New Blu-rays this week close one franchise and reopen another. More importantly, a cult rock-and-roll musical finally gets its proper due.
New Releases (Blu-ray)
‘Resident Evil: The Final Chapter‘ – I’m a sucker for the ‘Resident Evil’ movies. I know they’re dumb, but I always have fun with them. Franchise mastermind Paul W.S. Anderson and his wife, star Milla Jovovich, are back for a sixth and allegedly final bout of zombie-killing mayhem. I didn’t get to see this in theaters, but it seems that even longtime fans were disappointed with the conclusion. I still plan to buy it on disc anyway. To that end, Sony offers it on Blu-ray or Ultra HD, but if you want it in 3D (and the last couple of these movies had great 3D), you’ll have to import from overseas. Also disappointing is that only the UHD gets Dolby Atmos audio, even though there’s no technical reason it couldn’t be included on Blu-ray too.
‘xXx: Return of Xander Cage‘ – Riding high from the ongoing success of the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise, Vin Diesel reprises a much less iconic role as the extreme sports fanatic/secret agent that he briefly played 15 years ago in ‘xXx’. Diesel sat out the first sequel, much to the annoyance of the producers, who rudely murdered his character off-screen in a humiliating fashion. Luckily, even death can’t keep a guy this extreeeeeme down, and he’s back for more goofy stunts and James-Bond-on-‘roids spy hijinks. American audiences had basically no interest in seeing this character again, but the movie did well enough internationally that Xander Cage may yet return again. (Am I the only one who finds the lack of a “The” in the title hilarious? It sounds like it was translated from English to Chinese and back again… which, in fact, is probably exactly what happened.) With this entry, franchise rights for ‘xXx’ have shifted from Sony to Paramount. The new studio is making a 3D edition available domestically (see correction at the bottom of the poll), and all the Blu-rays have Atmos.
‘The Space Between Us‘ – The title is a pun, get it? ‘Cuz it’s about emotional distance and also about outer space. So clever, huh? In the YA sci-fi romance, a boy born to astronaut colonists on Mars (Asa Butterfield) falls in love with an Earth girl (Britt Robertson) over Skype and flies billions of miles to be with her, only to learn that his poor Martian body isn’t equipped for our Earth conditions. Fortunately, he has enough time to go on a road trip with her to see the world before his heart explodes or something. The premise is ludicrous on multiple levels, and I have no idea how Gary Oldman got roped into playing a NASA scientist exposition machine. The movie made a tiny pittance at the box office, but its modest $30 million budget means that it didn’t crash and burn quite as spectacularly as director Peter Chelsom’s other notorious flop, 2001’s ‘Town & Country’. Few movies have.
Sony and Paramount give us ‘Resident Evil: The Final Chapter‘ and ‘xXx: Return of Xander Cage‘ in 4k. Best Buy carries exclusive SteelBook copies of both.
Prepping us for the impending Tom Cruise reboot, Universal offers a so-called Ultimate Trilogy of Brendan Fraser’s three movies in ‘The Mummy‘ cycle.
BBC has a double-feature of the IMAX nature documentaries ‘Wild Africa‘ and ‘Tiny Giants‘, though Amazon doesn’t appear to sell it directly for some reason (probably a result of the retailer’s ongoing dispute with BBC parent company Warner Bros.). You may have better luck ordering it from Best Buy, Target, or other stores.
After the huge success of ’48 Hrs.’, macho action movie director Walter Hill made the perplexing decision that his next project would be a rock musical inspired by 1950s Westerns and B-movies with a cast of (at the time) mostly unknown young actors including Diane Lane and Willem Dafoe. His hyper-stylized ‘Streets of Fire‘ was a box office bomb in 1984, but went on to find a cult audience on video. Unfortunately, Universal never thought much of the movie. The studio last released it on the short-lived HD DVD format and never bothered to port it to Blu-ray. Shout! Factory has now come to the rescue by licensing the title and giving it a lovely new remaster that finally does right by its gorgeous photography. Fans of the film should scoop this right up.
Also remastered by Shout! Factory are the Bruce Lee kung-fu classics ‘Game of Death‘ (the one with the famous yellow jumpsuit) and ‘Return of the Dragon‘.
Meanwhile, the Scream Factory label unleashes the 1971 killer-rat horror picture ‘Willard‘ and its sequel ‘Ben‘. A young singer by the name of Michael Jackson did the theme song for the latter (which is, sadly, just about the only thing notable about the movie).
“I’m crazy for you / Touch me once and you’ll know it’s true…” Madonna did the theme song for (and made her first acting appearance in) the 1988 Matthew Modine high school wrestling drama ‘Vision Quest‘. The Warner Archive digs this one up.
On a classier note, Criterion adds more Yasujirô Ozu to its Blu-ray lineup with the Japanese master’s ‘Good Morning‘. The 1959 film is about a pair of young boys who stage a “silence strike” to pressure their parents into buying a television.
In addition to putting the three Brendan Fraser movies on UHD, Universal also has a Complete Legacy Collection box set of the classic Boris Karloff version of ‘The Mummy‘ and its five Karloff-less follow-ups (one of which is ‘Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy’). For good measure (though no particular tie-in with a new Tom Cruise movie), the studio has done the same with six classic ‘Dracula‘ films.
The latest limited editions from Twilight Time include the 1953 Robert Ryan B-movie thriller ‘Inferno‘ (restored in 3D), the 1965 yakuza drama ‘Brutal Tales of Chivalry‘, the 1973 Charles Bronson revenge thriller ‘The Stone Killer‘, the 1978 Vietnam War drama ‘Who’ll Stop the Rain‘ (with Nick Nolte and Tuesday Weld), the 1991 coming-of-age story ‘The Man in the Moon‘ (featuring the acting debut of a 15-year-old Reese Witherspoon), and the 1992 romantic caper ‘Year of the Comet‘ (scripted by William Goldman).
I have ‘Streets of Fire’ in hand for review and am very impressed with the disc. I’ve pre-ordered the ‘Resident Evil’ SteelBook for completist purposes and may even consider importing the 3D copy as well. (I’m sure I’ll regret that, but I know it will gnaw at me if I don’t get it.) ‘Good Morning’ will go on my wish list for a future Criterion sale.
What’s on your plate this week?