I’ve had a ton of Blu-rays and digital movies come my way the last few weeks, and I’ve wanted to highlight a few of them, in case you’re looking for something to watch this weekend or over the next few weeks.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (HBO Films): I’m not going to sugarcoat this. I’d never heard the name Henrietta Lacks or her amazing story before. This was simply one of those films sent my way which I thought I’d give a chance. I’m certainly glad I did, as the legacy of Ms. Lacks is remarkable – she was an African American woman who, in 1951, had her cancer cells immortalized in the HeLa line of cells. Basically, these cells have been used countless times in major medical breakthroughs over the last 60 years. Sadly, nobody asked Ms. Lacks if her cells could be taken or used, and neither her nor her family ever received any sort of compensation for what essentially is her immortality.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is based on the book by Rebecca Skloot, who is portrayed in the film by Rose Byrne, who wrote a series of articles on Ms. Lacks and her family. Oprah Winfrey plays Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, and is absolutely captivating on screen. Deborah is hesitant to share her mother’s story with any reporter, and Oprah delivers the character as guarded but loving. It’s a bravura performance that can’t help but overshadow the rest of the film, which sometimes gets muddled as it moves across various timelines. However, Byrne and Winfrey have a great chemistry together, and help The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks rise above some of its pacing and script issues.
Take one novelist making her screenwriting debut.
Add in the magical world she created some twenty years ago, but in a new continent and era.
Throw in some of the best actors in the world right now, including an Academy Award winner and star who shines in an ensemble.
Top it off with the director behind some of the most successful fantasy films of the decade and what you get is something….
Who would have thought that the Merc with the Mouth would outperform two of the most iconic characters in history at the box office, but that’s exactly what went down this past winter when the R-rated Fox/Marvel film Deadpool raked in and incredible $361 million in North America, making it the fifth highest grossing film of the year, the highest-grossing R-rated film in North American box office history, the most successful film in the X-Men franchise, and trumping Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice’s $327.7 million by a significant margin.
Incredible, right? Read the rest of this entry
As the holidays approach, many of us wish we’d had the time to watch all those movies and TV shows that people have been talking about all year. With so many great things appearing on the big and small screens, it’s easy to forget about how many books there are waiting to be read, too. But not just any books; I’m talking about those which would make the perfect side dish to your main course of movie and TV entrees (or vice versa, if you prefer).
Here are four book and Blu-ray/DVD combo meals to whet your appetite.
True Detective, Season 2 DVD/Blu-Ray and James Ellroy’s White Jazz: While folks are still divided on whether or not True Detective Season 2 was on par with the HBO show’s first season, I still think it’s worth watching (and rewatching) not only for its complex narrative and the terrific acting of the cast, but also because it is the spiritual brethren to the Los Angeles noir fiction of James Ellroy. To get a good feel for the seedy underbelly of L.A. that seems to have inspired the show, check out Ellroy’s White Jazz. True Detective Season 2 won’t hit shelves until January 5, 2016, so you’ve got time to read this gripping fourth installment of Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet before then. (White Jazz on Amazon.ca; Pre-order True Detective Season 2 on Amazon.ca) Read the rest of this entry
The wonderful thing about writing these Holiday Gift Guide lists is that they not only help out you, the mighty reader, find that perfect gift or stocking stuffer for a pop-culture loved one, but it also helps the writer of this column (me, in this case) with loved ones picking our gifts to give (me)!
This particular Gift Guide, a short list of select movies and television shows in both Blu-Ray and DVD formats, should prove enticing. I’m betting that there’s something on this list that your loved one doesn’t have just yet. (And, if anyone is asking, I have none of these – yet!)
Now, I know we live in a digital age where film and television programming is available on demand, but it’s still nice to add that hardcopy artifact to an increasing library of hardcopy artifacts. It’ since to know that you actually own something, doesn’t it?
Plus, some of the items on this list come with…well, extras.
Without further ado, here is your first-rate, first-class, handpicked, Holiday Gift Guide 2015: Blu-Ray & DVD Selections:
Each week, one of Biff Bam Pop’s illustrious writers will delve into one of their favorite things. Perhaps it’s a movie or album they’ve carried with them for years. Maybe it’s something new that moved them and they think might move you too. Each week, a new subject, a new voice writing on… something they love.
As far as Black Christmas fans go, I’ll admit I’m something of a noob. After watching clips of the film on a Halloween horror TV special, I was too scared to watch the whole thing! But once I did, it quickly became one of my favorite slasher films. Although it was made in the early 1970s, it still feels as creepy now as it did the first time I saw it. A big part of this is due to the believable acting from the women in the film, including Canadian icon Lynne Griffin as Clare Harrison. Although she has few lines of dialogue, her appearance in Black Christmas is significant for other reasons, as anyone who’s a fan of the film will understand.
In honor of Anchor Bay’s new “Season’s Grievings” edition of Black Christmas, we chatted with Ms. Griffin about her role in the film. Be sure to look for the upcoming Biff Bam Popcast about the film that includes a roundtable discussion with Lynne Griffin, Nick Mancuso (the voice of “Billy”), and Doug McGrath (Sergeant Nash).
Despite being in a few iconic horror films, you’ve said you don’t care for the gore and violence of many current horror films. Are there any more recent psychological horror type films that you do enjoy?
I like films that spoof horror, like the films of April Mullen. I was in a film of hers called 88 and her vision is terrific. I do think David Cronenberg is a genius. My favourite horror viewing at the moment is every season of American Horror Story and Penny Dreadful. Read the rest of this entry
Lists are a funny thing – they’re always so subjective. One person’s top 5 Beatles albums could be very different from someone else’s’. The top 101 best written tv shows of all time chosen by TV Guide could be very different from a list compiled by Entertainment Weekly. Which makes the notion of choosing The Top 25 Greatest Rivalries In Wrestling a hard one – every fan has their favourites. Luckily for WWE, who recently released a Blu-ray/DVD by that very title, they managed to cover some of the best moments in wrestling history.
Silver Linings Playbook arrives today on DVD and Blu-Ray. The film is a tense comedy that deals with the not-necessarily humourous topic of mental illness. However, the movie is full of perfect performances from all the leads, including Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence and nominees Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver. If you didn’t see it when it was in theatres, definitely check it out, as it works just as well at home.
The Details features an all-star cast that includes Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Banks, Dennis Haysbert, Ray Liotta, Kerry Washington and Laura Linney in this tale of a married couple (Banks and Maguire) whose relationship is tested when racoons begin tearing apart their perfectly manicured lawn. Sadly, even with the fantastic cast involved, there’s a reason this film didn’t make it into any sort of wide release. It’s just not very good.
This past fall the Rolling Stones celebrated their 50th anniversary by going all out – a series of concert dates in the UK and the New York area and the release of yet another greatest hits collection, this time a three cd set titled GRRR. I knew I wouldn’t be seeing the band live, but I’ll admit I was interested in the hits collection, even if I had all those songs on the band’s various albums and previous best of’s I own (and I have more than a few). However, I lost my initial interest when I read about the lack of decent liner notes and packaging that the multiple versions of GRRR came with. Even the super deluxe edition, which tacked on two bonus cds and a hardcover book got poor reviews. Not for the music, of course – you’d be hard pressed to find a dud track included on any version of GRRR. But the hardcover book was a serious exercise in excess, with one picture per page, and once again, no liner notes of significance. I figured I would just download the two new tracks, Doom and Gloom and One More Shot and move right along.
However, one day in December I was perusing one of the audiophile websites I go to (I like to know what albums are being reissued and remastered – I’m still a bit of a music collector) and discovered that in Europe, there was a version of GRRR being released that I thought WOULD be worth adding to my collection.
Find out what and why after the jump!
Read the rest of this entry