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DVD/Blu-ray DISCussion (New for 8.24.10)

Another week and another load of DVD and Blu-ray releases. This time round we have new releases about zombies, romance, family, pregnancy, Israeli-Palestinian relationships and climate change. Talk about eclectic. Four of the re-releases this week are from George Harrison’s Handmade Films production company.

First Release
Survival of the Dead (DVD and Blu-ray)
The Back-Up Plan (DVD and Blu-ray)
City Island (DVD and Blu-ray)
Dorian Gray (DVD and Blu-ray)
$5 a Day (DVD and Blu-ray)
Ajami (DVD and Blu-ray)
The Age of Stupid (DVD)

Re-Release
Time Bandits (Blu-ray)
Shogun Assassin (Blu-ray)
– Withnail and I (Blu-ray)
– The Long Good Friday (Blu-ray)
– Mona Lisa (Blu-ray)

Survival of the Dead (DVD and Blu-ray)

What’s the Deal?
What’s not to love about George A. Romero? He is a horror genius, with his Living Dead series being one of the most accessible horror series available, with deep political meanings and wider appeal to non-horror fans. Romero returns with his Living Dead series, recruiting a cast of TV actors and supporting actors, with Alan van Sprang from Land of the Dead and Diary of the Dead taking a leading role.

On the scenic Plum Island a group of soldiers seek sanctuary but end up in the middle of family feud between the O’Flynns and the Muldoons, who have two different viewpoints about the zombie menace. The O’Flynn are of the philosophy that the only good zombie is a dead zombie, whilst the Muldoons believe that the islanders need to wait until a cure is discovered. Like with any good horror film, the greatest threat is not just from the creatures themselves.

Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): 31% (bad)
Player Affinity Score: 6.0.10

DISC DETAILS

DVD Special Features: Closed Caption; Disc 1:; Dual Option Menus Sets – Human vs. Zombie; Audio Commentary #1; Audio Commentary #2; Introduction by George A. Romero (option to play this before the feature film); The Rules According to George; ; Disc 2:; “Walking After Midnight” (90 min Making-of-Documentary); “Sarge” Short Film; “A Minute of Your Time” (Several Short Featurettes); How to Create Your Own Zombie Bite; HDNet: A Look at Survival of The Dead; Storyboard Comparisons

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

Score (DVDTalk.com): N/A

City Island (DVD and Blu-ray)

What’s the Deal?
In 2009, City Island won the Audience Award at the Tribeca Film Festival, but it took nearly a year before it was released in cinemas. Raymond De Felitta writes and directs this dark comedy, with Andy Garcia (The Oceans series) starring. Juianna Margulies (The Good Wife), Steven Strait (10,000 BC) and Emily Mortimer (Match Point) all co-starring.

City Island focuses on a dysfunctional Italian-American family from the Bronx. Dad Vince (Garcia) is a prison guard who wants to become an actor; his wife Joyce (Margulies) thinks he has an affair. A former prisoner Tony (Strait) joins the family and you don’t even want to know what the children are up to.

Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): 81% (very good)
Player Affinity Score: 9/10

DISC DETAILS

DVD Special Features: Audio Commentary with Writer/Producer; Director Raymond De Felitta and Producer/Actor Andy Garcia; Dinner With The Rizzos ; Deleted Scenes

Additional Blu-ray Features: Theatrical Trailer

Amazon Price: $19.49 (DVD), $19.99 (Blu-ray)

Score (DVDTalk.com):
Content: 2.5 stars, Video 3.5 stars, Audio 3 stars, Extras 3 stars, Replay 1 stars (out of 5). Rent it.

The Back-Up Plan (DVD and Blu-ray)

What’s the Deal?
After a three-year break (five years from her last major Hollywood release), Jennifer Lopez returns to acting with this romantic comedy directed by Six Feet Under producer/director Alan Poul. Written by television writer Kate Angelo, Lopez stars along side Alex O’Loughlin (Whiteout).

Lopez plays Zoe, a woman who wants a baby but has yet to find Mr. Right. She undergoes artificial insemination with the hope of getting pregnant, but guess what? She falls for Stan (Loughlin) after the procedure.

Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): 21% (very bad)
Player Affinity Score: N/A

DISC DETAILS

DVD Special Features: Deleted Scenes; Making-Of Featurette; Interview with Jennifer Lopez

Amazon Price: $16.99 (DVD), $19.99 (Blu-ray)

Score (DVDTalk.com): Content: 2 stars, Video 3.5 stars, Audio 4 stars, Extras 1.5 stars, Replay 0 stars (out of 5). Rent it.

Dorian Gray (DVD and Blu-ray)

What’s the Deal?
Dorian Gray is an adaptation of the 1891 Oscar Wilde novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. This is the fifth time the novel has been adapted. This version is helmed by Oliver Parker (Saint Trinian’s) and written by newcomer Toby Finlay. Ben Barnes (The Chronicles of Narina: Prince Caspian) stars as the title character and is supported by Colin Firth (A Single Man), Rebecca Hall (Frost/Nixon) and Rachel Hurd-Wood (Peter Pan (2003)).

Set in Victorian London, Dorian Gray is a handsome, but naïve gentleman. He is, however, willing to sacrifice his soul to remain eternally young. He goes down an amoral and seedy path led by Lord Henry Wotton (Firth). But Dorian ends up getting torn between Lord Wotten’s world and the promise of love in the form of Sibyl Vane (Hurd-Wood).

Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): 44% (poor)
Player Affinity Score: N/A

DISC DETAILS

DVD Special Features: Audio commentary with director Oliver Parker and screenwriter Toby Finlay; Multiple behind-the scenes featurettes; “Making-of Dorian Gray” (including cast and crew interviews); Deleted scenes; Blooper reel; Photo gallery

Amazon Price: $18.49 (DVD), $15.49 (Blu-ray)

Score (DVDTalk.com): N/A

$5 A Day (DVD and Blu-ray)

What’s the Deal?
Writers Neal H. and Tippi Dobrosky have written this comedy with Nigel Cole (Calendar Girls) directing. A big-name cast was formed including Christopher Walken, Alessandro Nivola (Jusassic Park III), Sharon Stone and Amanda Peet (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) in what is a direct-to-DVD release.

Nat Parker (Walken) is a skilled conman and his conservative son Ritchie (Nivola) has just been released from prison for of his father’s earlier crimes. Begrudgingly Ritchie joins his father on the road.

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

DISC DETAILS

DVD Special Features: Director and cast interviews; Trailer; Still galleries

Amazon Price: $19.99 (DVD), $21.99 (Blu-ray)

Score (DVDTalk.com): N/A

Ajami (DVD and Blu-ray)

What’s the Deal?
Ajami was nominated for the Academy Award for best Foreign Language Film and won a number of awards including the Camera d’Or at Cannes, the Sutherland Trophy at the London Film Festival and many Ophir Awards. It was also a rare project of cooperation with Palestinian Scandar Copti and Israeli Yaron Shani writing and directing Ajami together.
Set in the Ajami neighbourhood of Jaffa, Copti and Shani recruit many non-professional actors in this religiously diverse community. Ajami tells 5 different stories of the everyday lives of it’s people. Along with Lebanon, Waltz to Bashir and Beaufort, Israeli cinema is at a high point at the moment.

Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): 97% (excellent)
Player Affinity Score: N/A

DISC DETAILS

DVD Special Features: N/A

Amazon Price: $27.49 (DVD), $31.49 (Blu-ray)

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

The Age of Stupid (DVD)

What’s the Deal?
Documentary filmmaker Franny Armstrong (McLibel) writes and directs this docudrama, starring Pete Postlehwaite (The Usual Suspects). In the future the world has suffered through the worst affects of global warming. Postlehwaite plays an unnamed archivist, looking at six stories and asking why we didn’t stop climate change when we had the chance. Armstrong raises an important issue and climate change is a major threat. But is this film just preaching to the choir?

Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): 79% (very good)
Player Affinity Score: N/A

DISC DETAILS

DVD Special Features: 

50-Minute Making-of Documentary; Pete Postlethwaite Ambushing the UK’s Minister of Climate Change; 8 Deleted Scenes; 8 Extended Interviews; 8 Short Climate Films; Crew Commentary; Trailers ; Right To Reply from Alvin, Fernand and Piers; Launch of the 10:10 Campaign

Amazon Price: $21.99 (DVD)

Score (DVDTalk.com): N/A

Time Bandits (Blu-ray)

What’s the Deal?
Terry Gilliam is a great director, making films such as Brazil, Twelve Monkeys and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. With his Monty Python colleague Michael Palin, they write a dark children’s fantasy film, starring then-child actor Craig Warnock, with dwarf actors such as Kenny Baker (R2-D2 from Star Wars) and Mike Edmonds (Flash Gordon). Major actors like Sean Connery, John Cleese and Ian Holm offer cameos.

11-year-old Kevin (Warnock) wishes to escape his dull life in the suburbs. Through a time portal he joins a team of dwarves with a map to all the time portals in the universe. They aim to rob some of history’s greatest figures including Napoleon and Robin Hood. But they are caught in the middle of an eternal struggle between the Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson) and Evil (David Warner). Time Bandits is dark, funny, imaginative and very, very surreal.

Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): 94% (excellent)
Player Affinity Score: 8.0/10

DISC DETAILS

DVD Specail Features: Terry Gilliam Interview; Trailer

Amazon Price: $12.99 (Blu-ray)

Score (DVDTalk.com): N/A

Shogun Assassin (Blu-ray)

What’s the Deal?
Shogun Assassin is best known to mainstream audiences because of its mention in Kill Bill vol. 2. It was the feature debut for Robert Houston as a director and this Japanese-set film was made with an eye to the Western market. Kazuo Koike, writer of Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance co-wrote the screenplay and the stars the lead of the Lone Wolf and Cub series Tomisaburo Wakayama.

Shogun Assassin was banned in Britain from 1983 to 2001 because of the moral panic about video nasties. To some people that was a must see list of films.

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

DISC DETAILS

DVD Special Features: Video interview with Samuel L. Jackson; Audio commentary by producer David Weisman, graphic designer Jim Evans, Gibran Evans (voice actor of Daigoro); Audio commentary by film scholar Ric Meyers & martial arts expert Steve Watson

Amazon Price: $14.99 (Blu-ray)

Score (DVDTalk.com): Content: 4 stars, Video 4.5 stars, Audio 3.5 stars, Extras 3.5 stars, Replay 4 stars (out of 5). DVD Talk Collector Series

Withnail and I (Blu-ray)

What’s the Deal?
If you are a British university student you need to see Withnail and I to consider yourself a film fan. The film was a flop on it’s original release, but saved on it’s video release by university students and considered one of the best films made by George Harrison’s Handmade films. Bruce Robinson (How to Get Ahead in Advertising) writes and direct Withnail and I as a semi-autobiographical film about his experience as an struggling actor in the 60s. Richard E. Grant (Gosford Park), Paul McGann (Alien 3) and Richard Griffiths (Uncle Vernon in Harry Potter) star in this dialogue driven comedy.

Withnail (Grant) and I (McGann) are two out-of-work actors in 1960s London. Withnail is on a course of alcoholism while I is a paranoid narrator. Both seek to go to the countryside, using Withnail’s flamboyantly gay uncle Vernon’s (Griffiths) cottage. Withnail and I is a cult classic and extremely funny.

Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): 92% (excellent)
Player Affinity Score: 9.0/10

DISC DETAILS

DVD Special Features: Theatrical trailer

Amazon Price: $12.99 (Blu-ray)

Score (DVDTalk.com): N/A

The Long Good Friday (Blu-ray)

What’s the Deal?
Last week I mentioned that there are two types of British gangster films, great and bad: The Long Good Friday qualifies as a great gangster. John Mackenzie (The Fourth Protocol) directs and playwright Barrie Keeffe wrote the screenplay for a film that features Bob Hoskins (Who Famed Roger Rabbit) and Helen Mirren (The Queen).

Harold Shand (Hoskins) is a major London gangster hoping to make the deal of a lifetime with the American Mafia, including links and property deals. But the IRA have declared war on Shand’s organization in what is the long Good Friday. A footnote to the film is it was one of Pierce Brosnan’s first film roles as a silent IRA hitman.

Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): 94% (excellent)
Player Affinity Score: 9.0/10

DISC DETAILS

DVD Special Features: Theatrical trailer

Amazon Price: $12.99 (Blu-ray)

Score (DVDTalk.com): N/A

Mona Lisa (Blu-ray)

What’s the Deal?
Mona Lisa is the last, but certainly not the least of this week’s Handmade Film releases. Neil Jordan (Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles) directs his co-written screenplay. Bob Hoskins and Cathy Tyson star in the film and are supported by Michael Caine and Robbie Coltrane.

George (Hoskins), Is a recently released prisoner who wants to go straight for his daughter, but he is made the driver for Simone (Tyson), a high-end escort on the search for her old friend in the seedy underbelly of London.
Hoskins’ performance was highly regarded and he earned himself an Oscar nod for best actor in 1987.

Critics Rating (Rotten Tomatoes): 96% (excellent)
Player Affinity Score: 9.0/10

DISC DETAILS

DVD Special Features: Theatirical trailer

Amazon Price: $12.99 (Blu-ray)

Score (DVDTalk.com): N/A

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