By the time you read this, two of this week’s big new Blu-ray titles may be able to boast about winning shiny Oscar trophies. Or maybe they walked away empty-handed at the awards this weekend. I have no idea. Writing these posts in advance is a tricky business sometimes.
‘Big Hero 6‘ – Remember when Pixar could do no wrong and Disney Animation seemed to be on the wane? How things have changed in just a few short years. The House of Mouse continues its comeback streak with an anime-inspired superhero tale based on an obscure Marvel comic. (No, the movie is not part of the official Marvel Cinematic Universe.) Although not nearly the record-setter ‘Frozen’ was, I doubt anyone realistically expected that sort of lightning to strike twice in a row. The movie was nonetheless a solid hit and an Oscar nominee (perhaps winner?) for Best Animated Feature. Sadly, Disney still refuses to release any more 3D Blu-rays in the American market. If you’d like this title in 3D, you’ll have to import from overseas. For some reason, the UK version doesn’t have a release date announced yet.
‘Whiplash‘ – Odds are strong that J.K. Simmons has an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor by this morning. His portrayal of an abusive music instructor in this two-hander drama is the kind of scenery chewing that Oscar voters go crazy for. The film around him is supposedly pretty good too, though it’s highly unlikely to win Best Picture. One of the few complaints I’ve heard about it is that the movie completely misunderstands jazz, which seems like it would be kind of a big problem for a story all about jazz musicians.
‘Horrible Bosses 2‘ – The original ‘Horrible Bosses’ was a pretty big disappointment. It wasn’t nearly as clever or funny as it should have been considering all the talented people involved. That didn’t stop it from making money, of course. So now we have a sequel, which appears to regurgitate all the same jokes. I’m sure this will be on HBO in a couple months. Maybe I’ll watch it then.
‘Beyond the Lights‘ – A pop singer falls in love with the cop protecting her. I have a feeling that writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood probably intended to do for the music industry what her popular romance ‘Love & Basketball’ did for sports, but the project somehow mutated into a lame retread of the already-lame ‘The Bodyguard’ instead.
Billy, look at the cute bunnies in this cartoon. Aren’t they so fuzzy and cuddly and… Oh dear god! What is happening in this? LOOK AWAY, BILLY! LOOK AWAY!!! – That’s pretty much any parent’s reaction upon mistakenly showing their young child the extremely traumatizing ‘Watership Down‘. Unless I’m mistaken, this is only the second animated title (after Wes Anderson’s ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’) that the Criterion Collection has released on Blu-ray, and only the third on any format at all. (The first being ‘Akira’, way back on Laserdisc.)
Federico Fellini’s love affair with the city of Rome extends even to its ancient past in Criterion’s other big release this week, ‘Satyricon‘ (a.k.a. ‘Fellini Satyricon’). While not my favorite of the director’s works, it’s a very visually striking film, and I’ll take any Fellini I can get on Blu-ray.
In celebration of the guy who was fired from ‘The Walking Dead’ after its first season, Warner’s triple-feature ‘Frank Darabont Collection‘ bundles copies of the previously-released ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ and ‘The Green Mile’ with new-to-Blu ‘The Majestic‘. The latter is also available separately, if you have a soft spot for overlong sappy dramas starring comedians trying to prove that they can be serious sometimes too.
Also from Warner is Paul Schrader’s ‘American Gigolo‘, the movie that made a big star out of Richard Gere.
Bizarrely, the 1986 crime thriller ‘52 Pick-Up‘ was the second film adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel of the same name within a period of just two years. The book had been very loosely made into a Robert Mitchum movie called ‘The Ambassador’ in 1984. The second, and more faithful, version was scripted by Leonard himself, directed by John Frankenheimer, and starred Roy Scheider. For all that, it’s unfortunately still not a particularly great movie, but it has some interest.
Fans of Italian cult horror flicks should take note that Kino has a newly remastered re-release of Mario Bava’s ‘Black Sunday‘. Grindhouse Releasing had also scheduled Lucio Fulci’s ‘The Beyond’ for today, but that disc has been pushed back a month due to manufacturing setbacks.
William Friedkin, director of the gritty cop thriller ‘The French Connection’ and the terrifying horror shocker ‘The Exorcist’, isn’t exactly known for his deft hand with comedy. Nevertheless, prior to those films he made an oddball burlesque romp called ‘The Night They Raided Minsky’s‘, now available from Olive Films.
Some directors are real sticklers for verisimilitude. For his terrific culinary drama ‘Eat Drink Man Woman‘, Ang Lee had his cast learn how to prepare and cook genuine gourmet meals. And for his sleazy erotic drama ‘Wild Orchid‘, Zalman King let stars Mickey Rourke and Carré Otis (allegedly) have sex for real on camera. One of these filmmakers has two Oscars on his shelf. Can you tell which one?
It looks like FX’s biker drama ‘Sons of Anarchy‘ has finally run its course. If you’re a fan, you can close out the series now with either the final season on its own or a Complete Series box set.
I’ve already pre-ordered the 3D version of ‘Big Hero 6’ from overseas, for whenever that winds up getting released. ‘Satyricon’ is also a must for me. I love ‘Eat Drink Man Woman’, but wish it were being handled by a better label than Olive.
‘Whiplash’ seems like it’s worth a rental.
What are your plans this week?