When it came time to recognize the contribution that black artists and performers made to cinema during 2015, it appears that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences ran all outta nominations. Sorry, people of color! At least we can still watch your movies on Blu-ray.
‘Straight Outta Compton‘ – To cut the Academy some slack, I must note that the voters in fact did nominate this bio-pic about legendary hip-hop band N.W.A for a Best Screenplay Oscar (ironically, all four nominated writers are white), though nothing else. I also have to admit that I expressed skepticism about the movie when it was released, because all the trailers made it look like a piece of narcissistic self-glorification from producer Ice Cube (who cast his own son to play himself, which is just uncomfortably weird). However, I’m told that the movie is better than it looked. I’m interested enough to see it, even if I wasn’t ever a big N.W.A fan back in the day.
‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl‘ – Also overlooked by the Oscars was the acclaimed coming-of-age story about a 15-year-old girl growing up in 1970s San Francisco, who starts a secret affair with her mother’s 35-year-old boyfriend. Kristen Wiig, Alexander Skarsgard, and young actress Bel Powley are all said to deliver terrific performances. Many critics marked first-time filmmaker Marielle Heller as an exciting new talent. (No women director nominees at the Oscars this year either, huh.)
‘Everest‘ – Although this survival adventure thriller recounts the true story made famous by Jon Krakauer’s ‘Into Thin Air’ (and Krakauer is a character in it), my understanding is that the film isn’t specifically based on that book, but rather on a combination of accounts of that disastrous attempt to climb the highest peak in the world. Regardless, it promises plenty of spectacle, available in 3D and Dolby Atmos. (Spoiler Alert: The trip doesn’t go very well for any of the climbers.)
‘All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records‘ – Actor Colin Hanks branches out into directing with a nostalgic documentary about the history of his favorite music store – and, by extension, the huge changes that the music industry has undergone as a result of the transition from physical media to digital delivery.
‘The Intern‘ – Robert De Niro takes an internship working for Anne Hathaway, which is funny because the boss is young but her intern is sooooooo old. Ha ha ha… Yeah, that’s the full extent of the joke in Nancy Meyers’ latest comedy. Your mom will probably think it’s cute.
‘Jem and the Holograms‘ – Exactly whom is this movie made for? Is there really any nostalgia out there for the dopey ’80s cartoon? This isn’t ‘Transformers’ or ‘The Smurfs’. The property hasn’t been part of the pop culture consciousness for thirty years. The few people who remember ‘Jem’ were all offended that the movie wasn’t faithful to their childhoods. Nobody else had ever heard of it in the first place. Unsurprisingly, it was one of the biggest box office bombs of the year.
The Criterion Collection feels that the Coen brothers’ ‘Inside Llewyn Davis‘ was unjustly overlooked and too quickly forgotten during its brief run in 2013. It didn’t do particularly well on home video either. Perhaps a Blu-ray re-release with the cachet of Criterion behind it will bring the film some new attention?
Criterion’s other offering this week is the 1946 Rita Hayworth film noir ‘Gilda‘.
Twilight Time had originally planned to release the 3D anime adaptation ‘Harlock: Space Pirate‘ back in December. That release got pushed back due to technical issues and is finally coming out today. Other new Twilight Time limited editions include two Hal Ashby films (the Jack Nicholson star vehicle ‘The Last Detail‘ and the Depression-era Woody Guthrie bio-pic ‘Bound for Glory‘), one by George Roy Hill (the James Michener epic ‘Hawaii‘), one by Richard Brooks (the divorce drama ‘The Happy Ending‘), and one by Mark Robson (the Paul Newman/Joanne Woodward melodrama ‘From the Terrace‘).
Scream Factory unearths ‘The Guardian‘ – no, not the Coast Guard movie with Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher. This one is William Friedkin’s horror flick about an evil tree. It’s one of the low points of that director’s career.
Another guilty pleasure comes from the Warner Archive with the 1980s sci-fi cheesefest ‘The Ice Pirates‘.
After that, Warner Bros. gets serious for a moment with Paul Schrader’s ‘American Gigolo‘.
Olive Films has Gary Sinise’s acclaimed adaptation of ‘Of Mice and Men‘, plus a very interesting collection called ‘Let There Be Light: John Huston’s Wartime Documentaries‘.
I wasn’t too impressed with the pilot episode of Syfy’s ‘12 Monkeys‘ spinoff series and never gave it another shot. The show has some fans, however. Perhaps I bailed on it too early? Does it get better?
Likewise, I was never able to get into the same network’s ‘Continuum‘, which nonetheless celebrates its fourth season on Blu-ray.
‘Straight Outta Compton’, ‘Everest’ and ‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl’ all look like strong rental candidates for me.
I still haven’t seen ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’, so the Criterion disc could be a good opportunity to catch up with the film. That and ‘Gilda’ are my strongest purchase candidates of the week.
Although I’m not in a rush to buy them right now, ‘The Last Detail’, ‘Bound for Glory’, ‘The Happy Ending’ and ‘From the Terrace’ will go on my Twilight Time wish list.
I’ve also always liked Sinise’s ‘Of Mice and Men’, and would be pretty interested to watch the John Huston war documentaries.
What catches your eye this week?