We took yesterday off for the President’s Day holiday. Which President did you celebrate? At my house, we favor David Palmer. He may be fictional, but I’d vote for him in a heartbeat. Anyway, this may be a short week, but it’s packed with new Blu-ray releases, including some big Oscar nominees to catch up with before the awards this weekend.
‘Birdman, or: The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance‘ – As I’m sure you’re aware by now, Michael Keaton plays an actor once famous for starring in a superhero franchise who is plagued by hectoring visions of his former alter ego on the eve of launching a comeback role in the “legitimate” theater. Allegedly, the film was not actually written with Keaton in mind, as much as it may seem so. Taking a cue from his pal Alfonso Cuarón, director Alejandro González Iñárritu stages almost the whole movie to look like it was filmed in one continuous shot. The black comedy is perhaps the most divisive of this year’s Oscar nominees. Although Keaton’s performance has received nearly universal praise, viewers seem to either love or loathe the movie itself.
‘The Theory of Everything‘ – If anyone steals the Best Actor trophy from Michael Keaton this year, it’ll likely be Eddie Redmayne for his performance as Stephen Hawking in this bio-pic about the famed physicist’s early life. The Academy loves to give acting awards to bio-pics, especially when the subject has some sort of physical disability. For as acclaimed as the lead performance may be, the movie is said to be a very sanitized, “inspirational” account of a man whose life was a lot more complicated than the movie depicts. I think I’d rather rewatch Erroll Morris’ documentary of ‘A Brief History of Time‘ instead.
‘The Interview‘ – It’s the movie Kim Jong-un doesn’t want you to see! Seth Rogen and James Franco make endless dick and gay-panic jokes, just like they do in all their movies, but this time at the expense of the Supreme Leader. With its theatrical release scuttled, the movie has been available on VOD for months already. If you had any interest in seeing it, you’ve probably already done so by now.
‘Dumb and Dumber To‘ – The popularity of the original ‘Dumb and Dumber’ is a mystery to me. Why anyone would want a sequel to it 11 years later is an even bigger mystery. I guess that’s just how far the careers of Jim Carrey and the Farrelly brothers have sunken that they needed to trot these characters out again.
‘St. Vincent‘ – I’ve heard countless stories about how particular Bill Murray is in selecting projects to star in, and the crazy process any filmmaker must go through to court his attention. Strange, then, that he’d make one of these formulaic “Bad Mentor” comedies in the vein of ‘Bad Santa’ or ‘Mr. Woodcock’. Was Billy Bob Thornton not available for this one?
‘The Homesman‘ – For his second feature as director, Tommy Lee Jones makes a very dour Western about how absolutely grueling and miserable and awful life in the Old West really was. Sounds like exactly the sort of thing Jones would consider a fun time at the movies, doesn’t it?
‘Life Itself‘ – America’s most famous film critic, Roger Ebert, led a pretty fascinating life worthy of its own movie. Now that he has passed on, he gets exactly that courtesy of his friend, documentarian Steve James (whose ‘Hoop Dreams’ Ebert had been a huge champion for). I’ve heard many good things about this.
‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya‘ – An Oscar nominee for Best Animated Feature, this is the latest Studio Ghibli production by ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ director Isao Takahata. All of that is enough to get my attention.
‘V/H/S: Viral‘ – The Found Footage anthology series eschews its title gimmick involving VHS tapes in favor of cell phone viral videos. Why not just call it something else, then? Even fans of the first two entries didn’t seem to think too much of this one.
‘Dying of the Light‘ – Quick quiz: Whose career has slid further down the crapper, Nicolas Cage’s or Paul Schrader’s? We expect Cage to appear in disposable direct-to-video garbage to pay off his mountains of debt, but after the Lindsay Lohan flop ‘The Canyons’ and this lame-looking spy thriller, the once-acclaimed screenwriter of ‘Taxi Driver’ and ‘Raging Bull’ has a lot of penance to do.
The Criterion Collection spends ‘An Autumn Afternoon‘ with master Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu’s final film.
Here we are in the dead of winter, and Olive Films taunts us with the summer shenanigans of Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello in ‘Beach Blanket Bingo‘ and ‘Muscle Beach Party‘.
In fact, Olive is spending a lot of time in the 1960s this week. In addition to the beach pictures, the label has Jack Lemmon in the black comedy ‘How to Murder Your Wife‘, Dean Martin and Kim Novak in Billy Wilder’s comedy romance ‘Kiss Me, Stupid‘, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in their final road picture ‘The Road to Hong Kong‘, and Peter Fonda in Roger Corman’s biker flick ‘The Wild Angels‘.
Best Buy has limited-time exclusives on Steven Spielberg’s historical drama ‘Munich‘, Robert Wise’s virus thriller ‘The Andromeda Strain‘, and Robert Redford’s spy caper ‘Sneakers‘. All of these will hit general release later in the year.
At the height of the popularity for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical, Robert Englund (yes, Freddie Krueger himself) starred in a schlocky horror version of ‘The Phantom of the Opera‘ in 1989. Hey, it can’t be much worse than Joel Schumacher’s shitty film adaptation of the Webber play, can it?
If you didn’t catch it on HBO and need to get caught up before the new season starts, don’t miss ‘Game of Thrones: Season Four‘ on Blu-ray.
Meanwhile, BBC has ‘Doctor Who: Last Christmas‘, the first of the show’s holiday specials since Peter Capaldi took over the role.
Honestly, I’m interested in quite a lot this week. I will definitely rent ‘Birdman’, ‘Life Itself’, ‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’ and possibly ‘The Theory of Everything’.
A friend of mine who lives in Canada has asked me to grab all three Best Buy exclusives for him, and I might pick up extras of ‘The Andromeda Strain’ and ‘Sneakers’ for myself when I do so.
What are you plans this week?