This week’s big Blu-ray releases include a Christmas movie (in April!) and a dumb sequel nobody asked for. Frankly, I’m fine with that. I didn’t need to spend any money right now anyway.
‘Ride Along 2‘ – 2014’s buddy-cop action comedy ‘Ride Along’ was a surprise hit that propelled Kevin Hart to a genuine movie career. The studio barely finished counting its opening weekend box office before locking down Hart and costar Ice Cube for a sequel. Honestly, did this really need to be a franchise? Bereft of other ideas, the follow-up moves the action to Miami and cribs almost the entire plot of ‘Bad Boys II’ – adding Ken Jeong and Olivia Munn to the cast for comic relief (in a movie that’s purportedly already a comedy) and eye candy respectively. With a higher budget yet a smaller box office gross, the prospects for a ‘Ride Along 3’ are looking dicey at the moment.
‘Krampus‘ – Of 2015’s two horror comedies about the demented German anti-Santa, this is the one with Adam Scott and Toni Collette, not the anthology pic with William Shatner. Movies that are produced with the specific intention of trying to be cult classics often fail miserably at the task, but this one did unexpectedly decent business and had strong word-of-mouth for what it is. Still, who wants to watch a Christmas movie in April?
‘Son of Saul‘ – It’s almost a running joke at the Academy Awards that, whenever the option is available, Oscar voters will give the Best Foreign Language Film prize to whichever movie is about the Holocaust. Although that did happen again this year, Hungarian filmmaker László Nemes tries to bring something new to the genre by focusing on the “Sonderkommando,” the concentration camp prisoners who were made to dispose of the bodies of their fellow inmates. To depict the tunnel vision-like state a person needed to adopt in order to get through such a horrific experience, Nemes locks the camera onto his lead character’s face in tight Academy Ratio and rarely leaves it. The entire film is limited to his field of view and hearing. Most critics found this device very powerful, though some accused it of being a gimmick.
‘Jane Got a Gun‘ – Natalie Portman stars in a Western revenge thriller (that alone already seems like an odd decision) that suffered serious behind-the-scenes turmoil when original director Lynne Ramsay (‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’) feuded with the producers and didn’t show up for work on the first day of filming. Gavin O’Connor (‘Warrior’) was brought in to replace her the next day. The movie was completed in 2013 but shelved for three years and eventually sold to The Weinstein Company, which dumped it in theaters this past January with no advertising at all. Despite all that drama, is the movie any good? Not really, according to most critics who saw it (and frankly, critics are pretty much the only viewers who saw it).
‘The Last Man on the Moon‘ – What an amazing accomplishment it was for humanity to leave the confines of this Earth and set foot on the moon. How sad it is that, having done that, we gave up and haven’t gone back in over 40 years. This documentary profiles Gene Cernan, the last astronaut who made the journey and planted his footprints in the lunar dust.
New to the Criterion Collection’s is the 2014 German film ‘Phoenix‘, which has one hell of a plot synopsis about a disfigured Holocaust survivor who tracks down her Gentile husband (who doesn’t recognize her) to find out if he betrayed her to the Nazis. Following this is a collection of ‘The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates‘, in which the documentarian followed John F. Kennedy on the campaign trail and into the Oval Office. Finally, the label breaks out a standalone release of ‘Brief Encounter‘, previously found in the 2013 David Lean/Noël Coward box set.
Coming off the hot streak of his ‘Back to the Future’ trilogy and ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’, Robert Zemeckis had his first significant career disappointment with the black comedy ‘Death Becomes Her‘. Starring Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn as a pair of nasty rich bitches who discover the downside to immortality after obtaining it through a magic potion, the movie won an Oscar for its visual effects but was mauled by critics and underperformed at the box office. I saw it in the theater and recall it being vaguely amusing, but haven’t felt any need to revisit it since. Scream Factory hopes to scare up a cult audience for that, as well as the schlocky 1973 horror flick ‘Sssssss‘.
Vinegar Syndrome caters to aficionados of Blaxploitation action with ‘Dolemite‘ and ’80s porno comedy with ‘Trashy Lady‘.
Arrow Video gives us John Milius’ 1973 gangster bio-pic ‘Dillinger‘ and the 1986 horror/action mash-up ‘The Zero Boys‘.
It’s safe to say that Roman Polanski’s head was in a pretty messed-up place in the early 1970s, following the murder of his wife Sharon Tate. Nonetheless, the director made two of his strongest films during that time, his acclaimed adaptation of ‘Macbeth’ and his masterpiece ‘Chinatown’. Directly between those was a movie that has largely (and perhaps justifiably) been forgotten to time, a weird sex comedy called ‘What?‘. Concerning the erotic adventures of an American hippie girl hitchhiking through Europe, the movie was an embarrassing box office bomb (its opening week is said to have grossed only $64). Considering that it features a very prominent rape theme that’s played for laughs, I have to imagine that it’s a difficult watch today, especially in light of the director’s later rape scandal.
‘Son of Saul’ seems like good material for a streaming rental, and I might be in the mood for ‘Krampus’ about
nineeight months from now, but I don’t see anything worth buying this week. Am I missing something that you’re excited about?