6.28.2011: What To Watch – DVD/Blu-ray Releases

No DVD/Blu-ray releases last week but this week is a different story.  And strangely enough, several have close ties with one another.  Read on to find out…

Beastly on DVD and Blu-ray.  Starring Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four), Vanessa Hudgens (Sucker Punch), Mary-Kate Olsen (TV’s Weeds), Peter Krause (TV’s Six Feet Under), Lisa Gay Hamilton (TV’s Men of a Certain Age) and Neil Patrick Harris (TV’s How I Met Your Mother).  Written and Directed by Daniel Barnz (Phoebe in Wonderland).

Based on writer Alex Flinn’s novel, Beastly, and also the umpteenth version of Beauty and the Beast, Beastly is set in modern-day New York City.  The first film put into development by CBS Films, the movie focused more on the Beast and less on Beauty by telling the story through the Beast’s perspective.  Director Barnz was inspired by Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything (1989), starring John Cusack and Ione Skye, in creating the hyper-modern teenage romance.

Synopsis:  Seventeen year old Kyle (Pettyfer) is the spoiled, shallow and incredibly popular prince of his high school kingdom.  Entirely captivated and empowered by his own physical appearance, Kyle foolishly chooses Kendra (Olsen), a witch masquerading as a high school student, as his latest target for humiliation.  Unfazed by his cruel behavior, Kendra decides to teach him a lesson – she transforms him into someone as unattractive on the outside as he is on the inside.  Now he has one year to find someone who can see past the surface and love him, or he will remain “Beastly” forever.  His only hope, a quiet classmate he never noticed named Lindy (Hudgens), may be his best chance to prove that love is never ugly. courtesy of CBS Films

Black Moon: The Criterion Collection (1975) on Blu-ray.  Starring Cathryn Harrison, Thérèse Ghiese, Alexandra Stewart and Joe Dallesandro.  Written and Directed by Louis Malle (Vanya on 42nd Street).

From filmmaker Malle, Black Moon is a French fantasy/sci-fi shot at the director’s estate in the Dordogne Valley, France.  Although the movie received mixed reviews at the time of its release, it was the winner of two César awards (a national film award of France), one for Best Sound (sound recordist Nara Kollery) and the other for Best Cinematography (director of photography Sven Nykvist).

Synopsis:  Louis Malle meets Lewis Carroll in this bizarre and bewitching trip down the rabbit hole.  After skirting the horrors of a mysterious war being waged in the countryside, beautiful young Lily (Harrison) takes refuge in a remote farmhouse, where she becomes embroiled in the surreal domestic life of an extremely unconventional family.  Evocatively shot by cinematographer Sven Nykvist, Black Moon is a Freudian tale of adolescent sexuality set in a postapocalyptic world of shifting identities and talking animals.  It is one of Malle’s most experimental films and a cinematic daydream like no other.  courtesy of Criterion

Dawn of the Dead (2004) on Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy.  Starring Sarah Polley (Splice), Ving Rhames (Piranha), Jake Weber (TV’s Medium) and Mekhi Phifer (TV’s Torchwood).  Directed by Zack Snyder (Sucker Punch, Watchmen).

Both an homage and a remake of George A. Romero’s 1978 Dawn of the Dead, the 2004 movie followed the outlines of the original but turned the zombies from slow-moving to fast-moving who hunted the survivors for about a month rather than months at the mall.  Romero enjoyed the movie more than he expected especially the very beginning but thought it lost its reason for being, comparing it to a video game.  The directorial debut from Snyder, who is now in pre-production for the Superman reboot, Man of Steel, added touches of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead by featuring cameos of Ken Foree (Water for Elephants), who played Peter; Scott H. Reiniger, who played Roger; and Tom Savini (Planet Terror), who played Blades, and who also did the makeup & cosmetics special effects for Romero’s version.

Synopsis:  After a terrifying escape from her suburban Wisconsin home on the morning after, Ana Clark (Polley) runs into a small group of the still-living, including: a stoic police officer, Kenneth (Rhames); Michael, an unassuming electronics salesman (Weber); a street-rough Andre (Phifer) and his pregnant wife.  This ragtag group seeks refuge in a fortress of the late 20th century – an abandoned, upscale suburban mall.  As the outside world grows more hellish, as the ever-increasing army of decomposing zombies tirelessly strive to infiltrate the mall, the survivors battle the undead, each other, and their own fears and suspicions.  Sealed off from the rest of what used to be the world, the mall’s inhabitants – now one of the last bastions of humanity – must learn to co-exist with each other and use every available resource in their fight to remain alive, and more importantly, human.  courtesy of Universal

The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Extended Edition on Blu-ray + Digital Copy.  Starring Elijah Wood (TV’s Wilfred), Sean Astin (The Goonies), Orlando Bloom (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End), Billy Boyd (Seed of Chucky), Ian McKellan (X-Men: The Last Stand), Dominic Monaghan (TV’s Lost), Viggo Mortensen (The Road) and John Rhys-Davies (TV movie’s Ferocious Planet) (and about a billion other actors).  Written by Philippa Boyens (The Frighteners), Fran Walsh (King Kong) and Peter Jackson.  Directed by Peter Jackson (the in-production Hobbit).

The last of the DVD, in this case Blu-ray, releases for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, this extended edition box set features The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Reurn of the King with commentaries, documentaries and Easter eggs.  The six-disc appendices (two per movie), on the other hand, are on DVD and include:

Part 1:  From Book to Vision

Part 2:  From Vision to Reality

Part 3:  The Journey Continues

Part 4:  The Battle for Middle Earth

Part 5:  The War of the Ring

Part 6:  The Passing of an Age

Season of the Witch on DVD and Blu-ray.  Starring Nicholas Cage (Kick-Ass), Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Christopher Lee (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) and Claire Foy (TV’s Being Human [BBC]).  Written by Bragi Schut (TV’s Threshold).  Directed by Dominic Sena (Whiteout).

Yet another negatively-reviewed movie for actor Cage, Season of the Witch started out at MGM then moved to Columbia Pictures until it was able to begin production at Relativity Media.  In just 11 weeks at the box office, the movie grossed $24.827 million domestically (the budget was $40 million).  Overseas, it faired slightly better with $62.2 million.

Synopsis:  In this supernatural action adventure, heroic crusader Behman (Cage) and his closest friend Felson (Perlman) return home after decades of fierce fighting, only to find their world destroyed by the Plague.  The Cardinal (Lee) and church elders, convinced that a girl (Foy) accused of being a witch is responsible for the devastation, command the two to transport the strange girl to a remote monastery where monks will perform an ancient ritual to rid the land of her curse.  They embark on a harrowing, action-filled journey that will test their strength and courage as they discover the girl’s dark secret and find themselves battling a terrifyingly powerful force that will determine the fate of the world.  courtesy of Atlas Entertainment and Relativity Media

Sucker Punch on DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy.  Starring Emily Browning (The Uninvited), Abbie Cornish (Limitless), Jena Malone (The Ruins), Vanessa Hudgens (Beastly), Jamie Chung (Sorority Row), Oscar Isaac (Robin Hood [2010]), Carla Gugino (Watchmen) and Scott Glenn (The Bourne Ultimatum).  Written by Steve Shibuya and Zack Snyder.  Directed by Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead [2004]).

The original score, written by the Sucker Punch‘s co-writer Shibuya, is the basis for the “Alice in Wonderland with machine guns” (Snyder’s description) movie.  Like his previous films including 300 and Watchmen, director Snyder created a stylized movie with action, adventure, fantasy, imagination, music, pop-culture and a hint of comics (Watchmen is a 12-issue comic book limited series while the art for Sucker Punch was designed by Snafu ComicsAlex Pardee, and both films participated at San Diego Comic Con).  As for the title, Snyder believes “It has two meanings.  There’s a mechanism in the movie that sneaks up on you.  We sort of plant the seed of this thing, and then at the end of the movie it kind of comes back around. I think that in some ways, that’s what the sucker punch is.  But also you, the audience, have like a preconceived idea when you look at Baby Doll.  You think she’s innocent and sweet, that she’s capable of only a certain amount of things.  But I think that’s a mistake.  So that has something to do with the title, too.” (courtesy of the holland sentinal)

Synopsis:  Locked away against her will, Baby Doll (Browning) has not lost her will to survive.  Determined to fight for her freedom, she urges four fellow captives – reluctant Sweet Pea (Cornish), outspoken Rocket (Malone), street-smart Blondie (Hudgens) and fiercely loyal Amber (Chung) – to band together and try to escape their terrible fate at the hands of their captors.

Warehouse 13: Season 2 on DVD.  Starring Joanne Kelly (TV’s Vanished), Eddie McClintock (TV’s Bones) and Saul Rubinek (Barney’s Version).  Created by Jane Espenson (TV’s Battlestar Galactica [of SyFy] and Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and D. Brent Mote.

The Syfy original series will begin its third season Monday, July 11 at 9/8c but to kick start the new season, it released season two on DVD.

Show Synopsis:  After saving the life of the President, two Secret Service agents find themselves abruptly transferred to Warehouse 13 – a massive, top-secret storage facility in windswept South Dakota that houses every strange artifact, mysterious relic, fantastical object and supernatural souvenir ever collected by the U.S. government.  The Warehouse’s caretaker Artie (Rubinek) charges Pete (McClintock) and Myka (Kelly) with chasing down reports of supernatural and paranormal activity in search of new objects to cache at the Warehouse, as well as helping him to control the warehouse, itself.

The Warrior’s Way on DVD and Blu-ray.  Starring Dong gun-Jang, Kate Bosworth (Superman Returns), Geoffrey Rush (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), Danny Huston (Clash of the Titans) and Tony Cox (Willow).  Written and Directed by Sngmoo Lee.

Bringing the East and West together, Korean director Lee united elements of two different worlds into one with The Warrior’s Way.  Unfortunately, the melting pot movie was a failure at the theaters and grossed $11.087 million worldwide to its $42 million budget.

Synopsis:  After a lifetime of training in martial arts and and swordsmanship, Yang (Jang) has eliminated all but one of his clan’s enemies – an infant whose smile instantly melts his heart.  Unwilling to kill her and unable to protect her from his own deadly tribe, Yang takes the baby girl and flees, planning to seek refuge with an old friend living in Lode, a frontier town in the American West.  He arrives to find that his friend died and the once-thriving Gold Rush town is in shambles, inhabited only by a few dozen eccentrics including Lynne (Bosworth), a beautiful, spirited knife thrower-in-training, and Ron, a worn-out drunk (Rush).  In order to make a safe home for the child far from the reach of his murderous clansmen, Yang decides to stay on as the town’s new laundryman, sealing his sword for good.  Orphaned by a horrifying act of brutality, Lynne has spent ten years plotting revenge against her attacker, the Colonel (Huston).  While teaching Yang to run the laundry and look after the baby, she discovers his talent for swordplay and begs him to tutor her in martial arts.  In the midst of Lode’s annual Christmas celebration, the Colonel and his gang return and threaten to destroy the town.  Yang reluctantly unsheathes his sword, fully aware that the ring of it blade will reveal his location to his pack.  He leads the townspeople armed only with improvised weapons and a unique set of skills in an all-out attack.  It leads Yang, Lynne, the baby and the town folk to their ultimate destinies.  courtesy of Relativity Media

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