Chico & Rita, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns - Part 1
Lest you think that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences only has eyes for Pixar in the Animated Feature Film category, the imported Chico & Rita was nominated among 2010's best… although ultimately losing the statue to Rango. No Oscars for the underappreciated The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, but plenty of cheap thrills. And for comic book fans, The Dark Knight Returns needs no introduction.
Chico & Rita Limited Edition Collector's Set (New Video)
The animated Chico y Rita is one of those movies that is so fresh and different, it almost makes you say "wow" at some point before the end credits. Brought to visually stunning life by the director of Belle Epoque and Calle 54, Fernando Trueba, the story is epic in its scope, covering six decades in the lives of a piano player and a singer who travel from Havana to New York to Europe and beyond. There's romance and drama and lots and lots of music in this unique entertainment. (Full disclosure: It's in Spanish with English subtitles, and unrated but rightly recommended for mature audiences.)
Trueba is joined by his co-director, the artist Javier Marsical, for a heavily-accented English audio commentary, and a substantive "making of" further fleshes out the backstory. The real stars of this three-disc set however are the companion DVD and the entire Latin Grammy-winning soundtrack CD, so we can continue to immerse ourselves in the marvelous rhythms. A 16-page excerpt from the bestselling graphic novel adaptation is also provided.
The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (Hollywood Pictures/Disney)
As if reading my mind, Disney has plucked another live-action fan-favorite from their vast catalog for their new-to-Blu initiative, digitally restoring an ongoing series of non-A-list titles with a strong sense of nostalgia and fun. Cradle has long been a guilty pleasure, a juicy tale of an off-the-rails nanny (Rebecca De Mornay in one of her most memorable roles) who has lost everything and is looking to steal it all back, with interest, from the woman she blames for her misfortune. Ernie Hudson as a special-needs handyman with a heart of gold lends an extra layer of emotion.
The bonus materials are fairly easy to summarize: There's nothing more than the original theatrical trailer. A pity, since the talented filmmaker Curtis Hanson probably has heaps of insight to purvey. But at least this edition handily trumps the presentation quality of the DVD, which was only ever available non-anamorphic, incredibly.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns- Part 1 (Warner Premiere)
It's the "last" Batman story, as a broken-down, aged Bruce Wayne comes out of retirement for one final tour of the Gotham City battlefield. No, not The Dark Knight Rises, rather The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller's landmark 1986 miniseries, which clearly served as an inspiration for Christopher Nolan's recent opus as well as this new, direct-to-video adaptation. It's a rather faithful take on the first two issues, with the concluding half still in production for a later release. In fact, at times this grand, near-future-set adventure seems too faithful, as vintage-'86 sensibilities can't necessarily be dropped verbatim into the modern day. But it certainly takes advantage of the freedom afforded by both the edgy, appropriate artistic style as well as the PG-13 rating that has distinguished almost every one of Warner's animated interpretations of beloved DC Comics storylines.
Some of those other DC Universe original animated movies have been downright crammed with extras, while the pickin's here are a tad slim. Beyond some porting of pre-existing content, there's only one new, relevant featurette, about the young new female Robin, although I just couldn't wait to watch the extended preview of Part 2. A DVD and UltraViolet digital copy are also included. I wish that this disc reflected more involvement from Miller, without whom there probably wouldn't be any Batman movies, but seeing probably my favorite comic book of all time dramatized with such gusto was definitely a thrill worth waiting a quarter-century for.