Among the stars appearing on Blu-ray this week are Hugh Jackman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Jessica Chastain, and Taraji P. Henson. Not Kevin Spacey, though. Definitely not Kevin Spacey… Well, maybe a little.
New Releases (Blu-ray)
‘The Greatest Showman‘ – Strangely timed for release the same year that the Barnum & Bailey circus shut down operations, Hugh Jackman stars in an old-fashioned musical bio-pic about entrepreneur, huckster, and sometimes politician P.T. Barnum. In real life, Barnum exploited so-called “freaks” of low social status for his own personal profit, but don’t expect to see any nuanced depiction of that here. This is strictly a whitewashed affair, in which Barnum is portrayed as a great champion of diversity and inclusiveness who only wanted to teach the world about how our differences are what make us special. Critics largely wrote off the movie as a load of horseshit, but it proved strangely popular, slowly amassing over $400 million and hanging on for a long run in theaters despite never hitting higher than 4th place at the box office in any given week. Disc options include Blu-ray, Ultra HD, a Digibook at Target, or a SteelBook at Best Buy.
‘All the Money in the World‘ – Ridley Scott directs a thriller about the 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, the grandson of billionaire oil tycoon J. Paul Getty. The wealthiest man alive at the time, the elder Getty refused to pay the ransom and allowed his young grandson to be mutilated and held for months in dire health until eventually negotiating for a far smaller payout than demanded. This is potentially a story ripe for social commentary about the dark side of Capitalist greed, but audiences didn’t have much interest and the film was a box office dud despite generally supportive (if rarely enthusiastic) reviews. If the movie’s remembered at all in the future, it will be for Scott’s last-minute decision to recast disgraced star Kevin Spacey (who had completed filming) and reshoot all of his scenes with Christopher Plummer instead. Plummer went on to be nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Oscar, but it’s arguable whether those accolades were truly due to the quality of his performance or were mainly a political statement as everyone in Hollywood moves quickly to distance themselves from Spacey. (Note that the Getty kidnapping is also currently the subject of the new FX cable series ‘Trust’.)
‘Phantom Thread‘ – Allegedly Daniel Day-Lewis’ final acting role before retirement, the star reunites with ‘There Will Be Blood’ director Paul Thomas Anderson for a very different type of role. In the period drama set in 1950s London, the actor plays a meticulous fashion designer whose regimented routine is disrupted by a new muse. The sort of thing never destined to make much money, critics were over the moon for the movie, which wound up nominated for six Oscars including Best Actor, Best Director and Best Picture. (Ultimately, the only trophy it took home was for Costume Design.)
‘Molly’s Game‘ – Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin makes his directorial debut with the true-ish story of Molly Bloom, a former Olympic-hopeful skier who became the kingpin of a high-stakes celebrity gambling ring after her sports career ended. The trailers looked like the most Aaron Sorkin-y thing ever, almost to the point of parody, with dialogue beats shamelessly recycled from his earlier movies and TV shows. Jessica Chastain is said to be good in the lead role, but when is she ever not good? Like most of the other “true stories” Sorkin has scripted over the years, expect this one to be about 85% totally fabricated and 15% “inspired by” the truth.
‘Proud Mary‘ – Taraji P. Henson plays a hitwoman in an action thriller riffing on old Blaxploitation flicks. If that sounds promising, critics lambasted the result for a dull plot and incoherent action choreography from ‘London Has Fallen’ director Babak Najafi. The film’s box office was also weak.
‘The Greatest Showman‘ debuts in Ultra HD day-and-date with its Blu-ray release, as does the latest DC animated feature, ‘Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay‘.
The green-headed stepchild of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Universal gives ‘The Incredible Hulk‘ a bump up to 4k.
Other titles getting upgraded include the howlingly awful Nicolas Cage sci-fi disaster ‘Knowing‘ and the long-forgotten 2009 Chris Evans/Dakota Fanning flop ‘Push‘. Who would want to buy them?
Universal digs way back into its archives with a restoration of Cecil B. DeMille’s 1934 epic ‘Cleopatra‘, starring Claudette Colbert.
Arrow Video follows up its release of Dario Argento’s ‘The Bird with the Crystal Plumage‘ with a Limited Edition of his 1975 giallo ‘Deep Red‘. Expect a less expensive standard edition to come around eventually.
Paramount goes blazin’ with Cheech & Chong’s ‘Up in Smoke‘ and ‘Still Smokin’‘.
I guess it’s too late to excise Kevin Spacey’s supporting role from Alan J. Pakula’s 1992 erotic thriller ‘Consenting Adults‘. Kino dredges that one out of video oblivion, along with a couple more middling ’90s thrillers: ‘Deceived‘ with Goldie Hawn and ‘Bad Company‘ with Laurence Fishburne and Ellen Barkin.
Does Starz’s smutty time travel romance ‘Outlander‘ really have a passionate enough fan base to support both regular and Collector’s Edition Blu-ray packages for its third season? Sony seems to think so.
I’m quite interested to see ‘Phantom Thread’ and am curious about DeMille’s ‘Cleopatra’.
What’s your take on the week?