This week brings a big load of new Blu-ray releases, from a Disney animated classic to a cult masterpiece and more. Depending on your tastes, this could be an expensive week.
‘Nightcrawler‘ – Jake Gyllenhaal takes over from Alan Cumming as Marvel’s teleporting ‘X-Men’ mutant in… No? That’s not what this is? I really need to start watching trailers before I write these things. Apparently, Gyllenhaal actually plays a down-on-his-luck scumbag who trawls the city streets at night to videotape crimes and terrible accidents so that he can sell his footage to a ruthless local news producer. The movie received enthusiastic reviews, enough that many people were upset that Gyllenhaal was snubbed for an acting Oscar nomination.
‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day‘ – It’s a shame the studio couldn’t get Colin Farrell to reprise his role in this sequel to… Dammit, I just did it again, didn’t I? I guess this is really some kiddie comedy with Steve Carell and an accident-prone little boy. Remarkably, Carell did get an Oscar nomination this year, but certainly not for anything he did here.
‘Laggies‘ – OK, this one I know! Keira Knightley remakes the Charlize Theron comedy ‘Young Adult’ from a few years ago. Well, that’s what it sounds like, anyway. From the director of ‘Humpday’ and ‘Your Sister’s Sister’. Also starring Hit-Girl.
‘Rosewater‘ – Jon Stewart stepped away from the ‘Daily Show’ news desk to direct a feature film about… something that happened on ‘The Daily Show’. Not much of a stretch, perhaps, but I suppose if the movie was going to get made anyway, he didn’t want somebody else to screw it up. For his first order of business as a filmmaker, Stewart cast Gael Garcia Bernal – who is Mexican – as an Iranian journalist. Urgh. Most reports are that the movie is very well-meaning and occasionally effective, but not entirely successful.
‘Kill the Messenger‘ – Speaking of well-intentioned movies about real-life journalists, Jeremy Renner plays a California newspaper reporter who uncovered a conspiracy involving CIA agents trafficking drugs into the United States – only to find himself discredited and disgraced when he tried to take the story public. Unfortunately, according to Phil’s theatrical review, the dramatization of this potentially incendiary subject matter is merely “fine” and never rises to its potential.
‘Predestination‘ – A couple of my friends have raved about this Ethan Hawke time travel thriller from the Spierig brothers, who previously directed him in the underrated ‘Daybreakers‘, which I quite enjoyed. The fact that the movie didn’t get a theatrical release and is going direct-to-video is a little concerning, however. (I’m also reminded that the Spierigs’ zombie flick ‘Undead’ was a giant pile of stupid crap.) This seems like a good rental candidate.
‘Force Majeure‘ – While on a ski vacation in the French Alps, a Swedish family has a close encounter with an avalanche. Although they all survive, the father does not react well in the situation, and this drives a big wedge between him and his wife. The drama was well-reviewed and nominated for a Golden Globe, though ignored by the Oscars.
Available on Blu-ray in Europe for a couple years already, Disney has finally unleashed (har har… ) ‘101 Dalmatians‘ onto the format in North America too. Although you might expect its DTV sequel to get bundled with it as a double-feature, that one is instead being released separately as a Disney Movie Club exclusive. Other DMC exclusives include ‘Pollyanna‘ and ‘Old Yeller‘.
Nicolas Roeg’s extraordinary supernatural thriller ‘Don’t Look Now‘ was also previously released on Blu-ray in Europe, but only in a disc with a poor video transfer. The new Criterion Collection upgrade is much welcomed. In the film, Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie play grieving parents who try to distract themselves with a trip to Venice, only to be repeatedly taunted (or possibly haunted) by reminders of their dead daughter. That summary makes the film sound much more formulaic and simplistic than Roeg’s rich, heavily-symbolic storytelling actually achieves.
Criterion’s other title this week is Jean Renoir’s ‘A Day in the Country‘, which has a vaguely related theme about a family traveling for a vacation. An uncompleted project, the film only runs 41 minutes, and as such may be hard to justify purchasing at Criterion’s asking price. Better to wait for the next Barnes & Noble sale for this one.
Back to Julie Christie for a moment. In 1967, the actress headlined an adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s pastoral drama ‘Far from the Madding Crowd‘. With a remake starring Carey Mulligan on the way, the Warner Archive digs up the original film.
The latest round of limited editions from Twilight Time include: Dustin Hoffman in the Lenny Bruce bio-pic ‘Lenny‘, Woody Allen’s Napoleonic War comedy ‘Love and Death‘, Roger Corman’s gangster flick ‘The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre‘, the 1943 Lena Horne musical ‘Stormy Weather‘, and Sidney Poitier’s inspirational teacher classic ‘To Sir, With Love‘.
Kino has a thing for Norman Jewison this week. The label has licensed the director’s 1966 madcap comedy ‘The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming‘ and his 1978 union corruption drama ‘F.I.S.T.‘ (the latter starring Sylvester Stallone).
Scream Factory is all about horror comedies, with double features of ‘Love at First Bite‘ and ‘Once Bitten‘, as well as ‘Vampire’s Kiss‘ and ‘High Spirits‘. Some of these are better or funnier than others. ‘High Spirits’ in particular is a huge waste of talent.
Directed by indie favorite Lisa Cholodenko (‘The Kids Are All Right’) and based on a Pulitzer-winning novel by Elizabeth Stout, HBO’s ‘Olive Kitteridge‘ tells the life story of a bitter Maine schoolteacher (Frances McDormand) and her much put-upon husband (Richard Jenkins). I watched a little bit of this but just couldn’t get into it, and cannot for the life of me figure out why this subject matter needed to be told in an epic four-part miniseries.
In other TV fare, Lionsgate offers the sixth season of Showtime’s ‘Nurse Jackie‘.
I consider ‘Don’t Look Now’ a must-buy. I would probably also put ‘101 Dalmatians’ here if I didn’t already own the UK SteelBook.
I’ll look to rent ‘Nightcrawler’, ‘Predestination’ and ‘Rosewater’. My wish list for later will include ‘To Sir, With Love’, ‘Lenny’, ‘Love and Death’, and possibly ‘The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre’.
What will you open your wallet for this week?