My Week With Marilyn Blu-ray review

Starring: Michelle Williams, Emma Watson, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Redmayne, Judi Dench
Director: Simon Curtis
Language: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: The Weinstein Company
Release Date: March 13, 2012
Run Time: 99 minutes

            This is another year-end performance piece, and it is Academy Award-nominee Michelle Williams who is in the must-watch role as a young Marilyn Monroe during her first trip to London. Anytime a historical person is embodied in a role by a movie star, it seems to be a clear choice for people to judge and often praise. These are the roles which seem to end up on the Best Actor and Best Actress lists, from Margaret Thatcher to J. Edgar Hoover. Williams garnered her third nomination from this true-life portrayal. Kenneth Branagh also received an Academy Award nomination in the supporting role as Sir Laurence Olivier.

            Hollywood is riddled with rumors of the real person behind the celebrity, from TMZ to the countless paparazzi rags littering the newsstands. This has always been the case, if only a change in medium has occurred. During the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl, Colin Clark wrote a memoir about his experience working close to Marilyn Monroe, who was quickly becoming the biggest female movie star alive. Clark saw a different side of her and it became a sensational book, which has now been adapted into a fascinating film.

            It seems to be the year for nostalgia, films about filmmaking. From Best Picture winner The Artist to Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, this was the focus of most acclaimed films of 2011. My Week with Marilyn focuses on the difficulties on set of The Prince and the Showgirl, many having to do with Olivier’s impatience with Monroe’s insecurities and process of working. She arrives in London with her husband at the time, Arthur Miller, though this marriage dissolves quickly enough for Marilyn to begin a flirtatious relationship with 23-year-old Third Assistant Director Clark (Eddie Redmayne). This is discouraged by everyone involved in the production, to no avail.

            The Blu-ray combo pack comes with a DVD copy, both with a feature commentary track by director Simon Curtis and a featurette about Monroe.            


The Three Musketeers Blu-ray review

Starring: Orlando Bloom, Logan Lerman, Milla Jovovich
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Language: English
Subtitles: English
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Release Date: March 13, 2012
Run Time: 110 minutes

            It was only in the 1990s that Alexander Dumas’ swashbuckling heroes were last brought to screen, and many times in the decades before that as well. The difference this time is the integration of 3D into the action, making for a more explosive and spectacle-enhanced version of the classic. It has an element of camp to it as well, which doesn’t help as much as set it apart from the past adaptations.

            Logan Lerman from Percy Jackson & the Olympians heads up the cast as the cocky young D’Artagnan, son of a Musketeer and determined to become one himself. The king is instead surrounded by the Cardinal’s guards, headed up by a particularly brutal commander (Christopher Waltz). This is the man D’Artagnan first encounters, and he ends up insulting the three remaining Musketeers in his pursuit of justice. This is how he ends up befriending Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (Luke Evans).

            These four are all that stands in the way of an evil plan to bring down the king, led by the wiles of a wicked woman (Milla Jovovich) and her partner (Orlando Bloom). This is done with impressive acrobatics and the invention of a war ship which flies through the air instead of through the sea. The film ends in a climactic sequence in which two airborne war ships do battle, shooting cannons at each other. One must wonder why neither thinks to shoot up and merely hit the hot air balloon holding the whole contraption in the air.

            Logic is lost in the action and spectacle of the new The Three Musketeers, and all sense of literature gives way to simple storytelling. Even with the spectacular cast of actors, the nuances are lost in the fast-paced action. It does look and sound rather spectacular on high definition Blu-ray, however. The special feature also include an audio commentary with director Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil), deleted and extended scenes, cast and crew stories and a 17th century action featurette. Exclusive to the Blu-ray disc is an interactive viewing experience which allows you to investigate the production aspects.

Game of Thrones DVD review

Starring: Harry Lloyd, Mark Addy, Alfie Allen, Sean Bean, Peter Dinklage
Format: AC-3, Box set, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Subtitles: Chinese, English, French, Korean, Spanish
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Number of discs: 5
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: HBO Studios
DVD Release Date: March 6, 2012
Run Time: 561 minutes

            HBO made a grab for the reigning title of television this past year, desperate to get back to the top where they remained for so many years before AMC started making original programming. Prior to “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad,” it always seemed to be HBO getting the attention and acclaim. Now with “Boardwalk Empire” and “Game of Thrones,” there are strong indications of a push for better television. Both of these series were highly successful in this endeavor.

            “Game of Thrones” is an elaborate and well executed medieval fantasy series, based on the best-selling book, A Song of Ice and Fire, written by R.R. Martin. From costumes to set pieces, it seems no expenses were spared in creating the fantasy world of “Game of Thrones.” It is a world in which the weather can stay the same for decades and brutally skilled creatures are in the forests. But this all falls secondary to the familiar politics over control of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.

            As the royal family members are shaken by betrayal and deceit in an ambitious reach for the Iron Throne, there are also supernatural forces taking place. The series is filled with many unexpectedly violent moments, amidst a solid storyline with well cast actors. This cast is headed up by Sean Bean as the patriarchal figure, Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark. The cast also includes Peter Dinklage, who won a Best Supporting Actor Emmy for his performance.

            The DVD release of season one includes a complete guide to Westeros, which is an interactive compendium of the noble houses, making the storyline much easier to follow. There is also a generic 30-minute making-of featurette and character profiles for fifteen of the essential roles and the actors who play them. Additional features cover the construction of the title sequence and the many aspects adapted from the book, from the Dothraki language to the patrol of men along the 700 foot ice wall. There are also audio commentaries on seven of the ten episodes that make up season one.

High Road Blu-ray review

Starring: Ed Helms, Lizzy Caplan, James Pumphrey, Rob Riggle, Horatio Sanz
Director: Matt Walsh
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Millennium Media
Release Date: March 6, 2012
Run Time: 87 minutes

            Here comes yet another comedy with marijuana influencing the story and the sense of humor, though this one fits in the category of comedies which utilize weed as a pun in the title in such a way that implies far more drug use than actually exists. That’s right; a road-trip buddy comedy called High Road has a road trip in which absolutely no drugs are smoked. This deception alone will upset the target audience for a film such as this and it doesn’t even matter if the gimmick of a fully improvised feature film is successful or not.

            The film follows an underachiever named Glenn Fitzgerald (James F. Pumphrey), whose sole ambitions in life seem to be getting high and playing in his unsuccessful band. When they other band members (Zach Woods, Matt L. Jones, Lizzy Caplan) depart to pursue other goals, he is left with his attractive girlfriend, Monica (Abby Elliot), and morning bonding sessions with a 16-year old neighborhood kid named Jimmy (Dylan O’Brien). Glenn has no job and only sells weed for income. This fact somehow goes unnoticed by Monica until he becomes paranoid that the cops will arrest him after a large drug sale and flees town, taking Jimmy with him.
            Co-founder of the world-renowned comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade, Matt Walsh directs the free-flowing comedy of High Road. The result is low budget and low laughs. There are a few humorous lines and moments within the imagined screenplay, though they are often too spread out within the scene and film to help with the chaotic rhythms in the comedy. Part of the problem with the chaos seems to stem from the improvisation. With everyone trying to improvise the most humorous lines and a cast full of recognizable faces, there is a neediness in most of the performances which is difficult to watch.

             The Blu-ray includes interviews with the cast and crew.


Blade of Kings Blu-ray review

Starring: Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen, Bingbing Fan, Edison Chen, Jaycee Chan
Directors: Patrick Leung, Corey Yuen
Language: Chinese
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Number of discs: 2
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Well Go USA Inc
Release Date: March 6, 2012
Run Time: 106 minutes

            This movie was awful, just offensively bad. The only moment worth mentioning is a fight sequence between Donnie Yen and Jackie Chan, which seems to hold at least a third of the entire budget for the film. Most of the bad effects are so awfully digitally rendered that they look like special effects for television look good. It is sub-par work, in a film with an awful fantasy concept better suited for a B-film.

            Taking place in an ancient land ruled by women and led by a cruel and heartless empress (Qu Ying), where men are subservient and slave-like in every regard. Her chief eunuch, Chiu Ngai (Daniel Wu), warns the empress that there is a prophecy which claims a man will rise up with the Excalibur sword and take control back for the men. All of the warlords and soldiers are sent to prevent this from happening, while the man who will make it possible is clueless still.

            Charcoal Head (Jaycee Chan) and his brother Blockhead (Chen Po-lin) perform in a traveling show until they find themselves in possession of a mysterious stone treasure map. On their journey for riches, these two cross paths with two female warriors, Blue Bird (Gillian Chung) and 13th Young Master (Charlene Choi). These four are joined by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Donnie Yen) and all make a plan to destroy the evil empress.

            The effects are poor, the acting is sub-par and even the action has a great deal to be desired. The only reason for watching this film is a single fight sequence between two iconic action stars. Blade of Kings is otherwise easily dismissible. The Blu-ray special features include a making-of featurette and trailers.

Wyatt Earp’s Revenge DVD review

Starring: Val Kilmer, Shawn Roberts, Matt Dallas, Daniel Booko, Scott Whyte
Director: Michael Feifer
Language: English
Subtitles: Chinese, English, Korean 
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: March 6, 2012
Run Time: 93 minutes

            Another poorly constructed western makes its way onto home video, with little more than a whimper before dying on the shelves among so many others. Wyatt Earp’s Revenge only has a small role played by Val Kilmer to help it stand out amongst the rest of the poorly made westerns on home video.

            Kilmer barely appears as an older Wyatt Earp, reflecting to a young man about his past and an early moment when he assembled a posse to avenge the death of a woman he loved. Following the culprits on a murder spree from Dodge City to Mexico, Wyatt Earp and his crew of lawmen hunt the men responsible down. There is plenty of average action, though plenty more of the sub-par acting.

            Starring Shawn Roberts (Resident Evil franchise) and country music artist Trace Adkins (The Lincoln Lawyer), it is not surprising to see Val Kilmer pushed into the credits. With his role as Doc Holiday in Tombstone, he will always find work in a western, just like Robert Englund could always find something in the horror genre.

            The DVD special features include a “Riding Along with Wyatt Earp” featurette.