For countless reasons, 2017 is a year many of us would like to forget. As we move into 2018 and hope for a fresh start, the first Blu-ray releases of the new year ease us in slowly with only a few titles of interest. Of course, that’s often the case each January.
‘American Made‘ – While they’re still trying to get an ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ sequel off the ground, Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman threw together a little bio-pic about Barry Seal, a reckless airline pilot who smuggled drugs for both the CIA and the Medellin cartel in the 1980s. The movie struggled at the box office despite great reviews and viewer word-of-mouth, especially for Cruise’s manic performance. On disc, it’s the only title of the week to offer a 4k Ultra HD edition.
‘Battle of the Sexes‘ – Former ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ co-stars Steve Carell and Emma Stone reunite for a reenactment of the famous 1973 cross-gender tennis match between chauvinist Bobby Riggs and feminist Billie Jean King. The story had previously been dramatized in an entertaining 2001 TV movie called ‘When Billie Beat Bobby’ starring Holly Hunter and Ron Silver. The theatrical feature version comes from ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, which frankly deflates a lot of my interest in it. Most reviews were mildly favorable, but probably not enthusiastic enough for the awards campaign Fox hoped to wage.
‘Brad’s Status‘ – Ben Stiller plays a middle-aged, middle class dad taking his son on a tour of college campuses while personally obsessing over feelings of inadequacy triggered by constant social media updates from his seemingly much more successful friends. Writer/director Mike White (HBO’s ‘Enlightened’) specializes in characters lost in their neuroses, and the subject matter sounds pretty relevant to the modern age of online narcissism and navel-gazing. Phil called the film a better Woody Allen movie than anything Woody Allen has actually made in years.
‘Breathe‘ – Andrew Garfield goes gunning hard for another Oscar nomination with an inspirational triumph-over-adversity true story about a plucky English chap who refused to let being paralyzed from the neck down by polio hinder his adventurous lifestyle. Weirdly, the film is the directorial debut of mo-cap actor Andy Serkis. Unfortunately, few who saw the movie were overly impressed with it.
‘Rebel in the Rye‘ – The groaner of a title alone must have had the decaying corpse of the real J.D. Salinger rolling in his grave. The reclusive author’s early life gets the bio-pic treatment, with Nicholas Hoult portraying him as a young man taking guidance from a mentor figure played by (oof!) Kevin Spacey. Ironically, that casting probably got the project funded (under the assumption that a two-time Oscar winner would draw attention to the film), but ultimately wound up guaranteeing that it would be box office poison. Even aside from that, reviews were downright scathing toward writer/director Danny Strong’s (former ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and ‘Gilmore Girls’ actor, turned screenwriter of TV movies like ‘Recount’ and ‘Game Change’) simplification of a complex individual’s life.
I can’t say that I ever expected to see John Hughes wind up in the Criterion Collection. Nonetheless, the label has inducted his seminal teen drama ‘The Breakfast Club‘, bestowing it with a 4k digital restoration and a lot of new bonus features. Now that the precedent has been set, just wait for the floodgates to open for the inevitable Criterion editions of ‘Baby’s Day Out’ and ‘Flubber’.
Scream Factory serves up a Collector’s Edition for the 1981 college fraternity slasher ‘Hell Night‘.
Kino sings the praises of ‘The Executioner’s Song‘, the 1982 death penalty TV movie that won Tommy Lee Jones an Emmy.
After that, Kino shifts focus to some dud comedies, including the 1984 sex farce ‘Blame It on Rio‘ (the unfortunate swan song from legendary director Stanley Donen) and the 1990 Robin Williams vehicle ‘Cadillac Man‘.
Notable TV product this week includes the ratings flop miniseries ‘Ten Days in the Valley‘ and the second half of the tenth season of ‘Doctor Who‘.
I like ‘The Breakfast Club’ well enough, but I’m not sure I need to own a Criterion edition of it. ‘American Made’ looks like a solid rental.
Did I forget to mention something of interest to you?