This week is so chock full of new Blu-ray and Ultra HD releases that you’d have to be a real curmudgeon not to find at least a little something to your liking.
Come to think of it, that’s the type of challenge I’m always up for!
New Releases (Blu-ray)
Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch – The animators at Illumination give Theodor Geisel’s famed holiday-hater a cutesy Minions-style makeover. Reviews were mixed, with many critics questioning the point of yet another adaptation of this story, but the film’s box office was pretty strong. It can’t be worse than the Jim Carrey version, right? Remarkably, Universal is offering a 3D version even as most other studios have given up support for the format. Sadly, the Best Buy SteelBook is standard Blu-ray only, without even a UHD copy in the case. Humbug.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web – Claire Foy (star of The Crown) takes over from Rooney Mara – or Noomi Rapace, if you’re a purist for the Swedish original – in the second American entry of the Dragon Tattoo franchise. Not only does the sequel reboot the entire cast, it also skips over two books in the series. The trailers made it look less like a mystery thriller and more like a B-movie action flick, with the heroine leaping away from fireball explosions in slo-mo. Nobody bought into any of this. Critics scoffed and the movie was a box office flop.
Widows – Steve McQueen (the filmmaker, not the late actor) made the curious decision to follow up his Oscar-winning period piece 12 Years a Slave with a gritty heist thriller scripted by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn. Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Elizabeth Debicki star as the title widows, who are forced to follow their late husbands into a life of crime when threatened by mobsters their spouses worked for. The film was beloved by most critics, though some pointed out that the plot doesn’t entirely add up. For the most part, that didn’t seem to bother many viewers.
The Sisters Brothers – French director Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, Rust and Bone) makes his English-language debut with the most American of genres, a Western. John C. Reilly and Joaquin Pheonix play hardened outlaw bandits with a peculiarly effeminate last name. The trailers tried to spin this as a goofy comedy, which I hear is very misleading, as the film can be quite violent and despairing despite its dark humor. Nonetheless, it’s said to be pretty interesting.
The Cloverfield Paradox – Having an even flimsier connection to the original Cloverfield movie than 10 Cloverfield Lane did, the third entry takes place on a space station as scientists perform dangerous experiments that could rip a hole in space-time and open alternate dimensions. That sort of thing never goes well, does it? After suffering from production problems, Paramount lost faith in the film and dumped it on Netflix last year with no warning. (Literally, it was advertised for the first time during the Super Bowl and premiered immediately afterwards.) That promotional stunt drew a little attention, but unfortunately word-of-mouth on the movie was pretty poor. The disc release a year later seems to be aimed at either completist collectors for the franchise or viewers who were curious but don’t subscribe to Netflix.
A Private War – Rosamund Pike dons an eye patch in a bio-pic about war correspondent journalist Marie Colvin, who was killed (allegedly by the Syrian Army) while covering the civil war in that country. The film was praised, especially for Pike’s performance, but unfortunately never found much distribution outside of festivals.
The Long Dumb Road – Comedian Jason Mantzoukas and Grand Budapest Hotel supporting player Tony Revolori star in a road trip comedy. I don’t have any more details than that, but Mantzoukas is hilarious on the How Did This Get Made? podcast and in his countless TV appearances on shows like The League, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and The Good Place.
The Grinch and Widows both debut on Ultra HD simultaneously with their standard Blu-rays, but if you want The Girl in the Spider’s Web you’ll have to import from overseas. Rumor has it that a domestic 4k release of Spider’s Web may be planned for later, but it doesn’t have a firm release date yet.
Also available are the Best Buy SteelBook copies of How to Train Your Dragon and How to Train Your Dragon 2, inexplicably delayed for two weeks after the general retail versions.
Criterion continues to break out titles from last year’s humungous Ingmar Bergman box set. The latest is the director’s 1968 opus of despair, Shame.
In addition to the standalone copy of Paradox, Paramount gathers the whole franchise together for a Cloverfield 3-Movie Collection.
In 1993, Anthony Hopkins starred as Chronicles of Narnia author C.S. Lewis in the bio-pic Shadowlands, directed by Richard Attenborough. I recall the movie being pretty good, but unfortunately it got lost in the shadow of Hopkins’ other acclaimed performance in The Remains of the Day, which claimed most of the Oscar attention that year.
That comes from Universal, as does Paul Weitz’s 2004 dramedy In Good Company, starring Topher Grace and Scarlett Johansson, which finally makes its way to Blu-ray after years of HD DVD exclusivity. One can hope that it has a better transfer, because the HD DVD was a DNR and edge enhancement disaster.
After becoming the youngest director ever nominated for an Oscar, John Singleton followed up his debut Boyz N the Hood with the Janet Jackson vehicle Poetic Justice and the college drama Higher Learning. Sony brings them both to high-def.
Previously released by Sony only as a 147-minute Extended Edition, Mill Creek’s reissue of the Johnny Depp undercover cop drama Donnie Brasco returns the film to its 127-minute theatrical cut. (Doing some digging, this may not be the first time Mill Creek released the theatrical cut, but it is the first to come to our attention here.)
Cliff Robertson won an Oscar for playing a mentally impaired man who develops a genius IQ after a medical experiment in the 1968 Flowers for Algernon adaptation Charly. A few years later, Walter Matthau received an Oscar nomination (his second of three) for the 1971 road trip comedy Kotch, the only directorial effort by his friend and frequent co-star Jack Lemmon. Kino has both.
The latest giallo thrillers to join the Arrow Video catalog are 1965’s The Possessed and 1971’s The Fifth Cord.
Continuing its mission to give high-def upgrades to movies perhaps best left on VHS, MVD adds the immensely cheesy 1994 video game adaptation Double Dragon to its Rewind Collection. The most absurd thing about this movie is the expectation that audiences will believe Mark Dacascos and Scott Wolf are brothers.
Notable TV releases this week include the second season of HBO’s The Deuce and a complete series bundle (it only ran two seasons) of the History network’s military drama Six.
I’m not overly interested in the new version of The Grinch myself, but my kids have seen the trailers and will very likely eventually pester me into letting them watch it.
I’m very curious to find out whether Shadowlands holds up as well as I remember it. Meanwhile, I’ll try to find time to rent Widows and The Sisters Brothers.
Will any titles this week fill that empty hole you call a heart, you nasty wasty skunk?