January is typically a slow time for movies, both in theaters and on home video. Fortunately, this week brings us a few titles on Blu-ray that might be worth checking out anyway.
The comic book adaptation ‘Dredd‘ attempted to reclaim its source material from the campy Sylvester Stallone movie that was released back in the ’90s. Whether people couldn’t get the old version out of mind, or just don’t consider Karl Urban to be enough of a leading man movie star, the film bombed at the box office. However, word of mouth from fans was strong, even enthusiastic. Our reviewer Dan called it the best action movie of 2012. If, like most, you missed it in theaters, now would be a good time to give it a look on Blu-ray. In an interesting development, Lionsgate’s release contains both the 2D and 3D versions on one disc, and the studio hasn’t bothered to issue a standard 2D-only version.
Tim Burton has “re-imagined” so many other famous properties over the years (including ‘Dark Shadows’ earlier last summer), I suppose it was inevitable that he’d eventually come around full-circle and re-imagine himself. ‘Frankenweenie‘ is his feature-length, stop-motion remake of the live action short film that the director made early in his career (which you can find on the ‘Nightmare Before Christmas‘ Blu-ray). Despite the recycling, this one got pretty decent reviews and word-of-mouth, probably Burton’s best in years. Unfortunately, it faltered at the box office. In fact, all three of 2012’s major stop-motion productions (this, ‘ParaNorman‘ and ‘The Pirates! Band of Misfits‘) performed so poorly that Disney has pulled the plug on an upcoming project from ‘Coraline’ director Henry Selick. I guess the kids these days don’t care for any animation that doesn’t come out of a computer.
Like its predecessor ‘Baraka‘, director Ron Fricke’s ‘Samsara‘ is a gorgeous travelogue photographed on 70mm film in countless exotic locations around the world. The 4k screening of this that I saw was one of the most stunning theatrical experiences I’ve ever had. While the Blu-ray may have trouble living up to that standard, I’m sure that it will look and sound great. As for the movie itself, if you’ve seen ‘Baraka’, this is basically more of the same. That’s not a bad thing, however. This will make a nice pairing with Criterion’s recent release of the ‘Qatsi Trilogy‘.
Remember that news story from a couple years ago where a prank caller convinced the manager at a fast food restaurant to strip-search one of his employees? You knew that somebody would make a movie out of that eventually, right? Well, that movie is called ‘Compliance‘, and stars Dreama Walker from ‘Don’t Trust the B- in Apt. 23′. (She’s the perky roommate, not the b-.) Is the film supposed to be any good? Maybe. It seems to have gotten decent reviews.
Other recent theatrical titles just hitting Blu-ray are some of last year’s biggest turkeys. These include the Dax Shepard/Bradley Cooper action comedy flop ‘Hit & Run‘, the lame Jennifer Lawrence horror flick ‘House at the End of the Street‘ (which was filmed back in 2010 and sat on the studio’s shelf until the actress got famous), and the ridiculous Nicolas Cage kidnapping/revenge thriller (I use that term loosely) ‘Stolen‘.
As we head into Academy Awards season, Warner Bros. offers up past Best Picture winners ‘Grand Hotel‘, ‘Mrs. Miniver‘ and ‘Driving Miss Daisy‘, along with the first sound production ‘The Jazz Singer‘, which the Academy gave an honorary award for “Pioneer Outstanding Talking Picture.” The mawkish ‘Miss Daisy’ is high on my list of most undeserving Oscar winners.
Meanwhile, Universal delivers the original 1962 version of ‘Cape Fear‘, a studio called Vinegar Syndrome celebrates exploitation filmmaking with ‘The Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis‘, and Criterion rolls out Monte Hellman’s famed road movie ‘Two-Lane Blacktop‘.
The FX network airs several of the funniest comedies on television right now. The animated spy spoof ‘Archer‘, for example, is utterly hilarious. On the other hand, FX also runs Charlie Sheen’s dismally unfunny ‘Anger Management‘. New seasons of both come out of Blu-ray today. I’m not sure how Sheen’s show made it past one episode, much less an entire season.
I can’t say that I particularly understand how the executives at HBO decide which of their comedies to renew and which to cancel. This year, the network dropped the excellent ‘Bored to Death’ and ‘Hung’, yet renewed ‘Enlightened‘ despite even lower ratings and very little buzz. I didn’t dislike what I saw of the latter, but it ultimately couldn’t hold my attention for a whole season.
Today, HBO also brings out the telemovie ‘Game Change‘. Emmy win or not, Julianne Moore’s Sarah Palin imitation still pales beside Tina Fey’s. Interesting factoid: ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ supporting nerd Danny Strong won an Emmy for writing this movie.
From across the sea, BBC imports the second season of the period newsroom thriller ‘The Hour‘ and the recently-resurrected tenth season of the sci-fi comedy ‘Red Dwarf‘.
I plan to pick up ‘Samsara’, and will put both ‘Dredd’ and ‘Frankenweenie’ on my rental wish list. What catches your attention this week?