Last week was a pretty stressful time in world events, particularly for those of us who live in Boston. (Rest assured, everything is fine at the Zyber household.) Now we must attempt to return to some sense of normalcy, which for this site means taking a look at this week’s new Blu-ray releases. To that end, we have a couple of genre pastiches, a couple of dramas based on true events, the 3D re-release of a classic summer blockbuster and more.
‘Crazy. Stupid. Love.’ co-stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone play dress-up in period clothes in the over-the-top crime thriller ‘Gangster Squad‘. By most accounts, the film is more about gangster movie clichés and tropes than about actual gangsters or history, and plays like a hyper-violent sequel to Warren Beatty’s ‘Dick Tracy’. Reviews were mixed-to-negative. The picture is also a repeated victim of bad timing. Originally scheduled to be released last summer, it was pushed back to this January due to the Colorado theater shooting (and required reshoots to replace a scene that involved a theater shooting), where it tanked at the box office. Now it comes to video in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, when viewers will once again not likely have much of an appetite for violent movies.
Having been forced out of the ‘Scary Movie’ franchise, yet having no other ideas in his head, Marlon Wayans made a basically-identical parody flick with the unimaginative title ‘A Haunted House‘. It looks awful beyond words, but it made money and a sequel is already in the works. This is the world we live in, folks. Don’t blame me; I didn’t give any money to it.
Naomi Watts received her second Oscar nomination for ‘The Impossible‘, which tells the (true-ish) story of a family who miraculously survived the 2004 tsunami that devastated Thailand. The movie was shot in many of the actual locations where the event occurred, and features a harrowingly realistic recreation of the disaster. However, it faced criticism for whitewashing the story by focusing exclusively on white characters (in order to bolster its box office prospects) and marginalizing the Thai victims who were killed in the flood. A friend of mine described it as, “The story of 200,000 Asian people who died in order to teach a bratty, overprivileged white kid not to act like such an entitled shit.” I suspect that he may have been exaggerating a little.
Matt Damon and his ‘Good Will Hunting’ director Gus Van Sant reunite for the fracking drama ‘Promised Land‘, about an energy company rep who visits a rural Pennsylvania farming town to buy gas drilling rights from the locals, and winds up learning valuable lessons about the harm his company has done to the community. Despite the talent involved (the screenplay was written by Damon and co-star John Krasinski, based on a book by author Dave Eggers), the movie was ignored by audiences and largely dismissed by critics, who called it a well-intentioned but overly simplistic and heavy-handed morality tale. For as daring and experimental as Van Sant can be when working off the Hollywood grid, his mainstream efforts like this tend to veer too far in the other direction toward safe, uninteresting conventionality.
The first official ‘Cheech & Chong’ movie since 1984’s ‘The Corsican Brothers’, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong provide voices for the new ‘Cheech & Chong’s Animated Movie‘. Why? Does anyone still care about this duo?
Fresh from its theatrical re-release, the new 3D conversion for Steven Spielberg’s mega-blockbuster ‘Jurassic Park‘ stomps its way onto Blu-ray today like a charging T-Rex. Sadly, while the movie received a fresh 4k film scan for the conversion, it has reportedly been heavily DNR’ed (because film grain causes problems in 3D) and has had controversial changes imposed to its color palette (a lot of yellow and teal, much like the recent Blu-ray for ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’). Also, if you only planned to watch in standard 2D, the 2D copy included in the set is the same disc released back in 2011 with the older, problematic video transfer. This seems like a missed opportunity.
Hoping to tie in with Baz Luhrmann’s extravagant remake, Warner Bros. offers up the 1974 adaptation of ‘The Great Gatsby‘, starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.
The Criterion Collection unveils two high-def titles this week. First comes Laurence Olivier’s very theatrical adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III‘. Following this is a box set comprising the complete film works of French comedian Pierre Etaix, of whom I know next to nothing. However, for a collection of five features and three shorts, Criterion’s asking price on the latter is surprisingly reasonable.
Maybe this isn’t fair, but I have a hard time taking Jeremy Piven seriously in the British period soap ‘Mr. Selfridge‘, which airs in this country as part of ‘PBS Masterpiece’. First off, the show (about the owner of a famed department store in early 20th Century London) looks like a shameless attempt to cash in on the popularity of ‘Downton Abbey’. More than that, I just can’t buy Ari Gold in period garb. He looks really out of place. Of course, I can’t honestly claim to have watched more than five minutes of the series.
Nor have I ever seen even a single minute of ‘Merlin‘, the fifth season of which comes to Blu-ray from BBC Video. I don’t feel like I’m missing much with that one.
Despite its reported issues, I’m curious to check out the ‘Jurassic Park’ 3D conversion and will pick up that disc anyway. While I’ve never been a huge fan of Laurence Olivier, I’m sure that both of this week’s Criterion titles will go on my wish list for the next Barnes & Noble sale. I’ll probably also rent ‘Gangster Squad’ at some point.
Will you buy anything this week?