The final week of March brings us a huge new slate of Blu-ray releases. Sadly, it’s mostly a case of quantity over quality. However, a recent Oscar winner, some classics, some cult flicks and a few TV box sets of note stand out above the rest.
Daniel Day-Lewis won his third Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of the titular President in Steven Spielberg’s historical bio-pic ‘Lincoln‘, which was nominated for 12 categories in all. (It also won for Production Design.) While I have no doubt that this is a handsomely-mounted, impeccably tasteful, stirringly acted and perhaps even important film, I still can’t muster up any enthusiasm to watch the damn thing. It just looks so… Spielbergian… you know? I’d probably change my mind if I forced myself to sit for it, but at the present time, I’m not in any rush to do that. Your mileage may vary, as they say.
Brad Pitt reunited with his ‘Assassination of Jesse James’ director Andrew Dominik for a different sort of period piece with the crime thriller ‘Killing Them Softly‘, which takes place against the backdrop of the 2008 Presidential election. This one proved very divisive. While the film earned some admirers, many viewers called it “tedious” and “pointless,” and complained about its seemingly-confused political statements. Our Blu-ray reviewer Kevin Yeoman is one of the defenders. His review is linked above.
Billy Crystal used to be a funny guy, but those days are long past. As if his stint hosting the Oscars last year wasn’t painful enough, he also made a bid for a big screen comeback with the generic family comedy ‘Parental Guidance‘. The movie’s currently rocking a 19% favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes, though it somehow managed to gross just over $100 million based on a modest $25 million budget. Crystal will probably chalk this up as a success, but I think he would have been better off to just stay retired and leave us with fond memories of his better days.
The Danish period piece ‘A Royal Affair‘ stars ‘Casino Royale’ villain (and new Hannibal Lecter) Mads Mikkelsen in the tale of a royal physician who has an affair with the queen under the nose of her mentally ill husband. Sounds scandalous. The movie was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this year.
The assortment of catalog titles this week include a fair amount of both class and trash. Let’s start with the respectable stuff and work our way down.
The Criterion Collection continues its mission of putting out quality editions of classic films with Charlie Chaplin’s black comedy ‘Monsieur Verdoux‘ (in which the star plays against type as a serial widow murderer!) and Robert Bresson’s 1956 jailbreak thriller ‘A Man Escaped‘.
Twilight Time offers its latest limited edition Blu-ray with the 1943 religious drama ‘The Song of Bernadette‘. Somehow, I suspect that this one will have more difficulty selling out its 3,000 copy run than, say, the ’80s horror flick ‘Christine‘ did recently.
Timed to promoted the upcoming 3D conversion of the first film, Universal finally breaks all three ‘Jurassic Park‘ movies out from the Ultimate Trilogy box set into separate Blu-ray editions, much to the relief of those half-dozen fans who’ve waited patiently for a standalone release of ‘The Lost World’.
Fox brings us Elia Kazan’s 1950 thriller ‘Panic in the Streets‘ and a 20th Anniversary Edition (is the movie really that old?) of the beloved baseball comedy ‘The Sandlot‘.
Olive Films rolls out high-def editions of the Jack Nicholson/Meryl Streep drama ‘Ironweed‘ and the 1941 Jean Arthur workplace comedy ‘The Devil and Miss Jones‘. Be careful not to confuse the latter with the similarly-named ‘The Devil in Miss Jones’, which is something different entirely. Trust me on that.
Hoping to capitalize on Warner Bros.’ recent release of Michael Crichton’s sci-fi thriller ‘Westworld‘, Shout! Factory delivers its (Crichton-less and far inferior) sequel ‘Futureworld‘. Meanwhile, spin-off label Scream Factory has the cult horror flicks ‘From Beyond‘ and ‘Phantasm II‘. (Apparently, distribution rights to the other ‘Phantasm’ movies belong to Starz/Anchor Bay.)
Over in the bargain bins, you can find a young Natalie Portman in Echo Bridge’s release of the dramedy ‘Beautiful Girls‘. Among its cheapie double-bills, Mill Creek has a couple of interesting titles including the appealingly sleazy ’80s thriller ‘D.O.A.‘ (paired with the less appealing ‘Consenting Adults’) and the notorious Bruce Willis flop ‘Hudson Hawk‘ (paired with the much blander dud ‘Hollywood Homicide’).
TV fare this week includes the second season of Showtime’s lurid historical soap opera ‘The Borgias‘, the first season of the Canadian sci-fi drama ‘Continuum‘ (which airs on the Syfy network here) and the first season of HBO’s hilarious political satire ‘Veep‘.
Finally, as the studio is still in the middle of remastering seasons of ‘The Next Generation’ for Blu-ray, CBS Films (and distributor Paramount) skip forward past a couple of the ‘Star Trek’ series that aired first to jump right to the franchise’s last show, ‘Star Trek: Enterprise‘ (which didn’t actually carry ‘Trek’ branding during its first season). Because this is the only ‘Trek’ series to actually air in high definition during its original run, it doesn’t require much remastering. (However, note that most of the CG visual effects were rendered at a low resolution and will be upconverted.) Be warned that the first season is pretty terrible. I gave up after about the fourth episode in a row where the ship’s crew landed on a planet and got trapped in a cave. I’m told that later seasons got better, but I was so burned out on ‘Trek’ at that point that I couldn’t be bothered to care. In any case, even if it does get better, the prequel series still shits all over four decades of established franchise canon. To be fair, so does J.J. Abrams’ reboot movie, but at least that had some fun doing it. The ‘Enterprise’ Blu-ray will contain lossless audio on all episodes, to ensure that each and every note of Diane Warren’s horrid theme song will feel like it’s stabbing you directly in the ear drum.
Out of everything I’ve listed above, the only titles I actually plan to buy are the two Criterions. I might rent ‘Lincoln’ some day. Given that I bypassed the trilogy box set, the solo edition of the first ‘Jurassic Park’ has some appeal, but I think I’ll just wait for the 3D edition later this year. I watch ‘Veep’ on broadcast, but don’t need to own it. I also have a perverse desire to watch ‘Hudson Hawk’ again, but don’t think I can bring myself to actually buy a copy, no matter how cheap.
How about you? What will you buy or rent this week?
Tags: Blu-ray, Blu-ray Highlights, Charlie Chaplin, Continuum, Criterion Collection, Hudson Hawk, Jurassic Park, Killing Them Softly, Lincoln, Parental Guidance, Poll, Royal Affair, Star Trek, The Borgias, Veep