Blu-ray Highlights: Week of December 25th, 2016 – Cradle and All

We’ve survived another hectic Christmas. As we find ourselves stuck in the week between holidays, the scant few new Blu-rays being released are mostly movies you either forgot about or never noticed at all.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (12/27/16)?

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New Releases

Snowden‘ – Oliver Stone just can’t seem to catch a break. His latest box office disappointment is another bio of a controversial political figure. This time, he appears to have fully bought into the myth of Edward Snowden as a heroic whistleblower, rather than a treasonous opportunist. I’m a fan of Stone’s work and will defend even some of his most polarizing movies, but very little about this one appeals to me, least of all the weird nasally accent Joseph Gordon-Levitt has affected even though it doesn’t particularly sound like the real Snowden. Maybe the movie is better than it looks, but critics were divided on the picture and audiences stayed away.

When the Bough Breaks‘ – Morris Chestnut and Regina Hall play a married couple who hire a surrogate to carry a child for them, only for the young woman (Jaz Sinclair) to develop a dangerous obsession with the husband. It’s sort of a cross between ‘Fatal Attraction’ and ‘The Hand That Rocks the Cradle’, watered down to PG-13 levels so that the “erotic” portion of the erotic thriller formula never has a chance to kick in.

American Honey‘ – ‘Fish Tank‘ writer/director Andrea Arnold delivers a nearly three-hour character study of a wayward teen girl who runs wild with a traveling crew of magazine sales scam artists led by Shia LaBeouf. The film has been praised for its performances (yes, even LaBeouf) and observant attention to characters on the fringes of society. However, a common complaint is that the story meanders badly and would play a lot better if trimmed of an hour off the running time.

In a Valley of Violence‘ – Normally known as a horror filmmaker, Ti West (‘The House of the Devil’, ‘The Innkeepers’) tries his hand at a Spaghetti Western homage. Ethan Hawke stars as a mystery man who seeks revenge after his dog is murdered. (Wait, isn’t that the plot of ‘John Wick’?) John Travolta is the town marshal whose son is the main target of that revenge. Both reviews and viewer word-of-mouth were heavily mixed.

The Dressmaker‘ – A different sort of Western homage finds Kate Winslet returning to a rural Australian town to exact revenge on the locals who did her wrong many years earlier by… introducing them to haute couture fashion? I can only hope this makes more sense on the screen than the plot summary reads.

Dog Eat Dog‘ – In his latest direct-to-video flop, Nicolas Cage stars with Willem Dafoe as a couple of numbskull criminals who get wrapped up in a baby-napping plot that goes terribly wrong. Once-respected filmmaker Paul Schrader’s career has been in the toilet almost as badly as Cage’s for a while now, so I suppose it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see them hitching their wagons and going down together. (This is already their second DTV collaboration.)

Catalog Titles

How has the dopey ‘Underworld‘ franchise possibly lasted sixfive movies? In preparation for the latest sequel that will hit theater screens in January, Sony has reissued the four previous entries. Oddly, only the first movie has been remastered for an Ultra HD 4k edition, while only the third (the one without Kate Beckinsale) gets one of those hideous Pop Art SteelBooks at Best Buy.

My $.02

I’ll probably give ‘Snowden’ a chance when it hits HBO, but I don’t plan to spend any money this week. Do you?


  1. You glossed over ‘A Man Called Ove’ which has been getting extremely warm reviews, and has a good shot at the Best Foreign Language Oscar (it’s currently on the 9-title short list). Easily the best movie of the week, I’d say.

  2. Chris B

    In a Valley of Violence sounds mildly interesting, I’ll look for it to pop up on Netflix or cable soon. Nothin else this week…

  3. William Henley

    I liked Snowden in the theaters, but I doubt I will buy it – I usually don’t care for repeat viewings of biopics – at least not enough to justify buying the movie. Like I saw Social Network 3 times, and The King’s Speech 4 times, and I usually set a limit of 5 viewings to determine whether or not I will pick up a movie to justify the cost over renting (unless its in the bargain bin).

  4. Dave Strohmenger

    The new Underworld film is actually the fifth, not the sixth. And all of the previous films got Steelbook releases at Best Buy, not just Rise of the Lycans.

    • Josh Zyber

      You know, I actually went to IMDb to look up the number of Underworld movies when I wrote this post. Apparently, there was some DTV animated thing called “Endless War,” but I guess it wasn’t feature length.

      As for the SteelBooks, I blame that on the Best Buy web site. When I search for “Underworld steelbook” there, the only one that comes up is Rise of the Lycans. Just searching for “Underworld” alone, I see some other releases that look like they have Pop Art covers, but there’s no indication that they’re SteelBooks.

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