I’ll be honest up front. This is not a very exciting week for new Blu-rays, unless you happen to be a big Beatles fan. This may be a good time to save some money for better releases to follow.
You’ll be forgiven if you don’t remember ‘The Call‘. The Halle Berry suspense thriller didn’t make much of a dent at the box office earlier this year. It looks like a knockoff of ‘Cellular‘, which wasn’t anything special either. Berry plays a 911 operator who receives a call from an abducted girl, and for reasons I’m sure the plot bends over backwards to make seem plausible, must save the girl herself, rather than, you know, do her job and send the police to go get her. The only vaguely interesting thing about this movie is that it was directed by Brad Anderson (‘The Machinist‘), who did a lot of work on ‘Fringe’ over the years, and he’s styled Berry’s hair to look almost exactly like that show’s supporting actress Jasika Nicole. Is he trying to say something there? Your guess is as good as mine.
Steve Carell and Jim Carrey play feuding magicians in the goofy comedy ‘The Incredible Burt Wonderstone‘. I probably shouldn’t badmouth this movie too much, in that we’ll be giving away a free copy of it in our contest tomorrow. Nevertheless, the trailers didn’t do anything for me, and reviews (including our Blu-ray reviewer E.) were generally unkind.
The bizarre fantasy romance ‘Upside Down‘ takes place in a universe where two planets overlap and face each other with opposing gravity pull. This strange premise lends itself to some striking visuals, even if absolutely nothing about it makes even the slightest bit of sense, and the story tacked on seems to be a standard ‘Romeo and Juliet’ retread. A friend of mine whose opinion I generally trust describes the movie as a silly metaphor beaten to death on screen. Although it never played in theaters in 3D, studio Millennium Media has apparently run the movie through a quickie 3D conversion for home video in the desperate hope of wringing a few extra dollars out of it.
Also notable is the submarine thriller ‘Phantom‘ with Ed Harris and David Duchnovny. A different friend of mine wasn’t too impressed with this.
‘Pusher‘ is actually the second remake of Nicolas Winding Refn’s 1996 Danish crime drama about an ambitious drug dealer. This one’s in English. Given how little I cared for Refn’s overrated ‘Drive’, I think I’ll pass.
Perhaps more promising, the Chilean drama ‘No‘ stars Gael Garcia Bernal in the true story of an advertising executive who played an important role in ousting dictator Augusto Pinochet from that country’s presidency. However, be warned that the entire movie was shot with 1980s VHS camcorders (yes, really!) as a stylistic conceit, so it won’t really benefit from high-definition upconversion.
Beatles completists should be pleased that Universal Music has chosen to release the band’s 1965 comedy ‘Help!‘, in which the Fab Four must protect Ringo from the clutches of a religious cult.
The 2008 German adventure drama ‘North Face‘ presents an interesting dilemma. Technically, the main characters of this true story, the ones we’re supposed to sympathize with and root for, are Nazis. However, they were really just small town kids who enlisted in the German army prior to the outbreak of war out of a vague sense of duty and patriotism, but had no strong feelings about politics or ideology. They really only cared about climbing mountains. The movie acknowledges their affiliation but doesn’t make much of it. This resurrection of the once-popular “Mountain Film” genre was a pretty big hit in its native country, but only toured the festival circuit on these shores in a limited manner. I saw it a few years ago. It’s pretty suspenseful and entertaining, though a little melodramatic.
Finally, the Criterion Collection adds the monumental nine-hour Holocaust documentary ‘Shoah‘ to its high-def offerings. This is widely regarded as one of the most important and emotionally overwhelming films of all time.
I feel like I ought to say that I’m going to run out and buy ‘Shoah’, but the truth is that I don’t know that I’m in a rush to sit through such heavy subject matter for that length of time. While artistically significant, I suspect that this will be a tough sell for many people, even Criterion collectors. I’ll put it on my wish list for future purchase, but am otherwise going to sit out the week. How about you?