The Secret World of Arrietty Blu-ray Review

  • Voice Actors: Bridgit Mendler, David Henrie, Amy Poehler, Will Arnett, Moises Arias

  • Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

  • Format: Animated, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen

  • Language: English, Japanese, French

  • Subtitles: English, French

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

  • Number of discs: 2

  • Rated: G (General Audience)

  • Release Date: May 22, 2012

  • Run Time: 94 minutes

  •             The last film to come from Studio Ghibli to the states was an adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid in the form of Ponyo. Now comes another adaptation which has already been handled in American cinema, though is seeing an animated life in The Secret World of Arrietty. Based on the Mary Norton’s beloved young adult book, “The Borrowers,” The Secret World of Arrietty blends the childhood story of wonder and magic with the beloved hand-drawn animation of Studio Ghibli.

                Arrietty is a young girl standing only a few inches tall. She lives with her family beneath the floorboards of a house that is occupied by unsuspecting humans. They are called Borrowers for their tendency to borrow things which will go unnoticed if missing, using these items to survive in their hidden home. Believing that they may be the last of the kind only makes their survival all the more imminent.

                When a sick young boy named Shawn enters the house, the Borrowers are forced to find a way to remain a secret. Shawn’s ability to believe in them is what allows him the patience to wait until they come at night. Once he has seen them, there is no reason for him not to believe. This proves to be dangerous for the Borrowers, although it does not stop Arrietty from starting a forbidden friendship with the sickly young human boy.

                For the American version, there have been recorded new voices which include the Disney Channel’s Bridgit Mendler and David Henrie along with Will Arnett, Amy Poehler and Carol Burnett. It is a simple and sweet story, but one with plenty of humor for the comedic giants to sink their teeth into as well. The Blu-ray also comes with a DVD version of the film.

                The DVD special features include a music video with Bridgit Mendler and a making of featurette for the music video. These are both included on the Blu-ray disc, along with original Japanese storyboards and trailer galleries, as well as an additional music video of the film’s theme song.

    Memorial Day Blu-ray Review

                There may be some war violence in Memorial Day, but this is clearly a film better suited for the Hallmark Channel than theatrical distribution. The saccharine storyline pushes the boundaries of emotional manipulation, all with the sole purpose of cinematically celebrating the holiday Memorial Day. The message along with the memorial is more than slightly muddled amidst the attempt to compare a grandfather’s experience in World War II with his grandson in Iraq, leaving the film feeling both manipulative while uncertain about what it is trying to say.

                James Cromwell is clearly the saving grace of the film as the aging grandfather who tells his grandson stories of wars past on Memorial Day in 1993. When grandson Kyle (Jonathan Bennett) grows up, he also becomes a soldier and has stories of his own to tell. It is not clear what the message is meant to be by connecting stories from a war now thought to be justified with one that still seems questionable to many. There is a little bit of action, but far more melodrama which appears to be attempting emotional manipulation with the story.

                First time director Sam Fischer is better known for his technical work with a camera, so the film is far better looking than anything else. The war images are realistic enough, when the bad CGI effects can be ignored. The biggest problem with the movie is the screenplay and many of the supporting actors. The Blu-ray includes an audio commentary with prime suspects for the film’s demise, including director Fischer and writer Maec Conklin. Cromwell also joins in the commentary, and the special features also include a behind-the-scenes featurette.

    Coriolanus Blu-ray Review

  • Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler

  • Director: Ralph Fiennes

  • Format: Color, Widescreen

  • Language: English

  • Subtitles: English, Spanish  

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

  • Number of discs: 1

  • Rated: R (Restricted)

  • Studio: The Weinstein Company

  • Release Date: May 29, 2012

  • Run Time: 124 minutes

  •             When William Shakespeare’s well-pillaged works are updated to modern times, as has been done with Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and The Taming of the Shrew, it comes as no surprise. Those of us who have not seen the classic period adaptations are at least familiar with them, calling for a modern twist in film adaptations. Coriolanus, however, is a Shakespeare play which is little known and has never before been adapted to film. The choice to adapt it as a modern/futuristic tale of humanity and war is fitting for the story, however little audiences may already be familiar with it.

                I find little reason to criticize Coriolanus simply because of the modern adaptation, though the use of Shakespeare’s words against a world of guns instead of swords is often more jarring than fitting. My biggest complaint about Coriolanus is the fact that it mostly appears to be a one man vanity project. Ralph Fiennes previously had experience onstage as the title character, which apparently was enough to motivate the actor to produce and direct this star-studded and mostly star-wasted exercise in overacting. What Fiennes may have been unable to realize from the front of the camera is how different stage acting is from film acting. Every note he gives is a high one, and although his intensity helps fuel the film at certain points, it also makes a remainder feel extremely monotone.

                The story may be a lesser known of the bard’s, but that does not mean it is unfamiliar. There are key elements within the story which can be found in any number of more recognizable works of Shakespeare. Caius Martius ‘Coriolanus’ (Fiennes) is a Roman General who is feared by Roman enemies and despised by the Roman people. Although his mother (Vanessa Redgrave) pushes him to use politics in a way that will advance his place among the people, the General refuses to play the games of politics. He is a soldier and his only concern is keeping the enemy Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler) from entering Rome. As a political move, Coriolanus is banished from Rome once peace has been found. Seeking nothing more than revenge, the shunned soldier seeks out Rome’s enemy in order to help take down the tyrants of Rome.

                Despite much of the film being about war, there is actually very little action with the storyline of Coriolanus. It is a film much more focused on politics and deceit, much like the downfall of Caesar or the destruction of Othello. The words are strong, having been written by Shakespeare, but they are not always gracefully adapted to modern scenarios. There is a great deal good within Coriolanus, but I’m afraid it never elevates to great thanks to a distracted director spread too thin with too many roles. The Blu-ray includes a high definition presentation of the film along with an optional audio commentary with Fiennes.