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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Lionsgate releases modern day classics on Blu-ray

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Danny Boyle's "Trainspotting" gets a Blu-ray makeover and its decadence has never looked better. Courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Film Critic

I recently received a quad of modern classics from Lionsgate Home Entertainment and was amazed that time hasn't done anything to take away from their influence.

Lionsgate recently released Blu-ray versions of "Swingers", "Good Will Hunting", "Rounders" and "Trainspotting" and while they have their share of flaws, the films showcase what was at the time a crop of up and coming talent who have cemented their place in Hollywood.

Swingers (1996)

I'll never forget the first time I watched Jon Favreau's "Swingers". It was cool, it was hip, but most of all, it was something completely different. "Swingers" was Favreau's and Vince Vaughn's coming out film that showed their talents to the world. Vaughn as the ultra-cool Trent and Favreau as the love crushed Mike who's struggling to get over the failed relationship with his old flame.

What I liked most about the movie, besides the swinging soundtrack, was the fact the main character is living a tragic tale of lost love, yet he's a comedian by trade. The contradictions continue as we slowly find out Trent's not quite as "money" as he claims to be and it's those subtle choices that make the film work so well.

Good Will Hunting (1997)

"Good Will Hunting" was one of those great films that came out of nowhere to become a major player at the Academy Awards and capture the imagination of moviegoers worldwide. The film was nominated for nine Oscars, winning Best Supporting Actor for Robin Williams and Best Original Screenplay for Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.

The film was made for a tiny budget of $10 million and finished seventh at the 1997 box office behind powerhouse films such as "Titanic", "Men in Black" and "Liar Liar".

What struck me watching it after many years is how bad some of the acting is at times, but how the powerful story hides most of its blemishes. Williams is great, but Damon and Affleck have their lackluster moments, but we don't care because we're so involved in the story.

Rounders (1998)

Damon, coming off the success of "Good Will Hunting" and "The Rainmaker", teamed up with Edward Norton, Famke Janssen, John Malkovich and Gretchen Moll for the poker flick "Rounders".

Damon plays Mike McDermott, a reformed gambler who must take to the tables to help out his childhood buddy Lester (Norton) when he gets in deep with a Russian mobster who runs an illegal poker room. The film uses the classic ticking clock structure as the duo are given five days to come up with $15,000 or face the eventual wrath of Teddy "KGB" (Malkovich).

The film's climax comes when Mike and KGB, the man who cleaned him out and prompted his "retirement" from poker, sit down in an all-stakes game, with more hanging in the balance than just the money the two owe the mobster.

Trainspotting (1996)

Danny Boyle's "Trainspotting" was one of the first films that really shook me up. I remember the first time I sat down to watch the flick, and was equal parts amused, uncomfortable and completely freaked out. For those who have seen the movie, you know what I'm talking about.

When checking out the Blu-ray release, I didn't have the same emotions of shock, but it did take me back to a time when I was branching out of watching strictly mainstream films. While it's not subtitled, it was essentially a foreign film for me and it was my first taste that cinema didn't have to be all clean and pretty.

"Trainspotting" doesn't lose any of its power even after 15 years in the mix. The performances are top notch and Boyle's direction is outstanding. This would be the second of three times Boyle and Ewan McGregor have worked together. In addition to "Trainspotting", they teamed up from "Shallow Grave" and "A Life Less Ordinary".

"Trainspotting" is not a film for everyone, so viewer beware.

All the discs are loading with special features, and even if you own their DVD counterparts, you'd do your movie library an injustice of passing these up.