Everybody still got all your fingers this morning? I hope that our readers all observed proper fireworks safety when celebrating the Fourth of July over the weekend. With a new month underway, the volume of new Blu-ray releases picks up a tick. Are any actually worth buying? Let’s see what we can find.
‘Maggie‘ – It’s Arnold Schwarzenegger versus zombies! Well, almost. Don’t go expecting a big action epic here. In a surprisingly low-key drama, the former Governator agonizes as he watches his daughter (Abigail Breslin) slowly turn into a zombie. By most accounts, Schwarzenegger actually delivers a really strong performance. However, the rest of the film around him is said to be disappointingly mediocre.
‘Slow West‘ – Directed by musician John Maclean of the Scottish indie rock group The Beta Band, this deliberately-paced, contemplative Western apparently lives up to its title. Hey, you can’t say the guy didn’t warn you. Michael Fassbender stars as an Irish outlaw who agrees to help a young immigrant (Kodi Smit-McPhee) search for his lost love across the American West. The film built some notable buzz on the festival circuit and sounds pretty promising.
‘Woman in Gold‘ – Ryan Reynolds plays a lawyer… OK, you’ve already lost me there. I kind of like Reynolds, but I don’t see him as a lawyer, certainly not in an allegedly serious drama. Anyway, he’s a lawyer retained by Holocaust survivor Helen Mirren to sue the Austrian government over the ownership of a painting that the Nazis stole from her family. Important history and life lessons get learned. Heart strings get pulled. Awards get pandered for.
‘Kill Me Three Times‘ – Simon Pegg as a hitman? That sounds funny, right? Yet the movie is labeled as an “action/thriller” and not as a comedy? Huh. Did this even get a threatrical release? Oh, it played in a grand total of 16 theaters and debuted on VOD at the same time. That’s probably not a good sign. Nor are the very low IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes scores (a ghastly 9% on the latter).
‘5 Flights Up‘ – Feel-good pablum about an elderly couple (Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton) who decide to sell their New York City apartment because they’re too feeble to walk up the stairs anymore. You think they’ll come to important realizations about their lives in the process? Somehow, I bet they will. More importantly, how much will your mother-in-law love this movie?
‘Merchants of Doubt‘ – The documentarian behind ‘Food, Inc.’ turns his lens toward the industry of bullshit “experts authorities” who rent themselves out as pundits to yell at each other about controversial topics (such as tobacco and climate change) on cable news. This film may be good, but I have a feeling that watching it will make me very upset.
Ernest Hemingway’s short story ‘The Killers‘, a hard-boiled mystery about contract killers, was adapted to film twice – first by Robert Siodmak in 1946 (starring Burt Lancaster) and later remade by Don Siegel in 1964 (starring Lee Marvin). The Criterion Collection bundles both versions into a double-feature so you can compare and contrast the very different ways each filmmaker handled the material.
After an inauspicious debut making theatrical sex comedies in the 1970s, director Martin Campbell spent most of the 1980s building a real name for himself in British television, most notably the acclaimed ‘Edge of Darkness’ miniseries. In 1988, he jumped back to features with the Kevin Bacon/Gary Oldman suspense thriller ‘Criminal Law‘. It was not well received. I haven’t seen the movie since VHS, but I recall it having a convoluted plot that didn’t hold up to scrutiny. Somehow, the movie’s failure didn’t stop Campbell from landing the gig of revitalizing the James Bond franchise with ‘GoldenEye’ a few years later.
Tarsem Singh’s trippy, sci-fi-tinged thriller ‘The Cell‘ has a pretty dopey plot as well (perhaps even more so), but dazzling visuals that should hopefully make nice eye candy in high definition. It stars Jennifer Lopez before she got too annoying, but nobody saw the movie for her.
Heath Ledger fans, be warned. Olive’s release of ‘Ned Kelly‘ is the 1970 version starring Mick Jagger, not Ledger’s 2003 remake. Both films tell the true story of a legendary Australian outlaw.
GUILTY PLEASURE ALERT! Scream Factory rocks ’em and socks ’em with the cheeseball ‘Robot Jox‘. Oscar winners Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe embarrass themselves with the idiotic cyber thriller ‘Virtuosity‘. Nicolas Cage (in his first truly blatant “I’ll do anything for a paycheck” role) plays Top Gun with Army helicopters in ‘Fire Birds‘.
Also, Sony is crapping the lame David Spade comedy ‘Joe Dirt‘ onto Blu-ray, but nobody needs that.
Those of you who don’t subscribe to Netflix will be glad to finally catch up with the third season of ‘House of Cards‘.
Finally, PBS offers the first season of BBC’s ‘Poldark‘, based on a famous series of historical novels set during the American Revolutionary War. (The books had also previously been adapted to television in the 1970s.)
My only sure-buy for the week is Criterion’s double feature of ‘The Killers’, though I think that ‘Slow West’ and ‘Maggie’ deserve rentals.
Is anything on your docket this week?