Jared Leto in Mr Nobody

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Discs Section: Pick of the Week

Mr. Nobody Blu-ray coverMr. Nobody

Nemo Nobody (Jared Leto) is 118 years old and on his death bed. He’s the last human doomed to die in a world where mankind has achieved a level of immortality and no longer faces an expiration date. Before he passes on, Nemo gives an interview to share the story of his life, but the tale he tales is an impossible one featuring multiple outcomes and events that simply couldn’t all be true. Or could they?

This gorgeously shot and endlessly fascinating film is actually from 2009 and only now getting a release here in the U.S. for reasons unknown. It’s far from a traditional film, but if you like science fiction that explores humanity in surprising ways then you owe it to yourself to seek this one out. Leto does some incredible work here as a man shifting in and out of multiple threads of his own life, moving between different loves and events, and the supporting cast (Sarah Polley, Diane Kruger, Linh-dan Pham) is equally strong. This Blu also includes both the R-rated cut and the extended international cut that runs an additional 16 minutes.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, deleted scenes, featurette, trailer]

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Blue Is the Warmest Color Blu-ray coverBlue Is the Warmest Color (Criterion)

Pitch: Like my mother always says, if you’re going to double dip you can do far worse than dipping with lesbians…

Can you sell a bunch of slightly higher priced than normal Blu-ray copies of a movie solely on the merits of the film, sans any real special features or worthwhile extras? When the movie is a vivid, often explicit love story between two young French ladies, you have a chance. It’s a chance that Criterion is willing to take on their first release of Abdellatif Kechiche‘s Blue is the Warmest Color. The film is a stunning and revealing look inside the intimate relationship between two young women, captured with great detail and verve by the deft hand of Kechiche. It would be great to hear his commentary, get his take on some of the controversy that surrounded the film’s release or get a behind the scenes look at what sounded like a tumultuous production. None of that is present in this release, though. Just a beautiful film. Which is enough, for now. Connoisseurs of artful film should be thankful that this one is getting an uncut release in the United States, but collectors of quality home video releases may be a tad disappointed with the lack of going that extra mile, a mile well-walked by the folks at Criterion. Perhaps this won’t be the last release we see for this title. – Neil Miller

Editor’s note: It’s worth noting that this is an intentionally bare-bones release by Criterion in anticipation of a follow-up packed with more special features. No date has been set yet for the full-featured release. Thankfully, it’s a brilliant enough movie that either edition is a good buy.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Booklet]

Gravity Blu-ray coverGravity

Pitch: “Don’t Let Go”

Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are enjoying a walk when all hell breaks loose around them. I should mention they’re on a space walk outside the shuttle, and the hell in question is debris from a satellite that comes hurtling towards them, destroying the shuttle, killing their fellow astronauts, and leaving them stranded in orbit. The pair are forced to think fast as their oxygen supplies dwindle and the debris circles around to them again.

Alfonso Cuarón‘s film is a masterpiece of craftsmanship and technical achievement, and regardless of the film’s issues this is a Blu-ray you really want to own. The picture and sound are incredible and demand to be played on a big screen with the volume cranked. Yes the script is laughable and film’s afraid of embracing the silence of space, but it’s an amazing piece of cinema all the same. Be sure to watch the making-of after you’ve seen the film as it offers an extremely detailed look into the incredible ways in which the film’s effects and cinematography were created.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of]

Narco Cultura Blu-ray coverNarco Cultura

Pitch: “The Hits Just Keep On Coming”

Narcocorridas are Mexican songs that glorify in bloody detail the lifestyles of the drug lords and gang-bangers getting rich off the pain and suffering of the people around them. This doc explores some of the big players in the musical genre while simultaneously taking a look at the battlefield that is Juarez, Mexico. It’s quite possibly the murder capital of the world, and it’s directly across a river from one of America’s safest, El Paso, TX. The contrast is stark.

Shaul Schwarz’s film is as depressingly bleak as it is utterly absorbing and enlightening. The segments on the musicians are typical and could easily sub in for stories of the more traditional young rappers trying to glamorize the gangsta life, but it’s the scenes in Juarez that are truly harrowing. 97% of the murders go uninvestigated to any real degree, and crime scene investigators have to wear masks on scene to avoid reprisals. Can you imagine that? Cops are followed and executed as they arrive home or go to pick up their kids from school, a mother screams aloud wondering why all the mothers aren’t doing the same, and some miles away a singer crafts new lyrics about the men doing the killing. It’s sickening, sad, and nowhere near a resolution.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes]

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The 300 Spartans blu coverThe 300 Spartans

The epic battle of Thermopylae comes to life in grand style and without an ounce of CGI in this 1961 classic of political maneuvering and large-scale war. There’s far more character drama and build-up here than we got with Zack Snyder’s 300, but the result is the same as the outnumbered Greek soldiers head towards certain death at the hands of the Persian invaders. This is a solid adventure film featuring some fine and exciting cinematography throughout.

[Blu-ray extras: Trailer]

Adventure Time 3 dvd coverAdventure Time: The Complete Third Season

One of Cartoon Network’s best series continues its wondrously nonsensical and candy-colored domination with 26 episodes filled with nuttiness, action, and absurdity. I don’t know if it’s me or this season, but I’m no longer able to watch more than a couple episodes in a row like I used to. The show’s never been too concerned with narrative, but recent episodes have felt more scattershot to me. Still funny and wonderfully imaginative, but less cohesive. No? Just me? Ok.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, featurettes]

Amber Alert dvd coverAmber Alert

Nate and Samantha are driving around Phoenix and taping an audition for a reality show when they notice an Amber Alert flashing on a highway sign. Shortly after they see the car from the alert, and suddenly they’re thrust into a life or death situation as they attempt to save a child without becoming victims themselves. If you’ve ever wondered how not to make a found footage movie this is the movie for you. Every criticism of the gimmick is on display here from the questions as to why they’re still filming to the incredibly annoying character of Nate to the unnecessarily dumb ending.

[DVD extras: None]

Jamesy Boy blu coverJamesy Boy

A young man heads deeper and deeper in a troubled direction and ends up behind bars. Will he continue to let his rage grow or can he find comfort and meaning in the wisdom of those who came before? Ving Rhames, James Woods, and Mary-Louise Parker co-star in this well-intentioned but highly generic feature.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interviews, trailer]

LA Law dvd coverL.A. Law: Season One

Television has featured shows about lawyers and law firms for over half a century, but NBC’s hit series from the ’80s set the bar that much higher for all the ones that followed. Steven Bochco co-created the show, and while the writing is what kept it afloat for so long it’s the smartly crafted ensemble that made it stand out and shine. There was no singular star as instead the cast worked together to make something special, but the characters were constantly jockeying for top dog position leaving viewers with a steady stream of back-stabbing and personality clashes. It’s still pretty great TV, and thanks to Shout! Factory you can now start collecting the series on DVD.

[DVD extras: Interviews]

Lost In Thailand blu coverLost in Thailand

Two Chinese businessmen head to Bangkok for an important deal, but they’re doing so as competitors. Their quest is complicated by a doofus named Wang whose good intentions come with a heaping side of disaster and idiocy. The film is being marketed as a Chinese Hangover, but a more accurate comparison would be to The Hangover II. That’s probably a bit too harsh as there are actually a couple laughs here, but the overall film is a series of frustrations and concocted scenarios. That said, this is currently the highest grossing film in Chinese history.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, trailer]

Memory Of The Dead dvd coverMemory of the Dead

A widow mourns the loss of her husband by gathering some of their closest friends and family for a night of respectful eulogizing, but her plans actually go beyond simply remembering her husband as he once was. There’s a fun story here, but the presentation leaves a lot to be desired. Set pieces revolve around green screen work that resembles nothing more than outtakes from The 7th Guest, Phantasmagoria, or some other CD-Rom game from the ’90s. The film is supposed to be a bit cheeky, but these scenes just kill it every time. It’s especially unfortunate as the movie also features some very cool practical effects work.

[DVD extras: None]

Muscle Shoals blu coverMuscle Shoals

The little town of Muscle Shoals, AL, probably isn’t one you’ve heard of before, but folks involved in the music business over the past several decades most assuredly have. Rick Hall saw and heard something in the sleepy riverside locale that led him to open a recording studio, and the list of talent that found their way there is mesmerizing. The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge, The Allman Brothers, Jimmy Cliff, and Steve Winwood are just a few, and this doc shares the story through interviews, archival footage, and some fantastic music. It’s a fine mix of personal stories set amid the grand backdrop of the American music scene.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Additional scenes, commentaries, trailer]

Nebraska blu coverNebraska

A man (Bruce Dern) is convinced he’s won a cash prize and that it’s waiting for him to pick it up at a Nebraska office. Trouble is he’s currently in Montana, so he sets off on foot to retrieve his millions. His son (Will Forte) tries to dissuade him from wasting his time but eventually tags along hoping for some solid father/son time, and what he gets is almost that. Alexander Payne‘s latest is a slight but effective little comedy that pokes warm fun at family. It’s not Best Picture material, despite the nomination for Best Picture, but it’s a sweet and occasionally sharp film that your parents will probably enjoy.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of]

Scarecrow dvd coverScarecrow

The title kind of gives the plot away, but yes, this is a tale of a scarecrow coming to life and stalking (ha!) and killing a gaggle of folks stranded on a deserted farm. Lacey Chabert plays the land-owner unaware that her family home is home to a demonic straw man. It’s a Syfy Channel production, so of course there’s an excessive reliance on CGI scares, but there are a couple nice practical effects here as well. Are they enough of a reason to watch the movie? That’s for you to decide. (But no is the answer all the same.)

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

The Shadow blu coverThe Shadow

Alec Baldwin stars as the legendary pulp novel crime-fighter in a film that reveals his origin story alongside one of his most dangerous adventures. Director Russell Mulcahy delivers a big feeling to the action sequences, and the movie feels right at home alongside similarly stylized films like The Phantom and Dick Tracy. And yes, it’s cheesy. Shout! Factory’s new Blu-ray isn’t loaded with extras, but they did manage to nab a new and fun interview with Baldwin, and that combined with the nice HD picture should make fans of the film very happy.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, trailer, gallery]

Tess blu coverTess (Criterion)

After exceptional ‘60s women-in-peril classics like Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby, 1979’s Tess was Roman Polanski’s first film with a solo female lead since the murder of Sharon Tate. Polanski’s adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s late-19th century novel is dedicated to Tate, whose suggestion that her husband direct it occurred during one of their final interactions. Criterion’s stunning 4K transfer shows off the breathtaking pastoral beauty of Geoffrey Unsworth and Ghislain Cloquet’s Oscar-winning cinematography. Yet while Polanski’s vision is expertly rendered, the film’s loyal treatment of its source material often verges on clinical – it’s more Hardy than Polanski. The real value of this director-approved disc lies in its vast array of supplements, which treat the film’s history and making with exhaustive precision and detail usually reserved for epic fantasy adaptations. – Landon Palmer

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: No fewer than five in-depth documentaries (retrospective and contemporaneous) on the film’s making, a 1979 interview with Polanski, an illustrated booklet with essay]

Thor: The Dark World blu coverThor: The Dark World

A mischievous dark elf (Christopher Eccleston) wreaks havoc on everything Thor (Chris Hemsworth) holds dear including his human lady friend (Natalie Portman), and the only chance at stopping the pointy-eared madman involves freeing Loki (Tom Hiddleston) from his newly minted prison cell. This sequel ups the action quotient from the first film, but it does so seemingly at the expense of brain cells required to write a coherent and sensical script. Regardless of what you value more between them though, the film remains a worthwhile watch for fans of the Marvel universe.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Marvel One Shot, commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, gag reel]

You Will Be My Son blu coverYou Will Be My Son

The owner of a successful vineyard struggles with the realization that his son Martin isn’t quite the son he wants to continue the family business. Matters grow worse when he decides that his friend’s son is a better fit and begins grooming him for the position of proprietor and substitute son. This French drama finds a suspenseful thread that slowly grows into surprising turn of events, and strong acting throughout keeps the tale engaging and for some of us a bit too close to home.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, interview, trailer]

Discs Section: Also

Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and/or review material was unavailable:

Adventures of the Penguin King
Breathless (Criterion)
The Crash Reel
Ghost Adventures: Season 5
Ice Soldiers
King of the Hill (Criterion)
The Middle: Season 4
Pulling Strings
The Swan Princess
Transformers: Ultimate Bumblebee
Twice Born
The Wait


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