For the week of January 22th, Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings End of Watch to Blu-ray. A cops-and-criminals thriller from writer/director David Ayer, End of Watch follows two hotshot police officers (Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña) as they work an especially dangerous beat in South Central, Los Angeles. This is familiar territory for Ayer - he is responsible for such films as Harsh Times, Street Kings, and the Academy Award-winning Training Day - but he manages to switch up the formula through a canny use of found-footage aesthetics and through Gyllenhaal and Peña's winning performances. Their characters are far from corrupt - they're bright, funny guys laboring mightily in a brutal day job, and we genuinely want to see them escape the film alive.
Kenneth Brown's Blu-ray review echoes this sentiment as he writes that "Gyllenhaal and Peña carry the film and do so with such dedication and commitment to Taylor and Zavala's integrity as fully realized characters that it's difficult to focus on anything other than their performances...There are also the calls Taylor and Zavala respond to - a car chase that ends in blood, a domestic disturbance, a missing child report, a house fire, a hunch that uncovers a human trafficking ring, a house call turned mass murder crime scene, and more - that make up the bulk of the film and knocked the wind of me every time. It's in those two areas, Taylor and Zavala's personal lives and challenging calls, that End of Watch excels."
January 22th also finds Sony Pictures Home Entertainment offering Searching for Sugar Man to retailers. This documentary recently received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Film, and it isn't hard to see why. The film is a funny, sweet, and decidedly human mystery about Rodriguez, a 1970s musician whose music inspired the people of South Africa even as it went mostly unnoticed in the United States; after releasing two albums, Rodriguez seemed to disappear, and Searching for Sugar Man documents two filmmakers' attempts to discover where he went.
In his Blu-ray review, Martin Liebman praises the picture for its "fascinating subject material but also for the passion it brings for both the history, the search, and the man in the middle of it all. The filmmakers and interviewees show a love for the artist, a passion for his music, and a knowledge of who he is away from the mystery, beyond the unknown and newfound fame, distanced from the renewed interest and hype and film. Searching for Sugar Man injects the audience into the search, involves them in the interviews, and will fascinate even those with little passion for or only a casual understanding of the music landscape."
In addition to Searching for Sugar Man, Sony is releasing Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning. Day of Reckoning is director John Hyams' follow-up to his Universal Soldier: Regeneration, which was about four times better than a DTV actioner with "Universal Soldier" in the title should be; Regeneration galvanized the tired franchise with its visceral thrills and relentless pacing, and Day of Reckoning provides more of the same: a very good thing for action junkies. To Hyams' credit, he never treats this material like trash, and he tosses in striking aesthetic and thematic gags - at times, the movie plays like Enter the Void produced by Capcom.
Martin Liebman uses his Blu-ray review to ponder the seeming disconnect between the film's conventional subject matter and its experimental filmmaking techniques; he writes that "the film aims to create a 'perspective' experience in which it engages in some effective first-person photography that simulates various individual states; the film opens with a disoriented father searching the house for intruders, depicted by the screen going light and dark as a means to cinematically recreate a drowsy, not-yet-fully-functional human state...It's a strong idea in theory and it does work as intended; the question is whether audiences want to see it. Otherwise, Hyams' film is a pleasure. Get past some excess violence and a few questionable choices, and Day of Reckoning presents itself as a fairly engaging and very well-made picture that matches the last in intensity and style."
Finally, this week receives a long-anticipated title: John Ford's The Quiet Man, which is making its HD premiere. For years, Ford's most personal work, has been the subject of great controversy. Not for its overall quality, mind you - The Quiet Man won two Academy Awards and should have won more - but for the condition of the available VHS and DVD prints. Despite their protestations of visual brilliance, these copies looked grossly over-saturated and garish, but Olive Films' Blu-ray corrects those problems with a stunning, hyper-real digital transfer. After many years, Ford's Ireland looks the way it should, and we are all richer for the results.
Jeffrey Kauffman calls the film "that rare entertainment that can appeal to kids on one visceral level while speaking to adults on a completely deeper and more soulful level. The screenplay (by Maurice Walsh, Frank S. Nugent and Richard Llewellyn) mines the rather ripe comedic fields offered by the setting and the expert cast without ever tipping too far into self-parody, but the writing also captures the immensity of heart that is at the core of the Irish people. The Quiet Man is probably an idealized view of Ireland (warts, donnybrooks, and all), but somehow it's an idealization that seems more real than mere "reality" could ever be."
I want to pickup The Quiet Man as well as the other old John Wayne films....
The New Frontier
King of the Pecos
as well as Guns - The Evolution of Firearms and if I eventually find it dirt cheap down the road I may blind buy For a Good Time, Call...