Jack and Jill Blu-ray review

Starring: Adam Sandler, Al Pacino
Language: English
Subtitles: English, French
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: March 6, 2012
Run Time: 91 minutes

            Some movies are so bad that they must be analyzed and examined. It seems imperative to the intelligence of humanity to discover what went so terribly wrong and take every precaution to prevent it from occurring again. Happy Madison productions have gotten quite lazy over the last few years, though Jack and Jill sinks to new levels of low. Nearly everyone involved only seems to be halfway committed to their roles, almost knowing how ridiculous the whole concept is from the start. If I put as much effort into this review as they did the film, I would have no need to write further.

            If possible, the person who seems to be least committed to the concept is Adam Sandler. This is the poison which spreads throughout the entire film, because Sandler is in the two largest roles of the film. As Jack Sadelstein, Sandler is dialing in the frustrated family man routine. The manner in which the film’s screenplay is written never fully explains his anger properly, making him an unlikable protagonist. His attitude is mostly directed at his visiting twin sister, Jill (Sandler in drag). This performance is a lazy and irreverent portrayal of a tough woman from the Bronx. Mostly he just gives her a speech impediment and a slightly higher octave than Jack.

            Besides being bad, the story for Jack and Jill just gets weird. Al Pacino has once again sold out to make any film that he is wanted for, but his odd addition to the film adds more carnage to the train wreck. Pacino plays himself, and throughout the course of the film Jack is trying to get him to make a Starbucks commercial. Pacino is more interested in dating Jill. These are the unbelievable and ridiculous moments that make up the otherwise easily predictable storyline that is Jack and Jill. Oh yes, and Katie Holmes is useless thrown into the cast as Jack’s wife.

            The Blu-ray includes exclusive featurettes, including the one on the Royal Caribbean cruise, which is featured like a commercial during a portion of the film. Also included are some deleted scenes which are even less humorous than the film, a blooper reel which is mildly funny at moments, and two additional featurettes. The better of the two is about the film’s more impressive cameos, whereas the other is just about the cross-dressing storyline. 

Monty Python and the Holy Grail Blu-ray review

Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle
Director: Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam
Language: English
Subtitles: Chinese, English, Korean, Spanish
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Sony Pictures
Release Date: March 6, 2012
Run Time: 91 minutes

            This is the Monty Python at its best. Everyone who has seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail has their favorite moments, and there are a great many to choose from. Packed with more off-beat humor than seems possible, this film is endlessly bounding from one gag to the next. There is hardly a moment’s rest from all the laughter in this brilliant film from Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, not to mention the rest of the Monty Python gang.

            Gilliam and Jones took the job of directing the film, but all of the humor is owed to the entire troop of talented writers and performers that also include Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle and Michael Palin. The group was already known for irreverent humor, but this film would skyrocket that success. The story follows King Arthur and his knights on a search for the Holy Grail, making for one of the few medieval comedies to work. David Gordon Green should have taken note before making Your Highness.

            From killer rabbits to coconuts, Monty Python and the Holy Grail has never looked more spectacular than it does on high definition Blu-ray. More importantly, however, is the amount of material which is fit onto this concise disc. The larger DVD special edition box sets used much more space to essentially include the same. There are also a few features that are exclusive to this Blu-ray disc. There is a second-screen viewing experience for the film’s playback, and a number of deleted scenes and animation sequences, with introductions by Gilliam and Jones.

The Human Centipede 2 Blu-ray review

            The Human Centipede was a horrendous little horror film which was based entirely on a premise of medical accuracy. It was vulgar and disgusting in many ways, though there was an element of professionalism carried out by the mad scientist at the center of the film. The sequel pushes the boundaries in another direction, replacing mad scientist with simply mad. There is little brilliance and much more instability, and medical accuracy has flown out of the storyline entirely.

            The manner in which the storyline from the original is continued is quite clever, although there are so many unnecessary and inappropriate boundaries pushed in this sequel that it overshadows positive or clever qualities. The Human Centipede was about a mad German scientist, Dr. Heiter, who was obsessed with a medical experiment connecting the digestive track of three human beings. The Human Centipede 2 is about a man obsessed with the film, determined to make his own full sequence human centipede.

            Martin (Lawrence R. Harvey) is a parking garage security guard with mother issues and an unhealthy obsession with one particular horror film. We join Martin amidst his silent planning for his own experiment. The reason it is silent is because Martin never speaks throughout the film, which is a stark change from the medical lectures of Dr. Heiter. Instead, Martin just grunts and groans. He makes farting noises.

The silence in interesting and impressive, but the restraint in dialogue is expended in the other elements of the film, from foul feces sequences to a graphic rape. Most is done in absolute bad taste. Even the classier elements of the film are eventually fouled. For example, this time around the film is shot nearly entirely in black and white cinematography. I say almost entirely, because filmmaker Tom Six somehow saw it necessary to make the feces spurting from the victims to be one of the only colorized objects in the film.   

The Blu-ray includes an interview with Six, along with a commentary that has the director and his star, Harvey. There are three other small featurettes and some deleted scenes. The marketing material makes up a large portion of the special features. This film was promoted and pushed on audiences, though I have pity on anyone enduring this graphic and tasteless unrated director’s cut.
Starring: Laurence Harvey, Ashlynn Yennie, Maddi Black
Director: Tom Six
Format: Widescreen
Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1 
Rated: Unrated
Release Date: February 14, 2012
Run Time: 91 minutes

Rabies DVD review

Starring: Ania Bukstein, Lior Ashkenazi, Danny Geva
Directors: Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado
Language: Hebrew
Subtitles: English
Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
Rated: Unrated
DVD Release Date: February 28, 2012
Run Time: 93 minutes

            In many ways Rabies appears to be a slasher film of the most generic sorts. A group of attractive co-eds get lost in the woods and stumble across a psychotic hunter’s many traps. One of which entraps the sister of a man named Ofer (Henry David), who wanders wounded from the forest begging for assistance. What makes this Hebrew horror film so innovative is the fact that the man who sets all of the violence in action disappears before long. The remainder of the film pits each of the victims against each other.

            There are plenty of reasons for these characters to fight with each other. There is a love square between two guys, a lesbian and an attractive young blonde. There is a sexually assaulting police officer, and another who is having romantic problems. Each of these characters have reasons to fight with each other, but their reactions become far more extreme than normal when in the woods. They also must beware of random traps that are set in the woods, from hunting snares to land mines.

            The inexplicable nature of the violence is part of the charm, adding shock value back to the slasher film where it long since vanished. After the 80s it seemed easy to predict killers and their motives, but Rabies makes the whole endeavor seem much more random. The effects are also quite innovative, especially in the practical use rather than computer generated nonsense.
The DVD has no real special features to speak of. 

The BBC Natural History Collection Review

It only takes one hit in any subject and suddenly a subject can become a pop culture phenomenon. It may sound strange to refer to a nature program as pop culture, but there seems no more fitting description for Planet Earth. Watched by everyone, young and old, stoned or sober, Planet Earth became a remarkable success because of the images alone, and as audiences sat mesmerized by what the high definition cameras had captured knowledge easily pours in like medicine disguised with a cup full of sugar. It also isn’t entirely fair to call Planet Earth a sudden subject, as it was a large undertaking to make this remarkably detailed series, but it is important to acknowledge how significant it has managed to become. Since Planet Earth’s success there has been the follow-up Blue Planet, as well as a newfound discovery of many other nature programs hosted by David Attenborough. This set contains four of such programs, including Planet Earth, The Blue Planet, The Life of Mammals and The Life of Birds.

Planet Earth
Planet Earth quite literally changed how we saw the world, or at least the way we watched nature programs. Planet Earth takes a high-definition camera into the strangest and most secluded parts of wildlife and wilderness whether using a hot-air balloon, helicopter or crane to approach animals in ways that has never been done before. Nearly every episode we are informed that this is the first time something has been witness, captured on film, or both. Extensive missions are needed in order to catch some of these animals, including an incredible and dedicated mission to see a Snow Leopard in the wild. The time it took to find one is amazing, and this is shown as all of the fascinating behind-the-scenes information is given; at the end of each episode. With the Planet Earth Diary segment giving a behind-the scenes look at the amazing footage, special features are irrelevant. This is a definitive set that will be shown to our children, and possibly their children if something better is planned soon. The undertaking of this program alone is monumentally impressive and the footage is breathtaking and remarkable. The special edition is featured in this collection, which adds an extra disc and more footage.

The Blue Planet
Boasting the same producers as Planet Earth, as well as the familiar narrator David Attenborough, The Blue Planet fails to mention that the missing element is the incredible equipment used in Planet Earth. This doesn’t mean that the footage isn’t still remarkable, but it is remarkable how much the visuals can affect how engaging the program is. The show is also hit-and-miss, but this just may be my own claustrophobic feelings about the deep ocean. Although I found each episode entertaining, the moments above the water were often too brief to keep me wanting more. This is my own personal bias, but I will say that I sincerely found The Blue Planet to be far better produced than the two remaining sets in the box.

The Life of Mammals
If anything keeps this series interesting it is the focused ways they choose to look at mammals each episode. For instance, there is an episode entirely looking at the mammals that eat insects. Another looks at the plant eaters while another takes the meat eaters, but the distinction is not only by food choice, but by location as well. There is also time to take a look at the human connection, examining animals that have human qualities, and even looking at humans. There are ten episodes on four discs.

The Life of Birds
Birds aren’t quite as varied as mammals, allowing for a much closer look at the way that they work. Each episode looks specifically at aspects that distinguish them all, including flight (or non-flight), different ways of feeding, and the eggs that must be protected. The episodes use some graphics to show past estimations, which is somewhat cheesy and off-putting, but the information behind the stiff filmmaking is mostly interesting.
Format: Box set, Color, DVD, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Language: English
Subtitles: English
Number of discs: 18
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: BBC Warner
DVD Release Date: March 27, 2012
Run Time: 2022 minutes

Beneath the Darkness Blu-ray review

            There are a few inventive ideas scattered throughout a sea of unbelievable twists and turns that make up the story for Beneath the Darkness. The initial plot is clever, but the screenplay merely takes it to the most heightened level with nowhere else to go. There is no tension, just a flowing stream of predictable coincidences. And a mildly amusing performance from Dennis Quaid.

            Quaid somewhat stars as a mad funeral home director, Mr. Ely, who has a secret regarding his deceased wife hidden in his home. This secret is discovered by the high school boy who cuts his lawn, Travis (Tony Oller), and his three friends. Once the secret is discovered, one of them doesn’t make it out of the house. Predictably, nobody believes the high school kids and they are left to the mercy of the mad funeral home director.

            As inventive as this initial premise is, the film quickly spirals into one cliché sequence after another. Even the actors seem to realize the absurdity of the situation, and performances seem to lag at this final third of the film. The film can’t seem to decide between committing all the way to horror and refraining to be a thriller.

            The Blu-ray is entirely unnecessary, as the film is average in construction as well. There is little that high definition will improve. The special features are even sparse, including only a behind-the-scenes featurette.

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Tony Oller, Aimee Teegarden, Devon Werkheisser, Brett Cullen
Director: Martin Guigui
Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
Release Date: February 28, 2012
Run Time: 96 minutes

Track 29 DVD review

Starring: Gary Oldman, Christopher Lloyd, Theresa Russell, Sandra Bernhard
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Release Date: February 21, 2012
Run Time: 90 minutes

            Gary Oldman has one of the most eclectic and bizarre filmographies of any actor, often even unrecognizable in his performance styles. Track 29 is one of the more inexplicable performances, one in which the daring British actor gives a completely committed performance as a deranged stranger who may have elements of truth within his outlandish story. Essentially set up like a play, nearly the entire film takes place in one set piece with just Oldman and Theresa Russell acting with each other.

            This may sound like a rather dull film, and I won’t promise tons of action or excitement, but the strangeness of the story prevents the film from becoming entirely dull. Oldman is a talkative British traveler named Martin, who happens to be dropped off in a small town by a truck driver unaccustomed to the chattiness. In this small town he runs into Linda Henry (Russell) in a small diner, and becomes convinced that she is his long-lost mother.

            The age difference alone makes this scenario seem nearly impossible, though the facts all seem to line up when Martin explains his childhood and Linda admits her teenage pregnancy. They build a strange bond while Linda’s husband (Christopher Lloyd) pursues a passion playing with model trains, as well as some extramarital activities. This is a performance piece for all three actors, as the psychological twists and turns of the screenplay demand.

War of the Arrows Blu-ray review

            It is a testament to the rising success of South Korean cinema’s national success when every year or so the record for highest grossing film is exceeded. War of the Arrows is the highest grossing epic in Korean cinema history, though there is bound to be one in the near future which will even surpass this spectacle. What makes Korean cinema so successful is not only the effectiveness in the filmmaking, but the heart behind each of the films. War of the Arrows is no exception, with as much moving melodrama as there is exciting action.

            The film takes place in the early 1600s, staring at the rule of King Gwanghaegun. In the opening sequence of War of the Arrows, General Choi Pyong-ryang is framed for treason and executed, despite being a loyal archer for the king. Unable to save himself, the general is at least able to protect his children and provide the opportunity for their escape. They are raised in secret by a family friend for thirteen years, until the second Manchu invasion of Korea.

            Nam-yi and his sister Ja-in have moved on with their lives, until the wedding day of Ja-in when the Qing troops attack. Led by Commander Jiusinta, the Qing troops take many prisoners, including Ja-in. Nam-yi sets out on a personal mission to rescue his sister, taking on an army troop on his own. The abilities with an arrow he learned from his father become useful and necessary.

            The action remains mostly tied to the use of a bow and arrow, though there are many varieties. This is a strong point of the film, and the special effects with the use of arrows are also effective. CGI must be predominately relied upon, but it looks so spectacular in the high definition presentation of Blu-ray that the storyline can easily remain believable. There are no jarringly bad moments to bring us out of the movie-watching experience, which is the biggest concern with bad special effects.

            The Blu-ray also includes a behind-the-scenes featurette and highlights within the special features. Trailers are also included. These are minimal additions, though I appreciate that both a DVD and Blu-ray version of the film are included in the two-disc set.
Starring: Hae-il Park, Seung-yong Ryoo, Moon Chae-Won
Director: Han-min Kim
Language: Korean
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Studio: Well Go USA
Release Date: February 21, 2012
Run Time: 122 minutes