February this year starts with a monstrous assortment of new Blu-ray releases. Do you see any titles you’re in love with?
New Releases (Blu-ray)
‘Trolls‘ – Just when you thought ‘The Angry Birds Movie’ was crassly commercial filmmaking at its worst, here comes an animated kids’ movie based on those crazy-haired dolls that have been around since the late 1950s and never seem to entirely go away. Featuring voice work from Anna Kendrick, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Timberlake and a bunch of other people who ought to know better, the Skittles-colored DreamWorks production was released at an opportune time when it had little family-friendly competition for young kids. As a result, it turned out to be a pretty big hit. Remarkably, the movie got a pass from most critics and is even an Oscar nominee for one of its songs. Available on Blu-ray or UHD, Fox (distributing for DreamWorks) has decided to skip a 3D edition.
‘Loving‘ – After the box office failure of ‘Midnight Special’, his first production for a big studio, indie filmmaker Jeff Nichols bounced back later in the year with a historical bio-pic about Richard and Mildred Loving (yes, their real names), an interracial couple whose struggles against racism and discrimination in the late 1960s went all the way to the Supreme Court. The film was highly praised and star Ruth Negga is now Oscar nominated. Its subject matter seems especially relevant in these turbulent times.
‘Cameraperson‘ – Filmmaker Kirsten Johnson, who has worked as a cinematographer on notable documentaries including ‘The Oath’, ‘The Invisible War’ and ‘Citizenfour’, constructs her own experimental memoir as a collage made up entirely of outtakes from her other movies. Somehow, these unrelated clips form a coherent narrative about her life and career. After receiving near universal acclaim from critics, the film debuts on Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection.
‘American Pastoral‘ – Ewan McGregor stars in and makes his feature directorial debut with an adaptation of Philip Roth’s Pulitzer-winning tale about how the 1950s American Dream crumbled in the turmoil of the 1960s. Unfortunately, nearly everyone who saw it felt that McGregor was out of his depth tackling a project this ambitious. The movie was hit with scathing reviews and did negligible business.
‘Almost Christmas‘ – The standard 90-day home video turnaround for theatrical features seems especially problematic for holiday movies. Who wants to buy a Christmas movie in February? This one stars Gabrielle Union, Kimberly Elise, Danny Glover, Mo’Nique and others in a feel-good comedy about a dysfunctional family reunion. Isn’t that what most Christmas comedies are about? Reviews were unfavorable, but that didn’t stop the movie from turning a comfortable profit.
‘Desierto‘ – Jonás Cuarón, the son of Alfonso Cuarón and co-writer of ‘Gravity’, directs a thriller starring Gael Garcia Bernal as an illegal border-crosser chased through the desert by a redneck vigilante (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) intent on murdering him. From most accounts, the topical subject matter and tense suspense are weighed down by a predictable plot and heavy-handed symbolism.
‘The Eagle Huntress‘ – Daisy Ridley narrates an inspirational documentary about a Kazakh teenager breaking a centuries-long gender divide prohibiting girls from becoming eagle hunters (which means that she uses an eagle to hunt, not that she hunts eagles). Unfortunately, the stirring uplift may be undermined by the fact that, well, it’s not strictly true.
In addition to ‘Trolls‘, the other title breaking into 4k this week is ‘John Wick‘, as Lionsgate tries to promote its upcoming sequel.
With ‘Kong: Skull Island’ on the horizon, Warner Bros. is reissuing ‘King Kong‘ (the 1933 original), ‘Godzilla‘ (the 2014 reboot) and ‘Pacific Rim‘ in kind-of-ugly “Monster Mayhem Edition” packaging. Expect no changes in the disc contents, just the artwork.
Not to be left out, Universal has its own reissue of Peter Jackson’s 2005 ‘King Kong‘ remake. The so-called Ultimate Edition includes both the bloated theatrical cut and even-more-bloated extended cut, plus about 175 hours of production diaries. Jackson completists and all four of this movie’s fans will surely go gaga over this.
I’m… having… the time of my liiiiiiife… I guess fans can never get enough Blu-ray editions of ‘Dirty Dancing‘. Lionsgate celebrates the film’s 30th anniversary with yet another release – its fourth appearance on the format so far. According to our reviewer David, this one sports the same audio/video quality previously seen on discs from 2010 and 2012. Although it has some new bonus features, it’s also missing some supplements found on the older discs.
Fox has a lot of multi-movie franchise bundles this week. The only one that’s particularly notable is the ‘Die Hard‘ collection, which finally includes the Unrated cut of the fourth film, ‘Live Free or Die Hard’. (As a reminder, the movie was actually made for a PG-13 rating, and then later had some fake-looking digital blood spatters added to the shooting scenes and some of the original dialogue dubbed over with stronger swear words to make an unrated version. Many fans consider it inferior to the theatrical cut.) As far as I’m aware, the other movies are identical to previous Blu-ray editions, which is a real shame because Fox performed 4k remasters on the first three movies a few years ago yet has refused to use them on home video.
Twilight Time released a limited edition of the 1967 race relations comedy ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner‘ just over a year ago. That disc may still be in print and in stock, but Sony has somehow also issued its own 50th Anniversary Edition now that, as far as I can tell, looks to be the pretty much the same thing minus Twilight Time’s audio commentary.
Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper fall for each other in Billy Wilder’s rom-com ‘Love in the Afternoon‘, now available through the Warner Archive.
Still mourning Carrie Fisher? Celebrate her life with a new look at her semi-autobiographical comedy ‘Postcards from the Edge‘, directed by Mike Nichols from a script by Fisher herself.
Now that the Oscars have declared it safe to like Mel Gibson again, Fox has moved quickly to capitalize on that with a new copy of his grueling religious drama ‘The Passion of the Christ‘.
With a live-action ‘Ghost in the Shell’ movie coming soon, FUNimation gives us Mamoru Oshii’s perplexing anime sequel ‘Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence‘.
Kino finds yet another way to repackage Buster Keaton’s silent comedies. This time, the label pairs his masterpiece ‘The General‘ in a double-feature with the lesser-known ‘Three Ages‘ (a short parody of D.W. Griffth’s ‘Intolerance’). Be aware that the latter was previously matched with ‘Sherlock Jr.’ in case you’ve been collecting Keaton discs.
Oh boy! Mill Creek has gathered together the complete five-season run of the time-travel/body-swapping ‘Quantum Leap‘ for a Blu-ray collection. I can only hope that the studio has sorted out some of the music licensing issues that afflicted previous DVD editions.
Also bundled into complete collections are Showtime’s ultimately-disappointing ‘Penny Dreadful‘ and El Rey’s ‘From Dusk Till Dawn‘.
Meanwhile, HBO plops the first season of Danny McBride’s new comedy ‘Vice Principals‘ onto disc. With Bill Murray and Walton Goggins in the cast, I really tried to give this a shot, but sadly I still cannot stand McBride’s schtick.
With such a huge selection of discs to dig through, I’ve no doubt neglected some interesting titles. I considered highlighting new releases like of ‘Antibirth’, ‘Nerdland’, ‘The Alchemist Cookbook’, ‘Frank & Lola’ or ‘The 9th Life of Louis Drax’, but I just don’t know enough about them to comment.
I’m very interested in renting ‘Loving’ and ‘Cameraperson’. ‘Love in the Afternoon’ will go on my wish list, as will the new copy of ‘The General’ since I never got around to buying the last one.
What catches your fancy this week?