Welcome to 2016! Let’s start off the brand new year with a brand new slate of Blu-ray releases that, surprisingly, might even have a few interesting titles to consider.
‘Sicario‘ – One of the most acclaimed films of 2015, Denis Villeneuve’s drug war thriller will almost certainly get some more attention come Oscar nomination time (despite its inexplicable snubbing by the Golden Globes). As if I weren’t already anticipating it, the Blu-ray also comes with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack.
‘The Visit‘ – Almost as if he listened to his critics (which would be very out of character for him) and learned a lesson from the massive failure of his last two box office flops, M. Night Shyamalan scaled way back on his latest film and delivered a very low-budget, Found Footage-style horror thriller with no stars of note. Although reaction to it was fairly divided between those who called it a return-to-form and those who called it more stupid Shyamalan crap, the movie did solid business and will surely keep the director working for a while longer.
‘The Walk‘ – You probably didn’t see Robert Zemeckis’ new film in the theater last year. Almost no one did. A dramatization of the true story of Philippe Petit, the high-wire walker whose illegal 1974 stunt crossing between the World Trade Center towers was already chronicled in the Oscar winning documentary ‘Man on Wire’, the movie was a huge box office dud. That failure was largely a factor of poor marketing (which didn’t at all explain what the point of the movie was), plus the unfortunate timing of opening against Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’, which claimed most of the target audience. Also, hearing Joseph Gordon-Levitt do a silly Pepé Le Pew accent in the trailers probably scared a lot of viewers away. Nevertheless, critics’ reviews were mostly favorable. This probably would have been fun to see in IMAX 3D. That experience will be hard to recreate at home.
‘The Green Inferno‘ – Eli Roth tries to revive the cannibal exploitation genre, popularized in the 1970s and ’80s by Italian gross-out flicks like ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ and ‘Cannibal Ferox’. No one wanted him to do this. The studio sat on the movie for two years before finally dumping it in theaters. Audiences had no interest in seeing it. The cannibal genre originally waned when viewers realized that its inherent racism was pretty repugnant, but Roth was apparently oblivious to that lesson.
‘Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse‘ – A wannabe ‘Zombieland’, this horror-comedy arrived far too late and looks pretty stupid. No surprise, it tanked at the box office.
‘Love‘ – Cinematic provocateur Gaspar Noé (‘Irreversible’, ‘Enter the Void’) loves to push boundaries. His gimmick this time is to shoot explicit hardcore sex (including threesomes) in 3D and gussy it up as an art film. In case you weren’t aware, you can find plenty of free pornography on the internet that gets right to the good stuff. But if it makes you feel less guilty to suffer through the pretense of watching a story first, well, this is for you.
‘Infinitely Polar Bear‘ – With such a twee, pretentious title, this domestic drama about a father with Bipolar Disorder (Mark Ruffalo) who’s forced to take care of his two daughters on his own when their mother abandons them in his care never stood a chance of breaking out beyond the film festival circuit. The piece was obviously designed as an actor’s showcase for Ruffalo in the hopes of courting some award nominations. Whether that will work out for him or not remains to be seen.
‘Experimenter‘ – If you ever took a psychology course in college, you undoubtedly read about the Milgram Experiment, which measured test subjects’ willingness to obey authority figures who instructed them to give painful electric shocks to unseen victims in a separate room. Peter Sarsgaard plays Stanley Milgram in a docudrama about those events. The film is said to be interesting but a little dry.
‘Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser‘ – Have we really come to this as a society? The garbage sequel to a garbage David Spade comedy can be streamed for free (with commercials) on Crackle.com right now, yet Sony really expects that some people will pay to own it on disc without the ads. If you have any desire to watch this in the first place, shame on you.
Quentin Tarantino fans will no doubt recognize the ‘Lady Snowblood‘ films as huge inspirations for his ‘Kill Bill’ movies. The Criterion Collection bundles the two Japanese revenge thrillers together in a double-feature to give American viewers a chance to judge them in their own right.
A double-bill of the direct-to-video sequels ‘Aladdin: The Return of Jafar‘ and ‘Aladdin and the King of Thieves‘ was originally announced as a Disney Movie Club exclusive from October of last year until this month, but was reportedly pushed back to start this week instead. Because I am not a DMC member, I can’t verify that it’s actually coming out this week or not, or when the exclusivity will end.
If, for whatever reason, you failed to buy any of the previous Blu-ray editions of ‘Kung Fu Panda‘ but want to do so now, DreamWorks offers another chance with the Ultimate Edition of Awesomeness. Considering that it lacks the 3D version of the movie, the disc seems less “ultimate” than it should.
Kino compiles a collection of Louis Feuillade’s 1913-14 silent crime serial ‘Fantômas‘. All five films are sourced from a new 4k restoration.
Also from Kino is the bizarre John Irving adaptation ‘The Hotel New Hampshire‘. This is the movie that cast the gorgeous Nastassja Kinski and kept her confined to a bulky bear costume the entire picture.
The first season of HBO’s ‘True Detective‘ was such a phenomenon that there was very little chance the second season could live up. I defended the early parts of the season against its detractors, but a major cop-out plot twist a few episodes in really pissed me off. Then, as the season kept going and the plot became more and more incoherent, I had to give up trying to make any sense of it. Season 2 really is a complete mess.
Also available is Starz’s ballerina drama ‘Flesh and Bone‘, which the network has canceled after its first season.
I definitely want to check out ‘Sicario’ and am debating a blind buy of ‘The Walk’ in 3D. The ‘Lady Snowblood’ and ‘Fantômas’ collections will go on my wish list for later.
How will you start the new year?