This week in Blu-ray brings us one of the biggest movies of the year. Well, one of the tallest, at least. It was kind of a bust in other respects. As is so often the case, some of the smaller releases may be a lot more interesting.
Remember when Bryan Singer was an exciting director who made movies that people really wanted to see? These days, he makes cartoony fairy tale junk like ‘Jack the Giant Slayer‘. The movie was originally supposed to be a tentpole picture for the summer of 2012, until the studio saw some of Singer’s footage, freaked the hell out, and pushed it back a year. The trailers looked uniformly atrocious. (Aren’t we at a point where a big-budget production should have somewhat competent CGI?) Reviews were unkind. Word of mouth from audiences was mixed, though some defended the film, claiming that it’s moderately fun if you lower your standards and don’t expect much from it. The movie was a big flop on these shores, but did slightly better overseas. All told, it grossed just short of $200 million worldwide, which would seem more impressive if it didn’t also cost $200 million to make. I guess Warner Bros. will just have to write off all the additional money spent on marketing and distribution. After this failure, Singer has one more chance to redeem himself with his impending return to the ‘X-Men’ franchise. Let’s hope he doesn’t screw that one up.
In more interesting developments, Korean director Park Chan-wook (‘Oldboy’) makes his English-language debut with the thriller ‘Stoker‘. Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska star in this playful riff on Hitchcock’s ‘Shadow of a Doubt’ that was scripted by ‘Prison Break’ star Wentworth Miller. The film was something of a sensation on the festival circuit earlier this year, but never broke out to the mainstream. General reaction was that it’s stylistically dazzling, but the plot doesn’t make a damn bit of sense. Still, I’m intrigued.
Strangely, the rest of the week’s day-and-date titles seem to follow a numerical theme. In the running for the prize of Worst Movie Title Ever is ‘The Last Exorcism Part II‘. If the previous movie was the last exorcism, how is there another one? And was the first one really enough of a hit to need a sequel anyway?
Dustin Hoffman makes his directorial debut with ‘Quartet‘, the tale of geriatric musicians (including Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon) who stage a concert at their retirement home. As you’d expect of the first film directed by a veteran actor, it sounds like an actors’ piece. This movie should not be confused with the similarly-themed ‘A Late Quartet‘, which stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Christopher Walken. Totally different movie, or so I’m told.
In case ‘The Hangover’ wasn’t juvenile enough for you, the Hangover-for-kids knockoff ‘21 & Over‘ even more aggressively courts the dumb high schooler audience with a tale of drunken jackassery. Never you mind the title or the R rating. If you’re 21 or over, you’re far too old for this.
Last and certainly least is the all-star sketch comedy ‘Movie 43‘, which was stitched together over the course of a few years of filming by more than a dozen directors (including Peter Farrelly, Brett Ratner and actress Elizabeth Banks) and features a huge cast of big-name actors like Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Dennis Quaid and Naomi Watts, most of whom donated five minutes of their time each as a favor, did something stupid on camera, and then got the hell out of there. This wasn’t seen by very many people in theaters, but every single person who did see it reported that it was the absolute worst piece of shit they’d ever sat through, and that its alleged comedy makes ‘Meet the Spartans’ look positively highbrow and sophisticated in comparison. It’s so bad that Armond White refused to review it, because even the man who called ‘Jack & Jill’ a brilliant social satire couldn’t find anything positive to say about it. So…. yeah… Run right out and buy this one, why don’t you?
Naked werewolves and space vampires FTW! Scream Factory rewards cult horror junkies this week with new Collector’s Editions of Joe Dante’s ‘The Howling‘ and Tobe Hooper’s ‘Lifeforce‘. I must have both.
In classier affairs, it’s an uncharacteristically busy week for the Criterion Collection, which has three new titles on tap (two of which I’ve heard of!). First we have Harold Lloyd’s 1923 silent comedy classic ‘Safety Last!‘. That’s followed by H.G. Wells’ 1936 sci-fi parable ‘Things to Come‘ and the 1967 Czech production ‘Marketa Lazarová‘, which is described as an “experimental action film.” The latter is little seen in this country, but regarded in its native land as one of the greatest Czech films of all time.
Kino celebrates Bette Davis with new restorations of her ‘Hell House‘ and ‘Of Human Bondage‘.
I gave up on ‘Wilfred‘ somewhere in the middle of the second season. The show got to be too weird and just not funny enough for me. Apparently, it’s still enough of a hit for the FX network that a third season will come soon. If you’re still with it, or need to catch up, Fox offers up the whole second season in a new Blu-ray box set.
I think I’ll rent ‘Stoker’. ‘Lifeforce’ and ‘The Howling’ will make their way into my collection, and all three Criterions will go on my wish list. What’s your plan for this week?