New Blu-ray and Ultra HD releases this week bring us two of the darkest, broodingest, scowlingest badasses to hit cinema screens this year. One of them happens to be an inch and a half tall… and also kind of a doofus.
New Releases (Blu-ray)
‘The Lego Batman Movie‘ – Will Arnett’s diminutive Batman was a highlight of 2014’s ‘The Lego Movie’. Now he gets his own dedicated spinoff. Even with directing duties passing hands from the team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller (still producers) to Chris McKay (‘Moral Orel’, ‘Robot Chicken’), both critics and audiences applauded the movie as a worthy follow-up. On disc, it’s available in 2D, 3D, a SteelBook at Best Buy, or on Ultra HD. Sadly, the 3D disc is the most expensive of all and isn’t bundled with either the SteelBook or UHD.
‘John Wick: Chapter 2‘ – Keanu Reeves’ first ‘John Wick’ was an unexpected treat a couple years ago, a stripped-down action thriller that was hyper-violent and loads of fun. Although the movie only did moderate box office in the United States, it was a decent hit overseas and found an appreciative audience on home video. The sequel brings back the inventive action and expands the world of the secret cult of assassins. Most fans approved of the results. A Best Buy exclusive SteelBook and an Ultra HD Blu-ray are also available.
‘Table 19‘ – Anna Kendrick, Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson and Stephen Merchant are among the wedding guests who get foisted off to a table for misfits and losers at the nuptials of a mutual acquaintance. Story credit for this indie comedy started out with Jay and Mark Duplass (‘Cyrus’, ‘Jeff, Who Lives at Home’), but apparently any work they did on it was watered down by the time it wound up in the hands of TV sitcom director Jeffrey Blitz. Despite the strong cast, reviews were pretty brutal.
‘3 Generations‘ – Also widely panned was a capital-I Issue movie about a trans youth (Elle Fanning), his mother (Naomi Watts) and grandmother (Susan Sarandon) all moaning about how misunderstood and dysfunctional they are. The indie drama was picked up for distribution by The Weinstein Company as potential awards-bait, but got shelved for a couple of years when it became clear that critics held no love for it. Ultimately, it was dumped in a handful of theaters and vanished without notice.
‘Frantz‘ – French auteur François Ozon (‘Swimming Pool’, ‘Potiche’) delivers a black-and-white period piece drama about the widow of a World War I vet who develops feelings for a mysterious stranger claiming to be a friend of her late husband. Phil was intrigued but a little unsatisfied with it.
Arriving in Ultra HD alongside their standard Blu-ray counterparts are ‘The Lego Batman Movie‘ and ‘John Wick: Chapter 2‘.
In preparation for the impending new sequel, Fox upgrades ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes‘ and ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes‘ to 4k.
While you’re picking up the ‘Chapter 2’ SteelBook at Best Buy, you might as well grab the new SteelBook for the original ‘John Wick‘ too.
Also a Best Buy exclusive is the ‘Spider-Man Legacy Collection‘ SteelBook, which bundles both previous iterations of the character (the three movies with Tobey Maguire and the two with Andrew Garfield) to remind you of exactly why this franchise needed to be rebooted one more time. [Note: Sony originally announced a simultaneous UHD version of this, but that appears to have been pulled.]
Criterion’s release of ‘They Live by Night‘ should not be confused with Ben Affleck’s recent gangster flop ‘Live by Night’. This one’s a 1948 film noir that marked the directorial debut for Nicholas Ray (‘Rebel Without a Cause’, ‘Johnny Guitar’).
The Warner Archive goes cruising with the madcap 1976 car-racing comedy ‘The Gumball Rally‘.
Arrow Video opens the doors to the 1981 Italian slasher flick ‘Madhouse‘.
Twilight Time offers new limited editions of the WWII drama ‘The Bridge at Remagen‘, Samuel Fuller’s Cold War submarine thriller ‘Hell and High Water‘, the 1958 romantic political thriller ‘The Quiet American‘, the 1972 prison drama ‘The Valachi Papers‘ starring Charles Bronson, and a double feature of the early Jackie Chan classics ‘Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow‘ and ‘Drunken Master‘. Sadly, the cover art for the Jackie Chan movies is kind of hideous, and Twilight Time’s notes indicate the sections of the original Cantonese audio for ‘Drunken Master’ are missing and had to be replaced with the English dub.
Finally ending their runs this year are ‘Grimm‘ and ‘The Vampire Diaries‘. Both are available in your choice of just the final season or a Complete Series collection. Meanwhile, ‘South Park‘ is still plugging along after 20 seasons.
Newer shows include the second season of Syfy’s ‘Dark Matter‘ and the third season of Starz’s ‘Power‘.
I fear this could be an expensive week for me. I’m definitely down for the SteelBook editions of ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ and ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’. I’ve long been disappointed that the first ‘John Wick’ didn’t come out in a SteelBook, so I suppose I have to replace my copy of that one as well.
Those are my priorities. Wish list items for later include ‘They Live by Night’, ‘Hell and High Water’, ‘The Bridge at Remagen’, the Jackie Chan double feature, and perhaps ‘The Gumball Rally’.
What’s your plan for this week?