The Best Blu-ray/DVD Releases of the Week: ‘Foreign Correspondent’ and the Third Season of ‘Game of Thrones’
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The naval assault against the Lannisters has failed, and that little prick Joffrey remains atop the throne. Elsewhere, Daenerys is gathering an army to join her and her trio of dragons, Robb Stark is working to mend fences and create allies, and the White Walkers are continuing their ridiculously slow journey towards civilization.
I’ve never read the novels, and I can’t imagine doing so without photos so I can recognize who’s who in the enormous list of characters, but this is some wonderfully dense and entertaining television. Season three continues to follow numerous story threads and characters, and while some are more engaging than others there’s not a single dud among them. The production value remains high resulting not only in strong performances but also in brilliant production design and cinematography. And if you haven’t watched the ninth episode of this season yet… oh my. Enjoy. Beyond the actual quality of the series, HBO proves once again that they care about the packaging and special features more than any other network. The Blu-ray case, complete with slipcase, is once again a gorgeous and highly practical creation.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentaries, deleted scenes]
Pitch: Because everybody’s foreign somewhere…
Alfred Hitchcock’s Hollywood debut came in the form of two films released in 1940: the Best Picture-winning Rebecca, and Foreign Correspondent, a lesser-known international mystery-thriller that fits much more comfortably in Hitchcock’s canon than anything starring Laurence Olivier. The film follows John Jones (Joel McCrea), a hyperbolically American, intrepid reporter whose agnosticism about the escalating war in Europe makes a dramatic switch to pro-interventionist advocacy as he witnesses a “foreign” (code: Nazi) conspiracy against a nice, old Dutch ambassador.
The film is a fascinating record of Hollywood just before the war, an industry crowded with filmmakers who fled Europe that urged the United States to get their feet dirty in regards to evident atrocities abroad. But Foreign Correspondent is also a fascinating, unduly overlooked entry in the Hitchcock formula, complete with pitch-perfect suspense, exciting set-pieces, exemplary practical effects, and sharp wit. It’s far less serious than Rebecca despite its timely subject matter, yet the film seems much more in touch with the combination of sensibilities Hitchcock would traverse in his subsequent Hollywood output. Foreign Correspondent is a damn fun film, a must-see for any Hitchcock fan, and another worthy entry in Criterion’s expanding catalogue of the Master of Suspense’s early output.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Documentary on the film’s special effects; documentary on Hollywood propaganda during WWII; 1972 Hitchcock interview with Dick Cavett; radio adaptation; photo-drama; illustrated booklet with an essay by James Naremore]
Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) is in a bit of a rut. Her marriage to Jeff (Josh Radnor) has grown stale, she’s not all that interested in her kid, and the biggest highlight in recent memory is a lap dance she gets from a stripper named McKenna (Juno Temple). So of course she invites the stripper to move in with them. This dramatic comedy is a rough watch at times because Rachel is in emotional free-fall for far too much of it. Still, there are some laughs and some emotional beats that work, just not enough to make it a memorable film that you’ll revisit anytime soon.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, featurette, trailer]
Director: “Hey Dolph Lundgren, do you want to star in our zombie movie? You’ll be the hero, and it also features robots for some reason.” Dolph: “You had me at ‘hey.’” So yes, zombies, robots, and Dolph, all in one movie. You already know if you want to see this. For those of you on the fence, it’s pretty much exactly what you think it’s going to be.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
Batman fights crime, as he’s prone to do, but this time he’s joined by an assassin named Katana and his loyal butler Alfred who once upon a time was a secret agent. Obviously. I don’t usually care for DVD releases that are “part” of a season, but it looks like Cartoon Network may or may not have cancelled this fledgling series. If nothing else, at least fans can now enjoy all thirteen episodes that were produced. The writing is solid, but I’m not entirely sold on the CG animation style.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
A scientist (Liam Neeson) close to perfecting a new synthetic skin material is blown up in a messy mob hit completely unrelated to him or his work. He lives though and comes back for vengeance with the aid of his research and sunny disposition. Sam Raimi’s first “superhero” film is even more comic book-like than his Spiderman efforts thanks to editing, pacing, and onscreen effects that highlight the cartoon-like atmosphere. Most of you love it, I know, but aside from the helicopter sequence I find too much of it to be an overly comical bust. The rest of you though should really enjoy Scream Factory’s presentation here from its fantastic picture to a wealth of interviews with the cast and crew.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, commentary, storyboards, trailer]
Mixed martial arts takes over the airwaves in a new show that pairs neighborhood legends against professional fighters, but as three old friends rise up through the leaderboard their past transgressions lead to renewed friction and hopeful forgiveness. This is essentially a Korean Warrior, at least in general, but it fails to build the same level of suspense or emotional drama. Some good fight scenes also have to be balanced out against the unnecessarily long 131 minute run-time.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, featurettes]
An elite squad of renegade priests are all that stand between us and the open gates of hell, but when a new enemy proves a deadly threat and the new pope attempts to disband the unit the real test of faith begins. The setup here is fantastic with its insistence that these exorcists fight evil by themselves committing a litany of sins, but the execution falters after the first act. Still, it’s one hell of a cast including Clifton Collins Jr., Clancy Brown, Macon Blair, and more.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurette, behind the scenes, short films, trailer, 3D version]
Samantha has inherited a home from relatives she has no recollection of, but when she and her friends head to the small town to check it out they unintentionally walk into a nightmare. The generic premise combined with some questionable acting makes for a tough watch, but the writing is strong enough that genre fans may find enough to enjoy here.
[DVD extras: Commentaries, behind the scenes]
Jackie is newly sober and trying to make the separation from her husband as easy on their kids as possible, but the usual hospital dramas and Jackie’s generally cantankerous attitude continue to make things difficult. This season does a fine job keeping things interesting even without the drug use, something that had been a bit overused for drama/suspense purposes in the past.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, featurettes, gag reel, deleted scenes]
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and/or review material was unavailable:
Angry Nazi Zombies
Bad Dreams / Visiting Hours
Fantastic Mr. Fox (Criterion)
The Ganzfeld Haunting
The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology
Random Acts of Violence
Sick Birds Die Easy
Terry Fator: Live in Concert
Related Topics: Home Video