After last week’s avalanche of Blu-rays, this week eases off considerably. Strangely, even though Tuesday is Valentine’s Day, I don’t see many romantic movies in the latest assortment of discs – unless you accept Amy Adams’ love affair with language and symbols. Wait, she doesn’t get busy with aliens in that movie, does she?
New Releases (Blu-ray)
‘Arrival‘ – Extraterrestrial spaceships arrive on Earth, and linguist Amy Adams must decipher their language and intent before a twitchy human military starts a war. That’s a novel and more thought-provoking concept for a sci-fi movie than your typical “watch buildings and monuments go boom” alien invasion flick. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, many people looked at this as a signpost for how his ‘Blade Runner’ sequel might turn out. Fortunately, most viewers seemed to like it. The movie made a lot of money, got great reviews, and has even been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. For all that, I also know several people who thought it was a pile of garbage. Perhaps you just can’t please everyone. I just hope this isn’t another ‘Interstellar’, presenting itself as an intellectual science fiction picture but delivering something ultimately pretty dumb.
‘The Edge of Seventeen‘ – Hailee Steinfeld, who played a college student in 2016’s ‘Pitch Perfect 2′, gets sent back to high school for a coming-of-age drama that strives for a more realistic depiction of teenagerdom. Critics fell in love with the movie, likening it to the best of John Hughes’ 1980s output. Sadly, audiences were apparently scared off by the prospect of spending 98 minutes with a sulky, morose and generally disagreeable lead character, no matter how accurate to real life that might be.
‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk‘ – Still riding the high of his second Best Director Oscar, Ang Lee pulled out all the technical stops for his follow-up, shooting the movie in 4k 3D at 120 fps High Frame Rate with High Dynamic Range photography (the first production to do all of those things at once). Unfortunately, after he completed it, Sony lost faith in the project and dramatically scaled back its intended theatrical release and Oscar push. The movie only played in two theaters in all of North America with the full shebang (4k/3D/HFR/HDR), and for only one week. A handful more theaters played it in 2k HFR (some with HDR, some not). Everyone else saw it in 2k 2D at the normal 24 fps and without HDR – if they saw it at all, which hardly anyone bothered. This must have come as a great disappointment to the director. Critics were disappointed too, but in the movie itself rather than just the presentation. The drama about a soldier dealing with PTSD issues after returning home from combat in Iraq was roundly panned for prioritizing the whiz-bang technical stuff over the screenplay.
‘Bleed for This‘ – The 736th boxing movie released in 2016 stars Miles Teller in the true story of Vinny Pazienza, a welterweight fighter who made an improbable comeback after breaking his neck in a car accident and being told by doctors that he’d never walk again. This sounds like your standard inspirational sports movie formula, and most reviews confirmed as much, though reportedly it’s a pretty decent example as far as that goes.
If you’re interested in ‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk‘, you have two options, neither of them quite ideal. The standard Blu-ray edition is 2D only (at 24 fps, because that’s all the format supports), foregoing any of the fancy gimmicks Ang Lee designed the movie to showcase. The 4k Ultra HD copy is also 2D only (because UHD doesn’t offer 3D), but is the first to ever be encoded at 60 fps (the maximum available on disc). The UHD also includes a 3D Blu-ray in the package (1080p, 24 fps). Got all that?
While you’re sorting that out, ‘Arrival‘ also gets an Ultra HD edition. Fortunately, this one wasn’t shot in either 3D or HFR, so you don’t need to worry about those things.
The three-hour Italian period piece drama ‘The Tree of Wooden Clogs‘ won the Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1978. I watched the movie for a class in college and thought it was one of the most tedious things I’d ever suffered through in my (then-short) life, and frequently cited it as a prime example of pretentious art film bullshit. It’s very possible that I was just young and stupid at that time, and might possibly react differently to it if I tried it again today. Even with the Criterion branding, I remain wary of attempting that.
Twilight Time brings us four new limited editions: the 1947 film noir classic ‘Kiss of Death‘, Woody Allen’s Bergman riff ‘Interiors‘, Don Siegel’s Grand Canyon action thriller ‘Edge of Eternity‘, and the bittersweet 1979 romantic dramedy ‘Chilly Scenes of Winter‘.
Meanwhile, Sydney Pollack’s 1974 crime thriller ‘The Yakuza‘ (scripted by Paul Schrader and Robert Towne) makes its way out of the Warner Archive.
Kino takes us back to ‘One Million Years B.C.‘ to watch Raquel Welch wear a furry bikini and run away from Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion dinosaurs. (Historical accuracy is of course the main selling point of this one.)
Formerly Best Buy exclusives, Universal breaks out ‘October Sky‘, ‘The Ghost and Mr. Chicken‘ and ‘It Came from Outer Space‘ to general retail this week.
Two years after the last of the individual seasons was released on its own, Paramount bundles all of ‘Star Trek: Enterprise‘ into a complete series box set with a more attractive price point.
PBS has the second season of the Civil War drama ‘Mercy Street‘, while HBO has the first season of something called ‘Quarry‘, which is apparently a Cinemax show about a hitman in the 1970s.
Also, Visual Entertainment Group keeps dumping out seasons of ‘Nash Bridges‘ as if anyone would buy them.
I’m interested in ‘Arrival’, but I think I’ll wait for the UK SteelBook that won’t street until next month.
Other titles that have my attention include ‘Kiss of Death’, ‘Edge of Eternity’, ‘The Yakuza’, and (because I never bought it when it was at Best Buy) ‘It Came from Outer Space’.
What do you have your eye on this week?