It’s a given which movie will top the Blu-ray sales charts this week. That’s a done-deal, a fate that cannot be altered. The question, then, is whether anything else is worth giving a spin.
New Releases (Blu-ray)
‘The Fate of the Furious‘ – Be honest, don’t you wish the title were spelled ‘F8’? The eighth installment to Vin Diesel’s increasingly-ludicrous car stunt series somehow roped in Oscar winners Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren, as well as ‘Straight Outta Compton’ director F. Gary Gray. Whether the movie is actually any good or not almost seems like an irrelevant question with a juggernaut of a franchise like this. In ‘Furious Ocho’, Diesel’s character allegedly betrays his
friendsFAMILY and turns to the dark side. I doubt that even a single fan bought that for a second. The movie also has something to do with a submarine and an ice cap. Beyond that, you should already know what you’re getting into with these movies. This entry had a small dip in domestic box office returns compared to franchise high ‘Furious 7’, but still topped a billion dollars thanks to a huge turnout overseas. Among the disc options are a couple of retailer exclusives, including Blu-ray and UHD SteelBooks at Best Buy.
‘Smurfs: The Lost Village‘ – After a couple of inexplicably successful live action movies, Sony attempted to reboot the irritating kids’ franchise about talking blue rodents with a fully-animated offering. The target audience was apparently not impressed, and the movie’s box office returns fell significantly compared to its predecessors. If he hasn’t already, Neil Patrick Harris should expect a call from his agent imminently.
‘The Lost City of Z‘ – If you’re a little too old to go looking for that missing Smurf village, you might prefer to trek through the Amazon with Charlie Hunnam and Robert Pattinson as early 20th Century explorers in search of the ruins of a mythical native city. Director James Gray, who’s mostly known for very small-scale, intimate dramas such as ‘Two Lovers’ and ‘The Immigrant’, expands his reach with a historical epic based on a true story. Although the movie’s marketing didn’t sell it well and it underperformed financially, reviews were strong.
‘Their Finest‘ – Gemma Arterton stars in a WWII period piece about a woman who falls into a career screenwriting propaganda films for the British government. Luke loved this movie when he saw it at Sundance. Phil was a little more lukewarm on it but generally supportive. Directed by Lone Scherfig (‘An Education’), it sounds like a pleasant little feel-good crowd-pleaser.
‘A Quiet Passion‘ – Cythia Nixon plays famed poet Emily Dickinson in a bio-pic very artily directed by British filmmaker Terence Davies (‘The Deep Blue Sea’, ‘Sunset Song’). Critics went ga-ga for the performance and seemed to appreciate the movie around it as well.
‘Spark: A Space Tail‘ – Kids were decidedly not interested in this animated flick about a space monkey who saves the universe, or something. Shockingly, the PS2-quality animation and paycheck-cashing voice performances from Jessica Biel, Patrick Stewart, Hillary Swank and Susan Sarandon couldn’t lure anyone to the theater. Budgeted at $40 million, it was a massive flop and grossed barely half a million bucks in ticket sales.
Both ‘The Fate of the Furious‘ and ‘Smurfs: The Lost Village‘ debut on Ultra HD simultaneously with regular Blu-ray.
In anticipation of Luke Besson’s upcoming movie ‘Valerian’, Sony upgrades ‘The Fifth Element‘ and ‘Léon: The Professional‘ to 4k. Although it has a reputation as home theater eye candy, I’m not sure how well the 1997 CGI in ‘The Fifth Element’ will hold up to higher resolution scrutiny.
If the studio hoped to piggyback off Warner Bros.’ promotion for the video release of ‘Kong: Skull Island’, Universal must have gotten its release dates mixed up and unleashed a UHD version of Peter Jackson’s 2005 ‘King Kong‘ remake a week early. The disc contains both the agonizingly long theatrical cut and the even longer “Oh Just Put a Bullet in My Brain Already” extended edition, as well as all 746 hours of Peter Jackson’s personal production diaries.
Unsurprisingly, Universal is using the release of the new film as a convenient excuse to rebundle the entire ‘Fast and Furious‘ franchise into an 8-movie collection box set. While car chases were still on somebody’s mind, the studio is also dropping a 40th Anniversary Edition of ‘Smokey and the Bandit‘ for good measure.
Sony is likewise hoping to unload some old inventory with a 3-movie ‘Smurfs‘ collection. Good luck with that.
The Criterion Collection follows a counterfeit bill as it passes from person to person in Robert Bresson’s 1983 French drama ‘L’argent‘. After that comes a box set of ‘Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy‘, containing the Neorealist classics ‘Rome Open City’, ‘Paisan’ and ‘Germany Year Zero’.
The schlocky 1995 horror hit ‘Species‘ is really only memorable at all for its creature design by H.R. Giger. Well, OK, that and the gratuitous nudity from star Natasha Henstridge. Last released as a very early Blu-ray back in 2006, Scream Factory gives the movie the Collector’s Edition treatment with a new 4k film scan and a bunch of extras.
More scares come from Arrow Video, which offers Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s 2001 J-Horror thriller ‘Pulse‘.
Meanwhile, the Arrow Academy label brings out the 1958 noir-ish Western ‘Terror in a Texas Town‘ with Sterling Hayden.
Although perhaps not as badly miscast as when he played Genghis Khan, John Wayne was certainly an odd choice to star as a Hitler-hating German boat captain in the WWII naval adventure ‘The Sea Chase‘. The early CinemaScope production comes to Blu-ray through the Warner Archive.
On TV, Universal has the second season of Syfy’s ‘The Magicians‘ while PBS delivers the detective series prequel spinoff ‘Prime Suspect: Tennison‘.
I don’t know if I’ll necessarily get them during this month’s Barnes & Noble sale, but both of the Criterions will go on my expansive wish list. ‘Lost City of Z’ and ‘Their Finest’ also seem like worthy rentals.
What gets your engine revving this week?