Holiday or no, the first batch of Blu-ray releases for the new year actually contain a couple of noteworthy titles, making this a slightly more exciting release week than Christmas was. That said, temper your expectations.
New Releases (Blu-ray)
Night School – Kevin Hart’s latest comedy, about a moron who goes back to school to get his GED from a no-nonsense teacher (Tiffany Haddish), was a big box office hit despite poor reviews complaining about the stale humor. Will the timing of its video release be hurt by Hart recently putting his foot in his mouth when defending homophobic jokes in his old stand-up comedy routines? Probably not. That controversy is likely to blow over. Nevertheless, the movie still seems disposable and ultimately forgettable.
Bad Times at the El Royale – Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods) directs an all-star cast including Jeff Bridges, Chris Hemsworth, Dakota Johnson, and Jon Hamm in a hyper-stylized thriller about a group of mysterious strangers who come together at a shady hotel in 1969. The film’s critical response was mixed-to-positive, but audiences had little interest. The trailers had a decided vibe of being a throwaway project that most of the cast did as a lark to waste time between more important movies they actually care about. The fact that the premise seems uncomfortably similar to another 2018 flop, Hotel Artemis, probably didn’t help.
A-X-L – For a brief period of time over the summer, every YouTube video I watched with my kids was preceded by a forced ad for this cheesy boy-and-his-robot-dog YA sci-fi adventure. It didn’t help. Nobody cared. The movie tanked.
Night School and Bad Times at the El Royale are the only 4k releases of the week.
If trailers for the impending Hellboy reboot don’t exactly fill you with confidence, perhaps it’s worth remembering that even Guillermo del Toro bungled the property with a weak sequel, 2008’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Best Buy pulls that one back from video purgatory with a Pop Art SteelBook.
Kino delayed its newest slate of licensed catalog releases to January 2nd in order to stay out of the holiday. Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins headline Roger Donaldson’s 1984 historical adventure drama The Bounty. Jennifer Jason Leigh stars in Agnieszka Holland’s critically acclaimed if little seen 1997 adaptation of Henry James’ Washington Square. Demi Moore and Gary Oldman embarrass themselves in Roland Joffé’s ludicrously overheated 1995 adaptation of The Scarlet Letter.
Following those are a trio of Westerns: 1949’s El Paso with Sterling Hayden, 1966’s The Appaloosa with Marlon Brando, and 1969’s Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here with Robert Redford.
PBS has reissues of the documentary miniseries The Civil War and The Vietnam War in case any Ken Burns fans neglected to buy them the last time around.
I’ll likely watch Bad Times at the El Royale if I eventually come across it on cable. I don’t plan to buy anything this week, but I like The Bounty well enough and recall once having Washington Square on a list of movies I meant to see.
How will you start your new year?