Two words make me very happy when it comes to watching movies: Big Week. March 5 is traditionally a big release week for home video; it starts off the whole season of home entertainment releases for everything that was a big hit over the holidays. I managed to squeeze in no less than 6 movies this week and that made me a very happy camper.
I started off with what was one of the most anticipated films to hit Blu-ray since the format began, Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. I have always been a big fan of the film, but I have to say, watching it on Blu-ray was like watching it for the first time all over again. The remastering Spielberg did for this film is just staggering. I really consider Schindler’s List to be the greatest film ever made, not only from the standpoint of a compelling narrative, some of the most striking cinematography and direction I have ever seen and a few of the best performances ever put to film, but it also goes beyond the film with Spielberg’s creation of the Shoah Foundation to chronicle firsthand accounts of the Holocaust. When you take all of these things into consideration I think you would be hard pressed to find a film to stack up. Just brilliant.
Next up was the new Paul Thomas Anderson film, The Master. The story of a man lost after World War II and finding a place with a scholar and (maybe) cult leader is a fascinating character study and one of the most beautiful looking films of the past year. Joaquin Phoenix gives what may be the most intense and intimate performance of his career and he is simply phenomenal here. Philip Seymour Hoffman keeps up though with a multi-layered, nuanced performance as the charismatic but flawed Lancaster Dodd and Amy Adams does stellar support work as Dodd’s wife. Together the three serve up some of the best acting of the past few years. In addition, The Master is gorgeously shot and looks unbelievable on Blu-ray.
Switching gears to the less serious I sat down with a new dark comedy/thriller called Collaborator. Written and directed by veteran character actor Martin Donovan, Collaborator is the story of a failed playwright who returns home to find himself held captive by his childhood neighbour. The two engage in a game of verbal sparring and dig up each other darkest secrets. The performances by Donovan and David Morse were both great, but the script couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a thriller or dark comedy and I found myself really wanting it to be one or the other instead of both. Pacing was a bit of an issue as well which is unfortunate as Collaborator had the potential to be quite an interesting film.
Next up was director Barry Levinson’s foray into the found footage genre with The Bay. The story of a tainted water supply that results in a mutating parasite that attacks the population of a small town was quite harrowing. Kind of a shaky cam version of Contagion, The Bay is very effective and quite unnerving. I like found footage so the handycam-style didn’t bother me, and it was more than made up for by great pacing, natural performances and some crazy ass gore and scares. Levinson’s seasoned hand puts The Bay a cut above the usual genre fare and results in a tense and fascinating look at government handling of such outbreaks. I had the distinct feeling there was more truth to this film than meets the eye.
The Marine 3: Homefront is the third (obviously) film in the WWE Films franchise started with John Cena in 2006. I really was expecting this to be pretty horrible but it was a fun timewaster of an action flick with a solid wrestler in the lead role, Mike “The Miz” Mizanin. Mizanin was charismatic and natural and held his own against his stellar line up of supporting actors including Neal McDonough, Ashley Bell and Michael Eklund. The action was well executed, the story decent and the pacing tight. A cut about your average direct-to-video actioner, The Marine 3: Homefront was a surprisingly good Sunday afternoon shoot em up.
I rounded off my movie watching bonanza with one of 2012’s stellar lineup of great animated films. Wreck-It Ralph was a nostalgic pleasure from beginning to end, and not just for my 5-year-old daughter. Sure, she loved all the candy coated fun and silly characters running around, but I loved the arcade game references from the ’80s, the sly and infectious humour and the touching moral center that anchored the film firmly in my heart as a film I want my daughter to learn from as well as laugh with. The animation is top notch, the Blu-ray is flawless and a guaranteed crowd pleaser, and the voice talent, including John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch and Ed O’Neill is awesome. Along with ParaNorman, Frankenweenie, Hotel Transylvania, Rise of the Guardians and Brave, Wreck-It Ralph helped make 2012 a benchmark year for animated features.
DVD and Blu-ray Releases for Tuesday March 5, 2013
Best in Show
Fred 3: Camp Fred
Lay the Favorite
One Night with the King
Saints and Soldiers
The Marine 3: Homefront
The Yellow Brick Road and Beyond
MORE FROM TORONTO FILM SCENE
- Letter from the Editor: hooray for women in film!
- Cinema Revisited: Gilles Groulx’ Le Chat dans le sac
- TIFF Bell Lightbox does the eighties, Japanese-style