From hip-hop gangsta robots to the resurrected dead, this week’s Blu-rays sure do feature some wild tales. Welcome to our latest roundup. Let’s get down to business.
‘Chappie‘ – When Neill Blomkamp made ‘District 9’, he seemed like an exciting new voice in science fiction. When he followed that up with the idiotic ‘Elysium’, we all hoped he’d just hit a bad sophomore slump and could rebound with his next picture. Unfortunately, with his ungodly mashup of ‘RoboCop’ and ‘Short Circuit’, it looks like his first film was the fluke. His pitch for a new ‘Alien’ sequel that inexplicably brings a bunch of characters back from the dead also sounds like a spectacularly bad idea, and I hope it never goes before cameras. As if to remind you how far the director’s career has fallen, Sony has also bundled ‘Chappie’ with his other two movies in a box set with the stupid name ‘Blomkamp³ Limited Edition Collection’.
‘The Lazarus Effect‘ – That the Blumhouse Productions studio would make a low-budget knockoff of ‘Flatliners’ does not seem terribly surprising. What’s interesting about the movie, however, is the way it somehow attracted a cast of actors you wouldn’t expect to see in a picture like this, including Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass and Donald Glover. Not to mention that the director previously made the acclaimed documentary ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’. What an odd assemblage of talent! Nevertheless, despite all that, the movie appears to be exactly what you think it is, and no more. That’s too bad. I imagine that the project must have originally started off as something more ambitious than what wound up on screen.
‘Run All Night‘ – Just as Liam Neeson reinvented himself as an improbable action star with ‘Taken’, the time has come for another change in career direction. His latest effort, a mobster thriller co-starring Joel Kinnaman from the ‘RoboCop’ remake, held no interest at all for audiences and was a big flop.
‘Unfinished Business‘ – Speaking of flops, Vince Vaughn’s fast-talking jackass routine has worn out its welcome with just about everyone. Here, he and Dave Franco play dipshit businessmen who bumble through Europe trying to lock down an important deal. Hilarity does not ensue.
‘Welcome to Me‘ – In this surreal indie comedy, Kristen Wiig stars as a clinically depressed woman who hits the lottery jackpot and uses her winnings to produce a daytime talk show all about herself. Despite its quick turnaround to home video (the movie barely opened in theaters a few weeks ago), reports are that the film is charmingly quirky and features an excellent performance from Wiig.
‘Wild Tales‘ – An Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, this blackly comic anthology picture from Argentina tells six disconnected short stories about the twisted things dysfunctional and desperate people will do to each other. Far too often, humor doesn’t translate across a language barrier, but this weird and unpredictable movie is said to live up to its title.
Having previously released ‘Vanya on 42nd Street‘, the Criterion Collection brings together the other two collaborations between actor Wallace Shawn and his friend, theater director André Gregory – the delightful cinematic tête-à-tête ‘My Dinner with André‘ and their more recent reunion in ‘A Master Builder‘. If you didn’t already buy ‘Vanya’, you can also get a box set with all three titles bundled together.
With news that the renowned Studio Ghibli’s latest production ‘When Marnie Was There’ may be its last, Disney has finally gotten around to distributing Hayao Miyazaki’s most beloved film ‘Spirited Away‘ on Blu-ray in this country. Also available is ‘The Cat Returns‘, a lesser Ghibli title but not without some charms.
Fact: Blu-ray won the high-def format war because Chuck Norris roundhouse kicked HD DVD in the face. It may have taken a while, but Kino honors Chuck’s valor with Blu-ray releases of ‘An Eye for an Eye‘ and ‘Hero and the Terror‘.
Separately, Kino also has a couple titles from director Harold Becker. James Woods delivered one of his early breakout performances in the crime drama ‘The Onion Field‘. Much later, the Alec Baldwin/Nicole Kidman thriller ‘Malice‘ featured an early screenplay by Aaron Sorkin that’s kind of fun but doesn’t hold up very well to logical scrutiny.
Amusingly, the original theatrical posters for William Friedkin’s 1970 drama ‘The Boys in the Band‘ had to explicitly reassure potential viewers that the film was not a musical, lest they be scared off thinking it was. Based on a popular Off-Broadway play about a group of closeted homosexuals, the film is sometimes regarded as a milestone of queer cinema, and sometimes decried for its dated stereotypes. If you should be interested in this, be warned that the DVD edition was one of those notorious botch jobs where William Friedkin recolored the whole movie into weird shades of purple and “pastel” colors for no reason. I have no idea whether the Blu-ray comes from that same transfer or not, but Kino doesn’t often have a reputation for remastering the titles it licenses. [Unfortunately, our reviewer Matthew has now confirmed that the Blu-ray comes from the purple-tinged “pastel” master.]
This week, Lionsgate has become a repository for failed Oscar bait vanity projects: ‘The Shipping News‘ for Kevin Spacey, ‘Blindness‘ for Julianne Moore, and ‘Proof‘ for Gwyneth Paltrow. The latter two come in a double feature.
The Warner Archive offers the film version of Neil Simon’s play ‘The Sunshine Boys‘, about a former Vaudeville team that reunites for a TV special. The movie scored an Oscar nomination for Walter Matthau and a win for George Burns.
In cult properties, Arrow celebrates Takashi Miike’s bizarre horror-comedy ‘The Happiness of the Katakuris‘, Scorpion visits the island of rubber puppet dinosaurs in ‘The Land that Time Forgot‘, and Shout! Factory pairs up a double-bill of the schlock creature-features ‘Tentacles‘ and ‘Reptilicus‘.
Due respect to Shannon, our recapper who enjoyed the show far more than I did, but I’m grateful that HBO has finally put Aaron Sorkin’s insufferably self-aggrandizing drama ‘The Newsroom‘ out of its (and our) misery. The series was a mess from the start, and its final season bent over backwards to demonstrate that Sorkin no longer has any idea how the television broadcast industry, popular culture, or even plausible human behavior work. The finale episode in particular is just awful. I feel relieved that I never need to watch this show again.
Miyazaki’s wonderful ‘Spirited Away’ really ought to be the title of the week, but I hesitate a little because Disney has a history of screwing up its Studio Ghibli Blu-rays with lousy “dubtitle” translations of the foreign dialogue. I will await confirmation of how this disc fares before committing to a purchase.
In the meantime, ‘My Dinner with Andre’ is the disc that goes highest on my wish list.
How do you feel about the Blu-ray selection this week?