This week’s Blu-ray releases feature a curious convergence of coming and going. A former action icon returns from retirement while an A-List filmmaker calls his career quits.
As we posted about earlier this year, Oscar winning director Steven Soderbergh has grown so dissatisfied with the state of filmmaking today that he’s decided to give up on the profession entirely, at least for the time being, to devote his time to painting and other interests. Soderbergh announced that the medical thriller ‘Side Effects‘ will be his last theatrical feature film. Not that you ever would have known that from the studio’s marketing, which neglected to mention the director’s name at all. The movie’s reviews were mostly lukewarm, and it tanked pretty badly at the box office. This seems like an inauspicious end to an important filmmaker’s career. However, before he heads off into the sunset, Soderbergh has one more movie left. His Liberace bio-pic ‘Behind the Candelabra’ will premiere on HBO on May 26th.
Now that his career in politics has finally (some would say mercifully) come to an end, Arnold Schwarzenegger made a bid to return to movie stardom with the goofy action comedy ‘The Last Stand‘. Unfortunately, fans did not embrace his comeback as enthusiastically as hoped. The movie flopped when it was released back in January. The few who saw it mostly reported it to be divertingly silly fun, though.
Speaking of over-the-hill stars, the crime comedy ‘Stand Up Guys‘ teams up Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin as aging gangsters bumbling through one last job. Reviews were not kind.
‘Beautiful Creatures‘ is the latest ‘tween-focused supernatural melodrama trying to cash in on the end of the ‘Twilight’ series. This one has something to do with witches, I think. A slumming Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson were somehow dragged into it. Based on the poor box office, I don’t expect this to become the powerhouse franchise that its producers may have hoped.
Another failed franchise starter is ‘Parker‘, in which Jason Statham plays the Donald Westlake character previously featured in a couple dozen books and several movies (notably ‘Point Blank’ with Lee Marvin and ‘Payback’ with Mel Gibson). This is actually the first time that the author’s estate has allowed the character’s original name to be used. Sadly, all of the trailers make it look like just another generic Statham vehicle with little to distinguish itself.
Finally, ‘Glee’ star Chris Colfer tries his hand at screenwriting with the high school dramedy ‘Struck by Lightning‘, about an ambitious journalism hopeful who blackmails his classmates into contributing to his literary magazine in order to bolster his college applications. As far as I’m aware, no singing is involved.
At the top of the list of interesting catalog releases this week are the Studio Ghibli anime classics ‘My Neighbor Totoro‘ and ‘Howl’s Moving Castle‘. Disney’s treatment of Ghibli titles has been kind of hit-or-miss. The studio sometimes neglects to provide lossless audio in the original Japanese language or accurately-translated English subtitles (rather than “dubtitles”). I hope that these two discs fare more like ‘Nausicaa‘ and less like ‘Ponyo‘.
The Criterion Collection gives us Haskell Wexler’s hugely influential ‘Medium Cool‘, which blurred the line between documentary and fiction filmmaking.
Warner Bros. offers two ‘The Ultimate Gangsters Collection‘ box sets. The “Contemporary” version merely contains repackaged copies of ‘The Departed’, ‘Goodfellas’, ‘Heat’, ‘The Town’ and ‘The Untouchables’. However, the “Classics” box marks the first appearance of ‘Little Caesar’, ‘The Public Enemy’, ‘The Petrified Forest’ and ‘White Heat’ on Blu-ray. All of these can also be purchased separately. Top of the world, ma!
Marvel Comics completists and kitsch aficionados may take interest in Shout! Factory’s release of the 1990 ‘Captain America‘ cheesefest. The distributor’s Scream Factory imprint has the summer camp slasher classic ‘The Burning‘.
Warner Bros. reissues National Lampoon’s ‘Vacation‘ in a new 30th Anniversary Edition along with the first high-def appearance of ‘Vegas Vacation‘. Also notable from this studio is the Richard Gere/Jodie Foster historical romance ‘Sommersby‘, a remake of the French film ‘The Return of Martin Guerre’ that was
directed byscripted by Nicholas Meyer (of ‘Star Trek II’ fame).
Need to catch up on ‘True Blood‘ before the new season starts next month? HBO will accommodate with the Complete Fifth Season on Blu-ray.
Meanwhile, BBC delivers the second season of the historical soap ‘Call the Midwife‘.
I’m excited for the all the titles in the ‘Ultimate Gangsters’ classic box. Pending confirmation of their audio and subtitle features, I also look forward to adding both Studio Ghibli discs to my collection. ‘Medium Cool’ will go on my wish list for the next Barnes & Noble Criterion sale. Beyond that, I’ll probably rent ‘Side Effects’ at some point, and wait for ‘The Last Stand’ to turn up on HBO.
What will you spend money on this week?