What’s a fella gotta do to win an Oscar? That’s the question Leo DiCaprio asks in this week’s biggest new Blu-ray title. The answer ain’t pretty, but it worked for him. Also available this week… honestly, not a whole lot.
‘The Revenant‘ – Alejandro Iñárritu joins the rarified ranks of filmmakers who have won back-to-back Best Director Oscars. Whether he actually deserved either trophy is a matter of much debate. Leonardo DiCaprio also finally took home an acting Oscar for his part grunting, screaming, and letting himself get mauled by a digital bear in a series of 15-minute-long unbroken takes. A number of critics I generally trust complained that the 2.5-hour torture porn Western felt more like an endurance test than a story worth watching, but Iñárritu’s bravura showmanship ultimately won over the Academy. Almost right up until the final award was announced, the movie was the front-runner to claim the Best Picture prize as well. (In a surprise upset, it lost to ‘Spotlight’.) In addition to the standard Blu-ray, Fox also offers the film in 4k Ultra HD, but has neglected to include the movie’s Dolby Atmos soundtrack on either disc.
‘The Lady in the Van‘ – Director Nicholas Hytner and playwright/screenwriter Alan Bennett once upon a time had an art house hit with ‘The Madness of King George’, but failed to replicate that success with ‘The History Boys’. Their latest teaming is an autobiographical tale of Bennett’s own encounters with a feisty homeless woman (played by Maggie Smith). The plot description sounds a bit twee, like far too many formulaic British tear-jerkers. However, Bennett is a pretty smart writer and I’d like to give him enough credit to hope that he can find a way around the usual clichés of the genre.
‘Fifty Shades of Black‘ – Marlon Wayans spoofs ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ by essentially just remaking the movie, but with black people in the leads. Is this a clever commentary about how laughable the ‘Fifty Shades’ material was in the first place that it doesn’t need much exaggeration, or is it just another lazy parody from a comedian who puts the least amount of effort possible into his work? From the word-of-mouth, it appears to be the latter.
‘Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon‘ – In the vein of the countless puff piece documentaries about the history of ‘Saturday Night Live’ (see: ‘Live from New York!‘) comes a new doc that does the same thing for the National Lampoon – superficially celebrating the institution’s heyday while glossing over its later downturn and dissolution. If this isn’t already on Netflix streaming, expect to find it there soon enough.
‘Ip Man 3‘ – Donnie Yen returns to cap off the trilogy of martial arts epics about the kung-fu master who trained Bruce Lee. How much of this series is based on fact and how much on myth, I’m not qualified to say. In addition to the latest chapter, studio Well Go USA will bundle all three movies in a trilogy SteelBook exclusive to Best Buy.
‘Norm of the North‘ – The fact that Rob Schneider was the best talent the studio could convince to voice the lead in this animated comedy probably offers a hint about the lameness of the final product. From all accounts, it’s one of the worst animated features of the current millennium.
Whit Stillman’s alleged comedy ‘Barcelona‘ was one of the worst dates I ever had with the future Mrs. Z. We both found the movie insufferably pretentious and dull. Its 100 minutes felt like 100 hours. One of our biggest problems with it is that the characters were written so indistinguishably from one another that we couldn’t tell them apart or follow the plot. However, a number of the cast members (Mira Sorvino, Thomas Gibson, Chris Eigeman) have since gone on to have successful acting careers. Part of me wonders if I’d enjoy the movie more with a second viewing now, simply by virtue of recognizing the actors. I’m not sure I want to attempt it. Someone at Criterion is clearly a Stillman fan, though. In addition to a standalone copy of ‘Barcelona’, the label has also bundled it into a ‘Whit Stillman Trilogy‘ box set with copies of the previously-released Criterion discs for ‘Metropolitan’ and ‘The Last Days of Disco’.
Described as a “feminist fairy tale,” the Dutch multi-generational dramedy ‘Antonia’s Line‘ won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1996, but has largely been forgotten in the meantime. The label Film Movement hopes that someone will remember it now.
From Kino, actor Ray Milland directs himself in the nuclear apocalypse drama ‘Panic in Year Zero!‘, while Michael Caine stars in John Frankenheimer’s adaptation of the pulpy Robert Ludlum thriller ‘The Holcroft Covenant‘.
In cult horror news, Arrow Video dishes out Larry Cohen’s gross-out comedy ‘The Stuff‘, while Scream Factory revs up a Collector’s Edition of Tobe Hooper’s ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2‘.
I stuck with Syfy’s ‘Haven‘ all the way through to its disappointing end. Although I’m glad that the show attempted to provide genuine closure and didn’t leave off on a cheap cliffhanger, the final season was pretty dull and nonsensical, which is a big disappointment for a series that used to be a lot of fun in its early years.
‘Little House on the Prairie‘ fans will be relieved that Lionsgate has followed through with releasing the entire series on Blu-ray, despite threatening to quit a couple seasons short.
Also available are the second season and fourth season respectively of the HBO comedies ‘Silicon Valley‘ and ‘Veep‘.
I suppose I’ll have to rent ‘The Revenant’ eventually to see what the fuss is about, though I’m not particularly a fan of any of Alejandro Iñárritu’s other movies and am not in a great hurry to see this one. Beyond that, I think I’ll just save my money this week. You?