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DVD/Blu-ray DISCussion (New for 10.26.10)

We all live in a world of pain and misery and this week’s releases of are examples of it. We have films about human trafficking, war, rural poverty, serial killers, a Christmas film released before Halloween and the returning curse of Uwe Boll. But luckily we have the re-release of two classic film series to cheer ourselves up.

First Release
The Girl Who Played With Fire (DVD and Blu-ray)
Sex and the City 2 (DVD and Blu-ray)
Winter‘s Bone (DVD and Blu-ray)
Altitude (DVD and Blu-ray)
Attack on Darfur (DVD)

Re-Release
Paths of Glory (DVD and Blu-ray)
House (DVD and Blu-ray)
Maniac (DVD and Blu-ray)
Elf (DVD and Blu-ray)
Legend of the Black Scorpion (Blu-ray)
Alien Anthology (Blu-ray)
Back to the Future Trilogy (Blu-ray)

The Girl Who Played With Fire (DVD and Blu-ray)

What’s the Deal?
The Girl Who Played With Fire is the adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s second novel from the Millennium Trilogy. Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist return in their roles as the goth hacker Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist. Swedish director Daniel Alfredson replaces Niels Arden Oplev in the director’s chair of this wildly popular series.

Set a year after the events of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Lisbeth and Mikael are called into action when our heroine is suspected of murder. With Mikael unconvinced, both set out to clear Lisbeth’s name and crack a billion-dollar sex trafficking ring.

While The Girl Who Played With Fire was a commercial success, it did not match the critical praise the first film received.

Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): 68% (good)
Player Affinity Score: 7.0/10

DISC DETAILS

DVD Special Features: Theatrical trailer

Amazon Price: $12.99 (DVD), $19.99 (Blu-ray)

Score (DVDTalk.com): N/A

Winter’s Bone (DVD and Blu-ray)

What’s the Deal?
Based on a novel by Daniel Woodrell, Winter’s Bone was a popular film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, winning the Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic Film. Director Debra Granik helms the project and co-wrote the script with Anne Rosellini. 19-year-old actress Jennifer Lawrence (The Burning Plain) leads the cast and is predicted to be nominated for Best Actress at the Academy Awards.

Set in the Ozark mountains, 17-year-old Ree Dolly (Lawrence) is a young woman struggling to keep her family together, acting as the caretaker for her disabled mother and younger brother and sister. Her father has disappeared after putting her family home up for bail. With the risk of becoming homeless, Ree has to find her father, going deep into a community full of secrets.

Lawrence is set to play Mystique in X-Men: First Class, which will be an interesting change of pace.

Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): 94% (excellent)
Player Affinity Score: N/A

DISC DETAILS

DVD Special Features: Closed Caption; Audio commentary with director Debra Granik and director of photography Michael McDonough; The making of Winter’s Bone ; Deleted scenes; Alternate opening; “Hardscrabble Elegy” composed and performed by Dickson Hinchliffe; Theatrical trailer

Amazon Price: $18.99 (DVD), $19.99 (Blu-ray)

Score (DVDTalk.com): Content: 4 stars, Video 3.5 stars, Audio 3.5 stars, Extras 4 stars, Replay 4 stars (out of 5). Highly Recommended.

Altitude (DVD and Blu-ray)

What’s the Deal?
Horror tends to be a genre that is tailor-made for first-time directors because the films are often cheaper to make, have a ready-made audience and do not require many sets. The writer of Spider-man: Reign, Kaare Andrews, directs his first film and recruits a cast of young actors to play teenagers.

Five teenage friends including the rookie pilot Sara (Jessica Lowndes) rent a small plane for a weekend getaway. But they end up fighting for their lives when the plane malfunctions and they have to battle a supernatural force.

Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): N/A
Player Affinity Score: N/A

DISC DETAILS

DVD Special Features: Altitude: Behind The Scenes; Audio Commentary with Director Kaare Andrews; Green Storm featurette; Original Concept Gallery

Amazon Price: $15.49 (DVD), $26.49 (Blu-ray)

Score (DVDTalk.com): N/A

Attack on Darfur (DVD)

What’s the Deal?
The schlock filmmaker of House of the Dead, Postal and Bloodrayne, Uwe Boll returns to plague our screens and this time he sets out to exploit the pain, misery and genocide of the people of Darfur. Boll wrote the script with Charlie Jade, creator Chris Roland and recruits Billy Zane (Titanic), Kristanna Loken (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines) and Edward Furlong (American History X): God knows what happened to Zane and Furlong to be forced into making Uwe Boll’s films.

Set during the high of the Janjaweed attacks in Darfur, Furlong, Zane and Loken play a group of American journalists who are reporting on the events. But when they hear reports that the Janjaweed are coming to a village they are faced with the choice of running or helping protect the villagers. This is hardly an original plot, we have seen in it different forms in Schindler’s List, Blood Diamond, Welcome to Sarajevo, Hotel Rwanda and Shooting Dogs, just to name a few.

One of Boll’s next films is a documentary about Auschwitz. So Jewish people and the Holocaust are also going to suffer the Boll’s treatment.

Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): N/A
Player Affinity Score: N/A

DISC DETAILS

DVD Special Features: Trailer; Director’s Commentary; ; Closed Caption

Amazon Price: $29.99 (DVD)

Score (DVDTalk.com): N/A

Paths of Glory (DVD and Blu-ray)

What’s the Deal?
Stanley Kubrick is renowned as one of the greatest directors ever with a filmography that includes A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Dr. Strangelove. Paths of Glory was Kubrick’s second film (third if you count Fear and Desire) and was an adaptation of Humphrey Cobb’s novel of the same name. Kirk Douglas stars and gives one of his best performances as Colonel Dax.

Set during the high of Trench Warfare during World War I, Colonel Dax is ordered by his promotion-hungry general (Adolph Menjou), to lead a suicide attack against a heavily defended German position. When the attack fails, three soldiers are randomly selected to be tried and killed as traitors, but Dax sets out to defend them.

Because of the anti-war message of the film, Paths of Glory was banned in France until 1975 and in Spain until the death of General Franco. Paths of Glory is a must-see film.

Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): 92% (excellent)
Player Affinity Score: 10/10

DISC DETAILS

DVD Special Features: New audio commentary featuring critic Gary Giddins; Excerpt from a 1966 audio interview with director Stanley Kubrick; Television interview from 1979 with star Kirk Douglas; New video interviews with Kubrick’s longtime executive producer Jan Harlan, Paths of Glory producer James B. Harris, and actress Christine Kubrick; French television piece about a real-life World War I execution that partly inspired the film; Theatrical trailer

Amazon Price: $21.99 (DVD), $29.49 (Blu-ray)

Score (DVDTalk.com):  Content: 5 stars, Video 4.5 stars, Audio 4 stars, Extras 4 stars, Replay 5 stars (out of 5). Highly Recommended.

House (DVD and Blu-ray)

What’s the Deal?
It is other week and The Criterion Collection is re-releasing another film of interest. This time is it a Japanese horror comedy helmed by Nobuhiko Obayashi, which was his feature debut.

House tells the story of seven school friends who go to Angel’s (Kimiko Ikegami) aunt’s mansion for a vacation. But all is not well with a supernatural force on the property.

Critcs Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): 80% (very good)
Player Affinity Score: N/A

DISC DETAILS

DVD Special Features: Constructing A “House,” a New Video piece featuring interviews with Director Nobuhiko Obayashi, Story Scenarist and Daughter of the Filmmaker Chigumi Obayashi, and Screenwriter Chiho Katsura; Emotion, a 1966 experimental film by Obayashi; New Video Appreciation by Director Ti West (House of the Devil); Theatrical Trailer; Plus: A Booklet featuring an Essay by critic Chuck Stephens

Amazon Price: $26.99 (DVD), $34.99 (Blu-ray)

Score (DVDTalk.com): N/A

Maniac (DVD and Blu-ray)

What’s the Deal?
It is the 30th Anniversary since Maniac was originally released and now it has earned a DVD and Blu-ray release. This slasher/splatter release was directed by William Lusitg, who made a his career in the Maniac Cop series. Joe Spinell (The Godfather Part I and II, Rocky and Rocky II) starred and co-wrote the script. Spinell stars as Frank Zito, a man who was abused by his mother and has his revenge by scalping innocent women and making wigs out of their hair. This film brought new, shocking levels of violence to the slasher genre.

Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): 42% (poor)
Player Affinity Score: N/A

DISC DETAILS

DVD Special Features: Audio Commentary #1 with Co-Producer/Director William Lustig and Co-Producer Andrew W. Garroni; Audio Commentary #2 With Co-Producer/Director William Lustig, Special Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Savini, Editor Lorenzo Marinelli, and Joe Spinell’s Assistant Luke Walter; Anna and the Killer – Interview with Star Caroline Munro; The Death Dealer – Interview with Special Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Savini; Dark Notes – Interview with Composer Jay Chattaway; Maniac Men – Interview with Songwriters Michael Sembello and Dennis Matkosky; Theatrical Trailers; TV Spots; Radio Spots; Mr. Robbie: Maniac 2 Promo Reel; The Joe Spinell Story; Maniac Publicity; Maniac Controversy

Amazon Price: $16.99 (DVD), $17.99 (Blu-ray

Score (DVDTalk.com): Content: 1.5 stars, Video 1.5 stars, Audio 4.5 stars, Extras 4.5 stars, Replay 1 stars (out of 5). Rent it.

Elf (DVD and Blu-ray)

What’s the Deal?
It is not even Halloween yet, but we are already getting the re-release of a Christmas film; at least it is an entertaining Christmas film. Elf serves as the debut for both director for Jon Favreau (Iron Man) and writer David Barenbaum (The Spiderwick Chronicles). Will Ferrell stars as Buddy the Elf and he is joined by a fine cast, including James Caan, the lovely and then-blond Zooey Deschanel ((500) Days of Summer), Bob Newhart, Edward Asner (Up) and Daniel Tay (American Splendor).

Buddy is a human raised by one of Santa’s elves (Newhart). When Buddy is finally told he is a human, the innocent man-child goes to New York to meet his real father, Walter (Caan), who is on the naughty list.

Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): 84% (very good)
Player Affinity Score: 6.5/10

DISC DETAILS

DVD Special Features: Audio Commentary: 2 commentaries with Will Ferrell & Director; Featurette: Film school for kids; Tag along with Will Ferrell; How they made the North Pole; Widescreen version on Disc 1 and Fullscreen version on Disc 2; Spanish Language Track; Elf Karaoke; Read-Along; Buddy’s Adventure Game; Elf Decoder Card; 5×7″ magnetic Elf picture frame with 4×6″ Elf magnet; 15 Elf gift tags; Five-track Elf soundtrack sampler featuring holiday classics; 14″ Elf plush holiday stocking; Collectible tin box

Amazon Price: $29.99 (DVD), 35.99 (Blu-ray)

Score (DVDTalk.com): N/A

Legend of the Black Scorpion (Blu-ray)

What’s the Deal?
Chinese filmmakers really know how to make martial arts films and costumes dramas, but there are so many it is hard for some films to stand out. A film of this kind needs to do something special to be noticed in the West. Legend of the Black Scorpion was directed by Feng Xiaogang (director of the excellent war film Assembly) and stars the beautiful Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).

Made as a loose remake of Hamlet, Legend of the Black Scorpion is set during the 10th Century. Zhang plays Empress Wan who is thrown into the middle of dynastic conflict when her younger step-son usurps the throne over his older brother in this wuxia-action film.

Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): 38% (poor)
Player Affinity Score: N/A

DISC DETAILS

DVD Special Features: Audio Commentary by Hong Kong Cinema Expert Bey Logan; Master Of Ceremonies: An Exclusive Interview with Director Feng Xiaogang; Warrior Prince: An Exclusive Interiview with Leading Man Daniel Wu; A Dynasty Uncovered: Behind The Scenes on Legend Of The Black Scorpion; Trailer Gallery

Amazon Price: $15.99 (Blu-ray)

Score (DVDTalk.com): Content: 4 stars, Video 4.5 stars, Audio 4.5 stars, Extras 3 stars, Replay 3.5 stars (out of 5). Highly Recommended.

Alien Anthology (Blu-ray)

What’s the Deal?
The Alien series is one of the most iconic in film history and now it is coming to our screens in a Blu-ray box-set. Many great filmmakers have worked on the series, including Ridley Scott, James Cameron, David Fincher (though he would like to forget his experience), Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie), Joss Wheldon and Walter Hill (The Warriors) in the producer‘s chair. Many top actors performed in the films, such as John Hurt (Hellboy), Michael Biehn (The Terminator), Paul McGann (Withnail and I) and Winona Ryder, but it is Sigourney Weaver who makes the series as one of feminism’s great fictional icons, Ellen Ripley. Each film is different, with directors having their own approach and themes from male fear of pregnancy to a metaphor about Vietnam, but always had the permanent threat of the Xenomorph and the ruthless Weyland-Yutani corporation.

Alien
Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): 96% (excellent)
Player Affinity Score: 9.5/10

Aliens
Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): 100% (excellent)
Player Affinity Score: 8.0/10

Alien 3
Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): 38% (poor)
Player Affinity Score: 6.0/10

Alien Resurrection
Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes: 55% (average)
Player Affinity Score: 6.0/10

DISC DETAILS

DVD Special Features: Production notes; Historical facts; Audio commentaries for all movie versions; Unseen dailies; Deleted scenes; Behind-the-scene featurettes; Over 12,000 photographs and artwork stills; Isolated score, including alternate and unused cues, archival documentaries, test footage, tv specials, multi-angle studies

Amazon Price: $89.99 (Blu-ray)

Score (DVDTalk.com): N/A

Back to the Future Trilogy (Blu-ray)

What’s the Deal?
How can anyone have grown up in the ’80s and ’90s and not know Back to the Future? Back to the Future is a classic family film and cemented Robert Zemeckis’ reputation as a director. Steven Spielberg was the executive producer of the series and Zemeckis directed all three films. All three have state-of-the-art special effects and were cleverly written, with interesting ideas about time-travel. Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd play the iconic characters of Marty McFly and Doctor “Doc” Brown, with Thomas F. Wilson (Blood In, Blood Out) as the permanent antagonist. But there is controversy when Back to the Future II used Crispin Glover’s image without his permission and he successfully sued the producers.

Back to the Future is a great film by itself, yet the sequels are a rare example of two films being made back-to-back. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End is the only other example I can think of.

Back to the Future
Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): 96% (excellent)
Player Affinity Score: 10/10

Back to the Future II
Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): 66% (good)
Player Affinity Score: 7.5/10

Back to the Future III
Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): 72% (good)
Player Affinity Score: 7.0/10

DISC DETAILS

DVD Special Features: Tales from the future – six part documentary featuring all-new interviews with the cast and crew; The physics of back to the future; Deleted scenes; Michael J Fox Q & A; 8 Archival featurettes including the secrets of the back to the future trilogy; Behind the scenes-; Never-before-seen nuclear test site ending; Storyboard sequence; Original makeup tests; Outtakes; Productiond design; Storyboarding; Designing the delorean; Designing time travel; Hoverboard test,; Evolution of visual effects shots ; Designing the town of Hill Valley; Designing the campaign ; Photo galleries; Music videos – including “the power of love” by Huey Lewis and the News; Audio commentaries with director Robert Zemeckis and producers Bob Gale & Neil Canton; Back to the future: the ride – experience the universal studios theme park attraction, including lobby monitor and preshow footage

Amazon Price: $47.99 (Blu-ray)

Score (DVDTalk.com): N/A

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