This week’s Blu-ray assortment brings us a couple of last year’s biggest disappointments, but don’t get too discouraged. Some smaller movies, as well as catalog titles and TV box sets, might still be worth a look.
‘Ender’s Game‘ – Orson Scott Card’s original novel was a landmark of science fiction literature. Unfortunately, the author has turned into a loudmouthed nutjob in the years since. The controversy around his raging, hateful bigotry overshadowed the long-delayed movie adaptation of his book, despite the film’s other producers and stars doing everything they could to distance it from him. From what I’m told, the movie actually isn’t half bad. However, even setting aside Card’s involvement, I think I’d be bothered by the way all of the main characters have been rewritten as teenagers rather than young children, which seems to miss the point of the book entirely.
‘The Counselor‘ – Ridley Scott makes another turkey. What a shock. Honestly, I don’t think Scott’s made a decent movie since ‘Blade Runner’. Responding to criticisms that his last several pictures have been terribly written, the director must have thought that working from a screenplay penned by acclaimed novelist Cormac McCarthy (‘No Country for Old Men’) would be a surefire winner. No such luck. Pretty much everyone who saw it described the movie as howlingly awful, with special derision for a scene where Cameron Diaz has sex with a car. No, not in a car… with a car.
‘All Is Lost‘ – Robert Redford takes on Mother Nature in this one-man sailing drama, filmed with only sparse dialogue. Redford’s tour de force performance was heavily buzzed as an Oscar contender when the film was released, but somehow got overlooked by the Academy. I wonder if this is simply the type of movie that requires the immersion of a big screen viewing. Academy voters who watched it on screener DVDs may not have gotten the full impact.
‘The Best Man Holiday‘ – Do you remember the 1999 rom-com ‘The Best Man’? Well, somebody sure did, as this belated sequel was one of the sleeper hits of last year. The success of movies like this and ‘Instructions Not Included’ prove the power of targeted demographic marketing.
‘Austenland‘ – Jerusha Hess, screenwriter of ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ and wife of that film’s director Jared Hess, makes her own directorial debut with this quirky rom-com about a woman (Keri Russell) who blows her life savings on a trip to a Jane Austen theme park in hopes of meeting her own Mr. Darcy. It looks better than ‘Napoleon Dynamite’, so I’ll give it that. If you’re inclined to like this type of movie, then you’ll probably like it.
‘Diana‘ – Naomi Watts plays the “People’s Princess” in a bio-pic that was very, very badly received by critics and ignored by audiences.
‘How I Live Now‘ – Saoirse Ronan gets stranded in the rural English countryside, cut off from a world around her that erupts into war while she’s away, in this high-concept drama from ‘The Last King of Scotland’ director Kevin Macdonald. Reviews were mixed.
‘The Armstrong Lie‘ – Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney (‘Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room’, ‘Taxi to the Dark Side’) aims his camera at the controversy surrounding disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong. I’d have more interest in this if I hadn’t seen ‘Client 9’, in which Gibney painted the reprehensible Eliot Spitzer as a misunderstood hero whose flagrant hypocrisy and abuses of power were really no big deal. If that’s what he’s done for Armstrong, forget it, I’m out.
‘The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box‘ – Sam Neill, Michael Sheen and several other actors who really ought to know better allowed themselves to be wrangled into this low-budget, family friendly, Steampunk-ish period fantasy. It looks like something that should have gone straight to cable syndication.
If you haven’t already bought all the movies in this franchise separately, the ‘Rocky Heavyweight Collection‘ bundles a newly remastered edition of the first film with recycled discs for the other five. I’m not a huge ‘Rocky’ fan, but if I were, I’d wait for a separate release of the original. (In fact, you can get a SteelBook copy of that from the UK now.)
‘The Jungle Book‘ has never been one of my favorite Disney animated features, but “The Bare Necessitities” sure is catchy.
As we barrel towards this year’s Oscars, Lionsgate would like to remind you that the studio actually owns one Best Picture winner. OK, sure, it’s ‘Chicago‘, and no one really understands how this movie won Best Picture, but still… Strangely, this isn’t even a notable anniversary for the film.
Much like Jess Franco, Jean Rollin was a prolific Eurosleaze cult figure whose appeal eludes me. Perhaps I was just born in the wrong decade. Redemption boxes up four of the director’s amateurish softcore horror flicks in ‘The Cinema of Jean Rollin: The Vampire Collection‘ with essays of appreciation from Video Watchdog magazine editor Tim Lucas.
If you missed it during the original broadcast, now’s your chance to catch up with one of last year’s best new shows, FX’s ‘The Americans‘, before the second season premieres on February 26th.
It wasn’t all that long ago that writer/producer Steven Moffat was the golden boy of British television. A couple lackluster seasons of ‘Doctor Who’ and a downturn in the quality of his modern-day ‘Sherlock‘ brought an end to those good fortunes. Many fans were none too happy with the third season of the latter, but if you’re still with the show (or just a completist), it’s available on Blu-ray.
I don’t see anything that I need to buy this week, though I will add ‘Ender’s Game’ and ‘All Is Lost’ to my rental queue. Are you feeling more adventurous than I am?