MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA - Touchstone
All Spike Lee’s movies, from She’s Gotta Have It forward, have tackled big ideas head-on using wide strokes to a paint a picture that is both impressionistic and realistic. Though not the most subtle director, Lee has consistently challenged both his audience and himself. His step into genre filmmaking with 2006’s Inside Man was a delightful surprise, and though he continues down this road somewhat with the World War II film Miracle at St. Anna, he also returns with force to the realm of the big idea. The first film ever to tell the story of the Army’s all African-American Buffalo Soldier unit, Miracle at St. Anna is inherently an important film. Yet rather than allow it to stand on its own as simply a war picture starring African-American actors, Lee takes on myriad social and historical discussions. Based on the novel of the same name by James McBride (who also wrote the script), the movie follows four soldiers as they take refuge in an Italian village after being cut off from their platoon. There are various supernatural elements to the film, the most pronounced of which is a mysterious statue head that one soldier acquires and refuses to part with.
BOURNE TRILOGY: Blu-ray - Universal
There is no doubt that spy movies are making a comeback. Whether it be the long standing Bond genre with Daniel Craig or even the spoofs of Maxwell Smart, people are flocking to the theatres to see their favorite series. In the case of the Bourne films, they may not have the background or longevity that some other series’ have, but they definitely have a following to rival the Bond films. Aside from the storylines, the action and cinematography bring something to the screen that has never been seen before. The trilogy of Bourne pictures contain a common thread representative of a man who is trying to discover who he is and where he came from. He is a machine, quick to fisticuffs, that doesn’t know anything about himself, but yearns to have his questions answered. Each film has enough twists and turns to make each one entertaining by themselves, but the three films really add up to one big story, as by the end we have most of the answers as to who Jason Bourne really is and where he comes from. The bottom line is that the Bourne Trilogy is worth owning, if for the simple reason they are three outstanding films. Will all of the special features included in this set, why would you not want it for your collection?
EXTREME MOVIE - Genius
This feature-length vignette-style comedy boasts a smorgasbord of young comedic talent, including Michael Cera, Ryan Pinkston, Frankie Muniz, and Jamie Kennedy. In the tradition of Kentucky Fried Movie, the film is comprised of a series of sketches, most of which revolve around teenagers and sex. Matthew Lillard and Andy Milonakis also make appearances in this ribald offering from the team behind The Comebacks and numerous MTV Movie Award parody sketches.
BERENSTAIN BEARS: Springtime Surprises - Sony
In this quartet of tales starring the Berenstain clan, Brother and Sister Bear save a hive of honey bees; Boss Bunny discovers the meaning of holiday fun; Papa Bear finds a great new hobby in baseball; and everyone learns the importance of telling the truth. The Berenstain Bears have long been a family favorite for kids of all ages. Check this set out. Your kids will love it!
SAW V - Lionsgate
Continuing on with its story despite the death of namesake killer Jigsaw in the third installment, Saw V concerns itself with detailing who will carry on with his bloody work. Director David Hackl, the production designer on the previous three films, retains their familiar charnel house look. Though there are fewer grisly death sequences, faithful viewers will enjoy the creative plot twists. The film opens with a man strapped to a table above a pendulum. As the sharp blade begins swinging over his stomach, he has only a minute to stop it by inserting his hands into a device that will crush them. When the machine malfunctions, it’s clear that it wasn’t the work of the meticulous Jigsaw. Meanwhile, FBI Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson) continues the investigation he began in the previous film, only to wake up to find himself wearing a glass helmet filled with water. With a minimum of self-mutilation, he escapes and continues his investigation with the hunch that Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) is somehow involved in the new rash of killings. Before long, a new group of strangers wakes up in Jigsaw’s lair to face a series of brutal tests, and Jigsaw’s ex-wife, Jill, is given a mysterious box at the execution of his will.
DISASTER MOVIE: Unrated Edition - Lionsgate
The story Disaster Movie is structured via Cloverfield with Will (Matt Lanter), after having a 10,000 B.C.-style dream involving an Amy Winehouse look-a-like (Nicole Parker), races against time to rescue his girlfriend (Vanessa Minnillo) who is trapped in a museum with references to Twister; meanwhile kids who look like the teens from Superbad try and score booze. What? Along for the ride are a JUNO-esque slacker girl (Crista Flanagan) and Gary “G-Thang” Johnson; there are take-offs of Alvin and the Chipmunks, and celebrity impersonations of Dr. Phil, Michael Jackson, the real Kim Kardashian, and the ubiquitous Carmen Electra; lots of dances and fights and dance/fights. The comedy talent here is mostly imported from Mad TV, particularly Parker, who also does ENCHANTED and a mean Jessica Simpson. The recipe here, as before, is to cram in as many pop-culture references as possible, douse liberally with gross bodily fluids, and serve face forward. In other words, it’s the perfect film for loud shouts and inappropriate laughter with a roomful of one’s most off-color cohorts.
RENT: Filmed Live on Broadway in Blu-ray - Sony
The story of Rent is that of a year in the life of a group of friends living the Bohemian life in New York City. More than a couple of them are suffering with the AIDS virus; they all have various personal struggles with love and friendship; and, as the name of the musical indicates, they struggle to pay the rent. It’s a powerful story, even if it does seem dated despite having been written less than 20 years ago. Its message of hope and love is still a strong one, and will remain a strong one in years to come, but one imagines that future productions will end up being done as period pieces. The sound of this Blu-ray production is incredible. The balance of music and surround come through with flying colors and timbres. Rent is awesome as a performance piece, however the presentation on DVD is truly outstanding and is a must own for any fan of the musical genre.
FROZEN RIVER - Sony
Courtney Hunt’s feature directorial debut Frozen River is a powerfully unflinching tale of two women, who, driven by economic hardship, form an unlikely partnership smuggling illegal immigrants across the Canadian border. Melissa Leo turns in a gritty performance as Ray, a struggling dollar-store cashier and mother living in a trailer home in upstate New York who is desperate to make ends meet. When Ray’s gambling-addicted husband runs off with the family’s payment on a new doublewide trailer, her life quickly spirals into a financial tailspin. During a frenzied search for her deadbeat spouse, she apprehends Lila (Misty Upham), a Mohawk Indian from an area reservation, attempting to steal her car. In the process of taking back her vehicle, she learns of Lila’s smuggling operation through an unpatrolled corridor within Mohawk territory--the frozen St. Lawrence River that forms part of the border between the U.S. and Canada. Out of necessity, they form an uneasy alliance: Ray, working to meet the payment’s deadline, and Lila, who scrambles to earn money to redeem herself to her estranged in-laws and infant child. Within a stark, mostly minimalist screenplay, Hunt seamlessly works in contemporary anxieties: economic recession, immigration, and trafficking, but never puts too fine a point on social relevance to the detriment of a compelling storyline.
ESCAPE TO CHIMP EDEN: Season One - Genius
In the heart of South Africa is a sanctuary for chimpanzees, rescued from the horrors of human captivity. Many of these chimps have never felt grass under their feet, never learned to climb a tree, have never known companionship. But now at the Jane Goodall Institute’s Chimp Eden--South Africa, they’ll be given the safe and loving environment they’ll need to become ordinary, wild chimps again. Escape to Chimp Eden, portrays the ongoing drama as these individual chimps transition from being prisoners to living free with other chimps. Escape to Chimp Eden, Season One, is a gem of a show for any animal lover!
SOUL MEN - Genius
The late Bernie Mac gives one of his final performances as Floyd Henderson, a retired back-up singer for a ‘60s soul act known as the Real Deal. When the group’s lead singer, Marcus Hooks--played by real-life soul singer John Legend--suddenly drops dead, the two remaining members of the group, Henderson and Louis Hinds (Samuel L. Jackson), are enlisted to play a tribute concert at the Apollo Theatre in New York City. Hinds, an ex-convict trying his best to stay out of the limelight, is persuaded by Henderson to drive cross-country for the chance to re-ignite his music career. The classic comedic trope of road-trip antagonism reaches new heights as the pair curse and claw at each other for the entire voyage, taking occasional breaks to stage impromptu roadside rehearsals and other, less PG-rated misadventures.
IGOR - Fox
A hilarious twist on the classic monster movie, “Igor” tells the story of one Igor who’s sick of being a lowly lab assistant with a Yes Master’s degree and dreams of becoming a scientist. When his cruel master kicks the bucket a week before the annual Evil Science Fair, Igor finally gets his chance. With the help of two of his experimental creations - Brain, a brain in a jar who’s a little light on brains, and Scamper, a cynical bunny brought back from being road kill, Igor embarks on building the most evil invention of all time, a huge, ferocious monster. Unfortunately, instead of turning out evil, the monster turns out as Eva, a giant aspiring actress who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Just when the load on his back can’t get any heavier, Igor and his band of monstrous misfits uncover an evil plot that threatens their world. Now, they must fight to save it and prove that heroes come in all shapes and sizes.
BEWITCHED: Season Seven - Sony
Bewitched is based around the mismatched couple, who attempt to overcome the fact that Samantha is a witch and Darrin in a mere mortal. Samantha’s family, led by her mother, Endora (Agnes Moorehead), never approved of the marriage, and the overbearing mom regularly casts wicked spells on the beleaguered Darrin. Despite all these obstacles, Samantha and Darrin somehow manage to stay together, and this wickedly funny season continues in much the same vein as the preceding five. Among the highlights and notable plot points in these 29 episodes are the birth of Samantha’s second child with Darrin, who is immediately placed under a spell by Endora’s estranged husband, Maurice (Maurice Evans); a subtle turning-of-the-tables as Darrin is given a watch with magical powers to match Samantha’s own; and a quirky turn of events as Endora is finally forced to be nice to Samantha’s husband.