Blu-ray Highlights: Week of June 8th, 2014 – Shadows and Light

What do you call the reboot of a franchise that has already been rebooted once unsuccessfully? A re-reboot? That’s one of the questions we have to ponder when looking over this week’s new Blu-ray releases.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (6/10/14)?

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New Releases

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit‘ – I suppose it can be argued that this is actually the third reboot of the Tom Clancy spy franchise, though most people probably consider the jump from Alec Baldwin to Harrison Ford to be a direct sequel with a recasting. Ben Affleck’s attempt to restart the series as a young Jack Ryan in ‘The Sum of All Fears’ didn’t go over too well with moviegoers. After a gap of another dozen years, Paramount tried again, this time casting Chris Pine in the role. (Hey, he did fine in the ‘Star Trek’ reboot. Why not this one too, right?) The film is not actually based on a specific Tom Clancy novel, and attempts to present the new Jack Ryan as a Jason Bourne-style kick-ass action hero rather than a boring old intelligence analyst who has to use his brain to figure stuff out. (Yawn!) Audiences didn’t buy it, and the movie tanked at the box office. However, our reviewers Shannon and Luke were both fond of the movie and believe that it deserves another look on Blu-ray.

Non-Stop‘ – The elevator pitch for this one was pretty simple: “It’s Taken… on a plane!” Liam Neeson continues his late-career reinvention as an elderly action hero with a very particular set of skills. This time, he’s an air marshal taunted by a killer sending him cat-and-mouse text messages. Trailers for the movie looked insanely stupid, but our reviewer David (whom I usually trust) calls it “substantive and believable.” I… just… don’t… know…

Alan Partridge‘ – If you live west of the Atlantic, you can be forgiven for not knowing the Alan Partridge character, a doltish (fictional) chat show host played by Steve Coogan in a long-running string of British radio and television comedy series. Partridge invaded the big screen with this theatrical feature (known as ‘Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa’ in the UK) in which he has to act as hostage negotiator when a disgruntled former DJ seizes his radio station. By most accounts, the film plays mostly to existing fans and probably won’t make too many inroads here.

Devil’s Knot‘ – Coasting on the acclaim he earned once upon a time with ‘Exotica’ and ‘The Sweet Hereafter’, Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan largely squandered that good will with a series of increasingly dull, turgid movies that followed. In this one, he dramatizes the famous case of the West Memphis Three, already covered extensively in three ‘Paradise Lost’ documentaries and again recently in ‘West of Memphis‘. By most critics’ estimation, Egoyan fails to bring anything new or particularly interesting to the material, and the film plays like a TV movie-of-the-week.

Tim’s Vermeer‘ – In what might be considered a very unexpected choice of subject matter, this documentary by comedians Penn & Teller follows an inventor who seeks to recreate the mysterious photorealistic painting technique of 17th Century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. If you’ve ever wondered what an episode of ‘Bullshit!’ might be like if Penn & Teller picked a topic they actually believed in and weren’t trying to debunk, this could be pretty interesting.

Catalog Titles

This week’s new high-def offerings from the Criterion Collection are Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1962 study in alienation ‘L’Eclisse‘ and Douglas Sirk 1955 melodrama ‘All That Heaven Allows‘. The newer film is in black & white while the older film is in color.

Twilight Time has a big batch of new limited editions. Titles include Burt Lancaster in John Frankenheimer’s WWII thriller ‘The Train‘, Charles Bronson as a hitman in the original 1972 version of ‘The Mechanic‘, James Stewart in the Western ‘The Man from Laramie‘, David Thewlis in Paul Greengrass’ directorial debut ‘Resurrected‘, and Robert Mitchum in John Huston’s war drama ‘Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison‘.

The two volumes of Buena Vista’s ‘The Spike Lee Joint Collection‘ contain two films a piece. The first volume is more appealing. That one has ‘The 25th Hour’ and ‘He Got Game’, both underrated efforts from the director and both new to Blu-ray. The second volume, on the other hand, has ‘Summer of Sam’ (which is kind of a mess but has some interesting elements, and is also new to Blu-ray) and ‘Miracle at St. Anna’ (which is my vote for Lee’s worst movie and has already appeared on Blu-ray).

The 1984 thriller ‘Tightrope‘ is not generally regarded as one of Clint Eastwood’s best movies, but it offered the star an opportunity to play something a little darker and more complex than Dirty Harry at a time when he risked being typecast.

Television

Celebrating their first seasons on Blu-ray are HBO’s superb ‘True Detective‘, Showtime’s pretty decent ‘Ray Donovan‘ (it takes a few episodes to warm up, but is mostly worth the effort), and Fox’s very frustrating ‘Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey‘.

I could go on at length about why I had to give up on ‘Cosmos’ halfway through its season. It’s a show I really want to like and to support, but I found myself incredibly annoyed with the way Neil deGrasse Tyson presents the material.

This week doesn’t have any immediate must-buys for me. I will probably rent ‘Jack Ryan’ and ‘Tim’s Vermeer’ (likely through streaming). Both Criterions and most of the Twilight Time discs will go on my wish list for later.

Do any of this week’s titles really grab you?

9 comments

  1. William Henley

    I chose Cosmos. I had it preordered, as I keep missing it when it airs, then I found out the show is on Hulu, so I will just watch it there.

  2. For 12.99 it’s tempting to blind buy Jack Ryan…we’ll see. I’m gonna get seven dollars back from best buy for last weeks Robocop, so it kind of feels like its only six or seven bucks for Jack Ryan. Pretty good for a day one title.

  3. Lord Bowler

    I’m interested in (possibly a blind-buy) for Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Paramount) and Klondike (Cinedigm). I’m a big Tom Clancy fan (RIP) and Klondike looked good from the promos.

    Other than those, I am a huge fan of Jimmy Stewart and one of my favorite films of his is The Man from Laramie (Twilight Time).

  4. Chris B

    Since I don’t have HBO and have been hearing nothing but raves for True Detective, I’ll probably pick it up in the next few weeks.

    Might check out The Mechanic, though the remake with Statham a few years back was god-awful.

    Probably rent Jack Ryan and Non-stop..

  5. JM

    My eight-year-old niece is obsessed with ‘Non-Stop‘ so it’s on the Q so I can tell her how Liam Neeson does it.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      I haven’t seen Oldboy, but I have a hard time believing that it’s possible for Lee to make another movie as bad as St. Anna. It’s just an ungainly mess of bad ideas, poorly executed.

  6. Jack Ryan is a really good flick, and it’s only $12.99 at Amazon right now – totally worth it.

    I’m currently in the process of reviewing Tim’s Vermeer for HDD – review should be up later this week, but preview: it’s surprisingly enjoyable.

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