I wish I could say that this week brings some improvement for Blu-ray fans. That sure would be nice, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, the latest batch of new discs once again offers slim pickings.
‘Labor Day‘ – Who would release a movie called ‘Labor Day’ to theaters at the end of January, and then on video just after Easter? A studio that took a hard look at what it had created and realized that the film didn’t merit a release in the prime fall season, that’s who. As such, it got pushed back to the January dumping ground. Despite some talent both in front of and behind the cameras – including Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin and director Jason Reitman – the movie was savaged by critics and bombed at the box office. The trailers make the story about an escaped convict with a heart of gold who teaches a young boy how to play baseball and makes sweet, sweet love to his stick-up-her-ass mother (the boy’s mother, not the convict’s) look like the most ridiculous thing ever. What were all these otherwise intelligent people thinking? Apparently, this is based on a novel of some acclaim by Joyce Maynard. Something must have gone terribly wrong on the road to the screen.
‘The Legend of Hercules‘ – The first of two movies this year about the mythical Greek strongman looks like a very cheapjack production rushed to completion in order to beat Brett Ratner’s upcoming ‘Hercules’ to theaters. This one was directed by former A-Lister, current D-Lister Renny Harlin. ‘Twilight’ hunk Kellan Lutz has about as much charisma and acting range as a cement brick, but I’ll cut him some slack for being game enough to play a parody version of himself as Lutz’s dimwit nephew on ’30 Rock’. There’s still no chance I’ll watch his stupid movie, though. Lionsgate has elected to only release the Blu-ray as a 2D/3D combo disc, with no separate 2D-only edition.
‘Devil’s Due‘ – Cheapie found-footage horror flick about a woman who realizes that she’s pregnant with an evil baby. How can she tell? Because it kicks her and makes her puke a lot? That’s how it works for everyone, sweetie.
‘Gimme Shelter‘ – No, it’s not a remake of the famous Rolling Stones concert doc. Former Disney Channel princess Vanessa Hudgens strives for acting cred in a faux “gritty” indie drama about a homeless teen. Do you get it? She literally wants someone to give her shelter. So clever!
‘Escape from Tomorrow‘ – Points for audacity, first-time filmmaker Randy Moore shot this hallucinatory freak-out on the sly at Disney World without authorization. The film was declared unreleasable when it played at Sundance, consequently creating a huge buzz as people at the festival rushed to their presumed only opportunity to ever see it before Moore got his ass sued six ways from Sunday for countless violations of copyright infringement. Despite its notoriety, Disney’s attorneys ultimately decided that their best course of action would be to just ignore the movie – realizing that the tale of a skeevy middle-aged pedophile who stalks a pair of 13-year-old girls through the theme park would reflect worse on its creator than on the setting. Aaron saw this during its Sundance run and decided that the story behind how the movie got made was far more interesting than the film itself. That seems to be the consensus opinion.
For artistic merit, Alan Pakula’s emotionally wrenching drama ‘Sophie’s Choice‘ is easily the most worthy title to see release this week, but it’s such a draining, difficult movie to watch that I’m not sure how much ownership appeal it has. This may be one of those films, like ‘Schindler’s List’, that you buy to have, but that winds up sitting on a shelf unwatched for a while.
Oscar-winners Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett headline the very entertaining, blackly comic melodrama ‘Notes on a Scandal‘, but the real star of the show is the gloriously histrionic musical score by Philip Glass, which is as much as character in the movie as anything the actresses play. The film kind of disappeared during its theatrical release in 2006, but I consider it very underrated.
The Criterion Collection adds just one title to its catalog this week, the 1962 Italian road comedy ‘Il Sorpasso‘, the existence of which has somehow eluded me until writing this article, despite having taken some Italian cinema courses in college. Could it really be the “holy grail of Italian comedy,” as Criterion claims?
If you’re hankerin’ for more kaiju action in the lead-up to this summer’s big ‘Godzilla’ reboot, Mill Creek offers a couple collections of classic ‘Gamera‘ movies. As with most anything sold by the bargain distributor, you should expect them to all be presented in borderline unwatchable quality.
Trailers for the live action adaptation of the kitschy 1970s sci-fi anime series ‘Space Battleship Yamato‘ (a.k.a. ‘Star Blazers’) have made the rounds on the internet since the film’s Japanese release in 2010, but no American distributor bothered to officially bring it to these shores until now. That probably doesn’t bode well.
CBS and Paramount finally wrap up the Blu-ray run of the short-lived ‘Star Trek: Enterprise‘ with both a Season 4 box set and a Complete Series compilation. I have a feeling that the price of the latter will come down to reasonable levels over time. I can’t say that I was ever a fan of the show, but I won’t pretend to have given it much of a chance. I gave up after a few episodes in the first season. I’m told that the show got better, but that horrid theme song stuck around to the end.
Of the above, I have some interest in ‘Notes on a Scandal’ and ‘Sophie’s Choice’, but neither one demands immediate ownership. I think I’ll sit this week out. How about you?