At a time when it may feel like the world is going off the rails, I suppose it’s appropriate that we open the week with a couple of recent movies about trains, now available on Blu-ray.
New Releases (Blu-ray)
‘The Girl on the Train‘ – Adapted from the bestseller by Paula Hawkins, Emily Blunt stars as an alcoholic divorcee who gets entangled in a missing person (possibly murder) mystery. Packaged by its studio to be the next ‘Gone Girl’, the movie was received very poorly by critics, who complained about its ludicrous plot. That didn’t stop it from making a healthy profit at the box office, but I don’t recall hearing any viewers who were too enthusiastic about it.
‘Train to Busan‘ – Just when you think the zombie genre is completely played out, ingenious variations keep popping up all over the world. This South Korean horror thriller fuses ’28 Days Later’ with ‘Snowpiercer’, depicting a small group of characters’ fight for survival on a train overrun by living dead of the “fast zombie” variety. Greeted by rave reviews, the film was a cult hit at festivals last year.
‘Keeping Up with the Joneses‘ – Released just a few weeks after his flop ‘Masterminds’ (which had sat on a studio shelf for a couple years before release), Zach Galifianakis had a second failed action comedy in 2016. In the desperate ‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith’ knockoff, he and Isla Fisher play a boring suburban couple who discover that their new neighbors (Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot) are really international super-spies. While the trailers didn’t look outright terrible, they did make the movie look really derivative and redundant. The cast apparently didn’t have enough star wattage to override the largely negative reviews.
‘Ouija: Origin of Evil‘ – 2014’s ‘Ouija’ was a pretty lame PG-13 horror flick produced by Hasbro Studios to revive interest in the silly “spirit board” game. Despite being little loved by anyone, the movie turned enough of a profit to generate a sequel (or, in this case, prequel). Surprisingly, the follow-up (this time helmed by ‘Oculus’ director Mike Flanagan) opened to a lot of buzz and great reviews. Although its domestic box office returns fell short of the first movie, it made up for that overseas and was a slightly bigger hit overall.
‘Long Way North‘ – In the late 19th Century, a young Russian girl from an aristocratic family sets out on an adventure to find her grandfather, an explorer who went missing in the Arctic. The French/Danish animated film was praised for its simple yet evocative animation style and emotional story.
Of the day-and-date releases, ‘The Girl on the Train‘ and ‘Keeping Up with the Joneses‘ both get 4k editions.
If you enjoyed Peter Berg’s new ‘Patriots Day’ in theaters, Universal hopes that you might want to take another look at his idiotic ‘Battleship‘. Don’t make that mistake.
With a new (allegedly final) sequel hitting cinemas shortly, Sony trots out an Ultra HD edition of ‘Resident Evil: Afterlife‘. I’m a little puzzled why only the fourth movie in the franchise (it’s not even the most recent one) would get reissued without the others, but I guess someone at the studio decided that only the highest grossing entry deserved a 4k upgrade.
Despite the similarity in title, the 1961 rape revenge drama ‘Something Wild‘ has no connection to Jonathan Demme’s more famous 1986 comedy of the same name, which is also already part of the Criterion Collection. Don’t go watching this one expecting that the latter was a remake.
In addition to that, Criterion also brings us German auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1975 class conflict drama ‘Fox and His Friends‘. In the story laced with heavy social commentary, the filmmaker himself stars as a working class gay man whose financial and personal fortunes swing wildly after he wins the lottery.
The latest treasure from the Warner Archive is John Sturges’ Western noir thriller ‘Bad Day at Black Rock‘, photographed in CinemaScope and starring Spencer Tracy and Robert Ryan.
Arrow Video looks back to the early career of prolific Japanese cult director Takashi Miike with ‘Black Society Trilogy‘. Unlike his later work, which tends to be completely bonkers, this three-part crime saga is played relatively straight.
Perhaps a little belatedly, Sony marks the passing of boxing legend Muhammad Ali with a so-called Commemorative Edition of Michael Mann’s bio-pic, ‘Ali‘.
Scream Factory unleashed the original ’80s slasher ‘The Slumber Party Massacre‘ on Blu-ray a couple years ago. The label follows that up now with a double-feature disc for its two sequels.
Universal parses out its ‘Fast & Furious‘ series with a trio of double-bills comprising the first six entries, then also reissues ‘Hellboy II‘ for some unknown reason.
I never made it past the pilot episode of Syfy’s ‘12 Monkeys‘ TV spinoff, but the show has somehow lasted through a second season, which hits Blu-ray now.
If that overpriced ‘Nash Bridges‘ complete series box set from a couple months ago was too expensive for you, the label has broken out the first two seasons of the show to separate releases. That’s assuming you would ever honestly want to own ‘Nash Bridges’ in the first place.
The title I’m most interested in this week is ‘Bad Day at Black Rock’. I’ll also put ‘Fox and His Friends’ on my wish list for a future Criterion sale. Anything by Fassbinder is worth a look.
Both ‘Train to Busan’ and ‘Long Way North’ sound like worthy rentals.
What catches your eye this week?