The dog days of August are almost over. Hopefully, we’ll see some more interesting Blu-ray releases come down the pike next month. In the meantime, Michael Bay makes a trashy movie about scummy lowlifes, while Baz Luhrmann adapts one of the greatest masterworks in English literature. Which one do you think will be more obnoxiously overwrought? My money’s on the Luhrmann.
That’s a rhetorical question I ask in the intro paragraph, of course. I have no intention of watching either movie.
‘Pain & Gain‘ is the first movie Michael Bay has made in a long time without any giant robots in it. Made on a (relatively) low budget, early buzz claimed that this was Bay’s apology for the ‘Transformers’ franchise and his attempt to get back to his ‘Bad Boys’ roots – as if ‘Bad Boys’ were really a standard of quality that anyone should strive to recapture. (It’s also odd that the man currently in pre-production for ‘Transformers 4’ would feel the need to apologize for the first three ‘Transformers’ movies, but Bay has a habit of trashing his own work sometimes.) This one is based on the true story of three dimwit bodybuilders who went on a crime spree that involved torturing and murdering multiple people. Naturally, Bay thinks that the story is absolutely hilarious and made it into a rollicking action comedy that glorifies the murderers as likeable antiheroes. Of course he did. The word “reprehensible” comes up in a lot of reviews of the film. Our Aaron Peck describes it as “grotesquely idiotic.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby‘ is a novel about the emotional emptiness and spiritual corruption of the American Dream perverted by the decadence and excess of wealth. Baz Luhrmann is a filmmaker for whom decadence and excess are like water and air. He knows nothing else and cannot live without them. It should go without saying that by adapting ‘Gatsby’ into a gaudy, 3D, hyperactive, hip-hop musical extravaganza, the director has utterly missed the point of one of the most famous and influential books of all time. Whether you can forgive him this is entirely up to you. Personally, I suffered through about half an hour of Luhrmann’s ‘Moulin Rouge!’ before my brain threatened to melt and pour out through my nostrils. You couldn’t force me to watch this one at gunpoint. I would beg you for the bullet before the opening credits left the screen.
Of perhaps more promise is ‘Kon-Tiki‘, a Norwegian adventure film about famous explorer Thor Heyerdal’s 1947 crossing of the Pacific Ocean on a wooden raft. The movie was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, and the two directors have since been hired to helm the next ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ sequel. I’ll try not to hold that last part against them.
On the classic film front, the Criterion Collection offers a high-def edition of Ernst Lubitsch’s delightful WWII comedy ‘To Be or Not to Be‘, starring Jack Benny and Carole Lombard, while Olive Films brings us Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in the romantic drama ‘Penny Serenade‘.
After the way that Disney botched the recent Blu-ray edition of ‘The Sword in the Stone‘, let’s hope that the studio can do a little better with the charming 1977 ‘The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh‘.
Through its Scream Factory label, Shout! Factory unleashes B-movie auteur Larry Cohen’s 1982 monster flick ‘Q: The Winged Serpent‘. This low-budget cheesefest is corny as hell, but has a cult of defenders.
In most respects, the third season of ‘The Walking Dead‘ is a rebound from the disappointing Season 2, but the show continues to be frustratingly uneven. If you’re a fan, you have the choice of buying the new box set in standard packaging, a Limited Edition with a cheesy fish tank playset (it makes sense when you watch the season), or a Target-exclusive SteelBook. I’m a SteelBook collector, but it would bug me to only have one middle season of an ongoing series in a metal case without any of the others that way.
I still have yet to watch any of ‘Sons of Anarchy‘, the fifth season of which is now available on disc. It seems a little late to start from the beginning now, and I hear that the show took a dive in quality a while back anyway. Is that fair to say?
Very compelling to me is the Complete Collection box set of the original British ‘Prime Suspect‘. Although technically the show ran for seven seasons (which aired sporadically from 1991 to 2006), that really only comes to about fifteen episodes. Still, this is supposed to be one of the best police dramas of all time. And who doesn’t love Helen Mirren?
I have my eye on ‘To Be or Not to Be’ and that ‘Prime Suspect’ box. Does anything tempt you this week?