One of the year’s big Oscar winners comes to Blu-ray this week, along with another piece of obvious Oscar bait that failed to do its job. Beyond those, we also get a few more interesting titles, including a drive-in classic and the greatest fusion of live action and animation ever put to screen.
A few years back, I attended a Q&A at the Toronto Film Festival where French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (‘Amélie’) claimed that he’d spent over four years trying to adapt Yann Martel’s novel ‘Life of Pi‘ into a movie. He eventually had to drop out of the project, because visual effects technology at the time wasn’t sufficient and he just couldn’t make the story work. (He considered putting a real tiger on a raft with a young boy, but the studio’s insurance people nixed that idea.) Later, Ang Lee (‘Crouching Tiger’, ‘Brokeback Mountain’) took over and, apparently, figured it out. The film did quite well at the box office last year, and cleaned up at the Academy Awards too, scoring major wins for its cinematography, visual effects, musical score and Lee as Best Director. Yet, for some reason, I still think I’d be more excited to see Jeunet’s version. In any case, I expect the movie to be a visual treat on Blu-ray, especially in 3D.
In an obvious bid for Oscar recognition, Anthony Hopkins put on a fat suit and countless layers of prosthetic make-up for the bio-pic ‘Hitchcock‘, which tells a heavily fictionalized account of the legendary director’s struggle to make his masterpiece ‘Psycho’. Movies about making movies are often considered too inside-baseball for general audiences, and this was no exception. The film faltered at the box office and received mixed-to-negative reviews, though Helen Mirren’s performance as Hitch’s wife Alma was singled out for some praise.
Unless I’m mistaken, the animated holiday flick ‘Rise of the Guardians‘ has nothing to do with that talking owl movie ‘Legend of the Guardians‘ from a couple years ago. In this one, mythical holiday icons Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Jack Frost join forces to stop a villain who wants to engulf the world in darkness. Guillermo del Toro produced and contributed a handful of ideas to the production. The film was tepidly received by both audiences and critics. March seems like an odd time to release a Christmas-themed movie on video, but I suppose the studio is counting on an Easter tie-in.
‘Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away‘ is the popular performance troupe’s first film to receive wide release to theaters, rather than just limited IMAX engagements. Sadly, despite the involvement of James Cameron as producer, the movie was a bust at the box office. The 3D acrobatics might have some appeal on home video, however.
Three new indie productions arrive on disc straight from the film festival scene. In ‘Smashed‘, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul play a couple of alcoholics whose relationship suffers strife when one decides to get sober. The documentary ‘Sound City‘ is Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl’s tribute to the legendary music studio. Most bizarrely, Sean Penn plays a washed-up glam rocker in ‘This Must Be the Place‘. Reviews and word-of-mouth for the latter were not terribly kind.
This week, Disney rolls out a 25th Anniversary Edition of Robert Zemeckis’ masterpiece ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit‘. Unfortunately, the studio censored some of the movie’s cheekier gags in previous video editions, and I don’t expect that to change here. Still, I welcome a high-def upgrade for the film’s innovative interaction of animation and live action.
Following that, Disney also delivers a few of its second-tier animated titles to the format: ‘Mulan‘, ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame‘ and ‘Brother Bear‘. All of them have been paired up with their inferior direct-to-video sequels.
A notorious dud for producer George Lucas and director Ron Howard, ‘Willow‘ has built a modest cult following, mostly though regular rotations on cable over the years. It’s never done much for me, personally. As far as 1980s fantasy films starring little people go, this one’s got nothing on ‘Time Bandits’.
Presumably trying to cash in on Fox’s release of the new Anthony Hopkins film, MGM repackages its previously-released Blu-ray editions of ‘Notorious’, ‘Spellbound’ and ‘Rebecca’ into one new set called ‘Alfred Hitchcock: The Classic Collection‘. If you hadn’t gotten around to buying those titles earlier (which I haven’t), this might be a convenient manner of doing so.
The Criterion Collection adds Fritz Lang’s film noir ‘Ministry of Fear‘ and the original 1958 version of the schlocky monster flick ‘The Blob‘ to its high-def offerings.
Meanwhile, Twilight Time, purveyor of small-run limited edition Blu-rays, entices horror fans with John Carpenter’s ‘Christine‘ and Brian De Palma’s ‘The Fury‘. The Carpenter film (a middling Stephen King adaptation about a haunted car) sold out quickly during the preorder period, much to the consternation of the director’s fans. At the time of this writing, the De Palma movie (also not one of its director’s better efforts) is still available.
‘Roger Rabbit’ is a must-own title for me. I also plan to pick up both of the Criterions, and am curious to rent ‘Life of Pi’. Where do your interests lie this week?