Welcome back, everybody! As we return from the long holiday weekend, I wish I had more exciting news to bring you about the first new Blu-ray releases of December. Unfortunately, this is an especially slow week.
‘Amy‘ – Sad as it may be to say, I doubt that anyone was too surprised when the news first broke in 2011 that Amy Winehouse had died of a drug overdose. Like other immensely talented but self-destructive personalities before her – from John Belushi to Kurt Cobain – the singer’s life trajectory seemed to be plotted out in advance for everyone to see but no one to stop. Now that a few years have passed, her tragically short life is profiled in a documentary comprised of tons of candid footage from both on-stage and off.
‘Mistress America‘ – With two features in theaters this year (the other being ‘While We’re Young’), this is a surprisingly fertile time in director Noah Baumbach’s career. He also has a documentary about Brian De Palma currently touring film festivals. This particular effort also marks his second screen pairing (after ‘Frances Ha’) with his real-life love interest and muse Greta Gerwig. Here, she plays a flighty New York social butterfly who makes a terrible role model for her younger soon-to-be sister-in-law. Reviews were mostly positive, though many described the movie as slight.
‘Goodnight Mommy‘ – After their mother returns home following face-changing plastic surgery, her young twin boys find themselves questioning whether she’s really the person she claims to be. The Austrian horror thriller is said to be very unnerving for most of its run time until ultimately dropping the ball in the final act. Don’t most horror movies do that anyway, though?
‘Mississippi Grind‘ – Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, the filmmaking team behind ‘Half Nelson’ and ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’, deliver their latest low-key character study. Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn play a pair of degenerate gamblers trying to dig themselves out of the holes they’ve dug. Movies about gambling are often a tough sell for audiences, and this one fizzled in general release despite some positive buzz on the festival circuit.
‘90 Minutes in Heaven‘ – How sad for once promising indie filmmaker Michael Polish (‘Twin Falls Idaho’, ‘Northfork’) to be reduced to churning out a piece of “faith-based” pap starring Hayden Christensen. While I’m fairly confident that this is probably a subtler and better movie than last year’s extremely similar ‘Heaven Is for Real’, the target audience didn’t warm up to it as much as that one and general viewers wouldn’t touch either with a ten-foot holy cross.
‘Yakuza Apocalypse‘ – Japanese madman Takashi Miike serves up his latest slice of cinematic insanity. This one’s about a war between rival clans of vampire yakuza gangsters. Anyone who knows Miike will understand that things really spiral out of control from there.
Criterion’s sole release this week is director Michael Ritchie’s feature film debut, the 1969 competitive skiing drama ‘Downhill Racer‘ starring Robert Redford. (Ritchie and Redford would later re-team for the deeply cynical political satire ‘The Candidate’.)
Is it really possible that Ben Stiller’s dopey male-model comedy ‘Zoolander‘ is getting a sequel next year, or did I hallucinate that? It must be real, because what else would explain why Warner is reissuing the original in a new “Blue SteelBook” edition (har har) exclusive to Walmart?
Do you think it was intentional that Warner chose to release the two sequels to ‘The Naked Gun‘ just a couple months in advance of FX’s upcoming ‘American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson’ TV series? How perverse. Neither of the ‘Naked Gun’ sequels is nearly as funny as the original, but they each have their moments.
Finally from Warner is a 25th Anniversary reissue of ‘Christmas Vacation‘ which appears to include a brand new video remaster. That’s much needed, because the old Blu-ray from 2006 was a pretty poor-looking affair.
It’s pirates vs. zombies in TV land, as Starz bundles together the first two seasons of ‘Black Sails‘ while also reissuing the fifth season of ‘The Walking Dead‘ in a new Limited Edition and debuting the first season of that show’s disappointing spin-off ‘Fear the Walking Dead‘.
I can hardly believe that the astoundingly idiotic ‘Zoo‘ actually aired on network TV. It’s a new low even for the network that broadcasts ‘Scorpion’ and ‘Under the Dome’, and is so bad it’s not even worth hate-watching. Who would buy this crap on Blu-ray?
Not a lot here is calling to me. I’ll put the remaster of ‘Christmas Vacation’ on my wish list, but beyond that, I’m sitting this week out.
Are you more excited for anything this week than I am?