Spins And Streams (9.11.2012)

11 Oscars…nearly $1 billion in worldwide box office…Titanic makes its long-awaited and anticipated Blu-Ray and Blu-Ray 3D debut…

Winning 11 Oscars is something which has occurred on just three occasions. Following Ben-Hur and preceding Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King, James Cameron’s 1997 epic Titanic finally arrives on Blu-Ray for the first time and Paramount has delivered a remarkable home video experience, which follows up on the 3D theatrical re-release of the film in April 2012. I will share more thoughts below and in a separate review later this week, but Titanic, the second highest-grossing film of all time domestically ($658.7 million), behind Cameron’s Avatar, still has legions of devotees and a fair number of detractors. Watching it again, the film has held its age quite well in my estimation and still delivers an emotionally wrenching final hour.  If anything, seeing younger and more innocent performances from Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, and their chemistry together, is something I can watch over and over again.

Titanic may be my pick of the week, but the high profile Snow White and the Huntsmen also arrives in stores this week.  I missed the film’s theatrical release due to a sabbatical I had to take from reviewing in May and June 2012, but I will put it in front of my eyes and share my thoughts on the film and home video release later this week.  Snow White and the Huntsmen has gotten a lot of untoward attention because of the scandal that emerged with Kristen Stewart and director Rupert Sanders, and although the film failed to earn back its $170 million production budget with its North American box office haul, international audiences across the globe saw the film a lot and often.

On a smaller scale, a robust and diverse slate of films hit the marketplace, from critically acclaimed indie films to cinematic misfires to religious-themed stories and a can’t miss Oscar-nominated documentary short.  Even a discounted puff piece on an NFL player, who continues to be rammed down our throats, is in stores this week.  Check out these titles, plus a whole lot more, in this week’s edition of Spins and Streams!

More than just another column about new home video releases, we will link to reviews, summarize the film, drop in some factual tidbits, and (naturally) offer you a chance to purchase the film (clicking the images and/or links and purchasing the film of interest helps keep the lights on!).

Consider it your weekly trip through the video store, both virtual and physical, scouring the shelves and combing the racks to find something you can enjoy at home, no matter what your personal preferences…

BLU-RAY/DVD

Titanic (Four-Disc Combo: Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / Digital Copy)
Titanic (Four-Disc Combo: Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy)
Titanic Collector’s Edition (Four-Disc Combo: Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / Digital Copy) (Amazon Exclusive)

Much has been written about Titanic, and I will share more personal thoughts on the film in a review later this week.  I am a huge fan of the film, even as I willfully acknowledge the flaws in James Cameron’s screenplay sometimes threaten to derail the film’s power and magnitude.  There is  just something about the film that gets me right in  the heart, still 15 years later, and Cameron has never quite stirred up those same emotions with any of his other films.  I love Titanic and this Blu-Ray release is worth every penny.  If you have 3D capabilities, I may dislike this unwieldy push for more and more 3D in our movies, but I am told that on a home video scale, this 3D transfer is quite impressive.  More thoughts on the way!  Romance/Drama, PG-13, 194 Mins, Dir: James Cameron.

See what else arrives in stores and via streaming services…after the cut!

Snow White and the Huntsman (Two-Disc Combo Pack: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet)
Snow White and the Huntsman

Snow White and the Huntsmen was initially branded as the other “Snow White” movie of 2012, following the family-oriented Julia Roberts film Mirror Mirror.  When Mirror underperformed critically and commercially, eyes turned to Snow White and the Huntsmen and critics were less enthusiastic, splitting nearly 50/50 with Rupert Sanders’ grand re-imagining of the Snow White fairy tale.  Starring Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth in the titular roles, Charlize Theron, from most accounts, steals the show as Queen Ravenna, Snow’s wicked stepmother.  As indicated above, I have not yet watched the film, a problem I will remedy immediately.  I will share my thoughts soon, but until then, reports are that listening to Rupert Sanders’ director’s commentary is more than a little uncomfortable, particularly when he is gushing over a certain leading actress in the film.  Be that as it may, I may avoid that option as I load up the Unrated Director’s Cut of the film in to the Blu-Ray player.  Fantasy, PG-13 and Unrated, 127 mins (PG-13) – 132 mins (Unrated), Dir: Rupert Sanders.

What To Expect When You’re Expecting [Blu-ray + Digital Copy]
What To Expect When You’re Expecting [DVD + Digital Copy]

Barely profitable at the box office, this ensemble romantic comedy/drama has a wide and far-reaching cast, attempting to envision the insanely popular and lasting 1984 pregnancy self-help book into a feature film.  The film is sitting here and I will watch it, but I am having horrific visions and memories of terrible films like New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, and He’s Just Not That into You, instead of the wonderful and always entertaining Love, Actually.  I have been wrong countless times before and fingers crossed, I am completely wrong on my perceptions here.  Comedy/Drama, PG-13, 110 mins, Dir: Kirk Jones.

For Greater Glory BD/Combo [Blu-ray]
For Greater Glory

For Greater Glory is a faith-based epic, which documents the Catholic Church’s overcoming of oppression and suppression through the Cristero rebellion in 1926-1929 Mexico.  Budgeted at $12 million, the film has a rustic, Western-type feel to it, but also depicts violence and conflict in realistic and unflinching ways.  The visual acumen on display comes from director Dean Wright, who was the Oscar-winning visual effects supervisor for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Chronicles of Narnia films.  At a robust 143 minutes, For Greater Glory has been criticized for being overlong, even boring in stretches, but it has its supporters and an impressive cast including Andy Garcia, Eva Longoria, Oscar Isaac, and Oscar nominees Peter O’Toole and Catalina Sandino Moreno, among others. Historical Drama/Faith/War, R, 143 mins, Dir: Dean Wright.


Ghosts of the Abyss 3D (Three-Disc Combo: Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD)

Narrated by Bill Paxton, Ghosts of the Abyss is a much heralded documentary companion to our Movie of the Week, Titanic.  James Cameron’s IMAX documentary, distributed by Walt Disney in 2003, takes viewers deep inside the remnants of the fated ship, and through CGI and other animated means, gives viewers a glimpse at how the ship truly looked.  Originally released and condensed into a 60-minute documentary, Ghosts Of The Abyss arrives in an extended 90-minute edition and can also be acquired through the Limited Edition 5-Disc Titanic box set.  Documentary, G, 60 mins/90 mins (Extended), Dir: James Cameron.

Girl in Progress

Audiences steered away from Girl in Progress, a drama featuring Eva Mendes as a single mother who is trying to reign in a teenage daughter who is fed up with being a kid and concocts a plan to move right into adulthood.  This is yet another effort from Pantelion, Televisa, and Lionsgate to create, market, and release films to the Hispanic community and unfortunately, like the films which preceded this one, critics and audiences alike have not been impressed.  I will try and weigh in later this week. Drama, PG-13, 93 mins, Dir: Patricia Riggen.

Paranormal Activity Trilogy Gift Set [Blu-ray]
Paranormal Activity Trilogy Gift Set

In my opinion, these films have only improved with each subsequent one, despite my preconceived notions.  With Paranormal Activity, I was never truly scared, but the final 10-15 minutes in Paranormal Activity 2 got me.  Then, expecting that the well was completely dry with the arrival of Paranormal Activity 3, I was duly impressed that three films deep in to the series, Paranormal Activity 3 found a few more novel and unique ways to wring a little more water out of the found footage sponge and I was completely engrossed in the storyline.  And with this box set arriving, which sadly looks to be pretty barebones, you do not get a chance to view the limited edition, but well-received and increasingly hard-to-find, re-cut linear version of all these films.  You still get to watch the Unrated Director’s Cut of Paranormal Activity 2 so there’s that at least.  Amusingly, this is called a Gift Set and yes, Paranormal Activity 4 arrives just before Halloween this year, directed by the duo who brought us the third installment and the visceral and divisive documentary Catfish in 2010.  Horror/Suspense, R, Various Directors and Running Times.

We Have a Pope

We Have A Pope is an intriguing film about what happens when the Catholic Church goes into conclave, selects a new Pope, and the Pope refuses the job…or, in fact, runs away, flees, and disappears.  Ultimately, despite a tremendous lead performance by veteran Italian actor Michel Piccoli, the film underperforms.

From my ★★ 1/2 theatrical review of April 7, 2012:

We Have A Pope is not a terrible film, but not a good one either. There is a constant sense that something big is coming right around the corner, but save some great moments with Michel Piccoli away from The Vatican, the film is one-note and lives at the cusp of almost being something more. Apparently there was controversy regarding the film’s subject matter and the Catholic Church were upset by its subject matter when it had its European run last fall. My sense is that the mere notion that a Cardinal would decline or vocalize that he does not want to be Pope verges on some form of blasphemy. Truth be told, there is no reason to be outraged. Perhaps if Nanni Moretti explored more of the provocative themes and ideas he hints at, then we have something to chew on and consider. Instead, We Have A Pope toys and pokes with its comedy and its drama and acknowledging a great lead performance, there is just not much to care about here.”  Italian/Comedy/Drama, Unrated (PG-13 equivalent), 102 Mins, Dir: Nanni Moretti.


Lola Versus [Blu-ray]
Lola Versus

Featuring a heralded performance from Greta Gerwig, Lola Versus is a quiet, little independent film that some people love with all of their heart, but many find grating and frustrating.  Gerwig, who is always watchable and intriguing in anything she appears in, plays a woman dumped days before her wedding, who enlists her friends to give her a whirlwind of adventure before she turns 30 as a single woman.  I am curious to see this unconventional romantic comedy that has elicited such extreme responses.  Romantic Comedy, R, 87 Mins, Dir: David Wein.

God is the Bigger Elvis

You will have to stream it or queue it up with Netflix, because this will be next to impossible to find, but this moving documentary short, which was nominated for an Academy Award this past year, sneaks up on you and equally inspires and breaks your heart.  Dolores Hart was poised on the cusp of super-stardom in the late-1950s and early-1960s, best known for co-starring in two Elvis Presley pictures and being a featured star in the 1960 box office smash Where The Boys Are.  Hart however got her calling to leave acting and adopt a world of asceticism, joining a convent and becoming a Benedictine nun,  Turning away from her fiance and all the fame one could hope for, Hart’s story is a fascinating look into the human spirit and the mutual selflessness and acceptance that comes with her decision.  Search for it, it will impress you.  Documentary Short, Unrated (equivalent to a PG), 39 Mins, Dir: Rebecca Camissa.

Tim Tebow: On a Mission

The 2012 NFL season just kicked off this past weekend and the backup quarterback of the New York Jets already has a second straight-to-video documentary arriving in stores this week.  Sigh. It retails for $7.99…knock yourself silly. Documentary/Faith, Unrated (equivalent to a PG or perhaps even a G), 60 Mins, Dir: Adam Friedman.

ADDITIONAL CATALOG AND NOTEWORTHY BLU-RAY/DVD RELEASES

TELEVISION SERIES/SPECIALS

NOTABLE NEW STREAMING TITLES (COURTESY OF INSTANTWATCHER.COM)
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