Among other releases, the subject of Hollywood’s latest whitewashing controversy comes to Blu-ray and Ultra HD this week. It flopped in theaters, but will the appeal of Scarlett Johansson in a form-fitting jumpsuit convince you to give it a try at home? If not, is baby Alec Baldwin in a business suit more your speed?
New Releases (Blu-ray)
‘Ghost in the Shell‘ – The live-action American remake of Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 anime landmark (based in turn on a manga by Shirow Masamune) was greeted with disdain almost from the moment it was announced. The casting of Scarlett Johansson proved to be a major point of contention, as if this were the first time in history a foreign movie had been remade with an actor of a different nationality. What’s particularly misguided about this tempest in a teapot is that the original animated character was always drawn to be of indeterminate ethnicity, and generally looked a lot more Caucasian than Japanese. In any case, that was hardly the only criticism the movie faced. Director Rupert Sanders (‘Snow White and the Huntsman’) clearly loaded it with numerous direct recreations of images from the original movie, but reportedly dropped most of the philosophizing and intellectual content that made Oshii’s film so distinctive, in favor of a generic sci-fi plot. The fact that ‘Ghost in the Shell’ has been so influential and heavily imitated over the last two decades also dilutes the impact any remake could have today anyway. The movie was a box office bomb, but if you’ve been waiting for video to check it out, you have a choice of 2D, 3D or Ultra HD 4k, any of which should show off its razzle-dazzle visual effects. Best Buy has SteelBook editions of the 2D Blu-ray and UHD (but not 3D).
‘The Boss Baby‘ – It’s all right there in the title. In DreamWorks’ latest animated comedy, Alec Baldwin voices a baby who dresses in a suit and bosses everyone around. That seems to be the extent of the joke. Reviews were scathing but it still made a lot of money, because the young kids this was made for do not yet have much discerning taste and the only competition for that audience at the time was the even-worse-looking ‘Smurfs’ reboot.
‘Gifted‘ – ‘Captain America’ star Chris Evans teams with former ‘Spider-Man’ director Marc Webb for a new epic adventure about… a single guy who fights for custody of his young niece, a child math prodigy. I guess he’s sort-of a superhero to that little girl. Most critics were lukewarm but mildly positive on the picture.
‘Unforgettable‘ – It would seem that longtime producer Denise Di Novi – making her directorial debut, presumably because no one else wanted the job – has forgotten that Ray Liotta and Linda Fiorentino already made an unrelated movie with the same title back in 1996. As it turns out, both movies are pretty forgettable. I didn’t realize that Rosario Dawson’s career was in such a slump that she’d have to star in a low-rent ‘Fatal Attraction’ knockoff opposite Katherine Heigl.
‘Ghost in the Shell‘ and ‘The Boss Baby‘ both debut in 4k opposite their standard Blu-ray copies. If you were hoping for ‘Unforgettable’… well, forget about it. Warner Bros. didn’t bother with that one.
Criterion gets ‘Lost in America‘ with Albert Brooks’ brilliant 1985 satire about a harried ad executive and his wife (Julie Hagerty) who decide to throw caution to the wind, leave their old lives behind and travel the country in a motorhome. That plan doesn’t exactly go well for them, to hilarious result.
Unsatisfied with the latest live-action incarnation of Batman? The Warner Archive digs out 1993’s animated ‘Batman: Mask of the Phantasm‘, the first feature film spinoff of the popular ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ voiced by Kevin Conroy.
After that, the Warner Archive goes ‘Where the Boys Are‘. The 1960 spring break comedy was scandalous in its day but seems pretty quaint today.
The ‘Billy Jack‘ series of four movies about an ass-kicking, socially-conscious ex-Green Beret who fights to protect minorities from persecution by means of slo-mo karate chops, was something of a cultural phenomenon in the anti-establishment era of the late 1960s and ’70s. The 1971 ‘Billy Jack’ (actually the second movie) was released on Blu-ray by Image back in 2010. Shout! Factory now collects all four movies together. Be warned that early viewers have complained that the third movie (‘The Trial of Billy Jack’) has been cropped from its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio to 16:9, and Shout! was apparently unable to obtain any footage from the uncompleted fifth film for the bonus features.
Meryl Streep received her fifth Oscar nomination for ‘Silkwood‘, the harrowing true-life story about the tragic fate of corporate whistleblower Karen Silkwood. Director Mike Nichols, screenwriter Nora Ephron (yes, the later rom-com queen), and costar Cher were also nominated. Unfortunately, the Blu-ray from Kino is said to feature a dated video master of underwhelming quality.
Seguing from esteemed award contenders to schlock, Lionsgate expands its Vestron Collector’s Series with ‘The Warlock Collection‘ and Blue Underground goes nuts for ‘The Stendhal Syndrome‘. (The latter is notorious for Italian horror auteur Dario Argento directing graphic rape scenes featuring his own daughter.)
After six seasons, Lena Dunham has run out of ways to unflatteringly photograph herself nude, and as such has called it quits on her HBO series ‘Girls‘.
The Blu-ray release of NBC’s cheeseball ‘Wizard of Oz’ reboot/spinoff ‘Emerald City‘ is euphemistically branded “Season One” even though the show was cancelled and there will not be a Season Two.
‘Lost in America’ is definitely worth adding to my Criterion shelf. I also kind of want to see how bad the ‘Ghost in the Shell’ remake is for myself, but not enough to pay money for it.
That’s about it for me this week. What are your plans?