As we return from the President’s Day weekend, it’s bio-pic week on Blu-ray. A bunch of last fall’s Oscar bait movies hit video to either remind Academy voters of their existence, or to sulk about getting snubbed.
‘Steve Jobs‘ – The failure of the 2013 Steve Jobs bio-pic starring Ashton Kutcher didn’t deter screenwriter Aaron Sorkin from moving forward with his own project about the man. Originally intended for David Fincher to direct as a follow-up to ‘The Social Network’, it eventually fell into the hands of Danny Boyle, with Michael Fassbender (who looks absolutely nothing like the real Jobs) playing the tech innovator. Unfortunately, the Cult of Apple failed to turn out for this one either, and the movie bombed. It did, however, score Oscar nominations for Fassbender and co-star Kate Winslet. Personally, I’m not sure that the real Steve Jobs was interesting enough to justify having one movie based on his life, much less two. With Sorkin scripting, I also expect this to be about 20% factual and 80% pure fiction.
‘Trumbo‘ – Hoping to put an Oscar on his mantle next to his collection of ‘Breaking Bad’ Emmys, Bryan Cranston gives a showboating performance as flamboyant screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who was blacklisted from Hollywood during the Red Scare of the 1940s. I can hardly imagine a less appropriate director for this material than Jay Roach of the ‘Austin Powers’ and ‘Meet the Parents’ franchises. Although reviews of the movie were generally favorable (and Cranston got an Oscar nomination out of it), few were enthusiastic. A persistent criticism is that the tone swings awkwardly from serious drama to silly slapstick.
‘Black Mass‘ – What was supposed to be Johnny Depp’s big return to serious dramatic acting turned out to be just another excuse to disappear under a lot of makeup (a bald cap in this case) and an overdone accent. Perhaps hiring him to play notorious Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger wasn’t as inspired a casting decision as it initially seemed? At this point in his career, Depp really needs to dial down and stay away from larger-than-life characters for a while. Although early trailers for it built a lot of buzz, the movie ultimately fizzled under complaints that it glamorizes a truly reprehensible human being and feels like a cobbled-together clone of a dozen better gangster and true-crime pictures.
‘The 33‘ – Antonio Banderas (who is Spanish, but I guess that’s considered close enough) leads the cast of a docudrama about the 2010 accident that trapped 33 Chilean miners underground for 69 days. If you followed the original story as it unfolded on the news (and most of us did), the movie version reportedly doesn’t add much that you don’t already know, beyond some “inspirational” feel-good Hollywood melodrama.
‘Labyrinth of Lies‘ – Although it didn’t ultimately make the shortlist for a nomination, this period drama about post-WWII Germany’s struggle to come to terms with its past was the country’s official entry for the Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar. In his theatrical review, Phil was unimpressed with the blatantly awards-courting manner in which the story is told.
Charlie Chaplin’s first feature-length silent comedy, ‘The Kid‘, enters the Criterion Collection this week, along with the 1968 Japanese dark satire ‘Death by Hanging‘.
The latest batch of limited editions from Twilight Time include a pair of film noir thrillers (Otto Preminger’s ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends‘ and a reissue of Fritz Lang’s ‘The Big Heat‘), a trio of Westerns (Jack Lemmon in ‘Cowboy‘ and a double-feature of the James Garner parodies ‘Support Your Local Sheriff‘ and ‘Support Your Local Gunfighter‘), one period epic (‘The Hawaiians‘, the sequel to the recently-released ‘Hawaii‘), and one Italian giallo thriller (‘La bambola di Satana‘).
Having just recently given us ‘The Wrong Man‘, the Warner Archive digs out another oft-forgotten Hitchcock title, 1953’s ‘I Confess‘.
Shout! Factory gives us the cracking Kevin Costner spy thriller ‘No Way Out‘.
In ‘The Taviani Brothers Collection‘, the Cohen Film Collection compiles a trio of the Italian filmmakers’ most acclaimed works. The movies are ‘Padre Padrone’ (1977, winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes), ‘The Night of the Shooting Stars’ (1982, winner of the Cannes Grand Jury Prize), and ‘Kaos’ (1984). I saw the first two of these many years ago, but I’ll be honest that the only thing I remember clearly from them is a scene in ‘Padre Padrone’ involving young boys doing unspeakable things to chickens. That’s the sort of image that haunts you for the rest of your days.
On a lighter note, Mill Creek heads back to the ’80s with ‘My Science Project‘, and Olive Films follows along with such gems as ‘Beat Street‘, ‘Class‘, ‘Mystery Date‘ and ‘Secret Admirer‘.
Also from Olive is the 1994 indie rom-com ‘Sleep with Me‘, which is only remembered at all for Quentin Tarantino’s cameo as an obnoxious party guest espousing his theory on the true meaning of ‘Top Gun’.
Now that you’ve seen that, you can safely skip watching the rest of the film.
Among TV releases, HBO has the fourth season of ‘Girls‘ and the first season of ‘Togetherness, while Warner Bros. offers the second season of the British gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders‘.
Nothing this week begs for an immediate purchase from me. However, I’ll put a bunch of titles on my wish list for later, including ‘The Kid’, ‘I Confess’, ‘No Way Out’, ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’ and the ‘Sheriff/Gunfighter’ double-feature.
Are you more excited for anything than I am?