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HollywoodChicago.com Blu-Ray Reviews

What to Watch: Nov. 17-23, 2013

We're the Millers

CHICAGO – What to Watch is back! Miss us? Every week, we roll out 5-10 of the latest films and TV shows to be released on DVD, Blu-ray, and various streaming services. This week’s highlights include a few classics, a cult hit, a couple of recent comedies, and a family flick. In the order we’d advise buying or renting them…

Blu-ray Review: Chaplin Section of Criterion Collection Now Includes ‘City Lights’

City Lights

CHICAGO – Charlie Chaplin’s “City Lights” used to be more widely considered to be one of the best films ever made. In early editions of the Sight & Sound poll (the every-decade poll of film historians and critics), it appeared in the top ten regularly. Its esteem seems to have slipped a bit over the decades as some now prefer other Chaplin to “Lights” (me, I adore “Great Dictator” and “Gold Rush,” both available in Criterion Blu-ray editions as well) but the new Criterion edition reminds one why so many people consider this one of the best. It’s still a glorious gem.

Blu-ray Review: Lavish Extended Edition of ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’

The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey

CHICAGO – I had notable problems with “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” when it premiered in theaters but they were softened a bit when I saw it on Blu-ray and not in 3D nor 48 frames per second, two effects that I believe actually hurt the world designed by Peter Jackson in these films in that they make it look less artistic and faker than the standard HD image. Now I’m here to flop back again to the disappointed side with the extended edition of the film, one that runs WAY too long for a flick that was already too short.

Blu-ray Review: Glorious ‘JFK 50th Commemorative Ultimate Collector’s Edition’

JFK

CHICAGO – Oliver Stone reached the peak of his fascination with controversy, history, and epic productions when he made 1991’s “JFK,” arguably the masterpiece of the director of “Platoon,” “Natural Born Killers,” “Nixon,” and many more beloved films. “JFK” is a remarkable cinematic achievement, a movie that has lost none of its power 22 years after its release, looking like something that could come out today, especially now that we’re in the peak of Kennedy mania as we approach the 50th anniversary of his assassination, one of the most important events in American history.

What to Watch: Nov. 10-16, 2013

Turbo with Ryan Reynolds

CHICAGO – It’s kind of a light week at the Blu-ray and DVD store (do they still have those now that Blockbuster has closed?). As studios prep a lot of major releases for holiday season, a few titles have been released on Blu-ray, DVD, and streaming services this week that we wanted to highlight, including a decent animated flick, a great foreign one, and a bunch of movies that may interest you but that you should probably avoid.

Blu-ray Review: Holiday Classics Come Home Featuring Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh

A Very Merry Pooh Year

CHICAGO – It’s that time of year. Studios pull Christmas classics from the vault, given them the HD polish, and hope to re-sell them to families who probably already own them on scratched DVD or even beat-up VHS. Two such releases feature better HD remasters than your average title in that they’ve been given the Disney Blu-ray treatment, resulting in picture quality that tops any version you’ve probably seen them in before. The latest holiday pair hoping for Santa’s wish list includes a 30th anniversary edition of “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” and “Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year.” Disney fans will have a Merry Christmas.

Blu-ray Review: Xavier Dolan’s Personal Vision of ‘Laurence Anyways’

Laurence Anyways

CHICAGO – “Laurence Anyways” is a carte blanche project of passion from Québécois director Xavier Dolan, a 24-year-old with two feature films (“I Killed My Mother,” “Heartbeats”) already under his belt. Close to a total three-hour running time and filled with numerous extended musical interludes, it is a bulky movie that could certainly be significantly slimmed down and still be able to leave the same size bruise. For Dolan, however, such hugeness is yet another statement from him and his growing understanding of filmmaking, this project a showcase for his current aesthetic artiness as filmmaker first, storyteller second.

Blu-ray Review: Six Chilling Tales in Fantastic ‘The Vincent Price Collection’

The Pit and the Pendulum

CHICAGO – Scream Factory continues to impress with one of the most essential box sets of 2013 for horror fans — “The Vincent Price Collection,” featuring complete remasters of six of the legendary actor’s most beloved films along with hours of archival and new special features. The bonus material is cool but, as with a lot of these Scream Factory releases, it’s the HD remastering that is truly breathtaking. I don’t believe “The Pit and the Pendulum” looked this well-mixed in terms of color and shadow when it was released fifty years ago. It’s a great holiday season option for horror fans.

Blu-ray Review: ‘Monsters University’ Offers Clever Family Fun

Monsters University

CHICAGO – In an incredibly weak time for feature animation (since the glory of 2010, it’s been pretty dark out there), Pixar’s “Monsters University” has enough personality and genuine humor to stand out from its generic competition. It also helps the film’s quest for another Pixar Oscar for Best Animated Film that the recently-released Blu-ray is a gem, loaded with special features and including a spectacula HD transfer. It falls between the amazing “Toy Story 3” and the awful “Cars 2” on the Pixar spectrum but it’s still a good time and will make a lovely holiday season gift.

Blu-ray Review: Antonioni’s ‘La Notte’ Joins Criterion Collection

La Notte

CHICAGO – 1961’s “La Notte” helped build Michelango Antonioni’s international reputation after the success of “L’avventura” and lifted stars Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau to an arthouse plateau. The film hasn’t aged as well as some of Antonioni’s best, in my opinion, although the 4K restoration on the new Criterion Blu-ray certainly helps one appreciate the visual compositions of its incredibly influential director. The release is a bit slight on supplemental material but fans of the filmmaker or star will simply be happy to have one of his more notable works in HD.

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TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • Kid Thing, The

    CHICAGO – Like the awesome Engine Who Could, the mighty Nothing Without a Company stage crafters have constructed another triumph at their new home in Berger Mansion on Chicago’s north side. “The Kid Thing” – written by Sarah Gubbins – is a terse, convincing and emotional play about fear, identity and breeding, and it is performed by its cast of five with utter authenticity. The show has a Thursday-Sunday run at the Berger North Mansion through April 15th, 2017. Click here for more details, including ticket information.

  • Wiz, The

    CHICAGO – When stage theater can cause outbreaks of elation, celebration and joy, then it must be due to Kokandy Productions’ revival of “The Wiz.” The urban reinterpretation of “The Wizard of Oz” story – told through tuneful euphoria and jubilant dance – is ecstatically produced, in every morsel of its stagecraft.

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