If you’re looking for any major blockbusters to hit Blu-ray this week, you may be disappointed. However, take a closer look and you might find some pretty interesting stuff, including an intriguing horror hit and one of the weirdest sci-fi movies ever made.
‘The Babadook‘ – From seemingly out of nowhere, this Australian horror flick about a mother and son terrorized by a monster from a bedtime story pop-up book generated huge waves of buzz for creating one of the most inventive horror monsters in ages. At the same time, I’ve heard a fair amount of criticism that the film’s writing doesn’t quite do justice to the concept. Even so, it sounds more interesting than whatever Found Footage crapola Hollywood insists of shoveling out in the name of cheap scare tactics.
‘Big Eyes‘ – Tim Burton just can’t catch a break anymore. Everybody complains about how tired and stale his formula has gotten – i.e. “re-imagine” famous pop culture property, put Johnny Depp in a silly costume, rake in cash. Yet whenever he steps out of his comfort zone and tries something different, nobody goes to see it. Here he’s made a bio-pic about Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), an artist who briefly created a pop culture sensation with paintings of children with giant creepy eyes, while her husband (Christoph Waltz) stole the credit for her work. The film got pretty good reviews, but wound up being the second lowest-grossing in the director’s career. In fact, the only Burton movie to do worse business than this one was ‘Ed Wood’, which is generally regarded as his best film. What kind of mixed message are we sending to this guy? Is it really any wonder that he’s retreating back to his old ways to remake ‘Dumbo’ next?
‘Maps to the Stars‘ – The films of David Cronenberg are famous for the director’s chilly intellectualism. Comedy has never seemed to be one of his strong suits. His decision to make a showbiz satire about an aging actress (Julianne Moore) desperate to hold onto her youth and destroy her competition is perplexing, to say the least. That the product would be met with scathing reviews is much less surprising. I’m kind of intrigued by it anyway. I find most of Cronenberg’s movies interesting on some level, even the ones that don’t work.
‘Goodbye to Language‘ – Once a powerhouse in the international art film scene, Jean-Luc Godard long since alienated most of his audience and critical support away. Although he has continued to steadily make film and video projects through the years, few have garnered much attention in recent decades. Now he’s back on the map with a new movie – in 3D, no less – that’s been widely acclaimed for breaking and rethinking all the rules for how film language (especially 3D film language) works. What passes for a story is said to be a typical Godardian mix of incomprehensible personal digressions and philosophical ramblings, but it’s still pretty impressive that an 84-year-old filmmaker could prove himself relevant again after everyone had written him off.
‘Kidnapping Mr. Heineken‘ – In 1983, a group of lunkheads kidnapped the chairman of the famous beer brand and held him for ransom, but had trouble getting the company to pay up on their demands. As they waited, the hostage manipulated his captors and actually helped get his own ransom paid. This true story sounds like a fun premise for a movie, but supposedly director Daniel Alfredson (of the Swedish ‘Dragon Tattoo’ sequels) doesn’t do much with it.
‘I Am Steve McQueen‘ – His name having lately been co-opted by the director of ’12 Years a Slave’, this documentary bio reclaims it for the original movie star and icon of cool. Although I’ve finally acquainted myself with a couple of his movies, most of McQueen’s career still remains a big blind-spot in my film viewing. I think I need to catch up on more of his movies before watching this.
‘The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death‘ – The 2012 ‘Woman in Black’ with Daniel Radcliffe was only modestly successful. I’m not sure why anyone wanted to make a sequel to it, much less a sequel for which none of the original cast or crew bothered to return. Even more confounding is how what should be a direct-to-video, in-name-only sequel got a theatrical release. Needless to say, it did not do well.
Love or hate the limited edition business model, Twilight Time has a strong batch of new titles this week from across the film spectrum. Choose from a mind-boggling WTF-fest (John Boorman’s notoriously wackadoodle sci-fi oddity ‘Zardoz‘), an emotionally repressed Merchant/Ivory period piece (‘The Remains of the Day‘), a genre-bending Shakespeare adaptation (‘Richard III‘), a 19th Century French ‘Fatal Attraction’ (Francois Truffaut’s ‘The Story of Adele H‘), and a couple of musicals (‘April Love‘ and ‘The Fantasticks‘).
Meanwhile, the Criterion Collection delivers Preston Sturges’ movie industry satire ‘Sullivan’s Travels‘ and Carol Reed’s Irish political thriller ‘Odd Man Out‘.
The Disney Movie Club offers exclusives on the 1960 ‘Swiss Family Robinson‘ and the misbegotten sequel ‘Return to Oz‘.
Shout! Factory takes a ride back to the ’80s with ‘Eddie and the Cruisers‘ (in a double-feature with its inferior sequel), while the Scream Factory label terrifies us with the ‘Class of 1984‘.
Troma goes sequel crazy with ‘The Toxic Avenger: Part II‘ and ‘Class of Nuke ‘Em High II‘.
(Note: Arrow Video had planned a U.S. release of Mario Bava’s giallo thriller ‘Blood and Black Lace’ for this week, but the disc has been postponed due to rights issues in this territory. However, the Blu-ray will still be released in the UK, and Arrow has confirmed that the UK disc is coded for both Regions A and B.)
Starz advertised the British kidnapping thriller ‘The Missing‘ as a “Limited Series,” but apparently it did well enough that a second season has already been confirmed. I didn’t catch any of it, but am told that it’s pretty good.
Lionsgate is now up to the fifth season of ‘Little House on the Prairie‘. Just four more to go.
I’m not a big anime fan, but a show about cute assassin chicks skulking through Paris having gun battles with bad guys was enough to catch my attention when ‘Noir‘ hit DVD some years back. The first episode was super-cool, but subsequent episodes grew very repetitive and I never finished the series. I kind of wished I had, however. Now it’s hitting Blu-ray and I might give it another shot. I’d like confirmation that this is a true high-definition remaster rather than upconverted from standard definition, though.
To buy: I am unreasonably excited about ‘Zardoz’. I also adore ‘The Remains of the Day’. Criterion’s release of ‘Sullivan’s Travels’ is another must-own this week.
To rent: ‘The Babadook’, ‘Big Eyes’, ‘Goodbye to Language’, ‘Maps to the Stars’.
Wish list: ‘Richard III’, ‘The Story of Adele H’, ‘Odd Man Out’, ‘Noir’.
What are your plans?