I have a feeling I can guess which movie the majority of our readers will buy this week. That’s right, Michael Dudikoff’s ‘Avenging Force’ is finally available on Blu-ray! Suh-weet! Get your orders in now before it sells out!
‘Guardians of the Galaxy‘ – Marvel really took a risk this year by adapting one of its B-List comic titles that’s only indirectly related to its superhero franchise into a big-budget space epic featuring that goofy guy from ‘Parks and Rec’, a sentient tree and a talking raccoon. Further, the studio entrusted it to James Gunn, director of quirky (usually profane) cult movies like ‘Slither’ and ‘Super‘. This could have been a disaster. Yet, somehow, the stars aligned and the film was a massive hit, beloved by audiences both home and abroad. As the only movie I actually went to see in a theater in 2014, even I can enthusiastically endorse it. (Take that, skeptics!)
Two notes: 1) The 2D Blu-ray has a constant 2.40:1 aspect ratio, while the 3D Blu-ray jumps around between aspect ratios ‘Dark Knight’-style so that you can pretend your living room flat panel is an IMAX screen. 2) Best Buy’s super-cool SteelBook exclusive has been sold out online for a couple weeks already. I really hope enough copies make their way to stores that I can get one.
‘When the Game Stands Tall‘ – I take it that this is a bio-pic about rapper Jayceon Terrell Taylor’s struggles to overcome scoliosis… No? It’s a sports flick about a high school football coach? Eh, whatever. I like my version better.
‘Calvary‘ – The great Brendon Gleeson reteams with ‘The Guard‘ director John Michael McDonagh for this tale of a friendly Catholic priest whose life is threatened by a molestation victim (of another priest) who wants to make him a martyr for the sins of the Church. I’ve heard many great things about this darkly comedic character drama.
‘Dolphin Tale 2‘ – Winter, the dolphin without a tail, is back in a new family-friendly adventure. Because the first one made money, that’s why.
‘Dead Snow 2‘ – Nazi zombies are back! Because the first one made money, that’s why.
‘I Origins‘ – Indie darling Brit Marling and her ‘Another Earth‘ director Mike Cahill bring us another low-budget, high-concept drama that mixes intriguing sci-fi concepts with a bunch of ridiculous spiritual hokum. By most accounts, this one is much less effective than their earlier effort.
‘Frank‘ – Michael Fassbender spends almost an entire movie wearing a giant papier-mâché mascot head as the lead singer of a gimmick band. Yup, that’s really what this is about. Supposedly, Fassbender manages to give a genuine performance even beneath the mask, and I’ve heard that the movie is actually pretty good.
Terry Gilliam’s wacky time travel fantasy ‘Time Bandits‘ was previously released on Blu-ray in a notoriously subpar edition, but finally gets the proper treatment it deserves from Criterion. This may not be Gilliam’s best film, but it’s certainly still one of his essentials.
Not to be confused with Jason Statham’s 2012 action thriller, Todd Haynes’ arty 1995 drama ‘Safe‘ recounts the tale of a suburban housewife (Julianne Moore) who suddenly develops crippling allergies to, well, everything. Is her body rejecting modern society, or are all her problems psychosomatic? Like almost all of Haynes’ films, this one has intriguing ideas yet left me feeling cold and ambivalent at the end. I want to like him as a filmmaker, but something holds me back from doing so. For me, Haynes has yet to recapture the brilliance of his early (unauthorized) short film, ‘Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story’, which re-enacted the singer’s life story and death from anorexia using Barbie dolls.
I guess that someone at Criterion really likes the twisted 1974 Nazi S&M drama ‘The Night Porter‘, and really hopes to convince viewers to re-evaluate it. The label has released the film on Laserdisc, DVD and now Blu-ray – even though it’s frequently cited as many Criterion fans’ least favorite title in the Collection.
Ever looking for new ways to repackage and resell old content, Warner Bros. has reissued a number of popular titles in so-called “Diamond Luxe” editions with new fancy packaging and (in some cases) additional bonus features. To my knowledge, none of the movies has been remastered, though Oliver Stone’s ‘Natural Born Killers‘ includes both the theatrical cut and Director’s Cut. (Previously, the two versions of the movie were sold separately.) The other titles are ‘Ben-Hur‘, ‘Forrest Gump‘, ‘Gremlins‘, ‘The Green Mile‘ and Tim Burton’s ‘Batman‘.
A Diamond Luxe edition of ‘Gravity’ will be released early next year with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack (though no 3D, unfortunately).
Kino continues its love affair with Robert Altman. This week, the studio gives us the director’s 1976 comedy Western ‘Buffalo Bill and the Indians‘.
Also from Kino are the aforementioned Dudikoff classic ‘Avenging Force‘ and the 1986 Billy Crystal/Gregory Hines cop-buddy action flick ‘Running Scared‘.
Paramount wants you to go back ‘Under the Dome‘ with Season 2 of the dopey CBS series. Meanwhile, BBC has the complete eighth season of ‘Doctor Who‘ (the first with Peter Capaldi).
I’ve got to head out to Best Buy to find a copy of the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ SteelBook. How many of you are doing likewise?
‘Time Bandits’ is another must-buy, though it can probably wait for the next Barnes & Noble sale.
Will you pick up anything else this week?