Alfred Hitchcock is today best known for his work in the 1950s and 1960s, thanks to Universal and Warner Bros. steady stream of restored re-releases on Blu-ray but recently, 20th Century Home Entertainment reminded us that the master director wasn’t exactly idle in the years before. A trio of his 1940s works – Notorious, Spellbound, and Rebecca – are now out on Blu-ray for the first time and it begs a fresh look at his black and white thrillers.
Hitchcock began his stormy relationship with MGM producer David O. Selznick with 1940’s Rebecca, a psychological drama which is noteworthy as the director’s first American film. Adapted from Daphne du Maurier’s bestseller, it featured Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, and Judith Anderson. Being a gothic tale of loss, while gently questioning whether or not Olivier killed his first wife, it was a good fit for Hitchcock, introducing him to the American way of shooting a feature film. Clearly it worked since it went on to win a Best Picture Oscar. (more…)
We admit it, we’re hooked by this trailer. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars has a look and feel that separates it from our previous visual incarnations while remaining faithful to the source material. With this and The Hunger Games in March, suddenly that month is starting to feel like summer.
Residing quietly beneath the floorboards are little people who live undetected in a secret world to be discovered, where the smallest may stand tallest of all. From the legendary Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away, Ponyo) comes The Secret World of Arrietty, an animated adventure based on Mary Norton’s acclaimed children’s book series The Borrowers.
Arrietty (voice of Bridgit Mendler), a tiny, but tenacious 14-year-old, lives with her parents (voices of Will Arnett and Amy Poehler) in the recesses of a suburban garden home, unbeknownst to the homeowner and her housekeeper (voice of Carol Burnett). Like all little people, Arrietty (AIR-ee-ett-ee) remains hidden from view, except during occasional covert ventures beyond the floorboards to “borrow” scrap supplies like sugar cubes from her human hosts. But when 12-year-old Shawn (voice of David Henrie), a human boy who comes to stay in the home, discovers his mysterious housemate one evening, a secret friendship blossoms. If discovered, their relationship could drive Arrietty’s family from the home and straight into danger. The English language version of The Secret World of Arrietty was executive produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, and directed by Gary Rydstrom. The film hits theaters Feb. 17, 2012. (more…)
In the mid-1920’s, an up-and-coming young animator had a brief encounter with an up-and-coming child star. Although they only met in passing, Mickey Rooney remembers Walt Disney as “a very charming man.” More than 50 years later, in 1981, Rooney would find himself starring in one of Walt Disney Studio’s most beloved animated films, The Fox and the Hound. Rooney voiced the character of Tod, an orphaned fox cub who forms an unlikely friendship with Copper, a coonhound voiced by Kurt Russell. The film also stars Pearl Bailey, Pat Buttram and Jack Albertson. The Fox and the Hound and its sequel The Fox and the Hound 2 will be released in a 30th Anniversary 2-Movie Collection on August 9, 2011.
Although he is quick to deny it, Mickey Rooney is the definition of a Hollywood legend. With a career that spans nine decades, he has defied the odds in an industry that often typecasts performers. He got his start crashing his parents’ vaudeville act while still a toddler and, just a few years later, he became a silent film sensation; starring in the popular “Mickey McGuire” shorts. In the 1930’s Rooney made a successful transition to sound films, headlining in the long-running “Andy Hardy” series and teaming with his friend Judy Garland in such classic musicals as Strike Up the Band and Girl Crazy. Rooney was awarded a special Juvenile Oscar at the 1939 Academy Awards ceremony and the next year was nominated in the competitive Best Actor category for Babes in Arms, the first of four Oscar nominations. He also won an honorary Academy Award in 1983 in recognition of 50 years of memorable film performances. Having also won an Emmy and two Golden Globes by that time, many actors would be content to rest on such precious laurels but Mickey Rooney, now 90, continues to work on stage, screen and television and recently wrapped a cameo role in the highly anticipated Walt Disney Pictures Holiday 2011 release, The Muppets. (more…)
One of the joys of the Warner Archive program is that movies and television shows for small groups of fans can be released. The restoration costs seem to have reached a reasonable scale and these direct-to-order projects don’t really require the bells and whistles higher profile releases deserve. As a result, we can revel in the stuff we grew up or recall fondly. In my case, that includes a ton of Hanna-Barbera and Ruby-Spears stuff that has been coming out over the last year or two. It also meant I finally got a good copy of the pilot to theSearch series.
And while some will turn their noses up to those offerings, they may begin salivating at some of the others that have been released; titles which I personally find not worth our time and attention. One such series is the short-lived NBC clunker Man from Atlantis, best known as the vehicle that gave the world Patrick Duffy pre-Dallas. The premise is certain high concept enough to have been interesting: amnesiac Mark Harris displayed the ability to breathe underwater and withstand the crushing deep sea water pressure. His origins remained murky but as was the formula from the 1970s, he was immediately set up with a purpose that served others rather than himself: working for the Foundation for Oceanic Research, a front for top secret activity. He was accompanied by a team of humans (co-stars Belinda J. Montgomery and Alan Fudge) aboard the high-tech sub called the Cetacean. And rather than delve into her personality or explore the things that made him unique, he became another handsome, shirtless hunk who went through the motions.
The concept proved durable enough it was given a weekly series order and those 13 episodes have also been collected and released as a four-disc Man from Atlantis: The Complete Television Series. I should stress, the pilot film was previously released on its own. (more…)
Pontiac, MI., July 25, 2011—Walt Disney Pictures’ fantastical adventure Oz The Great and Powerful, directed by Sam Raimi, went in front of the cameras at the brand-new Raleigh Studios in Pontiac, Michigan, on Monday, July 25, 2011, boasting a stellar cast that includes Academy Award® nominee James Franco (127 Hours) as the young wizard, Golden Globe® nominee Mila Kunis (Black Swan) as the witch Theodora, Academy Award® winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener) as Kunis’ sister Evanora and two-time Oscar®-nominated actress Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain, Blue Valentine) as Glinda, the Good Witch.
The cast also includes Emmy® and Golden Globe® nominee Zach Braff (Scrubs, Garden State), who will play Franco’s circus assistant as well as lend his vocal talents to one of the CGI creatures in the story — Finley, the winged monkey who accompanies the magician on his journey to Oz; and 12-year-old actress Joey King (Ramona and Beezus), who will voice another CGI character in the story, China Girl, who also joins the future Wizard on his excursion through Oz. (more…)
Growing up, there was nothing more captivating than Frank Frazetta’s amazing cover paintings for the Science Fiction Book Club editions of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter series of novels set on Barsoom, er, Mars.
While there have been many abortive attempts at adapting John Carter as a cartoon or live-action film, we’re finally getting one with a strong pedigree. Pixar’s first live-action film, directed by Andrew Stanton, is shaping up to be 2012’s first blockbuster. Opening March 9, it leads a super-heroic slate of films and now the first trailer for the feature is available.
From a screenplay by Andrew Stanton & Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon the movie stars Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy, Daryl Sabara, Polly Walker, Bryan Cranston, with Thomas Haden Church and Willem Dafoe.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, here’s the studio’s official synopsis: The studio goes on to note: From Academy Award®–winning filmmaker Andrew Stanton comes John Carter—a sweeping action-adventure set on the mysterious and exotic planet of Barsoom (Mars). John Carter is based on a classic novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, whose highly imaginative adventures served as inspiration for many filmmakers, both past and present. The film tells the story of war-weary, former military captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), who is inexplicably transported to Mars where he becomes reluctantly embroiled in a conflict of epic proportions amongst the inhabitants of the planet, including Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) and the captivating Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins). In a world on the brink of collapse, Carter rediscovers his humanity when he realizes that the survival of Barsoom and its people rests in his hands.
Edgar Rice Burroughs was born in Chicago and is best known for writing and creating Tarzan—still one of the most successful and iconic fictional creations of all time. John Carter is based on Burroughs’ first novel, A Princess of Mars.
Academy Award®–winning director/writer Andrew Stanton directed and co-wrote the screenplay for WALL•E, which earned the Academy Award® and Golden Globe Award® for Best Animated Feature of 2008. He was Oscar® nominated for the screenplay. He made his directorial debut with Finding Nemo, garnering an Academy Awardnomination for Best Original Screenplay and winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film of 2003. He was one of the four screenwriters to receive an Oscar nomination in 1996 for his contribution to Toy Story, and went on to receive credit as a screenwriter on subsequent Pixar films A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo and WALL•E.
The award-winning below-the-line team includes Production Designer Nathan Crowley, Oscar®- nominated for both Dark Knight and The Prestige, and Costume Designer Mayes Rubeo, whose work is showcased in Avatar and Apocalypto.
Michael Chabon, who won the Pulitzer Prize in Literature for his novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, is a co-writer on the screenplay.
Award-winning composer Michael Giacchino has received numerous accolades for his work on previous Disney•Pixar films Up (Oscar® winner, Best Original Score; BAFTA winner, Best Music; Golden Globe® winner, Best Original Score for a Motion Picture; GRAMMY® Award winner, Best Score Soundtrack Album), Ratatouille (GRAMMY Award winner, Best Score Soundtrack Album; Annie Award winner, Best Music in an Animated Feature Production; Oscarnomination, Best Original Score) and The Incredibles (Annie Award winner, Best Music in an Animated Feature Production; GRAMMY nomination, Best Score Soundtrack Album).
Disney has done such a spectacular job with their upgraded high definition releases of their classics through the years so each announcement is most welcome. Personally, I question the value of a 3-D home video release but it’s nice they have the option for those interested. Here’s the official release:
BURBANK, Calif. (May 26, 2011) — Simba, Mufasa, Nala, Timon and Pumbaa are back and better than ever this fall when Disney’s The Lion King roars into theaters and homes in breathtaking 3D. A special two-week theatrical extravaganza kicks off Sept. 16, 2011, showcasing the Oscar®- and Golden Globe®-winning film on the big screen in Disney Digital 3D™ for the first time ever, and its highly anticipated home entertainment debut kicks off October 4, celebrating the Diamond Edition release of the epic movie “The Lion King” in high-definition Blu-ray™ and Blu-ray 3D“The Lion King is the best-selling home entertainment release of all time—and this is The Lion King like never before,” said Bob Chapek, president of distribution, The Walt Disney Studios. “The all-new 3D format immerses viewers in the epic settings and puts them face-to-face with these beloved characters. We’re showcasing one of the all-time favorite Disney movies in theaters and making it available in Blu-ray hi-def and in Blu-ray 3D—it’s the must-see, must-own title for everyone.”
Nearly a decade since The Lion King last appeared on the big screen, the upcoming theatrical release invites new generations into the “Circle of Life.” The two-week, 3D-only presentation is a planned wide domestic release—the biggest since the film’s 1994 debut—and the film’s first-ever 3D release.
Far too films hold up to the test of time, their iconic nature re-evaluated through a modern prism and found wanting. Memorable performances or screen characters suddenly look one-dimensional or wanting. Then there are those that grew in stature through the years as audiences and critics catch up to the creators’ vision. Those are the ones that are hailed in retrospectives, make it to the National Film Registry and get the deluxe treatment when released on home video. The Hustler, the 1961 film about pool and people, is one such film and is this week making its Blu-ray debut courtesy of 20th Century Home Entertainment.
It used to be, pool sharks could tour the country, play high stakes games and eke out a living of sorts. Legendary pool players had a word-of-mouth reputation every bit as powerful as celebrities made famous by ESPN. The great novelist Walter Tevis captured these players and their world in his 1959 novel, prompting Robert Rosen and Sidney Carroll to adapt it to the big screen.
“Fast Eddie” Felson is the wandering pool player, with no roots, no life beyond the end of his cue stick. He arrives in the small, dark town of Ames specifically to challenge the legendary Minnesota Fats – and loses. What happens next propels the rest of the film and becomes a study of pool players, friends, and lost souls searching for a better way.
Felson is a brilliant player but empty inside, yearning for something more but not sure what that is or how to get it. All he knows is he’s the best and wants to prove it time and again so being humbled by Fats rankles. And while he’s lost, he discovers there are others who don’t know just how lost they are, a point made when he meets the drunken Sarah Packard. (more…)
Here’s the release with all the current information, reminding us of how much we’re looking to seeing how this wraps up:
BURBANK, CA, May 19, 2011 – Principal photography has begun on Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ The Dark Knight Rises, the epic conclusion to filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s [[[Batman]]] trilogy.
Leading an all-star international cast, Oscar® winner Christian Bale (The Fighter) again plays the dual role of Bruce Wayne/Batman.
The film also stars Anne Hathaway, as Selina Kyle; Tom Hardy, as Bane; Oscar® winner Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose), as Miranda Tate; and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as John Blake.
Returning to the main cast, Oscar® winner Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules) plays Alfred; Gary Oldman is Commissioner Gordon; and Oscar® winner Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby) reprises the role of Lucius Fox.
In helming The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan is utilizing IMAX® cameras even more extensively than he did on The Dark Knight, which had marked the first time that a major feature film was partially shot with IMAX® cameras. The results were so spectacular that the director wanted to expand the use of the large-format cameras for this film.