Weekly Release Rundown (9-11-12)
Unless you’ve lived in a bubble the past fifteen years, you’re definitely familiar with the biggest blockbuster of all time, ‘Titanic’. Released in 1997, this James Cameron juggernaut took the world by storm and quickly became the highest grossing film of all time. Filled with then state-of-the-art CGI graphics, this beloved Romeo and Juliet romance aboard the doomed cruise liner became an instant classic with critics and audiences alike. With the recent boom of 3D, studio Fox wisely decided to re-release the film with the new format last year to discover a whole new generation of fans… and eek out a little more shekels for this perennial winner.
This Academy Award Best Picture winner is a lavish recreation of the most famous maritime disaster of all time. Starting in Belfast upon the Titanic’s maiden voyage, we meet our soon-to-be star crossed lovers (Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet). One is a poor artist scrounging his fortune on a last hand of poker for a ticket aboard the liner, while the other a soon-to-be wed woman of fortune, who isn’t in love but is being forced to be married by a controlling mother who is wary of her status in polite society. This is where the melodrama starts and history collide on that fateful night when the Titanic collided with an iceberg. Although I’ve seen this film at least a dozen times, it never fails to pull me right back in. Cameron knows his subject matter well and treats it with respect rather than simply go for the spectacle. With some terrific supporting players including Billy Zane and Kathy Bates, ‘Titanic 3D’ holds up considerably well and is destined to continue its legacy for generations to come.
Extras include 6 hours of special features, 2 all-new documentaries, a souvenir book, passenger dossier, sketch postcards as well as other extras not seen in previously released editions.
Liam McIntyre and Lucy Lawless star in Starz Channel flagship series ‘Spartacus’. Dubbed ‘Vengeance’, this sophomore season returns with all nine episodes with a slew of extras certain to satiate the rabid fans of this critically touted series. With visceral fight scenes, which are certainly feature-worthy, if you haven’t sampled this ‘Gladiator’ inspired melodrama, you’re in for a treat.
Picking up where season one left off, ‘Spartacus: Vengeance’ follows the travails of their bloody escape from the House of Batiatus, the gladiator rebellion continues as Spartacus is faced with a choice to either satisfy his personal need for vengeance, or make the sacrifices necessary to keep his growing army from breaking apart at the seams. With strong performances and A-list direction, ‘Spartacus’ has definitely put the pay-cable channel on the map. If this series is any indication, there will be many more seasons to come.
Extras include a Starz Studios featurette, 5 Behind-the-scenes featurettes, Exclusive HD Content as well as nine extended episodes.
Elizabeth Banks, Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Chace Crawford, and Brooklyn Decker star in last year’s box-office yawn, ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’. Loosely (if at all) based upon the popular fiction “How-do-it” guide by the same title which has become a mainstay for the past two decades, this high octane comedy tries to milk out as many laughs from the plethora of clichés that come with new parenting. Directed by Kirk Jones, ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting” will have you groaning before you’re guffawing, with a series of vignettes involving the newborn and yet-to-be-born.
The first story involves a TV fitness guru Jules, (Diaz) who can’t wait to be a parent and dance show star Evan (Matthew Morrison) who quickly discovers that they’re in over their head at the prospect of bringing another life into this world. Then there’s baby-crazy author and advocate Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) who gets a taste of her own medicine when pregnancy hormones ravage her body while her put-upon hubby battles his competitive alpha-Dad (Dennis Quaid), who’s expecting twins with his much younger trophy wife. If this wasn’t enough, there’s also Jennifer Lopez playing a photographer looking to adopt, while her husband attends a support group with new fathers. Mildly entertaining in parts, the sum, however feels more like an extended episode of “Love, American Style”.
Extras including featurettes, ‘The Dudes Unscrewed’, ‘What to Expect and the Pregnancy Bible’ as well as deleted scenes.
Horror movies are typically the bane of existence for film critics but not for this one. The fact is a good horror film is deceptively simple. It takes a good story; characters you care about and swift direction to make it all work. Such is the case with MGM/UA’s sleeper hit, ‘Jeepers Creepers’. Released over a decade ago, this creepy little thriller quickly gets under your skin and never lets go. Starring a very young Justin Long and Gina Philips, ‘Jeepers Creepers’ works by keeping its tongue firmly planted in cheek for the entire thrill ride. A decade later, this cult classic holds up quite well, having spawned a halfway decent sequel already. MGM/UA would be wise to revisit the franchise for a whole new generation.
On a desolate country highway, two homeward-bound teens are nearly run off the road by a maniac in a beat-up truck. A little further down the road they spot the driver shoving what appears to be a body down a sewer pipe. But when they stop to investigate, they discover that the grisly reality at the bottom of that pipe is far worse than they could have ever suspected–as Jeepers Creepers takes on a whole new meaning. Part ‘Hitchhiker’, part ‘Halloween’, this devilish little thriller remains one of my all time favorites. If you’re a fan of the genre, you’re in for a treat–Long is terrific in a role that seems tailor made for his personality.
Extras are sadly lacking considering the cult audience this film has developed over the years. Here’s hoping for enough new interest for another installment of this creepy franchise.
After the monster success of ‘Titanic’, James Cameron decided to satiate audiences (and his own) obsession with everything Titanic by filming two miles below the ocean’s surface for a one-on-one documentary of the famous sunken liner’s final resting place. Filmed in 3D and released in IMAX, this fascinating look inside the bones of what’s left of the Titanic is engrossing and at times a little morbid. That said this documentary puts a nice cap in the subject matter of the Titanic, which has captivated audiences since it sunk over a century ago.
Starring ‘Titanic’ star (and Cameron pal) Bill Paxton, Lori Johnston and Lewis Abernathy, director/producer and narrator Cameron takes audiences on a journey to the wreck with a bird’s eye view that no explorer has ever experiences. With state-of-the-art equipment, Cameron and his crew are able to explore virtually all of the wreckage, inside and out. Among the murky depths, you’re able to see what exactly happened that fateful night in April 1912. Questions that have long dogged historians are finally answered with the physical evidence, which has been resting on the ocean floor, undiscovered for eight decades. Although a bit dry at times, ‘Ghosts of the Abyss’ is yet another fascinating look at one of the most talked about disasters of all time.
Extras include Reflections from the Deep featurette.
It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade since the horror remake of the popular Japanese import ‘The Ring’ rocked audiences in a way we’ve not seen in a long time. Starring Naomi Watts, Brian Cox and Martin Henderson, this top-notch thriller continues to hold up as one the best of the genre. If you haven’t seen it before, you’re in for a treat, and if you haven’t seen it in awhile, this is one creepy thrill ride you’ll be glad to take another spin on.
The secret behind ‘The Ring’ lies in Urban Legend. There’s a videotape that exists which causes the viewer absolute death exactly seven days after watching it. Although it seems preposterous, after four teenagers all meet with untimely deaths exactly one week after watching just such a tape, investigative reporter Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) tracks down the video and watches it for herself Now, the legend is coming true, the clock is ticking and Rachel has just seven days to unravel the mystery of The Ring. Watt’s is terrific as is the mesmerizing cinematography that adds to the film’s sense of altered reality. If you’re as much a fan of the film as I am, you’d be well worth giving the original, titled ‘Ringu’ a look as well.
Extras in this tenth anniversary include featurettes Don’t Watch This’, “Rings”, Interviews, The Origin of Terror, as well as the film’s original theatrical trailer.
Here’s an import discovered by Paramount from Down Under… a little horror comedy called ‘Loved Ones’. If you’re a fan of the Aussie sensibility, you’re in for a treat with this off-the-beaten track teen comedy. Featuring a cast of unknowns, this dark comedy just might find a loyal cult following after some word of mouth.
The story follows the travails of Brent (Xavier Samuel), who is driving home late one night with his father when he swerves after seeing something in the road. The car spins out of control, and moments later Brent’s dad is dead. From then on, boy meets guilt, then meets girl, who asks him to the upcoming dance. But when boy turns down girl, things get dicey. Turns out she’s a bit psychotic with a wealthy father who will do anything to protect his daughter’s feelings. When Brent is forced to attend a private party in a remote cottage in the woods, he quickly discovers he’s the only guest and brutal punishment is on the menu. ‘Loved Ones’ made a bit of a splash at the Toronto Film festival last year.
Extras include cast interviews and director’s commentary.
An odd thriller from the mind of Panos Cosmatos finds its way to blu-ray this week in the form of ‘Beyond the Black Rainbow’. Dark, twisted, this retro sci-fi horror seems to be an homage to films of the 80s. Set during that period, Cosmatos seems to draw from the stylings of other directors at the time, including Brian De Palma, Stanley Kubrick, and George Lucas… with mixed results.
The story kicks off right away as we discover a young, mute woman, kept captive and sedated in a secluded compound by drugs and a mind control sadistic leader. Somehow she manages to escape, her exit is hindered by her obvious impairments. With no one left to trust, it’s her against the world–with her survival dependent upon her managing to outwit her captors.
Extras include extended scenes and a pair of behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Writer-director Lynn Shelton, who received a wave of critical praise with her indie comedy ‘Humpday’ follows up her freshman foray with ‘Your Sister’s Sister’. Another critical darling, this unique family comedy stars Rosemarie DeWitt and Emily Blunt as sisters separated at the hip. Although this sophomore effort didn’t exactly ring up at the box-office, it did become yet another indie favorite and will certainly find a wider audience on video.
Co-starring Mark Duplass, ‘Your Sister’s Sister’ concerns the plight of a young man who has a drunken sexual encounter with the sister of his late brother’s ex-girlfriend. From there on, the family dynamic is splintered as this family comedy starts dredging up past conflict and unresolved feelings. With a meandering cinematic style, Shelton’s story-telling tries to mimic real life rather than typical Hollywood execution of tying up everything in the end. Stellar performances by everyone involved, ‘Your Sister’s Sister’ is one of those character pieces you tend to savor. This is one writer-director to keep an eye on in the future.
Extras include director’s commentary and the original theatrical trailer.