Blu-ray Highlights for 2/1/11: What Are You Buying?

This first day of February brings us an eclectic slate of new Blu-ray releases. We’ve got remakes, classic animation, and some of this past year’s most overlooked films. Let’s see what might be worth buying, shall we?

Here’s the release list:

Although flatly ignored by both audiences and the Oscar committee, ‘Let Me In‘ was one of the best films of 2010. This remake of the beloved Swedish vampire movie ‘Let the Right One In‘ manages to be exceedingly faithful to the original, and yet also finds a life of its own. I wrote some more thoughts on the movie when I covered it at the Toronto International Film Festival. Our Blu-ray reviewer E. also makes his case for it if you follow the link above.

On the subject of remakes, acclaimed Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou (‘Hero‘, ‘House of Flying Daggers‘) tries his hand at adapting the Coen Brothers’ debut feature ‘Blood Simple’ as a goofy slapstick farce in ‘A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop‘. I watched this recently. The Blu-ray has absolutely gorgeous imagery and a terrific soundtrack, but the movie itself is utterly atrocious. It’s shockingly bad. I almost turned it off halfway through. I can’t believe that a director of the caliber of Zhang Yimou made it. The only worthwhile thing I got out of this movie was a reminder that I really ought to watch ‘Blood Simple’ again. I hope that comes to Blu-ray soon.

Let’s jump back to TIFF for a moment, if we can. One of the movies I most anticipated when I went to the festival last year was Mark Romanek’s adaptation of the Kazuo Ishiguro novel ‘Never Let Me Go‘. I found it kind of disappointing, but it’s difficult to separate my feelings for the movie as a movie from my feelings on how well it was adapted from the book. More about this in that TIFF post. In any case, the film went absolutely nowhere when it was finally released wide. I feel bad about that, because it is an interesting movie, and I think I ought to give it a second chance.

Monsters‘ tries to do the ‘District 9‘ thing on an ultra low budget. Drew thought it was pretty crappy. As I recall, the buzz at TIFF was also largely negative. (I didn’t go see this one.) On the other hand, it must have impressed somebody, because director Gareth Edwards has been signed to helm the next American Godzilla reboot.

All right, now let’s shift gears over to the catalog front. The big deal this week is Disney’s 60th Anniversary Edition of ‘Alice in Wonderland‘. This isn’t my favorite of Disney’s animated classics, but I’ll scoop it up just the same.

The Criterion Collection brings us Krzysztof Kieslowski’s ‘The Double Life of Veronique‘. I’ve managed to avoid seeing this one over the years. If I can admit to a bit of film snob heresy here, I think that Kieslowski’s much-heralded ‘Three Colors Trilogy’ is a bunch of pretentious garbage. I don’t know, I’ll probably give this a shot anyway. I’m a Criterion whore like that sometimes.

Other notable catalog releases this week include ‘Almost Famous‘, ‘All About Eve‘, ‘Boys Don’t Cry‘, ‘Pleasantville‘, and ‘Ray‘. Of these, I think the only one I’ll buy is ‘All About Eve’. I have the UK import disc for ‘Almost Famous’, and think that can hold me over. (I believe the new disc is a Best Buy exclusive.) Jamie Foxx delivers a deservedly-acclaimed performance in ‘Ray’, but the movie is otherwise an exceedingly formulaic biopic. ‘Pleasantville’ has never done anything for me, and ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ is the sort of thing I only ever need to watch once. Your mileage may vary.


  1. HuskerGuy

    Wow, I had no idea Alice in Wonderland was coming out. As with you Josh, I’m not the biggest fan but we are picking up all these Disney classics regardless. Time to go to Amazon now.

  2. I had Alice In Wonderland, Pleasentville, Let Me In, and You Got Mail preordered, but I ran into a scare a few weeks ago with my job, and canceled all pre-orders for the year except for Star Wars and Charlotte’s Web. Let Me In is currently on the top of my Netflix list, and I will probably end up ordering these here in a few weeks when things calm down a bit.

  3. Shayne

    Have Alice in Wonderland arriving today, and will pick up Rules of Attraction once I can get through the snow.

  4. AlexWS

    I really dislike the prestige linked to the Criterion releases. They release a lot of foreign/indie movies, which instantly gets a ton of respect from movie buyers when the Criterion logo is in place. The movies are seemingly picked at random, as some of them are truly great movies, while shockingly many of them are simple or outdated movies not worthy of half the praise they received after Criterion “choose” them. It seems to mostly affect Americans though, as outside of the US (like here in Europe), they aren’t looked at with such an astounding amount of respect. Maybe the movies seem more “exotic” when they are shot in black & white or spoken in a foreign language. With so many outright bad movies in their line up (no body raised an eyebrow when The Rock was released…), I have trouble taking them too seriously (at least anywhere near as seriously as they take themselves…).

    • Ian Whitcombe

      You can take or leave their catalogue AlexWS, but it’s hard to deny the amount of good Blu-Rays released over the past few years.

    • Josh Zyber

      Alex, I don’t know where you were, but quite a lot of eyebrows were raised when Criterion released The Rock. You say that Criterion has released “so many outright bad movies.” Other than The Rock and Armageddon, what else are you thinking of? I’m not going to deny that Criterion has SOME really bad movies in the collection, but you make it sound like the majority of what they release is Michael Bay garbage.

      I don’t love every movie in the Criterion Collection, and I don’t buy every movie they release. (Nothing will ever convince me to buy Antichrist.) But overall their track record is strong enough that I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.

      Aside from the pair of Michael Bay movies (which are the studio’s top selling titles, I might note), even when I don’t LIKE a Criterion release, there’s generally something interesting about it that makes it worth a watch.

      You say that Criterion isn’t as respected in Europe. If that’s the case, let’s take a look at what a joke the “Studio Canal Collection” is.

  5. ilovenola2

    I have “Alice in Wonderland” (a favorite of mine from first release when I was about 8 years old) and “Let Me In,” simply the most ignored “best” pic of the year!, on the way from Amazon!
    And I may run over to my next-door Best But for “The Manchurian Candidate,” also one of my all-time faves!