This week’s list is fairly short but sweet, with some of the finest films released in the first quarter of the year.
My picks of the week:
Oren Moverman’s Rampart & Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s 21 Jump Street.
DVD and Blu-ray
(also available: HMV Exclusive – Blu-ray Double Play inc. DVD)
Oren Moverman returns with his second feature after 2009’s Oscar-nominated The Messenger, with Woody Harrelson taking the lead this time around, and Ben Foster heading up the support alongside Ice Cube, Anne Heche, Ned Beatty, Brie Larson, Cynthia Nixon, Robin Wright, Sigourney Weaver, and Steve Buscemi – a fantastic cast, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Harrelson gives an Oscar-worthy performance (and was undeservedly absent from the nominees back in February, in my opinion); if you’re a fan of his work, this is an absolute must-see.
“Written by James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential) and directed by Oren Moverman (The Messenger), Rampart stars Academy Awards nominees Woody Harrelson, Ned Beatty, Sigourney Weaver, and Steve Buscemi, Ice Cube, Cynthia Nixon, Anne Heche, Ben Foster, and Robin Wright.
Veteran police officer Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson) is the last of the renegade cops in the Los Angeles Police Department, dedicated to doing “the people’s dirty work” and asserting his own code of justice. When he gets caught on tape beating a suspect, he finds himself in a downward spiral as he struggles to take care of his family, and fight for his own survival. Rampart is a brutal and action-packed cop thriller.”
21 Jump Street
DVD and Blu-ray (both inc. Ultraviolet Digital Copy)
The casting of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum opposite each other is inspired – if you’d suggested it before seeing anything from the film, you’d probably have said it just wouldn’t work, but all signs point to the opposite.
Co-written by Hill and Michael Bacall (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), the film took its $40m. to almost $200m.’s worth of success at the box office, and you can bet that number will rise healthily with its entrance into the home entertainment market today.
A sequel is already in the works, so be sure to check out this first film ahead of that.
“The television series that shot Johnny Depp to stardom makes the leap to the big screen in this series reboot starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) have the kind of faces that could let them pass for teenagers. Eager to prove themselves as effective policemen, the two fresh-faced cops join the Jump Street program and go undercover to investigate a high school drug ring. Now, the only think more daunting than the prospect of taking on violent adolescent dope slingers is the prospect of experiencing the torture of their teenage years all over again. Ice Cube, Brie Larson, and Rob Riggle co-star.”
God Bless America
Bobcat Goldthwait’s return behind the camera with God Bless America has been looking good right from the get-go. The trailer is brilliant, giving a great glimpse of Goldthwait’s own blend of black comedy, and after a limited release in the UK at the start of the month, it’s now hitting the shelves and ready and waiting for you to take home.
It sadly wasn’t playing anywhere near me in its limited release, so this is one I’ll be picking up myself for sure.
“Frank has had enough of the downward spiral of American culture, which he sees as overrun with cruelty, stupidity and intolerance. Divorced, recently fired, and possibly terminally ill, Frank truly has nothing left to live for. But instead of taking his own life, he buys a gun and decides to take out his frustration on the cruellest, stupidest, most intolerant people he can imagine-starting with some particularly odious reality television stars. Frank finds an unusual accomplice in a high-school student named Roxy, who shares his sense of rage and together they embark on a nation-wide assault on America’s dumbest, most irritating celebrities.”
This low-budget horror has been a long time coming to DVD, after spending much of 2011 on the festival circuit and winning a handful of awards in the process.
Jon reviewed the film way back in January 2011 and highly recommends it – so if horror is your genre-of-choice, it looks like this is a must.
“Tricia (Courtney Bell) has waited for nearly seven years to have her missing husband declared legally dead, and just as this ruling is about to be made, her sister Callie (Katie Parker) discovers that an ominous tunnel near Tricia’s house might very well be a portal to a supernatural world that might be responsible for the husband’s disappearance. Now the sisters must prepare, as they appear to be next in line.”
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
DVD and Blu-ray
Co-winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes back in 2011, this Turkish crime-drama comes highly critically acclaimed, with the award-winning director, Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Distant, Climates), behind the camera.
“An epic and rigorous tale of a night and day in a murder investigation, Once Upon A Time In Anatolia is a beautifully photographed crime drama about police and prosecutors locating a buried body through one long night in the Anatolian steppes. In the short prologue three men are drinking and talking. Then a convoy of cars is travelling around the countryside at night as one of the men seen earlier is trying to remember where a body was buried. After several false leads and a rest in a remote village, the body is finally discovered early the next morning. In the course of the long investigation the characters and hidden thoughts of the main protagonists are gradually themselves exhumed.”
DVD and Blu-ray
Starring Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) as the eponymous Trishna, alongside Riz Ahmed (Four Lions), Michael Winterbottom writes and directs this re-telling of the classic English novel, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy.
I missed the film’s release back in March, but the trailer makes it look promising.
“Based on Thomas Hardy’s classic novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Trishna is a beautifully shot, classic tale of love and tragedy set across modern day rural Rajasthan and the thriving metropolis of Mumbai.
Trishna (Freida Pinto) meets a wealthy young British businessman, Jay Singh (Riz Ahmed), who has come to India to work in his father’s hotel business. After an accident destroys her father’s Jeep, Trishna goes to work for Jay, and they fall in love. But despite their feelings for each other, their relationship must remain a secret due to the conflicting pressures of a rural society which is changing rapidly through industrialisation, urbanisation and, above all, education.
Their problems seem to be solved when Jay takes Trishna to an exciting new world of dance, vibrant life and possibilities – Mumbai. But Trishna harbours a dark secret that threatens the very heart of their love affair, and inequalities remain at the centre of their relationship that will lead her to question Jay’s intentions towards her.”
Bunohan / Return to Murder
DVD and Blu-ray
I hadn’t heard of this Malaysian action/drama until now, but the trailer gives you a good impression for those looking for a martial arts / kick-boxing / bloodthirsty affair this week.
(For some reason, the film seems to have been released under the name ‘Return to Murder’ here in the UK – I suppose the word ‘MURDER’ in large, blood-red font will attract people perusing the shelves.)
“A young Muay Thai kick-boxer has just fled an honour fight-to-the-death, he takes shelter in the Bunohan boxing club to hide and recover. An assassin is promptly hired by the organiser of the death-match to kill the fugitive.”
Oscar-nominated at the start of this year in the Best Foreign Language Film category, In Darkness has been almost unilaterally acclaimed by critics since its Telluride debut in the US last year.
“Nominated for an Academy Award, this powerful, true WWII tale celebrates the triumph of the human spirit in a time when all hope is lost.
A sewer worker and petty thief in Nazi-occupied Poland agrees to help hide a group of Jews in the town’s sewers. But what starts out as a straightforward business arrangement soon turns into something unexpected, as the unlikely alliance seeps deeper into his conscience and they form an incredibly close bond.
An extraordinary story of survival and the inherent capacity for love held deep within the human soul, In Darkness is an emotional tour de force that will stay with audiences for years to come.”
Black Lagoon – Seasons 1 & 2
DVD and Blu-ray
(available individually on Blu-ray)
Based on Rei Hiroe’s original manga of the same name, this week sees the release of Sseasons 1 and 2 of the Japanese anime.
Play and Amazon list the Blu-ray releases as due out on 30th July, whereas HMV lists them as due out today, so I suppose you can buy/pre-order from either and see when they turn up!
“Okajima Rokuro is a Japanese businessman…in a town full of Japanese businessmen. His normal day consists of social drinking with clients and being kicked around by his bosses. He finally gets a break though, as he’s sent by his company to the tropical seas of Eastern China to deliver a disc…only his boat gets hijacked by a band of mercenaries that were hired to steal it. “Rock” (as he is newly dubbed by his captors) catches the interest of the only female merc “Revy” as she thinks he’s worth a ransom, taking him hostage. However, the disc turns out to be more trouble than its worth, and complicates things both for Rock, and the mercenaries known as Black Lagoon.”
Teen Wolf – Season 1
Who knew that a TV take on 1985’s Teen Wolf would prove a hit?
Tyler Posey (Doc, Legendary) takes the place of Michael J. Fox’s original role, opposite Crystal Reed (Skyline), and the show has been gaining positive reviews since its debut on MTV last year – and enough viewers, too, to earn it a second season renewal.
“Teen Wolf is a supernatural drama series that follows Scott McCall (Tyler Posey) a high school student and social outcast that after being bitten by a werewolf, he gains extraordinary supernatural abilities. Scott attempts to maintain a normal life, while hiding from everyone his secret life as a werewolf with the exception of his best friend Stiles Stilinski (Dylan O’Brien) who helps him through this change in his life and body as well as mysterious werewolf, Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin).
Allison Argent (Crystal Reed) is Scott’s new love interested despite the fact that she is immediately befriended by Lydia Martin (Holland Roden) a shallow yet intelligent girl who is the dating Jackson Whittemore (Colton Hayes) the lacrosse team captain who is suspicious about Scott’s recent displays of physical prowess and vows to find out what his secret is no matter how long it takes.”
Only one major Blu-ray re-release coming this week – Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 film, The Battle of Algiers. Nominated for three Oscars, for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Foreign Language Film, the film remains one of the best critically acclaimed films of all time, with an impressive 8.2 on IMDb, and an even more impressive 9.4 on Metacritic.
Rob’s review of this week’s re-release went up on Friday, and you can read it right here.