It’s another overstuffed week for new Blu-ray releases, as the Hollywood studios dump a bunch of titles on the market before the holidays. This batch has psychotic clowns, peculiar children, bad robots, gladiators and more.
New Releases (Blu-ray)
‘Suicide Squad‘ – After the disappointment of ‘Batman v. Superman’, Warner Bros. and DC pinned a lot of hopes on their all-star supervillain team-up featuring Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Jared Leto as The Joker, and Will Smith as… some character only comic book nerds have ever heard of. The trailers got fans amped up enough to set a record-breaking opening weekend for August. Unfortunately, most came away grumbling that the film was narratively incoherent and excessively dour. Subsequent weekends plummeted in attendance. The Blu-ray contains a new extended cut that, if we’re very lucky, may hopefully improve the movie as much as the extended ‘BvS’ did. Also available are 3D, UHD, and some retailer exclusive packages including a UHD SteelBook at Best Buy.
‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children‘ – Assembled and packaged to launch the next powerhouse Young Adult franchise, Tim Burton’s latest film looks suitably Tim Burton-y on every superficial level, but also feels unmistakably like an impersonal work-for-hire project. The kids in the target audience weren’t impressed. The movie fizzled at the box office and I doubt any sequels will be forthcoming.
‘Ben-Hur‘ – Need a tax write-off and want to throw $100 million in the trash real quick? Try hiring the director of ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ to remake one of the all-time esteemed cinema classics as a dunder-headed action flick with a lot of crappy CGI and no stars of note. Yes yes, you can chide me that the 1959 movie was already a remake itself. Nonetheless, it remains the definitive cinematic adaptation. On the other hand, one advantage the new one has it that it’s literally half the length.
‘Bridget Jones’s Baby‘ – Is ‘Bridget Jones’ really a franchise anyone was pining for another entry in, twelve years since the last one? Judging by the trailers, Renée Zellweger has forgotten how to do a decent British accent in the meantime.
‘Florence Foster Jenkins‘ – As if ‘Mamma Mia!’ and ‘Into the Woods’ didn’t already convince us that Meryl Streep shouldn’t sing on film, the actress really goes for broke this time starring in a bio-pic about a woman who was renowned as the worst professional singer in the world. The period piece comedy looks like a bit of Oscar bait fluff designed to score Streep yet another acting nomination, but critics were fairly supportive and I’m inclined to give director Stephen Frears the benefit of the doubt. I’m sure that this is a pleasantly entertaining trifle, and I will no doubt sit to watch it when it turns up on cable.
‘Morgan‘ – Weren’t you impressed with Alicia Vikander’s star-making performance in ‘Ex Machina’ as an android that may or may not have achieved sentience? Ana-Taylor Joy from ‘The Witch’ tries to do the same thing here in a movie that looks like an assembly line knockoff of that one. Ridley Scott’s son, Luke Scott, makes his directorial debut. No one was convinced.
‘Equity‘ – Anna Gunn from ‘Breaking Bad’ plays an investment banker untangling a web of corruption in a financial thriller that desperately wants to be ‘Wall Street’ with a gender swap. This came and went in a blink. In his theatrical review, Phil said that the movie could have used another script draft or two.
‘Southside with You‘ – A.k.a. ‘When Barack Met Michelle’. This isn’t the first movie to be made about a sitting U.S. President and released before he left office, but I’m sure it’s a lot more flattering than ‘W.’ or ‘Primary Colors’ were. Less a political exposé than a gentle rom-com in which young Mr. Obama meets and woos his future wife, it’s basically ‘Before Sunrise’, but with the foregone conclusion that the two young lovers will stay together and go on to become the most powerful people in the world. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about this, but it’s safe to say that the movies that will be made about our next President will be very different indeed.
As the two biggest releases of the week, ‘Suicide Squad‘ and ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children‘ also get 4k editions. So does ‘Morgan‘, because why not? (As mentioned, Best Buy has a SteelBook version of the ‘Suicide Squad’ UHD.)
I’m all-in whenever the Criterion Collection releases another Fellini movie. ‘Roma‘ is perhaps not one of the director’s greats, but the surrealistic love letter to his favorite city contains some truly classic Fellini sequences, including the hilarious Ecclesiastical fashion show.
Also new to Criterion this week is John Huston’s noir heist thriller ‘The Asphalt Jungle‘, starring Sterling Hayden. (For a moment, I misread the title and thought Criterion was releasing ‘Blackboard Jungle’, which is not the same thing at all.)
The people who run Twilight Time continue their quest to release every Woody Allen film they can get their hands on. Their latest acquisition is his 1980 ‘Stardust Memories‘. The same holds true for Ray Harryhausen with ‘The 3 Worlds of Gulliver‘. The label’s recent obsession with train movies also continues with the 1975 Japanese thriller ‘The Bullet Train‘ (which provided the plot template for the later American hit ‘Speed’). Other new limited editions feature Gregory Peck in the 1944 religious drama ‘The Keys of the Kingdom‘, Humphrey Bogart and Ava Gardner in the 1954 show biz mystery ‘The Barefoot Contessa‘, and Charlie Hunnam and Anne Hathaway in the 2002 adaptation of Dickens’ ‘Nicholas Nickleby‘.
The manufactured-on-demand Sony Choice Collection brings us the 1994 adaptation of ‘Little Women‘ with Winona Ryder and Claire Danes, the 2000 ballet school drama ‘Center Stage‘, and Adam Sandler’s animated ‘Eight Crazy Nights‘.
Kino gets a little naughty with the infamous 3D softcore sex comedy ‘The Stewardesses‘. The movie has an interesting history, in that it was originally released in 1969 as an X-rated skin flick with minimal plot and lots of sex and nudity. When that proved successful in limited release, the producers shot and added new scenes to give it some semblance of a plot, while removing some of the sex footage in order to make a mainstream-friendly, R-rated version that became a big box office hit in 1971. The Blu-ray claims to contain “the full, uncut film in the original 3D color and black-and-white restored editions as well as a color 2D version.” Reading that just leaves me more confused about which version(s) of the movie are on the disc.
If you’re in the mood for horror, Scream Factory has new Collector’s Edition reissues of the 1974 slasher ‘Black Christmas‘ and the cheesetastic 1984 ‘Dreamscape‘. (The latter is perhaps only arguably a horror film, but it has some horror elements.) Arrow Video does its own reissue of ‘Creepshow 2‘, as well as bringing out Abel Ferrara’s notorious ‘The Driller Killer‘. Vinegar Syndrome offers a holiday slay ride with the 1997 evil snowman flick ‘Jack Frost‘ (not to be confused with the 1998 Michael Keaton family comedy of the same name).
‘Star Trek: The Original Series – The Roddenberry Vault‘ compiles 12 episodes that fans probably already own. However, the real centerpieces of the collection are the documentaries and other bonus features that showcase newly unearthed deleted scenes, alternate takes, and behind-the-scenes footage from the series. Just when you think you’ve seen everything there is to see about ‘Star Trek’, something like this comes along to prove you wrong.
I watched the first episode of the BBC’s new adaptation of Douglas Adams’ ‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency‘ and honestly had no idea what to make of it. I’m not sure if I was intrigued by it or hated it. A little of both, I think. I haven’t brought myself to watch the following episodes yet. The first season is now available on disc.
Also hitting Blu-ray this week are the aggravating second season of ‘Fear the Walking Dead‘ (most likely my last as a viewer), and complete runs of ‘The Legend of Korra‘ and the classic ‘The Twilight Zone‘.
I typically collect all the big superhero movies, especially when they come in SteelBooks, but I’m not feeling very motivated to buy ‘Suicide Squad’. I will admit that Margot Robbie looks like she’s having fun in it, though.
I just received a copy of the ‘Roddenberry Vault’ collection and will work on a review as soon as I’m able.
‘Roma’ is a must-buy for me. I’ll also put ‘The Asphalt Jungle’ and ‘Stardust Memories’ on my wish list.
‘Dreamscape’ is a guilty pleasure, but even though the old Blu-ray I own was pretty crappy, it’s just not worth double-dipping to me.
Will you have any money left to spend on yourself after all your holiday shopping this year?