Posts Tagged ‘Oscar’

This week’s releases include: a re-imagining of Chinese history; an attack of the physically fit undead; an outstanding, award-winning boxing picture; a supernatural tale of life-after-death; and a genetically manufactured, intelligent killing machine. (more…)

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Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy is an epic unquestionably worthy of a Blu-ray transfer.

Set in the fictional world of Middle-earth, the three films follow the hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) as he and a Fellowship (Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, John Rhys Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan and Orlando Bloom) embark on a quest to destroy the One Ring, and thus ensure the destruction of its maker, the Dark Lord Sauron. The Fellowship becomes divided and Frodo continues the quest together with his loyal companion Sam and the treacherous Gollum (Andy Serkis). Meanwhile, the wizard Gandalf and Aragorn, heir in exile to the throne of Gondor, unite and rally the Free Peoples of Middle-earth, who are ultimately victorious in the War of the Ring.

This project made household names of the characters as well as the actors that played them. Though its popularity has waned somewhat since the original releases, it is still widely regarded as one of the best and fascinating films put on film.

The world created by Jackson’s imagination and a dedicated crew is often breathtaking and the increased picture quality only amplifies its beauty. In addition, the characters are given new life and vibrancy.

The unfortunate downfall of this release is it does not include the extended director’s cuts of the films. If a re-release was to occur, it is these versions that should have been transferred instead.

The nine-disc set includes three special features DVDs with more than six hours of behind-the-movie featurettes (included in previous DVD releases) and digital copies of all three films.


No one is able to depict the world of crime like master director Martin Scorsese. In 1990, he made one of the best gangster films of all time: Goodfellas.

Following a trio of gangsters over 30 years, we witness their rise up the criminal ranks and eventual falls to personal demons. Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) and Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) are a couple of half Irish kids that want nothing more than to be a part of the mob that runs their neighbourhood; however, their heritage guarantees they’ll never be full members of the crime family. Nonetheless, with their friend Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci), the group makes their impression and gains the boss’ trust. Tommy’s temper and business choices threaten their careers many times, but they have each other’s backs almost to the end.

The illicit tale is based on true events, but Scorsese’s brilliant storytelling truly brings the narrative to life. It is also no surprise Pesci earned an Academy Award for his role, as he presented one of the most memorable personalities and delivered one of the most repeated pieces of dialogue in film history, which begins with “What do you mean I’m funny?” The film was also nominated for five other Oscars, including best picture and best director (both categories were lost to Dances with Wolves).

Goodfellas is on par with the greatest mob picture, The Godfather. And if imitation is the best form of flattery, then “The Goodfeathers” on Warner Bros.’s Animaniacs was a significant compliment.

Special features for the 20th anniversary edition include: commentary with Scorsese, Liotta, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino, Frank Vincent, co-screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi, producers Irwin Winkler and Barbara De Fina, cinematographer Michael Ballhaus and editor Thelma McDonald; another commentary with Henry Hill and former FBI Agent Edward McDonald; “Getting Made,” a making-of featurette; “Made Men: The Goodfellas Legacy” comprised of filmmakers such as Jon Favreau, Joe Carnahan, Antoine Fuqua and Frank Durabont discussing film’s influence; “The Workaday Gangster,” in which actors and filmmakers tell stories about growing up in a world of small-time hoods; ‘Paper is Cheaper than Film,” a glimpse into Scorsese’s creative process; Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film documentary; four mob-themed WB cartoons; and a 34-page book.


Gone with the Wind is one of the grandest, spectacular pieces of filmmaking in history. It is not only a must-see classic, but a Hollywood epic.

In the South during the Civil War, the handsome Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) has a turbulent love affair with the sassy, headstrong heroine Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh). Scarlett thought Ashley (Leslie Howard) was her true love and she pleads with him to marry her instead of his cousin, but his mind will not be changed. Scarlett then fights to keep her plantation while everything falls apart around her. Rhett is practical and roguish, refusing to be play Scarlett’s games and uttering the famous line, “Scarlett, I don’t give a damn.”

There are several other well-known events in the film, including the making of Scarlett’s dress from large velvet green curtains and the burning of Atlanta as she and Rhett escape. The 70th anniversary of this picture, which won 10 Academy Awards including best picture, is definitely an occasion to be celebrated as it can be enjoyed by every generation of film lovers.

The Ultimate Collector’s Edition comes in a limited, numbered velvet keepsake box containing a 40-page hardcover Production History book with photos and production notes; a 20-page reproduction of the original and complete 1939 Souvenir Program; eight frameable 5×7 art prints; and a CD soundtrack sampler.

The two-disc Blu-ray includes: The Making of a Legend documentary; Restoring a Legend, chronicling the film/video restoration process; Dixie Hails Gone with the Wind, the 1939 premiere newsreel; The Old South, a 1940 MGM historical short; Atlanta Civil War Centennial 1961 premiere newsreel; international prologue, foreign language sample scenes; Melanie Remembers: Reflections of Olivia de Havilland; Gable: The King Remembered; Vivien Leigh: Scarlett and Beyond; and cameo portraits of the supporting players. Bonus features include:1939: Hollywood’s Greatest Year, a new documentary about Hollywood’s watershed year narrated by Kenneth Branagh; Gone with the Wind: The Legend Lives On, exploring the film’s legacy; and Movieola: The Scarlett O’Hara Wars, a 1980 WBTV special never before on home video.


This is the third incarnation under this title: the first was a book by John Godey and the second was a 1974 film starring Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw, which became a cult classic. The following will attempt to avoid quality comparisons.

Walter Garber (Denzel Washington) is a MTA administrator who was recently demoted to dispatcher pending an investigation of bribery allegations. Without warning, the Pelham 123 train stops between stations and detaches while reports of gunshots surface. Then a voice that doesn’t belong to the motorman comes on the line announcing he has hostages and he’ll execute one for every minute that he doesn’t have $10 million after a one-hour deadline – and his name is Ryder (John Travolta). As the deadline counts down, Garber, the hostage negotiator (John Turturro) and the NYC mayor (James Gandolfini) scramble to prevent any unnecessary loss of life.

The time is referenced and posted on the screen continuously, emphasizing the ticking clock factor. However, the best conveyance of the time limit is the money run between two ends of New York during rush hour. It’s fast, exciting and the best sequence of the film. Cut with tense attempts to distract Ryder and bide time, the shots of six motorcycles and one police cruiser racing through crowded streets is impressive. Even better are the predictable mishaps.

The actors involved are recognized and accomplished with three Academy Awards between them. But director Tony Scott tends to attract high calibre actors; he’s also previously worked with Washington and Gandolfini. These men make quite a formidable combination, but the female presence in this picture is near inconsequential. There’s a hostage with her son, a girlfriend on the outside of the situation, a female dispatcher and Garber’s wife – they’re tools more than integral characters in the plot.

In the end, everything was done right but the film doesn’t always deliver. At times, the dialogue is trying too hard without effectively conveying the criticalness of the fast approaching deadline. The rising body count is slightly better in this respect. Ryder’s unstableness is on a hair trigger but Travolta’s played this role before, as has Washington with respect to a normal guy in an intense situation.

Overall, Scott’s produced a very talkative action flick that works part of the time.


The Wrestler is an honest, gritty look at what happens to the superstars of wrestling entertainment once the cameras and spotlights no longer smile down upon them. It’s also been a matter of hot topic in recent WWE shows featuring Chris Jericho.

Twenty years ago, Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke) was an alpha dog in the world of wrestling. He was one of the good guys everyone could look up to and he finished off all his opponents with a “Ram Jam” from the top ropes. Now, crowds of a hundred chant his name as he beats idolizing unknowns in the amateur ring and sits among the other aged athletes at barely attended autograph sessions. A heart attack brought on by decades of abusing his body causes Randy to re-evaluate what’s important in his life. As a result, he attempts to transcend his business-only relationship with a stripper (Marisa Tomei) and tries to mend his relationship with his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood).

Anyone who raised a wrestler to the status of hero when they were young will appreciate this behind-the-curtain look at the difficult choices and hardships these men face. Some parts are hard to watch even though we’ve seen the performance side of it countless times. A well-written, tragic script effectively pulls and drags at your heartstrings without feeling exaggerated or unreal. The downside is you may never look at a wrestling match as carefree again.

Rourke turns in a career resurrecting performance. Sin City put his name back on our lips, but this put it in our hearts and mind. Even though Rourke did not win the Oscar, the buzz and attention around this picture are well-earned. Rourke infuses “The Ram” with the charisma, energy and heart that these athletes addicted to the roar of the crowd bring to the show. On the flipside, he plays the beaten man trying to find his way to heart-wrenching perfection. Tomei also brings her A-game, portraying a woman past her prime in an industry that repels reality and values youth.

Director Darren Aronofsky doesn’t attach his usual bells and whistles to the movie’s appearance; instead, he lets the story speak for itself through drained colours and an unpolished look. Any other choice would have detracted from the chronicle.

Sadly, the only special feature included with a film of this calibre is the music video for Bruce Springsteen’s Golden Globe-winning title song “The Wrestler.”


With millions and millions of viewers tuning in every week, wrestling entertainment is ingrained in our culture and a memory or pastime in most of our lives. But what happens to the superstars when the cameras and spotlights no longer smile down upon them?

Twenty years ago, Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke) was an alpha dog in the world of wrestling. He was one of the good guys everyone could look up to and he finished off all his opponents with a “Ram Jam” from the top ropes. Now, crowds of a hundred chant his name as he beats idolizing unknowns in the amateur ring and sits among the other aged athletes at barely attended autograph sessions. A heart attack brought on by decades of abusing his body causes him to reevaluate what’s important in his life. As a result, he attempts to transcend his business-only relationship with a stripper (Marisa Tomei) and tries to mend his relationship with his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood).

Anyone who raised a wrestler to the status of hero when they were young will appreciate this moving behind-the-curtain look at the difficult choices and hardships these men face. Some parts are hard to watch even though we’ve seen the performance side of it countless times. A well-written tragic script effectively pulls and drags at your heartstrings without feeling exaggerated or unreal. The downside is you may never look at a wrestling match as carefree again.

Rourke turns in a career performance. The Oscar buzz is already swirling around this picture and the attention is well earned. Rourke infuses “The Ram” with the charisma, energy and heart that these athletes addicted to the roar of the crowd bring to the show. On the flipside, he plays the beaten man trying to find his way to heart-wrenching perfection. Tomei also brings her A-game, portraying a woman past her prime in an industry that repels reality and values youth.

Director Darren Aronofsky doesn’t attach his usual bells and whistles to the movie’s appearance; instead, he lets the story speak for itself through drained colours and an unpolished look. Any other choice would have detracted from the chronicle.

It would be simple to continue singing the The Wrestler‘s praises but you need to see it for yourself to realize its impact.