50/50 (Blu-ray) Criticize This! Pick of the Week – I stand behind 50/50, the “cancer comedy” as some called it, as being the best film of 2011. While it is funny at times, thanks mainly to Seth Rogen’s nonchalant onscreen demeanor, the film is absolutely heart-wrenching and has so much more going for it than the marketing suggests. No doubt a film about a twentysomething diagnosed with a rare form of cancer is a tough sell, but the way it’s presented is brilliant and Joseph Gordon-Levitt deserves all the praise for playing a character so easily likable you almost feel like he’s a friend and you’re watching his struggle from the outside. Whether you connect to 50/50 the way I have is for you to find out. And you should definitely try to find out. The Blu-ray release sports a very clean image and surround sound mix and is a must-own if you’re a fan. Special features include audio commentary, deleted scenes, and more. Film **** Blu-ray **** (out of 5 stars).
Real Steel (Blu-ray) – If 50/50 wasn’t being released this week, Real Steel would be my pick. This rock em’, sock em’ futuristic robot boxing movie is so much fun to watch I can tell it’s going to be a Saturday afternoon staple in my house for a long time (it’s up there with Ghostbusters and Back to the Future in the fun department for the whole family). Based on Richard Matheson’s short story Steel, the film stars Hugh Jackman as a former boxer who now controls robots in the ring as no one wants to see humans box in the future. He’s a lowlife and when he’s reunited with his young son (played by Toronto actor Dakota Goya) he turns around and sells him to a rich couple. Only stipulation is that he needs to spend the summer with the kid before the deal closes. Of course the two bond over robots and in the end it’s a great father-son film with a lot of heart and some great visual effects (it was just nominated for an Oscar in that category this morning). The Blu-ray release is stunning and features a great image and 7.1 DTS-HD sound mix. Special features are loaded and include audio commentary with director Shawn Levy, deleted scenes, bloopers, and Disney’s Second Screen. A regular DVD and digital copy of the film are included as well. Film **** Blu-ray **** (out of 5 stars).
Paranormal Activity 3 (Blu-ray) – A prequel of sorts, Paranormal Activity 3 goes back to 1988 when sisters Katie and Kristi had their first ghostly encounter with Toby, an evil spirit living in their house. Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman of Catfish fame, the film delivers some solid eeriness and is a great addition to the series. While this is not supposed to look great (being a “found footage” film and all), the Blu-ray is surprisingly crisp and the surround sound mix is outstanding. As with the previous Paranormal Activity films, to get the best affect from it you should turn off all your lights and crank the volume up. Special features include a montage of scares and a fake commercial. A regular DVD and digital copy are included as well. Film *** Blu-ray *** (out of 5 stars).
The Whistleblower (Blu-ray) - Based on the true story of Kathryn Bolkovac, a cop from Nebraska who was recruited by the U.N. to work as a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia, The Whistleblower tells the story of how she went on to expose her co-workers and some U.N. officials who were involved in a human trafficking ring. While it’s not without flaws, it’s an important film that shows just how evil this world can be world. Rachel Weisz also gives one of her best performances portraying Bolkovac. The Blu-ray is decent quality but not worth running out to buy. The only special feature is a featurette on the real Blokovac. Film *** Blu-ray *** (out of 5 stars).
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Also out on DVD/Blu-ray this week:
Top image: A scene from 50/50. Courtesy eOne Films.