At least in my opinion, it’s rare that a TV box set would be the best Blu-ray release of the week. Perhaps that’s because I stopped collecting TV shows when I realized that I never made time to rewatch all the episodes. Some series deserve a special exception, however.
We got a taste of Star Trek: The Next Generation‘ on Blu-ray with that sampler disc earlier this year. The restoration of this series into high definition took an unprecedented amount of work, and the results looked stunning. Now, finally, CBS and Paramount offer up a box set of the show’s complete first season in similar quality, packed with interesting bonus features. While the first season may be one of the show’s weakest (the series didn’t really find its footing until Season 3), this was clearly the start of something special. Trekkies need to jump on this right away.
After decades playing Frasier Crane on TV, it took Kelsey Grammer a while to break that typecasting and find another successful role. He seems to have finally done that with the political drama ‘Boss‘. Because I don’t subscribe to the Starz network, I’ve never caught any episodes of this. Are any fans reading today? Fill me in on what I’m missing.
Indie darling Elizabeth Olsen tries to go mainstream with the supernatural thriller ‘Silent House‘. A remake of an Uruguayan film (color me surprised that Uruguay has a film industry) and made by the directors of ‘Open Water’, the entire 85-minute movie was shot in one unbroken take (or seamlessly edited to appear that way). Unsurprisingly, most reviews called this a gimmick movie with little to recommend aside from Olsen’s performance.
I often wonder how Eddie Murphy still gets work. Do his movies still make money? Who goes to see them? Don’t get me wrong, I think the guy is talented when he puts his mind to something. (He was by far the best part of the ho-hum musical ‘Dreamgirls’.) Sadly, he rarely puts that much effort into anything these days. Murphy’s latest paycheck comes in the form of the slapstick farce ‘A Thousand Words‘. While the trailers for this didn’t look anywhere near as horrid as, say, ‘Norbit’ or any of his godawful Klumps movies, nothing could ever convince me to watch this on purpose.
The UK drama ‘The Deep Blue Sea‘ does not – I repeat, NOT – feature any scenes where super sharks bite Samuel Jackson in half. If you’ve instantly filled with disappointment upon my saying that, this British period piece romance from director Terence Davies (‘Distant Voices, Still Lives’) is probably not for you anyway. Consider yourself warned.
The independent scene also brings us the audience-pleasing documentary ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi‘ and the Israeli family drama ‘Footnote‘. Both have received a fair amount of acclaim.
Did you realize that Whit Stillman had a new movie in theaters this year? It was called ‘Damsels in Distress’, and was all the buzz among the New York intelligentsia for about 30 seconds before disappearing in a blink everywhere else. The director’s semi-return from obscurity has prompted the Criterion Collection to issue two of his previous movies on Blu-ray: ‘Metropolitan‘ and ‘The Last Days of Disco‘. While I haven’t seen either of these, Mrs. Z and I saw his ‘Barcelona’ back in 1994, and were not fans. I swear, it felt like we were trapped in that theater for 101 years, not 101 minutes. Needless to say, I can’t get overly excited about these. Still, a part of me feels that I should give the director a second chance. There must be some reason that people like him, right?
If Stillman’s films are too linear and narratively coherent for your particular tastes, try British director Derek Jarman’s 1988 surreal political nighmare ‘The Last of England‘, starring Tilda Swinton before anyone knew who she was. Jarman was never a mainstream-friendly filmmaker. To call his films “challenging” is an understatement, but they’re rich with meaning if you put the effort into exploring their complexities. I’m not sure how much benefit there is to watching this one on Blu-ray, however, given that a lot of it was shot on 8mm film.
John Frankenheimer was indisputably a talented filmmaker. He directed ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, ferchrissakes. Sadly, his later years suffered a series of misfires, perhaps the worst of which was his 1996 adaptation of ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau‘ starring Marlon Brando. The movie’s production was famously troubled. Frankenheimer stepped in just four days before the start of shooting after the studio fired ‘Hardware’ director Richard Stanley. Brando’s oddball behavior and complete indifference to anything that might be called “acting” drove everyone nuts. The finished product is an embarrassingly jumbled mess, to put it lightly. And yet, in its awfulness, there’s something perversely mesmerizing about the film, which is certainly one of the strangest things to ever come out of a major studio. I don’t think I can recommend buying this blindly, but someone out there might want to rewatch it.
I used to be friends with a guy who insisted that the superhero spoof ‘Mystery Men‘ was a hilarious and underrated gem. I watched it at his recommendation. As I recall, I laughed once. You’ll note that I said I “used to” be friends with him. Still, the movie seems to have a cult following who will no doubt appreciate the Blu-ray’s upgrade from the crappy non-anamorphic letterbox DVD they’ve been stuck with until now.
I’m certainly down for ‘Star Trek’ this week. That’s probably the limit of what I plan to spend, though. How about you?