It’s about damn time. The past several weeks of Blu-ray doldrums finally break with a genuinely exciting new release. To be honest, one movie pretty much overshadows everything else available this week, but I’m not about to complain.
‘Mad Max: Fury Road‘ – As a sort-of sequel/sort-of reboot to a franchise last seen on cinema screens three decades ago, with a 70-year-old returning director who seemed to lose his edge a while back and has been making crappy animated musicals in recent years, this really should have gone very, very badly. That it didn’t – and that in fact it has been celebrated as the best action movie of the year – is something of a miracle. Tom Hardy takes over from the now-unhirable Mel Gibson in a two-hour race through George Miller’s gonzo post-apocalyptic universe, amped up to higher levels of batshit insanity than ever before. The Blu-ray is available in 3D and Dolby Atmos for as much sensory overload as you can handle.
‘Good Kill‘ – Writer/director Andrew Niccol specializes in coming up with intriguing movie pitches that he inevitably fails to think all the way through. His latest stars Ethan Hawke in a timely tale about a military drone pilot who develops concerns about the ethics of the missions he’s ordered to take. Like most Niccol movies, reviews cited the heavy-handed preachiness and sloppy plotting. Even so, it can’t possibly be as bad as ‘In Time‘, can it?
‘Army of Frankensteins‘ – Whenever I hear the title of this schlocky B-movie horror flick, I think of the episode of ‘Community’ where Troy went to a costume party but didn’t realize that “Dracula” was the name of an individual character, not a generic term for vampires. “I don’t need to know which dracula to know I’m a dracula.” The plot description, which involves time travel and parallel universes and dozens of Frankenstein Monsters fighting in the American Civil War, sounds totally bonkers. Is that a good thing?
‘Backcountry‘ – A pair of city-dwellers decide to get back to nature by taking a camping trip, only to get lost in the woods and stalked by an evil bear. That kind of sounds like something you’d run across on the Syfy channel on a Saturday night, doesn’t it? Yet this low-budget Canadian indie scored surprisingly good reviews, including from our Phil, who liked it a lot. Most praised the film’s strong performances and nerve-jangling suspense. Writer/director Adam MacDonald also sounds like a pretty smart guy in this recent podcast interview, though his fondness for Rob Zombie movies is perhaps a little questionable.
‘Gemma Bovery‘ – I always find it odd when an actor plays a character with his or her own first name, especially when that name is something as uncommon as “Gemma.” Here, Gemma Arterton plays a modern woman named, yes, Gemma Bovery, who appears to be living out the plot of Flaubert’s ‘Madame Bovary’ – the heroine of which was of course named Emma Bovary. I understand that this is intended to be very meta. From Anne Fontaine, the French director of the underwhelming ‘Coco Before Chanel‘, I have a hard time building much enthusiasm for the movie, despite the lovely Ms. Arterton.
‘The Face of an Angel‘ – Eclectic filmmaker Michael Winterbottom presents a fictionalized take on the story of Amanda Knox, the American student who spent four years in Italian prison for (allegedly) murdering her roommate before finally being acquitted and returned to the United States. That sounds like subject matter with enough meat on it to make for a decent movie, but the majority consensus is that Winterbottom lost his way somewhere in the middle of the project and lost sight of the point he was trying to make.
‘The D Train‘ – A middle-aged loser (Jack Black) believes that he’ll look like a hero if he can convince the most popular and successful guy from his class (James Marsden) to go to their reunion, in this dark comedy that floundered at Sundance and nobody else cared much for either.
‘Dark Was the Night‘ – Currently a supporting player on ‘The Strain’, tough guy character actor Kevin Durand takes center stage in a low-budget horror flick about an evil something-or-other in the woods that terrorizes a logging company. Reviews were about what you’d expect for this sort of thing. I’m no fan of New York Observer critic (and obnoxious asshole) Rex Reed, but I have to admit that he got in perhaps the best dig with this line: “I mean, what else is the night supposed to be?” (Thank you, Rotten Tomatoes.)
‘I’ll See You in My Dreams‘ – Hollywood has a notorious problem with discarding actresses after they outgrow their ingénue phase. It’s next to impossible for a woman of a certain age to find a good role in a movie anymore, much less the headlining lead. For that reason, I should feel a little bad about being dismissive toward a dramedy about a senior widow (Blythe Danner) who re-enters the dating scene very late in life. Good for Danner. She deserves the attention. But, just to be honest about my feelings, this doesn’t sound like anything I’d ever want to watch.
For obvious reasons, Warner Bros. has chosen to update the ‘Mad Max Anthology‘ with a new box set that includes all four movies in the series. From what I can tell, the set only contains the 2D version of ‘Fury Road’. I assume that the copy of the original ‘Mad Max’ is most likely the MGM disc from 2010, not the recent Collector’s Edition from Shout! Factory.
Lots of TV box sets hit store shelves this week. Among them are the sixth season of ‘The Vampire Diaries‘, the second season of its spinoff ‘The Originals‘, the first season of the astoundingly stupid and awful ‘Scorpion‘, the first season of the animated ‘Star Wars: Rebels‘, and the History Channel miniseries ‘Texas Rising‘.
I’m sure that ‘Fury Road’ will dominate most readers’ lists this week. ‘Backcountry’ might be worth a rental too, though.