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Monday, 27 February 2012 17:21

The 2012 Academy Awards

The Academy Awards have crowned the year’s best in cinema, and a year ago, who would have thought that the Best Picture winner would be a silent, black and white film set in the 1920s?  Amid tough competition from The Help and Hugo, Michel Hazanavicius’ ode to 1920s Hollywood, The Artist, emerged victorious.

A must-see film, The Artist is full of life, humour, and movement, in a tale made incredibly compelling despite the lack of dialogue.  The film also took home the Oscar for Best Director and Best Actor for Jean Dujardin.  Dujardin’s range of emotions plays out entirely on his face and through his gestures, since he doesn’t have the words to tell the audience what is going on.

 But it is of no consequence because you won’t even notice that the dialogue is missing thanks to his and Best Supporting Actress nominee, Bérénice Bejo’s, wonderful performances set to the Oscar-winning musical score.

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Another big winner of the night was Martin Scorsese’s Hugo which, like The Artist, pays tribute to the early era of cinema.  Based on Brian Selznick’s beloved children’s book The Adventures of Hugo Cabret, Hugo won Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Visual Effects, just to name a few of the film’s honours. Melanie and I loved this movie so much when we first saw it, that we wrote this review

Hollywood’s leading lady, Meryl Streep, the Academy’s most-nominated performer with a total of 17 acting nominations, took home the statue for Best Actress for her role as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. In a field of incredible female performers, Meryl seemed truly shocked when her name was called to accept the award.  Octavia Spencer won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as the long-suffering maid Minny in The Help, a character which she fully embodied, completely disappearing into the character.

Canada’s own Christopher Plummer received a standing ovation when he was called to collect his much-deserved award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Hal, a man whom in his final years embraces his homosexuality while battling terminal cancer in Beginners.

2011 was a great year for movies, and the award winners of the evening reflect a broad range of genres and stories.  You can find all of this year’s Oscar-nominated films available on DVD and Blu-ray in our Academy Awards Shop.  In addition, you can also see the complete list of previous Best Picture winners dating back to the very first ceremony in 1929.

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Check out the complete list of Oscar winners:

  • Best Picture: The Artist
  • Actor: Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
  • Actress: Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
  • Director:  The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius)
  • Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
  • Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer (The Help)
  • Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants
  • Original Screenplay: Midnight in Paris
  • Foreign Language Film: A Separation (Iran)
  • Animated Feature Film: Rango
  • Cinematography: Hugo
  • Art Direction: Hugo
  • Costume Design: The Artist
  • Documentary Feature: Undefeated
  • Makeup: The Iron Lady
  • Original Score: The Artist
  • Original Song: “Man or Muppet” from The Muppets
  • Short Film, Animated: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
  • Short Film, Live Action: The Shore
  • Sound Editing: Hugo
  • Sound Mixing: Hugo
  • Visual Effects: Hugo
Published in Movies
Tuesday, 31 January 2012 15:55

DVD Pick of the Week: To Kill a Mockingbird

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the film, To Kill a Mockingbird.  Based on the perennial high school curriculum book by Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird finally gets a much-deserved high definition upgrade on Blu-ray this week.

As part of Universal Studios’ ongoing 100th Anniversary celebration featuring re-releases of their most notable films, To Kill a Mockingbird is available on DVD, in DVD/Blu-ray combo pack featuring a digital download copy, and in a limited edition special collector’s version which includes a book on the film’s production.  The Blu-ray disc is packed with over 3 hours of bonus materials on the adaptation and production of the film.

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The 1962 adaptation of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel features two children, Scout and Jem Finch, and their lawyer father, Atticus Finch.  Through their forward-thinking father the children learn about the racism and bigotry that infects their rural community.  When the sensational trial of falsely-accused rapist, Tom Robinson, becomes the talk of the town, Atticus finds himself vilified for trying to defend a black man against his white accuser.  Because their father’s strong beliefs go against the community's thinking, the children become a target for the townspeople’s hatred of Atticus’ beliefs.

Winner of three Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Gregory Peck, the film has found its way onto several of the American Film Institute’s (AFI) “best of” lists including earning the top “Hero” slot on the “100 Heroes and Villains” list for Atticus Finch.

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There are several fantastic special features included in the Blu-ray edition.  One of the stand-out extras includes A Conversation with Gregory Peck, a feature-length documentary on the actor who answers audience members’s questions during a screening of the film, as well as follows the actor on outings with various family members.  Also included are Gregory Peck’s complete Best Actor Oscar acceptance speech, feature commentary with director Robert Mulligan and producer Alan Pakula, and a special promotional piece from Universal Studios which details the restoration of their classic films as part of their 100th anniversary celebration.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a timeless classic that is a must-own for film and book-lovers alike.  Check out the special trailer below detailing the restoration of the new Blu-ray edition.

Published in Movies
Friday, 27 January 2012 15:13

DVD Pick of the Week: 50/50

Cancer is an illness that doesn’t discriminate between gender, race, income or age.  In 50/50, Adam, a young man in his late 20s, is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.  Based on a true story, 50/50 follows the ups and downs of Adam’s new regime as a cancer patient, the support and friendship of his best friend Kyle, and the new bonds he forms with his fellow patients and therapist.

A comedy-drama, 50/50 is loosely based on the life of screenwriter Will Reiser who was diagnosed with cancer in his 20s.  His real-life friendship with Seth Rogen forms the basis of what is essentially a movie about friendship and the lengths friends go to to support one another through the good times and the bad.

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Adam Lerner is a 27 year-old journalist with a great girlfriend, a hilarious best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen), and an overbearing, worrisome mother (Anjelica Houston).  An avid jogger, Adam is plagued with a constant back-ache.  After a visit to the doctor to explore his back pain, he gets the unexpected diagnosis that he is suffering from a rare form of cancer and must undergo chemotherapy.  Stunned, Adam researches his disease online and discovers that his chances of surviving are “50/50.”

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is stellar as Adam, a character who endures both physical and emotional changes following his cancer diagnosis and the disintegration of a relationship.  This isn’t a movie about being sick, but an uplifting tale about continuing to live your life, regardless of illness.  Seth Rogen shows true depth as an actor and his performance is heartwarming to watch as he stands by his friend’s side despite illness, and continues to treat him as he always did and not just as his “sick friend.”  Their friendship spans hospital pick-ups and shaved heads as much as it does picking up girls and making fun of each other. 

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Rounding out the cast are Anna Kendrick as rookie therapist Katherine, a character who seems as overwhelmed as the patients she treats, and Bryce Dallas Howard as Adam’s girlfriend Rachael. Anjelica Houston is great as always as Adam’s tireless mother, caring for a husband with Alzheimers while trying to support her son who isn’t always receptive to her mothering tendencies.

The movie found itself on several critics’ best of the year lists, and has a whopping 93% “fresh” rating on the review website Rotten Tomatoes.  Now available on DVD and Blu-ray, 50/50 was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Picture Musical or Comedy and Best Performance by an Actor in a Musical or Comedy for Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 17 January 2012 20:10

Best of 2011: Movies

2011 was a great year for film lovers.  From award winners and independent films to big blockbusters and timeless romances, 2011 was a great year for DVD and Blu-ray releases, especially when it came to movies based on books.   It’s hard to nail down the definitive releases in a year with so many stand-out films:  From comedies to dramas and everything in between, check out my picks for the best DVD releases of the year, based on popularity, sales, and critics’ reviews.

Check out blog posts below as part of the Best of 2011 series:

The King’s Speech

Midnight in Paris

Winnie the Pooh

Jane Eyre

Bridesmaids

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Beginners

Project Nim

The Help

Incendies

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 03 January 2012 18:53

Best of 2011: The Help

It’s a rare occasion when a movie is just as good as the book it was based on.  One such rare occurrence is the movie The Help, based on Kathryn Stockett’s best-selling novel. It’s hard to pick a favourite between the book and the film since the movie does the book justice by vividly bringing the characters to life on the big screen.

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Aspiring journalist Skeeter (Emma Stone) decides to do something daring: write a book from the perspective of the maids in her early 1960s Mississippi town.  With the help of two maids, Aibileen (Viola Davis) and the free-spirited Minny (Octavia Spencer), Skeeter is able to give a voice to the often under-appreciated “help” in a moving story that is about friendship and courage.  While rooted in history and actual events, the film doesn’t pretend to be a political commentary about the Civil Rights movement (whether you agree it should have taken a stand or not), and instead focuses on an isolated group of people and how the larger movement and events as a whole slowly infiltrate their own community.

Both the book and the film complement each other – the movie is not a direct translation of the book and enhances the stories and characters, making the film interesting and entertaining, regardless of whether or not you have read the book.  The book adds depth to the character development and motivation behind the actions of Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny that can’t easily be recreated on-screen.  If the story speaks to you and it captures your imagination, most viewers will enjoy both the novel and the film. 

Featuring a strong cast of women, The Help has several stand-out performances including those by Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Jessica Chastain as Celia Foote.  All three ladies have received several critics’ awards and nominations, including each scoring a Golden Globe nomination.

Not only is The Help one of the year’s best films, it is also one of the best literary adaptations, deserving of a place on your bookshelf AND as part of your movie collection.

Published in Movies
Friday, 30 December 2011 00:00

Best of 2011: Beginners

 

A fresh story with a remarkable performance by Christopher Plummer makes Beginners one of this year’s best movies.

I first saw this movie back in 2010 at the Toronto International Film Festival and instantly fell in love with it, declaring it my favourite film of 2010.  When Beginners got a theatrical release in 2011, I returned to theatres to see it once again, my enjoyment of the film actually growing.  A third viewing on DVD was just as entertaining, heartbreaking, and funny as it was on the first watch- a sure sign of a well-made film.

 

Beginners is based on the real-life story of filmmaker Mike Mills and his relationship with his father, who at the age of 75 declares that he is, and always has been gay.  Now diagnosed with terminal cancer, the film jumps back and forth between the 5 year span of his coming out and subsequent death.  Starring the great Christopher Plummer as Hal, father to Oliver, played by Ewan McGregor, the chemistry between the two actors as father and son is incredible.  Love, compassion, frustration, and respect all come across in their equally moving performances.

beginenrs ewan mcgregor christopher plummer

The film is told from Oliver’s perspective, pulled from his memories of childhood, the recent years with his father, and his father’s young lover.  Oliver is a man who is lost, clinging to relationships that don’t work out, until he meets Anna (Melanie Laurent), a French actress whose erratic filming schedules keep her living in hotel rooms.  As Oliver processes his father’s passing, he begins building a new chapter of his life through the help of Anna.

The film dips into various film genres including romance, comedy, and melodrama, but it’s hard to pinpoint into a specific category.  There are as many laughs as there are tears.

Christopher Plummer has been gaining notice for his touching performance as Hal, picking up a Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor, with high hopes for an Oscar nomination in January.  Beginners also won Best Ensemble and tied with Tree of Life for Best Picture at the Gotham Independent Awards, and has landed on several critic’s Best of 2011 lists.

An all-around feel-good movie, Beginners is an uplifting tale, built on a solid story with meaningful performances that make it one of the year’s best films.

Published in Movies

It’s impossible to discuss the year’s best DVDs without including the final installment of one of the greatest film franchises ever created.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 brought the end of an era in the successful and beloved film series that began 10 years ago.

harry-potter-and-the-deathly-hallows-part-2-trailer

Harry, Hermione, and Ron have grown up before our eyes on screen, as has the talented trio of young actors who brought J.K. Rowling’s treasured words to life.  Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint embody the characters so well that it’s hard to imagine anyone else in those roles.

In Deathly Hallows Part 2, the epic battle to end all battles with the fight for Hogwarts and the ultimate show-down between Lord Voldemort and Harry reaches its stellar, no-holds-barred conclusion.   Now available on DVD and in DVD/Blu-ray combo packs, you can also buy all 8 movies in one convenient slim-pack on DVD or Blu-ray.

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Packed with bonus features, the Blu-ray disc features an up-close look of the filming of the Battle of Hogwarts in a nine part featurette called "Blowing Up Hogwarts".  Also included is an intimate conversation with Daneil Radcliffe and J.K. Rowling as they discussing bringing Harry to life on the big screen and how their lives have changed in the past 10 years.  Other extras include a look at the Goblins of Gringotts, the Women of Harry Potter, and a tour of the Warner Bros studio in London.

The crowning jewel of the Harry Potter franchise, Deathly Hallows Part 2 is one of the year's best DVD/Blu-ray releases.

Published in Movies
Monday, 19 December 2011 21:32

Best of 2011: Bridesmaids

One of the year’s best comedies, Bridesmaids shows that when it comes to laugh-out-loud physical comedy and gross-out humour, girls can have as much fun as the boys.

When Annie’s (Kristen Wiig) best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) announces her engagement, Annie finds herself at a cross-roads in her life: single and broke with a failed business under her belt, she fears losing her best friend to a new life that includes Helen (Rose Byrne), a rich housewife itching to become best buds with Lillian.  As the wedding plans start to form, Helen, Annie, and a rag-tag group of fabulous ladies form the bridal party, including, Lillian's cynical cousin Rita (Wendi Mclendon-Covey), who just wants a break from her husband and sons, and the scene-stealing soon-to-be sister-in-law, Megan (Melissa McCarthy), who has no boundaries. Through a series of comedic misadventures, Annie and Lillian’s friendship is put to the test in a film that is ultimately about friendship.

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Nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy, Bridesmaids lets Kristen Wiig break out of her small, character-centric roles in Saturday Night Live sketches and actually show some range.  Her performance earned her a Golden Globe Nomination for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy and her real-life friendship with Maya Rudolph comes across on screen through their characters.  The lady everyone is talking about is Melissa McCarthy, who storms onto screen and steal every scene she is in as the over-the-top, carefree Megan.  After three seasons on the dramatic TV thriller, Damages, Rose Byrne gets a chance to flex her comedic skills in Bridesmaids, further broadening a comic portfolio that also includes a hilarious turn in Get Him to the Greek. Not to be left out, the men of the movie- Jon Hamm as an arrogant womanizer and Chris O’Dowd as a loveable Irish cop- get their fair share of the laughs.

bridesmaids cast

The DVD/Blu-ray combo pack is filled with bonus material and special extras including a gag reel, a “line-o-rama” featuring unused, improv lines from the film, deleted scenes, and a 30-minute documentary on the production.

Bridesmaids is the ultimate movie for a girls’ night in, but its broad range of humour won’t scare the men away either making it the perfect adult comedy of 2011.

Published in Movies
Friday, 09 December 2011 20:53

Best of 2011: Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen gets back to what he does best in Midnight in Paris, the director’s newest romantic comedy, out on DVD and Blu-ray on the 20th of December. The film has become Allen’s highest-grossing film ever since it first premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.  Expertly blending Allen’s trademark wit and self-deprecating humour, the movie is a refreshing and original blend of romance, comedy, and fantasy.

Gil (Owen Wilson) an American screenwriter is vacationing in Paris with his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents.  Suffering from a touch of writer’s block when it comes to completing his first novel, Gil begins using his time in Paris to take evening strolls through the arrondissements.  Each night at the stroke of midnight, he begins his journey into the fantasy land of 1920s Paris, full of artists, writers, philosophers, and socialites.  It is a veritable who’s-who fantasy land of 1920s culture with the likes of Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Salvador Dali, and Ernest Hemingway.  Inspired by his night-time adventures, Gil finds himself being pulled in two very different directions in his personal and professional life.

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Midnight in Paris is the perfect movie for fans of literature, art, and film.  While there are elements to the film that are quintessential Woody Allen touches, even non-Allen fans are enjoying this film - thanks to the fine performances from Owen Wilson, the supporting cast which includes Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, and Michael Sheen, and a bevy of all-star cameo appearances.  Wilson is a toned down, slightly goofy yet charming version of the standard male Woody Allen character- he’s a bit neurotic, but not overly so.  Gil, just like the viewer, is awestruck and able to suspend disbelief at the easy blurring of modern day Paris with the Roaring Twenties.

One of the most entertaining parts of Midnight in Paris is seeing the parade of 1920s personalities brought to life.  Perhaps the funniest and most extreme cameo performance in the film is that of Oscar winner Adrien Brody as the always over-the-top Salvador Dali.  His cameo as the eccentric painter is reason enough for this film to be called one of the best of 2011.

Midnight in Paris earns its place in the pantheon of Woody Allen films and is a must-own thanks to its charmingly witty screenplay, skilled direction, and brilliant performances from the entire ensemble cast.

You can view all of the Best of 2011: Movies in our Best of the Year shop. Be sure to check back for the rest of Best of 2011 series.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 06 December 2011 19:44

Best of 2011: The King’s Speech

It’s that time of year when critics and film fans begin discussing what their favourite films of the year are, and 2011 is no exception.  From comedies to dramas and everything in between, the years greatest movies have been released on DVD and Blu-ray.  In the first of a ten-part series, here is the Indigo.ca’s pick for best DVD of the year.

Hitting theatres at the tail end of 2010, The King’s Speech stormed its way through awards season picking up top trophies in a number of categories and finding itself firmly planted on just about every critics’ best film list. The film received 12 Academy Award nominations, more than any other film at the awards, and picked up statues for Best Picture, Best Actor (Colin Firth), Best Director (Tom Hooper), and Best Original Screenplay.  Since its DVD and Blu-ray release on July 1, the movie has been one of Indigo.ca’s bestsellers, earning rave reviews from customers.

Loosely based on the bestselling book The King’s Speech by Mark Logue, the film stars Colin Firth as Prince Albert, the stammering son of King George V, who himself is noted for his stirring radio broadcasts addressing the nation.  Persuaded by his wife Elizabeth “The Queen Mother,” Duchess of York (Helena Bonham Carter), Albert tries numerous experimental treatments and therapists to correct his speech impediment so that he can live up to his father’s ideals.  Therapist Lionel Logue’s (Geoffrey Rush) treatments are unusual and the pair form an unlikely bond over the course of treatment sessions on Albert’s eventual path to Buckingham Palace as he replaces his brother on the throne.

The DVD is a must-own as the year’s best film with magnificent performances from the entire cast, and inspired on-screen chemistry between Firth and Rush.  The beautifully shot film is well-paced elevating the piece beyond a staid historical movie.   And perhaps surprisingly, the film is fresh and funny offering several light, laugh-out-loud moments.

At the heart of this mostly true story is the sincere bond of friendship and the power of determination.  Extras included on the DVD include the real speeches of King George VI for history buffs and rare filmed footage of one of his stirring wartime speeches.  Also included are a look at the real life Lionel Logue as told by his grandson (and author of the book The King’s Speech) and commentary from director Tom Hooper, interviews with the cast and crew of the film, and a making-of featurette.

You can view all of the Best of 2011: Movies in our Best of the Year shop. Be sure to check back for the rest of Best of 2011 series.

Published in Movies
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