This week, we go flying with a World War I ace, hunt for an evil whale, and bring the dead back to life. Also, if we can find some time between all of that, we might watch a few Blu-rays.
‘The Peanuts Movie‘ – On the face of it, updating the beloved Charlie Brown comic strip into a 3D CGI animated feature seemed like a terrible idea doomed to failure, especially in this age when even the simplest of children’s properties get puffed up into overwrought blockbuster spectacle events. Somehow, this one appears to have survived largely unscathed. The movie was a solid hit and most critics applauded it for maintaining Charles Schultz’s original spirit of gentle whimsy. However, a few outliers, including our own Phil, found the film a little too reverent to its source material. On disc, the picture is available in 2D, 3D or Ultra HD options. (Well, Amazon claims that the Ultra HD copy will be released this week. I haven’t found any other confirmation of that.)
‘In the Heart of the Sea‘ – Thar she blows! Ron Howard does for ‘Moby Dick’ what he did to Dr. Seuss’s Grinch with a gaudy eyesore of an adventure tale allegedly (and very loosely) based on the true story that inspired Herman Melville to write his literary masterwork. Reviews of the movie were almost universally scathing and it was a huge box office flop. With an omnipresent puke-and-piss color scheme, it also must be the most hideously photographed motion picture ever made. Just to make you extra nauseous, it’s been run through a 3D conversion as well.
‘Victor Frankenstein‘ – Universal’s plans to create a shared cinematic universe out of its classic monster franchises (which started with 2014’s ‘Dracula Untold’ and has so far gone nowhere) got thrown for a loop when Fox moved forward with its own, unrelated ‘Frankenstein’ reboot. In what was surely intended as a subversive twist, the film is told from the perspective of the hunchback henchman Igor, a character not even found in the original Mary Shelley novel. The end result was simultaneously one of the worst reviewed and biggest box office bombs of last year.
‘Macbeth‘ – Michael Fassbender essays the role of Shakespeare’s famed Scottish thane, in the latest of the play’s 700 or so cinematic adaptations. In accordance with modern fads, the story has been given a ‘Game of Thrones’ makeover with an emphasis on gruesome violence. Word-of-mouth was generally mixed, praising Fassbender and Marion Cottilard (as Lady Macbeth) as well as the look of the piece, but comparing it unfavorably to prior versions of ‘Macbeth’ by such masters as Roman Polanski and Akira Kurosawa.
‘Victoria‘ – The idea of staging an action thriller as a 138-minute continuous single take, complete with a bank heist and shootouts, and actually shot that way without any digital editing trickery, is certainly a bold conceptual gimmick. Some audiences were enamored with the technique, while others (including Shannon in his Blu-ray review) found the complete product to be less than the sum of its parts. As it turns out, editing is a critical component in making an action movie exciting.
‘The Tribe‘ – Speaking of daring conceptual gimmicks, this Ukranian crime drama set in a boarding school for the deaf is acted out entirely in sign language with no subtitles, forcing viewers who don’t know the language to follow the story through context. As with ‘Victoria’, the story itself is said to be disappointingly thin.
‘The Forbidden Room‘ – Oddball Canadian auteur Guy Maddin delivers his latest slice of cinematic insanity, which Phil describes as a collection of “some of his most bizarre ideas to date.” Coming from the director of movies like ‘Brand Upon the Brain!’ and ‘My Winnipeg‘, that’s saying something.
Is this for real? How is George Lucas’ notorious cinematic disaster ‘Howard the Duck‘ slipping out on Blu-ray without any fanfare? I was inclined to assume that our site had a bogus listing, but multiple retailers confirm it, with cover art and everything. For a certain audience of bad movie devotees, this will be very exciting news indeed.
Also dredged up from the forgotten depths of the 1980s is Steven Spielberg’s whimsical sci-fi fantasy ‘*batteries not included‘, in which toy-sized alien spaceships save a bunch of elderly apartment tenants (including Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy) from being evicted by evil land developers. Yeah, it didn’t take a whole lot to get a movie greenlit in the ’80s.
The Criterion Collection’s only title this week is ‘Paris Belongs to Us‘, the 1961 feature directorial debut of French auteur Jacques Rivette (‘La belle noiseuse’).
Exclusive to the Disney Movie Club is ‘The Absent Minded Professor‘, the original 1961 version starring Fred MacMurray.
Shout! Factory released a box set of Penelope Spheeris’ three ‘The Decline of Western Civilization‘ documentaries last year. This week, the label breaks out the first two into standalone editions. I’m not sure what happened to the third (which focuses on homeless teenagers rather than musicians), except that perhaps it was judged not marketable enough to sell on its own.
The only notable TV release this week is the second season of the WGN network’s ‘Manhattan‘.
I’m ambivalent about most of this week’s releases. I have a passing interest in eventually seeing ‘The Peanuts Movie’, ‘Victoria’, ‘Macbeth’, ‘The Tribe’ and ‘The Forbidden Room’, but none excites me enough to run out and blind-buy a copy. I can wait for them to show up on cable or Netflix.
What am I missing out on here? Are you more eager for something on this list than I am?