Do you remember how slow the last couple of weeks were for new Blu-rays, aside from a couple of big titles? That didn’t last long. November kicks off in a big way with a huge slate of new discs. Even if they don’t all appeal to you, surely you’ll find something that just begs you to open your wallet.
You want action? How about the second “Die Hard in the White House” thriller of 2013? Roland Emmerich’s ‘White House Down‘ arrived this summer amidst some buzz that it was supposed to be a knowing parody of big dumb action movies. However, after you’ve spent a career making some of the biggest, dumbest action movies around, and you make another big dumb action movie that looks pretty much just like all the rest, can you really claim that it’s a parody? Or is it just another dumb movie from a guy who doesn’t know how to make anything else?
If that doesn’t do it for you, Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg team up in the buddy action flick ‘2 Guns‘. Perhaps in a reverse of the above example, the trailers for this one looked thoroughly inane, yet word-of-mouth claimed that it’s surprisingly funny and entertaining. [Never mind. This one's not actually available until the 19th.]
On the comedy end of things, Adam Sandler drops ‘Grown Ups 2‘, the lazy, stupid sequel to one of his laziest and stupidest movies. Of course, that didn’t stop it from making a ton of money. I’m sure it’ll sell well on video too, though I can’t fathom why.
In ‘Girl Most Likely‘, Kristen Wiig learns the painful lesson that not every movie she makes will be as successful as ‘Bridesmaids’. This time, she plays a middle-aged failure forced to move back in with her mother (Annette Bening). Directors Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman previously made the ingeniously clever ‘American Splendor’, but also the atrocious ‘The Extra Man’. This one never made it out of limited release, and reportedly falls in the middle of that spectrum, somewhere around the formulaic and lame ‘The Nanny Diaries’.
While Larry David ponders whether he feels like making another season of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’, he turned up this summer in the HBO telefilm ‘Clear History‘, which frankly feels a lot like it could have been an extended one-off ‘Curb’ episode. It has the same sort of improvisational tone, and David plays the same sort of inconsiderate, egomaniacal jackass. I wouldn’t say that this is as funny as the best of ‘Curb’, but it has its moments.
Having been a while since he’s had a hit, Brian De Palma returns to the erotic thriller genre that has been so reliably successful for him with ‘Passion‘. Sadly, despite the promise of Sapphically-charged tension between back-stabbing business rivals Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace, the movie failed to arouse much interest from audiences. Critics were also split as to whether it’s a return-to-form or a reversion to bad habits.
In what may seem like an unlikely casting choice, Amanda Seyfried portrays the star of ‘Deep Throat’ in the bio-pic ‘Lovelace‘, the first half of which wants to be a ‘Boogie Nights’-style fun romp through the 1970s porno scene, and the second half of which turns into a dour drama that wants us to feel guilty about enjoying ‘Boogie Nights’ or its own first half.
Wrapping things up from the indie scene, the ensemble drama ‘Parkland‘ tells a number of interweaving stories about the people and events surrounding the John F. Kennedy assassination. Our theatrical reviewer Bryan loved this, while our Blu-ray reviewer Shannon was less enthused. Many other critics were similarly divided.
With ‘Gravity’ still raking in plenty of money at the box office, this seems like a fine time for Warner Bros. to launch a 30th Anniversary Edition of Philip Kaufman’s exemplary Space Race drama ‘The Right Stuff‘.
Similarly appearing in nice Digibooks are the trio of James Dean’s only three feature films: ‘East of Eden‘, ‘Rebel Without a Cause‘ and ‘Giant‘. If you’d prefer to buy these all in one shot, you can also get them bundled together in the ‘James Dean: Ultimate Collector’s Edition‘ box set.
From Digibooks, we move to SteelBooks with Warner’s new reissues of three holiday favorites: ‘A Christmas Story‘, ‘Elf‘ and ‘Scrooged‘.
Also on the holiday theme is ‘Mickey’s Christmas Carol‘. Unfortunately, early word has it that Disney has botched the high-def transfer, which looks similar to the recently bungled Blu-ray edition of ‘The Sword in the Stone‘. Unless you’re a huge fan, you’ll probably want to skip this one.
Wasn’t the theatrical cut of ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey‘ already long enough? True to form, too much is never enough for director Peter Jackson. So, here comes the inevitable Extended Edition in multiple 2D and 3D options, now with extra bird poop and bunny sleds.
With his blockbuster ‘The Birth of a Nation’, D.W. Griffith invented much of what would become standard film language. However, the exceedingly racist nature of the movie’s story drew enormous criticism and controversy, even in its day. To his credit, the director took this to heart when making his follow-up, the silent epic ‘Intolerance‘, which interweaves four stories from separate historical eras, all on the theme of man’s inhumanity to man. Although a commercial failure in its day, the film would earn a reputation as one of the greatest masterpieces of the silent era. At least four alternate versions of the movie are known to exist. The Blu-ray from Cohen Media Group is based on a recent restoration and clocks in at 197 minutes.
More classics arrive with William Wyler’s Oscar-sweeping post-war drama ‘The Best Years of Our Lives‘, Joanne Woodward’s Oscar-winning turn as a woman suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder in ‘The Three Faces of Eve‘, and Cary Grant’s beloved romance ‘The Bishop’s Wife‘.
Let’s wrap this section up with a pair of Westerns. ‘My Name Is Nobody‘ is a proper feature film from Italian master Sergio Leone. ‘The Gambler‘, on the other hand, is a TV movie in which Kenny Rogers demonstrates the finer points of knowing when to hold ‘em vs. knowing when to fold ‘em.
[Note: A pair of Cinerama travelogues restored in Smilebox format were announced for release this week, but appear to have been pulled from most retailer listings. However, they still appear to be available for order direct from the Flicker Alley web site.]
Even the TV schedule is jam-packed with new box sets this week. These would include the first season of the dopey ‘Under the Dome‘, the sixth season of ‘Mad Men‘, the second season of ‘Magic City‘, a complete collection of ‘Weeds‘, and a limited edition bundle of the first seven seasons of ‘Doctor Who‘. Warner is just now offering the first season of ‘The Mentalist‘ on Blu-ray even though the show is currently in its sixth on air. With the conclusion of ‘Dexter‘, Paramount has the final season of that show (which pretty much all fans agreed ended terribly), as well as a complete collection.
For animation, Warner has the first season (out of three total) for ‘Batman: The Brave and the Bold‘, while a studio called Flat Iron Films delivers the 11th season (really?!) of the ‘Halo’ spoof ‘Red vs. Blue‘.
I’m exhausted from writing all this. I’ve been contemplating doing a Brian De Palma marathon, and may rent ‘Passion’ for that, but otherwise can skip all of this week’s day-and-date titles. The catalog titles are much more exciting for me. ‘The Right Stuff’, ‘Intolerance’, all three James Dean movies, ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’ and ‘The Three Faces of Eve’ will all go on my wish list. What are your plans?