The bad news: We’re still stuck in the doldrums of January. The good news: If you enjoy bad sequels to overhyped movies (hey, some people do), we may have a Blu-ray for you this week.
Back in 2008, folks just couldn’t get enough of watching Liam Neeson put the beat-down on some scummy kidnappers in the surprise hit ‘Taken’. I wasn’t much impressed with it, personally. Other than Neeson’s badassery, I found it to be a pretty generic revenge flick. However, said badassery was apparently enough to make the movie lots of money. Hence, a sequel was inevitable. In ‘Taken 2‘ (‘Taken Too’? ‘Re-Taken’?), Neeson’s bimbo daughter has to rescue him from the kidnappers. Oooh, twist! Even fans of the first one complained that this one was pretty lame. Nevertheless, it grossed enough that you can expect a ‘Taken 3’ shortly.
At age 77, Woody Allen is still out there, puttering along, cranking out a new movie every year. In a way, this is comforting, even if most of his recent output is uneven in quality. The Wood-man had a bit of a career resurgence with the splendid ‘Midnight in Paris’ in 2011. He continues his European tour with ‘To Rome with Love‘, which also marks his return in front of the camera after half-a-dozen years absence. Sadly, as these things have been known to go, one of Woody’s hits is followed by a miss. ‘Rome’ received mixed-to-negative reviews and little box office (though, to be fair, none of his movies ever make money). Better luck with the next one, Woody.
If you’ve ever wondered why Hollywood keeps churning out so many forgettable, generic horror flicks like ‘The Possession‘, it’s because they’re very cheap to make and easily profitable. What the hell Kyra Sedgwick is doing in this one, I have no idea. Not that she’s a big star or anything, but after a successful multi-year run on TV, I’d expect her to be able to do better than this.
Speaking of slumming actors, Max von Sydow pops in for a glorified cameo in the blatant ‘They Live’ knockoff ‘Branded‘, a dystopian sci-fi tale about aliens who brainwash the public using marketing and advertising. Our reviewer E. calls the movie a nonsensical bore.
After helping a busybody white girl rid the South of racism in ‘The Help’, Viola Davis returns to do the same for inner city schools in the well-meaning inspirational teacher drama ‘Won’t Back Down‘. What’s that, you’ve never heard of this and don’t remember it even playing in theaters? I guess she wasn’t as successful this time.
Lee Daniels, the director of ‘Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire and Produced by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, Starring Gabourey Sidibe, Mariah Carey’s Mustache and the Comedienne Mo’Nique, Who Will Win an Oscar for Playing a Totally One-Dimensional Villain That Everyone Will Think Is So Complex Because She Gets One Good Speech at the End‘, brings us more misery porn in the form of ‘The Paperboy‘. Not even an all-star cast (including Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack and – seriously? – Zac Efron) could fool anyone into buying what Daniels is selling this time. The overcooked Southern melodrama received across-the-board scathing reviews.
Also from the indie scene comes ‘About Cherry‘, the arty tale of a young girl’s descent into porn and drugs
, and the Golden Globe-nominated ‘The Intouchables‘, in which a French adrenaline junkie winds up a paraplegic after a paragliding accident. (It appears that ‘Intouchables’ has been pushed back, sorry.)
If this week’s new releases don’t do much for you, the Criterion Collection offers up the 1979 Oscar and Cannes-winning foreign film ‘The Tin Drum‘, as well as Alfred Hitchcock’s original 1934 version of ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much‘. Hitchcock’s own remake of the latter is already available in last year’s ‘Alfred Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection‘, so this should give you a good opportunity to compare his evolution as a filmmaker.
Woody Allen fans jonesing for more neurotic repartee after watching ‘To Rome with Love’ will be excited to collect a couple more of his classics, as MGM rolls out ‘Hannah and Her Sisters‘ and ‘Sleeper‘.
In 1942, John Ford’s ‘How Green Was My Valley‘ famously beat out ‘Citizen Kane’ for the Best Picture Oscar, primarily because newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst launched a vicious smear campaign against the latter. Over time, Orson Welles’ film grew tremendously in stature, and is now widely regarded as one of the greatest movies of all time. ‘Valley’, meanwhile, has been reduced to a mere trivia note in Oscar history. I’ve never been terribly fond of Ford’s nostalgic family drama about a Welsh mining village. I found it terribly twee and romanticized. On the other hand, I haven’t seen it in years. Maybe I need to give it another shot. If nothing else, its stunning black & white photography should look great in high definition, assuming that Fox has done a good job with it.
Fox also capitalizes on last week’s Oscar nominations by releasing Elia Kazan’s Best Picture winner ‘Gentleman’s Agreement‘, starring Gregory Peck as a reporter who goes undercover as a Jew to cover a story on anti-Semitism.
Twilight Time brings a mix of the silly (the James Bond spoof ‘Our Man Flint‘) and the serious (Blake Edwards’ suspense thriller ‘Experiment in Terror‘).
Finally, Warner Bros. tries to bilk Ryan Gosling fans one more time with an Ultimate Collector’s Edition Gift Set of the weepie ‘The Notebook‘.
On the TV front, BBC imports the fourth seasons of ‘Being Human‘ and ‘Merlin‘, plus a box set of the 1990 political thriller ‘House of Cards‘ and its two sequels.
The two Criterions will go on my wish list this week. What are your plans?