Does Skull Island also have giant trees that grow giant bananas to feed its famous giant monkey? Otherwise, how does he have enough energy to swat helicopters out of the sky? These are questions I wonder about when looking at the Blu-ray listings this week.
New Releases (Blu-ray)
‘Kong: Skull Island‘ – In rebooting ‘King Kong’ once again, Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures have scaled up the overgrown ape even taller than ever before as prelude to an upcoming crossover with their recent iteration of ‘Godzilla’ – because everything needs to be part of a “cinematic universe” these days. Director Jordon Vogt-Roberts attempts to learn some lessons from the fan disappointment with Peter Jackson’s 2005 ‘Kong’ remake by jumping straight into the action and keeping his runtime a full hour shorter, both of which sound like smart decisions. He also takes the interesting approach of setting the movie during the Vietnam era and playing it as a riff on ‘Apocalypse Now’ with literal monsters instead of just figurative ones. Overall reaction was mixed, some viewers declaring it a fun B-movie and others a stinky pile of monkey poo. Regardless, it made a fair bit of money, if not quite as much as the studios hoped. On disc, you can get it in 2D, 3D or Ultra HD editions. For the most comprehensive option, the Best Buy SteelBook combines all of them into one package.
‘Free Fire‘ – Also set in the 1970s is the latest film from highly divisive director Ben Wheatley (‘A Field in England’, ‘High-Rise’). Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy and Sharlto Copley star in the comedic crime caper as a bunch of criminals and terrorists who meet in a Boston warehouse for an arms deal, only for tensions to rise to bullets to start flying. Reviews and viewer response were split between those calling it a brilliant blast of pure entertainment and those calling it a tedious Tarantino knockoff.
‘Resident Evil: Vendetta‘ – No, Milla Jovovich didn’t crank out another zombie sequel already this year. She still claims that ‘The Final Chapter’ was the end. Instead, Sony has churned out one more of the direct-to-video animated spinoffs that follow the videogame continuity rather than the movie continuity. I watched the first of these and wasn’t too impressed. Word-of-mouth seems to be that even fans of the earlier ones found this one dull and poorly written.
‘Buster’s Mal Heart‘ – With such a weird, offputting title, this movie was clearly designed to play only at film festivals and to push all other potential audiences away. Rami Malek from ‘Mr. Robot’ stars in the quirky mind-bender as a buttoned-down hotel concierge, and a hermit living in the woods, and a castaway adrift at sea. Perhaps these are all the same person, or perhaps not. Perhaps they all take place simultaneously. The film is one of those puzzle boxes where nothing makes sense until the plot pulls everything together in the end. Phil had mixed feelings about it. That seems to be a common reaction.
‘The Promise‘ – If I were writer/director Terry George (‘Hotel Rwanda’), I’m not sure that I’d really want to be pigeonholed as the guy who makes movies about genocide. That seems pretty limiting. Here, George turns to the Armenian genocide in Turkey during the early 20th Century. Attempting to make such depressing subject matter more palatable to American and European audiences, Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac have been thrust into the narrative for some love triangle nonsense with French-Canadian actress Charlotte Le Bon (‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’). Critics were unimpressed and everyone else ignored it.
Monkeys and zombies are all over Ultra HD this week, when ‘Kong: Skull Island‘ and ‘Resident Evil: Vendetta‘ debut in 4k alongside their regular Blu-ray counterparts.
The Criterion Collection brings a little more Andrei Tarkovsky into the fold with the Russian master’s metaphysical science-fiction brain-twister, ‘Stalker‘.
Twilight Time reveals the answers to ‘Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But were afraid to ask)‘ with a limited edition of Woody Allen’s 1972 sex farce. Also on the docket from Twilight Time are the 1962 remake of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical ‘State Fair‘ (starring Pat Boone and Ann-Margret), Sam Fuller’s 1959 noir thriller ‘The Crimson Kimono‘, and a double-feature disc of the 1970s musical adaptations of ‘Tom Sawyer‘ and ‘Huckleberry Finn‘.
The Warner Archive takes a trip down ‘Blood Alley‘ with John Wayne playing another boat captain (the same year as ‘The Sea Chase‘, released on Blu-ray last week). Even with Lauren Bacall co-starring and William Wellman directing, this is generally regarded as one of The Duke’s weaker efforts.
Finally, Arrow Video heads into a ‘Stormy Monday‘ to find the 1988 crime drama starring Sean Bean, Tommy Lee Jones, Melanie Griffith and Sting. The film marked the directorial debut of uber-pretentious indie auteur Mike Figgis (‘Leaving Las Vegas’, ‘The Loss of Sexual Innocence’).
I wish the second season of Syfy’s ambitious space epic ‘The Expanse‘ had been less uneven and frustrating. However, although it’s a step down from the first season, the show is still fascinating and worth watching.
Fans of The CW’s ‘The 100‘ will be relieved that Warner Bros. is following through with releasing the show’s fourth season on Blu-ray, even if it’s been relegated to the Warner Archive.
I may try to pick up ‘Stalker’ while Barnes & Noble’s Criterion sale is still on. Meanwhile, ‘Kong: Skull Island’ and ‘Free Fire’ strike me as rental material.
I recall liking ‘Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex’ when I saw it many years ago, but I’m just not sure how I’d feel about rewatching a Woody Allen sex comedy today.
What’s on your agenda this week?