Blu-ray Highlights: Week of August 9th, 2015 – Running Cold

It’s another week in which the Blu-ray release slate is dominated by new movies of questionable merit. If you’re looking for something to buy, perhaps keep your eyes on catalog titles from the likes of Criterion or Twilight Time. Those generally have something interesting to offer.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (8/11/15)?

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New Releases

Hot Pursuit‘ – Female-centric comedies have had a huge explosion ever since the success of ‘Bridesmaids’, but Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara really misjudged that trend with this tone-deaf buddy comedy/road trip adventure. At one time, the movie was supposed to be called ‘Don’t Mess with Texas’, but it was later generically renamed (to the same title as an unrelated 1987 John Cusack flick) in order to make a pun about Vergara (and allegedly Witherspoon) being “hot.” Do you get it? I know it’s real subtle. Ugh. A box office bomb with an 8% rating on Rotten Tomatoes… yeah, this looks horrible.

Unfriended‘ – The gimmick of staging an entire horror movie through a series of social media windows on a computer screen might have seemed really clever and novel if an episode of ‘Modern Family’ hadn’t just done the same thing a couple months earlier. (Technically, so did an Elijah Wood movie that nobody saw.) Reviews were mostly mixed, but Phil liked it.

Spring‘ – Hey, you got your romantic drama in my monster movie! You got your monster movie in my romantic drama! What will we do now? A young American goes on a tour of Europe, where he meets and falls in love with a local girl who may happen to turn into a horrible murderous demon from time to time. So, it’s ‘Before Sunrise’ meets ‘The Howling’. Most reviewers were very enthusiastic for the film, except Phil, who didn’t care for the genre mashup.

Preggoland‘ – A flaky thirtysomething fakes being pregnant in order to generate sympathy and gain attention for herself. My guess is that writer/star Sonja Bennett was a big fan of the first season of ‘Glee’, which had a major storyline about that same scenario. The premise is inherently flawed, in that it requires the character to be a total idiot if she really expects to pull off the ruse without anyone questioning why she never gets a baby in the end. At least the character on ‘Glee’ was supposed to be a hateful shrew that viewers wanted to see get a comeuppance. I’m just not sure I could buy a heroine we’re supposed to sympathize with doing this.

Police Story: Lockdown‘ – Also known as ‘Police Story 2013’, which should tell you how long American distributor Well Go USA has been sitting on it. Despite the title, Jackie Chan plays a different character and this has no direct connection to his ‘Police Story’ series of films from the 1980s and ’90s (nor the also-unrelated 2004 ‘New Police Story’). At 60-years-old, Chan is no longer able to do the crazy stunts and fights that he was once famous for, and tries to compensate for that with overly dark and gritty dramatics (which were never his strength) and no hint of the zany fun of his older movies. Skimming through the user reviews at IMDb, I see a lot of complaints about poorly choreographed and edited fight scenes, which just makes me sad. The movie was released in China with 3D, which has not been ported to these shores. Imagine how awesome a Jackie Chan movie shot in real 3D could have been during his prime.

I Am Chris Farley‘ – Documentary biography about the tragic life of the comedian and ‘SNL’ star. I’m not sure how revelatory or insightful this could really be. Farley’s downward spiral and inevitable fate were painfully obvious to everyone watching his self-destruction at the time. Still, if you’re a fan and want to be reminded of what we lost, I’m sure this will fit that bill. Incidentally, if you haven’t heard the voice tests Farley did when he was supposed to play the lead in ‘Shrek’, check that out here.

Catalog Titles

Meryl Streep nabbed the third of her 19 (and counting) Oscar nominations for ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman‘, in which she and Jeremy Irons act out parallel narratives about Victorian-era star-crossed lovers, as well as the actors playing those roles in a modern day (for 1981) period piece movie. (Streep has won three of those nominations, though not this one.) Based on a novel by John Fowles, the film version was scripted by renowned playwright Harold Pinter. One can hope that Criterion’s Blu-ray does justice to the photography by the incomparable Freddie Francis, who really knew how to shoot a movie like nobody else.

Twilight Time scored a pretty major title from Sony with the classic Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn/Sidney Poitier race relations comedy ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner‘. The movie won Hepburn her second of four Oscars, none of which she accepted in person at the telecast.

Twilight Time’s other limited releases in this batch include the Woody Allen farce ‘A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy‘, Randal Kleiser’s corny threesome romance ‘Summer Lovers‘ (no connection to Kleiser’s ‘Grease’, despite borrowing the song title), Samuel Fuller’s gangster noir ‘House of Bamboo‘, and ‘The Twilight Samurai’ director Yoji Yamada’s period domestic drama ‘The Little House‘.

Horror hounds will take note of Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition reissue of Wes Craven’s ‘The People under the Stairs‘, the Unrated cut of James Wan’s evil-puppet chiller ‘Dead Silence‘, and a standalone copy of ‘Halloween III: Season of the Witch‘ now broken out from the big franchise box set.

Lewis Milestone’s classic newspaper comedy ‘The Front Page‘ was a Best Picture nominee for 1931. I feel like this is a significant enough title that it deserves better than being foisted off on Kino, which will no doubt recycle a crummy old video master. Based on a popular stage play, the story was remade in 1940 by Howard Hawks as ‘His Girl Friday’, in 1974 by Billy Wilder under the original title, and in 1988 with a TV news spin for the Burt Reynolds vehicle ‘Switching Channels’.

Despite the notoriety of ‘Heaven’s Gate’ as well as subsequent box office failures ‘Year of the Dragon’, ‘The Sicilian’ and ‘Desperate Hours’, Michael Cimino somehow convinced producers to give him one final shot with the 1996 kidnapping drama ‘The Sunchaser‘, which was also negatively received and eventually went direct-to-video. The director hasn’t died yet, but his career sure has and he is very unlikely to ever make another movie.

Television

TV releases this week include the first season of Steven Soderbergh’s period medical drama ‘The Knick‘, the first (and only) season of USA’s lame conspiracy thriller ‘Dig‘, the fourth seasons each of ‘Hell on Wheels‘ and ‘Person of Interest‘, and the widely-reviled religious miniseries ‘The Dovekeepers‘.

My $.02

I don’t see anything I need to run out and buy right away this week, but I’ll add ‘House of Bamboo’, ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’, ‘The Front Page’ and ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ to my wish list. What are your feelings this week?

32 comments

  1. William Henley

    Hell On Wheels season 4 is out on Blu-Ray? I need to get caught up – I watched the first two episodes when they aired, thought it looked like an interesting series, and said I would watch a few more episodes on a beinge weekend. Apparently that was longer ago than I thought.

      • William Henley

        This makes me wonder if they were full seasons. I guess I could go to TheTVDB and look it up, but I swear it has only been like 2 years since the show started

        Well just looked it up – seasons 1-3 are 10 episodes each, season 4 was 13 episodes.

        However, the show first aired in November of 2011. That’s weird, that meant that it aired BEFORE I moved, and before I started my current job. Strange, I thought it started in the fall of 2013.

  2. I’ve heard for years about Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and eventually would like to see it, but I don’t want to risk blind buying it in case i don’t care for it that much. I should look for it on Turner classics or something. I already own Dead Silence on dvd and would like to upgrade to blu, but it doesn’t have to be this week. I saw People Under the Stairs like 20 years ago and liked it, but it can wait for a sale. I already spent a bunch of money playing catch up on Kino Lorber titles that are on sale this month, so I think it’s best that I don’t get anything else this week. I also want to rent Unfriended when available.

  3. Lord Bowler

    I’ll be picking up the following:
    ‘Hellfighters’ (Huge fan of John Wayne, so this is a must buy)
    ‘War-Gods of the Deep’ (Kino) (Big fan of this film and Vincent Price).

    As for TV, I’m buying up the following:
    ‘Person of Interest: The Complete Fourth Season’
    ‘Hell on Wheels: The Complete Fourth Season’

    I’m currently watching ‘Dig: Season One’, so we’ll see if it’s worth buying.

    I’ll be renting or watching the following first:
    ‘The Dovekeepers’ (Stars Cote de Pablo from NCIS)
    ‘I Am Chris Farley’
    ‘Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell’ (BBC)

  4. C.C.

    Can I take back my vote for HOT PURSUIT? I thought it was the JOHN CUSACK 1980’s version!!
    MIDSUMMER NIGHT’s SEX COMEDY for me, just for the stunning Gordon Willis Cinematography!

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      Not only is your vote locked in, you are now required to follow through and purchase the disc. This is what you get for voting before reading the whole post. 🙂

  5. Timcharger

    Josh: “Incidentally, if you haven’t heard the voice tests Farley did when he was supposed to play the lead in ‘Shrek’, check that out here.”

    Thanks. That was cool. Assuming Shrek would still be the huge success
    that it was, 4 more sequels (not all were great, but) would have really
    changed the life of Farley. A zig here, a zag there. What could have been?

    • 3 more sequels 😉

      Can we really call them voice ‘tests’. He had recorded pretty much all of his official, definitive dialogue prior to passing away.

  6. Timcharger

    “Imagine how awesome a Jackie Chan movie shot in real 3D could have been during his prime.”

    Ladders, bar stools, folding chairs, staircases, suit jackets,
    twirling belts, kitchen utensils… used in comic action 3D.
    Wow.

    Jackie should stop being the lead actor, and be the
    choreographer that will mentor the next Charlie Chaplin
    of Kung Fu.

    Some want to be the only one of a kind. But if Chan
    understands that he can foster a legacy, he’ll be the
    godfather of a genre.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      Chan pretty much did that in the 1980s when he formed the Jackie Chan Stunt Team. Unfortunately, it disbanded in 1990. He also helped foster the careers of Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, who went on to become really big stars as well.

  7. Timcharger

    Cropping that pic there, is worth 10X more views?
    Not that I’m complaining Josh. I would have read
    your write-up anyway, but I see what you did.

    • William Henley

      I moused over after reading these comments. Wow, there should have been a warning that said “Might not be appropriate for work”

        • William Henley

          Whether it is workplace appropriate or not really depends more on who may walk past your desk and take offense to it. This has a lot to do with the enviornment and geographic region you are in.

          • Timcharger

            Julian, you Europeans must just shake your heads and
            roll your eyes at us silly, prude, uptight Americans, no?

            You are partly to blame for this. While it’s been hundreds
            of years, you did say good riddance to your prude,
            religious zealots and sent them over to the New World.
            Clearly that legacy persists.

            You’re at fault, Julian.
            🙂

          • Frankie

            I used to subscribe to Modern Drummer magazine for over a decade. There was a guy who wrote a letter to complain about the shirtless drummer on the cover and how offensive that was. Between the letters like that and the constant coverage of the same old ten bands and drummers I ended up canceling my subscription. Thin skin everywhere.

          • Josh Zyber
            Author

            I’m not sure what the issue is. It’s not like I put a topless photo at the top of the post. That is an official promotional image released by the studio’s PR department.

          • I didn’t think anything of it, but the way they were going on about it, I’d thought they were bottomless wearing strap-ons or something.

          • William Henley

            I am in a very conservative geographic region. The cleavage / low neckline / lack of bra could possibly be found very offensive to some of my co-workers.

            I am making a bigger deal out of it than i should, mainly because I have co-workers who would.

            It doesn’t bother me at all.

          • William Henley

            BTW, it is probably men who would complain more than women, for “insighting lustful desires”.

          • Reminds me of Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ cover art. Execs wanted to blur out or effectively remove the baby’s penis, and Kurt Cobain objected. He did say that the only acceptable alternative would be a sticker over the boy’s private parts with the words “If you’re offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile.” Hilarious. Geffen Records duly went with the untouched photograph.

          • William Henley

            That would have been an easy fix – they could have used a baby girl. 🙂 No penis to blur!

      • timcharger

        “Not that I’m complaining,” me too.
        I was commending Josh on that
        excellent cropping work.
        Cropped any higher, we wouldn’t
        be able to tell that’s a general store
        the girls are in.
        (Trust me guys, that’s the background.)
        I wasn’t saying it’s nsfw.

  8. Bolo

    I do wish Jackie Chan had known when to quit. I couldn’t even finish ‘CZ12’ and the trailers for ‘Police Story: Lockdown’ just looked too grim and boring for me to give it a chance when it played theatrically.

    I have never seen ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’, so I’ll give that a rent at some point.

    And I remember ‘Boys on the Side’ being a decent chick flick and want to revisit it and see how it holds up.

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