a bit too much, as although the film picks up a lot of plot strands and resolves very few of them, it's a perfectly serviceable superhero origin story. Yes, I know it had barely been a decade since we were first introduced to the big screen version of the classic comics character, but in the hands of Andrew Garfield, Peter Parker is a better realised character, his darkness and inner demons much more apparent. Okay, maybe Rhys Ifans' The Lizard wasn't the best choice of villain, but at least it kept the focus on the actual hero of the film (ahem, Dark Knight). There's definitely a sequel on the way, but hopefully now the film is available on Blu-ray, audiences will give this film another shot and perhaps be able to judge it on its own merits.

Magic Mike is going to be a victim of its own successes, as even though it's a well made and surprisingly dramatic story, a lot of people won't be interested in a film that, on its surface, is a film about male strippers. I thought that at best it would be a campy, male version of Showgirls, but it really is so much more. Straight-faced and with a great supporting turn from Matthew McConaughey as the leader of the troupe, this Channing Tatum vehicle (loosely based on his pre-Hollywood life story) proves that on top of having impressive muscles, he can actually act.

Appearing in this after her calling card performance in Another Earth, Brit Marling is fast becoming the queen of lo-fi indie drama with a possible science-fiction edge. She may not be the lead, but she's everywhere in the trailer (probably thanks to the marketability of her) of this investigation into a strange and mysterious cult. Aren't they all?

Deliverance meets First Blood, Walter Hill's 1981 cajun classic, Southern Comfort is released on Blu-ray and DVD this week. Starring Keith Carradine as a member of the National Guard on weekend maneuvers in the Louisiana Bayou, all hell breaks loose when the locals decide they don't want these soldiers around. Expect a full review up later in the week.

I've always considered From Dusk Till Dawn to be something of an under-appreciated classic. Absolutely a film of two halves that left some people perplexed come the arrival of the Titty Twister bar, this collaboration between Quentin Tarantino (screenwriter) and Robert Rodriguez (director) is a far better example of a grindhouse movie than any of their later efforts. A packed boxset that includes a poster, metal bar sign, badges, shot glasses postcards and even a rub-on Santanico Pandemonium tattoo; if you can find a better special edition Blu-ray this week, well, you know what you can do with it, don't you?

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