It’s been a little slow these past few weeks in regards to major releases, but there’s no shortage of high profile titles this week as the first batch of award-worthy films arrives on Blu-ray. Of course, not every entry is Oscar material, but there’s enough variety and quality here that you won’t have to look very far for something that perks your interest.
Just like a good scotch, it’s amazing what a little time can do for a movie’s quality. After the disappointing “Quantum of Solace,” it was imperative that the next James Bond film didn’t follow suit, and although the MGM bankruptcy fiasco that put production indefinitely on hold was worrying, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Not only does the story feel more polished as a result, but it features one of the best Bond villains in the series’ history. Javier Bardem’s platinum-haired cyber-terrorist doesn’t appear until the midway mark, but the actor makes the most of his limited screen time, including a particularly memorable introduction. It’s hard to imagine Bardem would have even been interested in doing a Bond movie if it weren’t for Sam Mendes, and the same could probably be said for the rest of the cast as well. Though he was certainly an unconventional choice, having a director of Mendes’ caliber behind the camera is something the Broccolis should strive for more often, because it’s clear from the start that “Skyfall” is in a totally different class than past installments. It has everything you could want in a 007 film – action, intrigue, style and even a little humor – resulting in Daniel Craig’s best Bond adventure to date.
Blu-ray Highlight: A review copy wasn’t provided in time to sample the bonus material, but between the audio commentary by director Sam Mendes and the 13-part making-of featurette “Shooting Bond,” it’s a safe bet that diehard fans won’t be disappointed.
It’s not every day that the author of a critically acclaimed novel gets the chance to adapt their book for the big screen, let alone direct it, but after watching Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” it’s hard to imagine anyone else doing a better job. After all, Chbosky knows the material inside and out, and it definitely shows in this modest but heartwarming tale about finding your place in the world. It’s your typical coming-of-age story, but one that’s handled with a certain level of maturity rarely found in high school films, and though the comparisons to “The Breakfast Club” may be somewhat warranted, it’s one of the few movies about high school that actually gets it right. Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller deliver excellent performances in their respective roles (especially Miller as the openly gay senior that takes Lerman’s freshman under his wing), and Chbosky’s deft script earns every emotional moment. It’s just a shame that “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” got lost in the awards season shuffle, because it’s one of 2012′s very best.
Blu-ray Highlight: In addition to a short but sweet featurette about the close friendships formed while making the film, the Blu-ray also includes a pair of audio commentaries. The first track with writer/director Stephen Chobsky is definitely the more informative of the two, but the second track with Chobsky and his young cast is more entertaining.
Writer/director Ben Lewin’s “The Sessions” may sound like some really bizarre cross between “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “My Left Foot” – after all, it’s essentially about a disabled man (real-life polio survivor and journalist Mark O’Brien) trying to get laid for the first time – but this incredibly low-key and feel-good dramedy is about so much more, and that’s why it was such a big hit at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. Though it would have been all too easy to produce the kind of heavy-handed Oscar bait that you normally see with these types of true inspirational stories, Lewin never martyrizes his main character, instead relying on O’Brien’s charming personality and self-deprecating wit to lighten the mood. The sex scenes are also handled with a frankness and intimacy that you don’t see very often in films these days, and that, coupled with a pair of superb, award-worthy performances by John Hawkes and Helen Hunt, is what makes “The Sessions” such a joy to watch.
Blu-ray Highlight: Like “Skyfall,” a review copy wasn’t provided in time for press (blame Fox), but I’ll update this space as soon as I’m able to check out the bonus material.