What goes around comes around. Among this week’s new Blu-rays are a nearly shot-for-shot live-action remake of an animated classic, plus plenty of catalog releases either making repeat appearances on the format or getting upgraded to 4k.
New Releases (Blu-ray)
‘Beauty and the Beast‘ – With over $1 billion in grosses for this outing alone, Disney’s remake train appears unstoppable. Emma Watson becomes the live-action embodiment of animated heroine Belle as she falls in love with a CGI wolfman (voiced by Dan Stevens). Bill Condon of ‘Dreamgirls’ and the last couple of ‘Twilight’ movies directs. Nearly identical to the original aside from being padded with 40 new minutes of bloat, the point of this eludes me. Critics found it lacking in charm, but audiences apparently disagreed. Disney collectors have a choice between the standard Blu-ray, a Digibook at Target or a SteelBook at Best Buy. None of them have 3D, so be prepared to import from overseas if you want that.
‘A Cure for Wellness‘ – After leaving the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ franchise in other hands and watching his big-budget ‘Lone Ranger’ reboot flop, director Gore Verbinski returns to the horror genre that proved successful for him in the past. Dane DeHaan stars as a young corporate executive who travels to a mysterious health clinic in the Alps to fetch his CEO, only to find some freaky shit going down at the place under the direction of evil doctor Jason Isaacs. The trailers looked highly stylized in much the same way ‘The Ring’ was, but reviews tore the movie apart for being too derivative, predictable and dull. The strange title and lack of a star that anyone cared about also turned off audiences, making this another serious bomb for the filmmaker.
‘The Assignment‘ – Formerly titled ‘(Re)Assignment’, Michelle Rodriguez plays a hitman (yes, man) who’s unwillingly forced to undergo a sex change operation. Now a woman, (s)he tries to find his balls and take revenge on the mad scientist (Sigourney Weaver) who did this to him while adapting to a new life with lady parts. That premise kind of sounds like it was specifically designed to offend the LGBT community, many of whom protested it sight unseen. Being made by an old-school macho action movie director (Walter Hill) whose work has a history of sexism certainly didn’t help. However, the film is allegedly not actually transphobic, so much as just a simple B-movie exploitation flick never intended to be taken seriously. Sadly, word-of-mouth claims that, for as crazy as the idea is, the execution came out looking very cheap (it was made on a shoestring) with a muddled and dull plot.
‘A United Kingdom‘ – In a feel-good period piece drama based on a true story, David Oyelowo is a Botswana prince whose marriage to a white British woman (Rosamund Pike) caused political turmoil in his native country. Love, of course, ultimately triumphed. (See movie’s title.)
‘The Last Word‘ – At 83-years-old, Shirley MacLaine gets her first headlining role in two decades, playing a bitter old shrew who bribes the local newspaper into writing a glowing obituary that will secure her legacy. Amanda Seyfried is the young journalist assigned the task. Pleasant adventures are had and schmaltzy life lessons are learned by all. Phil haaaaaaaaaaaaaated this.
‘Aftermath‘ – With his action star and political careers both pretty much behind him now, Arnold Schwarzenegger attempts to reinvent himself again as an actual dramatic actor. According to Shannon’s Blu-ray review, Schwarzenegger does a very credible job playing a man beset by tragedy when his wife and daughter both die in a plane crash. Unfortunately, the movie got next to no theatrical play and will probably go unnoticed on video as well.
‘Sky on Fire‘ – Hong Kong director Ringo Lam hopes to evoke his 1980s action classics ‘City on Fire’ and ‘Prison on Fire’ with a throwback bullet ballet that features lots of shootouts and car chases and irresponsibly staged stunts that very likely put the lives of his entire crew in danger. That all sounds great, but Phil says that the movie’s plot is ludicrous and the digital effects work is pretty crappy.
None of the week’s day-and-date releases are available on Ultra HD. Instead, a couple of studios focus on upgrading older titles.
With a third movie coming soon, it’s no surprise that Universal would want to bring the first two ‘Despicable Me‘ entries back into circulation. The timing of the ‘Bourne: The Ultimate Collection‘ box set is a little more perplexing. I thought that had been released back in December alongside ‘Jason Bourne’. Was it a retailer exclusive at that time, perhaps? I don’t remember the details.
I can definitely see Lionsgate’s ‘Dredd‘ and ‘Ex Machina‘ having fan bases willing (even eager) to rebuy them in higher quality. But what’s with ‘Snitch‘? Did anyone even like that movie? This seems like a very unlikely candidate to deserve the 4k treatment.
Disney pulls ‘Bambi‘ out of the vault for a reissue under the Signature Collection banner. I fully expect this to feature the same video and audio quality as the out-of-print Diamond Edition Blu-ray from 2011, with some differences in bonus features. Please tell me this isn’t a signal that ‘Bambi’ is coming to live-action soon!
Kenji Mizoguchi’s 1953 Japanese ghost story ‘Ugetsu‘ is a longtime favorite for the Criterion Collection, which previously released it on Laserdisc in 1994 and DVD in 2005. Now the film makes its way to Blu-ray with a new 4k restoration.
Universal is actually a little late in celebrating the 50th anniversary of François Truffaut’s 1966 adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451‘. The dystopian cautionary tale seems particularly relevant right about now.
Shout! Factory finds a home ‘Where the Buffalo Roam‘, the 1980 comedic bio-pic in which Bill Murray plays gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson.
From out of the Warner Archive comes Sam Peckinpah’s 1970 Western ‘The Ballad of Cable Hogue‘ starring Jason Robards.
FUNimation tries to get a little more mileage out of the anime classic ‘Akira‘ by reissuing it in a new SteelBook case.
It makes me feel very old to realize that the wave of ‘hood movies from the early 1990s are hitting their 25th anniversaries. Ernest Dickerson’s ‘Juice‘ was never actually one of the best of those, but having Tupac Shakur play a main character got it some attention. Undoubtedly, Paramount has dusted it off to capitalize on the upcoming Tupac bio-pic called ‘All Eyez on Me’, due in theaters later this month.
1992 was also the year that launched two competing movies to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus landing in the New World. Ridley Scott’s ‘1492: Conquest of Paradise‘ was the more prestigious production. (The other was the largely forgotten ‘Christopher Columbus: The Discovery’.) Ultimately, both movies were disastrous box office bombs. My recollection is that Scott’s film was visually striking but a dreadful bore.
Because apparently no actual American actors were available, Englishman Jude Law plays the first American Pope in HBO’s ten-episode ‘The Young Pope‘. At 45, it’s also debatable whether he qualifies as “young.” Promoted as a limited series, a second season (to be called ‘The New Pope’) is nonetheless in the works now.
Also available are the first season of Syfy’s terrible ‘Van Helsing‘ and the first half of the tenth season for ‘Doctor Who‘.
I don’t have any urgent purchases this week, but ‘Fahrenheit 451’ and ‘Ugetsu’ will go on my wish list for later. I’m kind of curious about ‘The Assignment’, but can wait for that to hit cable or Netflix. Likewise, I’d almost be willing to give ‘1492’ another shot, but I don’t want to spend any money on it.
You want to tell us what movies have your eye this week? Be our guest.