Why studios keep spending tons of money to make movies based on video games when so few of them have been successful is one of those mysteries of Hollywood that may never make sense. Nevertheless, they keep coming. One from this spring leads the pack of new Blu-rays this week.
New Releases (Blu-ray)
‘Tomb Raider‘ – What is it about the Indiana Jane knockoff Lara Croft that keeps inspiring Oscar-winning actresses to star in movies about her? The paycheck, I suppose. Alicia Vikander takes over from Angelina Jolie in a franchise reboot that tries to de-emphasize the character’s bust line and present her as more of a plausible human being rather than a blow-up doll with guns. Whether this was a wise decision will be a matter of opinion. Although generally regarded better than the prior two entries, the movie still received mixed reviews and so-so box office.
‘The Strangers: Prey at Night‘ – The decade-late sequel to the 2008 home invasion thriller moves the action from a secluded house to a trailer park and, as far as I can tell, carries over none of the cast. It did about half as much business, suggesting that horror fans had forgotten all about ‘The Strangers’ in the meantime, but was likely still profitable considering its very low budget. Reaction was divided between those who found it a clever send-up of genre tropes and those who thought it was just another stupid regurgitation of them.
‘Love, Simon‘ – Known today as the creator of a dozen DC Comics superhero shows on The CW, TV uber-producer Greg Berlanti returns to his soap opera roots for his second stab at directing a feature film (after 2010’s ‘Life as We Know It’). The movie is a YA rom-com about a closeted gay teenager (Nick Robinson) who falls in love with an anonymous classmate online, which worked out really great for Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in ‘You’ve Got Mail’. Meanwhile, he’s also blackmailed by another classmate threatening to out him. Critics had nice things to say about the movie’s push for inclusiveness in the teen romance genre, even if it’s unremarkable in other respects.
‘Sherlock Gnomes‘ – The makers of the ghastly ‘Gnomeo & Juliet’ broaden their reach from desecrating Shakespeare to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as well. Not helping matters, Elton John contributes more songs to the soundtrack.
‘Loveless‘ – Winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes and a nominee for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this year, the new drama from Russian master of misery Andrey Zvyagintsev (‘Leviathan’) is about a feuding couple who barely even notice when their young son goes missing, and once they finally do, there’s nothing they can do and no one they can turn to for help. Needless to say, Zvyagintsev’s movies aren’t exactly feel-good or life-affirming entertainment.
Of the day-and-date releases, ‘Tomb Raider‘ and ‘Love, Simon‘ both debut in Ultra HD alongside regular Blu-ray.
Universal finally rolls out its belated 4k edition of Oscar nominee ‘Darkest Hour‘, along with the prior three movies in ‘The Purge‘ franchise to hype the upcoming prequel.
More catalog upgrades come from Paramount with ‘Forrest Gump‘ and ‘Terminator: Genisys‘, and Lionsgate with the comedy flop ‘Dirty Grandpa‘.
The Criterion Collection pays a visit to ‘Manila in the Claws of Light‘, a 1975 Philippine drama about a young rural fisherman struggling to survive in the urban capital city while searching for his girlfriend.
Fresh out of the Warner Archive is ‘Designing Woman‘, Vincente Minnelli’s 1957 romantic comedy with Lauren Bacall and Gregory Peck.
Often regarded as a key work of queer cinema, Derek Jarman’s postmodern historical drama ‘Edward II‘ is a surreal mix of anachronistic modern costumes and props with traditional period piece trappings. The film provided an early breakout role for Tilda Swinton (as Queen Isabella). The Blu-ray from Film Movement promises a new video restoration.
You’d hardly expect a dirt bike racing drama to be a controversial movie, but with Paul Verhoeven directing, of course he’s going to find a way to push people’s buttons. ‘Spetters‘ was one of his final films in Holland before leaving for Hollywood. It features scenes of graphic sexuality that would have merited an X rating had it been submitted to the MPAA in 1980 (it went out unrated instead), and its treatment of gay characters was widely protested in Verhoeven’s home country. (He’d have similar problems later with ‘Basic Instinct’.) The Blu-ray comes from Kino.
Paramount revisits the Eddie Murphy comedies ‘Trading Places‘ and ‘Coming to America‘ with new anniversary editions. Given that neither one advertises a fresh video remaster (which both could strongly use), I assume that they’re just repackagings of the old Blu-ray copies.
Universal gives us the Arnold Schwarzenegger pregnancy comedy ‘Junior‘, the widely-dismissed sequel ‘More American Graffiti‘, and a bundle of the ‘Darkman Trilogy‘.
In martial arts cheese, the Jean-Claude Van Damme kickboxing extravaganza ‘Lionheart‘ enters the MVD Rewind Collection this week, while Shout! Factory gives a Collector’s Edition complete with new 4k video remaster to the notorious ‘Ninja III: The Domination‘.
Also from Shout! Factory, Madonna and Willem Dafoe drip candle wax onto each other as tepid S&M play in the dopey erotic thriller ‘Body of Evidence‘.
I don’t normally mention imports in this column, but fans of cult schlock horror will note that the Second Sight limited edition of the 1982 alien abduction thriller ‘Xtro‘ is listed as region-free and can be purchased on Amazon, though you’ll spend less money if you import directly from the UK.
TV content this week includes the fifth season of ‘Orange Is the New Black‘ and the first season of the ‘Will & Grace‘ revival.
I’m sure I’ll catch ‘Tomb Raider’ when it hits cable or Netflix soon enough, but I don’t think I’ll spend money on it.
‘Designing Woman’, ‘Edward II’ and ‘Spetters’ will go on my wish list.
‘Xtro’ was a VHS staple when I was a teenager. I’m kind of afraid to watch it in better quality than that.
Will any movies raid your wallet this week?