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.
‘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.
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.
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‘.
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?