This Week in Blu-ray / DVD Releases: American Hustle, Frozen, Mandela...
This week: Ten-time Oscar runner-up American Hustle, Frozen won't let go of your wallet, and Mr. Hanks does Mr. Banks.
► It’s kind of ridiculous AMERICAN HUSTLE will be known as the movie that lost 10 Oscars, because this was the one that deserved to win most all of them. David O. Russell’s wily caper may have been too funny for its own good when it came to the Academy Awards, but this really is a perfectly stewed mix of comic tension and streetwise drama with one brilliant performance overlapping the other (Russell has become a master of the acting ensemble). Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper play the long con on the New Jersey mayor (Jeremy Renner) trying to do what’s best for his town in this semi-true story. The 1978 soundtrack is brilliant, the script unpredictable, and the energy infectious. This feels like a Scorsese movie from the ‘80s. Screw you, Oscar – this was the best movie of 2013.
► Even when they drop a massive bomb like ‘The Lone Ranger’ during the summer and everyone’s declaring the blockbuster era over, Disney has something like FROZEN to clean up the mess. One of the studio’s all-time biggest hits is also one of its most old-fashioned – pure fairy tale with roots going back to Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Snow Queen.’ Idina Menzel voices a princess whose power to create ice and snow forces her into isolation. Kristen Bell voices the younger sister Elsa who goes to retrieve her, with the help of a mountain man, his reindeer and a comical snowman who yearns for summer. The icy animation is staggering and the humour spot on (love that snow man, voiced by Josh Gad). Some are calling this the best since Disney’s golden age, though I still give the nod to ‘The Lion King.’ Extras include a making of feature, deleted scenes, and the new Mickey Mouse short ‘Get a Horse.’
► On the surface, SAVING MR. BANKS sounds mighty self-serving: A Disney movie about Walt Disney making a Disney movie. It ends up being a revealing look at the creative process and how one man's vision (Tom Hanks as Disney) intertwines with a writer's (Emma Thompson as Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers) to create a classic which could have, and likely should have, gone horribly wrong. It's too bad the film isn't brave enough to stick the landing – unlike what's depicted here, Travers despised the film version of Poppins and vowed never to work with Disney again.
► On the night MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM premiered in London, the real Mandela died. Star Idris Elba and producer Anant Singh informed the audience as the end credits rolled. Sadly, it may be the only thing anyone remembers from this overly earnest bio-pic, which gets a hefty performance from Elba as the South African President despite a dodgy script. Based on Mandela’s 1995 book.
► Lost in the Francis Ford Coppolla catalog may be one of the most perfect family movies ever, THE BLACK STALLION. He produced this 1979 adaptation of the classic children’s book, which must have seemed like heaven after the nightmare that was ‘Apocalypse Now.’ The first half has virtually no dialogue, as a boy bonds with a majestic Arabian horse on an island after their ship is destroyed in a storm.. Once rescued, they come under the tutelage of a retired jockey (Mickey Rooney, getting his last Oscar nomination). A gorgeous-looking movie.
► The 2012 horror flick HERE COMES THE DEVIL finds two kids who get lost on a family outing in Tijuana. When they return to their parents the next day, they seem…different. That’s when the parents realize the cave their kids holed up in overnight has some creepy legends attached to it. A big hit at Fantastic Fest 2012.
► Tom Holland’s web series TWISTED TALES is an anthology series released on FEARnet last year. Alternately goofy and gory, the nine segments include tales of demons, witches, and satanic cell phones. Most are hit and miss, and the cheapness of the whole thing is distracting. Ray Wise, William Forsythe and Danielle Harris make appearances.
► Director John Krokidas makes a noteworthy debut with KILL YOUR DARLINGS, about the Beat Generation of the ‘40s as Allen Ginsburg (Daniel Radcliffe) arrives at Columbia University and becomes a jazz-clubbing hipster with William Burroughs (Ben Foster), David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall) and Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan). When one of them is killed during a confrontation, Ginsberg uses the incident for his term paper.
Also out this week:
SO WHAT DVD/BLU-RAYS ARE YOU GUYS STOKED ABOUT THIS WEEK?!