Whoa, nellie! A whole lotta new Blu-rays hit store shelves his week. Unlike the last several weeks, quite a few of them actually look interesting. This could be a wallet-buster.
‘X-Men: Days of Future Past – The Rogue Cut‘ – I debated whether to call this a new release or a catalog title. The theatrical cut of ‘Days of Future Past’ was already released on Blu-ray late last year. However, this extended cut, which apparently features a much bigger role for Anna Paquin among other changes, has never been seen before. The disc only comes in 2D, which may be a disappointment for some, but most reports say that the 3D version wasn’t very good anyway.
‘Ex Machina‘ – It’s the year of the robot! Between ‘Age of Ultron’, ‘Terminator Genisys’ and the ‘Humans’ series on cable, androids are everywhere. The directorial debut for Alex Garland, screenwriter of genre favorites including ’28 Days Later’ and ‘Dredd’, this low-budget yet high-concept indie thriller about Artificial Intelligence is one of the best-reviewed films of the year so far. Adding to its appeal, the Blu-ray is also the first title to be encoded with the new DTS:X audio format – even though no hardware exists yet to actually decode the full immersive track. You’ll have to wait until the end of the year for that. In the meantime, the disc will play back in DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, which I’m sure will sound pretty good anyway.
‘It Follows‘ – With a clever premise and a throwback style that calls to mind John Carpenter films of the 1970s and ’80s, the second feature from director David Robert Mitchell (‘The Myth of the American Sleepover’) created something of a sensation among horror fans earlier this year. The story concerns a girl (Maika Monroe) who finds herself stalked by an unstoppable demon that will follow her everywhere until she can pass the curse on to another victim, sort of like that evil VHS tape in ‘The Ring’. The catch: this curse is transmitted sexually. (No metaphor there, I’m sure!) Worse, even if she does manage to get rid of it, if the demon ever catches the next victim, it’ll work its way back down the line. Yikes!
‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel‘ – Do the makers of the original feel-good pablum ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ (all of whom returned for the sequel) realize that the phrase “second best” means “not as good as”? Do you think that was intentional, and if so, why? I mean, they’re basically saying right in the title that this is the lamer retread of something people already watched.
‘Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2‘ – How does this exist? Who wanted it? How did it make money (a surprising amount of it too)? Sometimes, I really do wonder if we as a civilization deserve to survive.
‘The Longest Ride‘ – More sappy Nicholas Sparks drivel. Blech.
‘Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau‘ – Back in the mid 1990s, director Richard Stanley (‘Hardware‘) tried to mount an adaptation of the famed H.G. Wells’ sci-fi story. The production was terribly troubled (largely due to the difficulties of working with star Marlon Brando). Stanley was ousted after just four days of shooting and replaced by John Frankenheimer. The film that resulted from this was a notorious bomb that has been ridiculed endlessly in the years since. Finally, Stanley gets to tell his side of the story in this documentary about the project he wanted to make.
‘Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police‘ – Considering everything going on in the world over the past year, a documentary called “Surviving the Police” might seem to be about something a little more topical. But no, this is about the band The Police, and is comprised primarily of home movies from guitarist Andy Summers. It seems to be a glorified VH-1 special, but might be worth a watch if you’re a fan of the group.
‘The Salt of the Earth‘ – Our third new documentary of the week scored an Oscar nomination. Director Wim Wenders profiles photographer Sabastião Salgado. Being who he is, Wenders decided to take a more poetic approach than the usual talking-head interview format.
New inductees into Criterion’s high-def collection include Carroll Ballard’s visually sumptuous family film ‘The Black Stallion‘, the late Alain Resnais’ meditation on truth and memory ‘Hiroshima mon amour‘, and Swedish director Jan Troell’s coming-of-age period piece epic ‘Here Is Your Life‘.
Meanwhile, Twilight Time has another batch of limited editions. Michelle Pfeiffer plays a sexy chanteuse who comes between real brothers Jeff and Beau Bridges in ‘The Fabulous Baker Boys‘. Sally Field struggles to keep her family together through the Great Depression in ‘Places in the Heart‘. Peter Sellers is a nutty concert pianist who inspires the obsession of two schoolgirls in ‘The World of Henry Orient‘. Joan Crawford does a sort of prototype ‘Devil Wears Prada’ as a ball-busting career woman in the melodrama ‘The Best of Everything‘. Colin Firth and Kenneth Branagh play a pair of WWI veterans who spend ‘A Month in the Country‘ to recover from the horrors of war.
Unrelated to the similarly-titled Wim Wenders documentary mentioned above (though its release seems timed to create some confusion), the 1959 political drama ‘Salt of the Earth‘ concerns the plight of Mexican immigrants struggling against prejudice and inequality. Sadly, that theme still sounds equally relevant today.
Universal unleashes ‘The Andromeda Strain‘, Robert Wise’s nail-bitingly suspenseful adaptation of the Michael Crichton bestseller about a deadly epidemic of extraterrestrial origins.
Would you know my name if I saw you in heaven? Jason Patric plays an undercover narcotics detective in… no, not ‘Narc’, that came later. First he did it in 1991’s ‘Rush‘, opposite Jennifer Jason Leigh. While the movie itself isn’t very good, it remains notable for introducing the world to Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven.”
After that, Kino stays stuck in the early 1990s for the dopey bomb squad thriller ‘Blown Away‘ and Mel Brooks’ aptly-titled attempt at social satire ‘Life Stinks‘.
Olive Films flashes back from the early 1980s to the late 1960s for John Sayle’s delicate period piece romance ‘Baby It’s You‘.
I’m ashamed to admit that, back in the day, I watched the terribly campy ‘Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf‘ more than a few times on Cinemax just to catch a glimpse of Sybil Danning’s furry werewolf boobs. Yes, before the internet made porn so easily available, this is what a desperate teenager had to do to see something naughty.
In other cult properties, Arrow offers a box set compilation of the Japanese exploitation series ‘Stray Cat Rock‘.
Big TV releases for the week include the fifth season of ‘Adventure Time‘, the sixth season of the classic ‘Little House on the Prairie‘, and the first season of the PlayStation Network’s original superhero drama ‘Powers‘.
I’m certainly not going to be able to afford everything I might like this week. Among the titles I’ll have to choose from are ‘Hiroshima mon amour’, ‘The Black Stallion’, ‘The Fabulous Baker Boys’, and the Rogue Cut of ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’. (I already have the ‘Andromeda Strain’ disc.) On top of that, certainly worthy of at least rentals are ‘Ex Machina’, ‘It Follows’, and the ‘Lost Soul’ and ‘The Salt of the Earth’ documentaries.
This seems like a pretty damn good week to me. Do you agree?