As we continue our charge towards Christmas, it should come as no surprise that this week’s new Blu-ray releases put a major focus on movies that appeal to children and parents. I suppose I’ll be in that category soon, so I better get used to it.
Fun for the Whole Family
Those adorable Minions are back in ‘Despicable Me 2‘, a sequel that most viewers agreed exists more for marketing purposes than artistic ones. As cute as I found the first ‘Despicable Me’, I wouldn’t say that it was one of the best animated movies I’ve seen. Nor did I feel the need for a follow-up. Nevertheless, buoyed by 3D ticket prices, Gru’s second adventure struck box office gold, collecting almost a billion dollars worldwide. A third entry is a foregone conclusion.
Obviously timed to bolster interest in the new drama ‘Saving Mr. Banks’, which tells the story of the film’s creation, Disney offers a new restoration of the beloved classic ‘Mary Poppins‘, which may not have been the first movie to mix live action and animation, but took the process to an unprecedented level. I don’t think I’ve seen this since I was the age of the children in the movie. Does it hold up for adults?
Also from Disney comes a two-fer of ‘The Great Muppet Caper‘ and ‘Muppet Treasure Island‘. I would have thought that ‘Caper’, one of the franchise’s best entries, was strong enough to stand on its own – but I suppose that ‘Treasure Island’ isn’t. I haven’t seen the latter since its theatrical run. I recall thinking that the movie would have seemed a lot better if its middling musical numbers had simply been cut out. With this double-bill, all of the Muppets’ theatrical features (save for the one due next year) are now available on Blu-ray.
Does it bother anyone else that Tom Hanks’ character in ‘Big‘, who is technically a 12-year-old boy disguised in an adult’s body, has sex with Elizabeth Perkins? It amazes me that no one even questioned issues like that back in the ’80s.
Other New Releases
Not to be morbid or cynical (well, no more than usual, anyway), but I suspect that the very recent death of star Paul Walker will probably spur even more interest in the home video release of ‘Fast & Furious 6‘. I was never a fan of the franchise, personally, but this latest entry was its biggest box office hit yet over the summer. Universal claims that a portion of Blu-ray sales will be donated to Walker’s Reach Out Worldwide charity foundation. How significant a portion, I’m not sure. (Is that me being cynical again?)
Keanu Reeves made his directorial debut with the martial arts drama ‘Man of Tai Chi‘, which built some small amount of buzz on the film festival circuit earlier this year but was never granted a wide release. Modestly produced for $25 million, it’s effectively going direct-to-video. I’m sure that the studio hopes to piggyback on the marketing push for Reeve’s new mega-budget starring vehicle ’47 Ronin’.
‘Hannibal’ star Mads Mikkelsen rather cleverly plays off his usual typecasting in villain roles by playing a teacher falsely accused in a sex abuse scandal in the Danish drama ‘The Hunt‘, which is so far one of the best reviewed films of the year.
Less favorably received was ‘Adore‘, the new drama from ‘Coco Before Chanel’ director Anne Fontaine. Naomi Watts and Robin Wright star as longtime friends who fall in love with each others’ sons. The film was positively savaged by most American critics.
Although perhaps not as cruelly torn apart as that one, ‘Touchy Feely‘, the latest dramedy from ‘Humpday’ director Lynn Shelton, was also found to be a disappointment. Rosemarie DeWitt (star of Shelton’s ‘Your Sister’s Sister’) plays a massage therapist ironically stricken with a malady that leaves her repulsed by human contact. Most viewers and critics who saw it felt that the movie was a gimmick in search of a story.
The Criterion Collection
This week, the Criterion Collection inducts ‘Grey Gardens‘ – the original, perversely fascinating 1975 documentary about a pair of eccentric shut-ins with ties to the Kennedy family (not the recent crummy Drew Barrymore dramatization of the story). Also, ‘Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project‘ collects six obscure foreign features in need of evaluation.
Fresh from both its TV airing and limited theatrical engagement, BBC Video rolls out the 50th Anniversary special ‘Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor‘ – in 3D, no less. ‘Doctor Who’ has never been my thing, but I find it amusing how many of my friends who claim to be fans of it spend all of their time complaining about how much they hate everything that ever happens in the show. I can only conclude that ‘Doctor Who’ fandom is a peculiar form of masochism.
I have kids on the way, so I need to start stocking up on family-friendly movies. ‘Mary Poppins’ and the ‘Muppets’ double-bill are going on my wish list for later purchase, along with ‘Grey Gardens’ for the adults. Do you plan to buy anything this week?