What exactly is a “bottom dollar,” anyway? Is that an old-timey way of saying “last dollar”? If so, why would a modern child who has no reason to have ever heard the phrase use it in a song? These are some of the questions raised by our latest batch of new Blu-ray releases.
‘Annie‘ – Let’s start things with a personal digression: Years ago, when I lived in an apartment, I had a neighbor directly on the other side of my bedroom wall who was obsessed with the Jay-Z cover of “Hard Knock Life” and would blare the song at obscene volumes over and over again all through the day and night for somewhere around six months non-stop. He could not be reasoned with and refused to turn down his volume. The building management was ineffectual at dealing with him. He eventually drove me and my wife to move just to get away from his music. So, needless to say, I absolutely cannot stand any version of that damn song or, correspondingly, anything to do with the musical ‘Annie’ from which it originates. In a perverse irony, I would much later move into a house formerly frequented by John Huston, director of the 1982 movie.
Anyway, all of that’s a roundabout way of saying that the new multicultural remake from ‘Easy A’ director Will Gluck holds no interest for me whatsoever. It didn’t hold too much interest for the critics who were forced to endure it either. Most reviews were positively savage. Our Blu-ray reviewer Luke seems to be one of the few people who actually liked the movie. He liked ‘Prometheus’ too, so keep that in mind. (Just bustin’ your chops, Luke!)
‘Exodus: Gods and Kings‘ – Speaking of ‘Prometheus’, avowed atheist director Ridley Scott (a man who has suggested that the plot of that movie secretly hinged on the fact that Jesus was really a space alien) now takes a crack at making a mega-budget 3D Biblical epic for reasons known only to himself. In a ridiculous promotional interview, he declared that this is the absolute best movie he’s ever made. (Even Christian Bale, who stars in it, had to roll his eyes at that.) Scott also shrugged off criticisms about his casting of entirely white actors to play Egyptian historical figures by insisting that audiences don’t want to see “Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such” in a movie like this. Oh dear.
The film was widely panned as being a case of empty visual spectacle with weak storytelling. In other words, it’s exactly like everything Ridley Scott has made since after 1982. I’m sure it’ll look pretty in 3D, though. Sadly, neither the 2D nor 3D Blu-rays include the Dolby Atmos soundtrack heard in theaters.
‘Penguins of Madagascar‘ – As if the regular ‘Madagascar’ movies weren’t bad enough, now we have a spin-off featuring some of their most annoying supporting characters. Great.
‘Top Five‘ – The third time appears to have been the charm for Chris Rock, whose first two attempts at directing feature films went nowhere. This one, in which the comedian plays a slightly fictionalized version of himself, may not have been the sleeper blockbuster that its distributor hoped, but did pretty well considering its modest budget and (more importantly) received a lot of favorable buzz and reviews that will surely help it to thrive on video.
‘Song of the Sea‘ – Although it was largely buried by the attention for ‘Big Hero 6’ and ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’, this delicate Irish fable about selkies (sort of a cross between a mermaid and a seal) was a surprise nominee for Best Animated Feature at the recent Oscars. It sounds pretty interesting to me.
‘Vice‘ – Given that the director somehow managed to wrangle Bruce Willis, an actor who’s pretty far from having a desperate need for a tiny paycheck, to appear in this low-budget sci-fi flick, I have to assume that the project must have started off with some interesting ideas and promise. From all accounts, all that got thrown out the window in the final result, which has been accused of having porno quality writing and production values. The picture currently has a perfect 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Yikes.
‘Son of a Gun‘ – Ewan McGregor stars in an Australian heist caper that received mixed-to-moderately-positive reaction from viewers and critics. This might be something worth Netflixing, but I have a hard time building much enthusiasm for it. Maybe that’s not fair.
The Criterion Collection is arguably at its most useful when it champions interesting works that have otherwise been overlooked through the years. This week, the label brings a little exposure to Robert Montgomery’s film noir ‘Ride the Pink Horse‘ and Francois Truffaut’s infidelity drama ‘The Soft Skin‘.
Mill Creek Entertainment doesn’t exactly have a very good reputation for the quality of its Blu-rays. The distributor would like to turn that around by licensing new 4k restorations of the Orson Welles noir ‘The Lady from Shanghai‘ and the Marlon Brando biker drama ‘The Wild One‘ from Sony. Reports from those who have seen ‘Lady from Shanghai’ say that the Mill Creek disc is a notable improvement over an earlier Blu-ray from TCM. Who would have suspected that?
After a successful Indigogo campaign, UK label Arrow Video makes its entrance into the American market this week with the 1970 cult horror classic ‘Mark of the Devil‘. The disc features a director-approved restoration and a bunch of exclusive new bonus features.
Shout! Factory continues to trickle out individual releases for the titles first bundled in last year’s massive Werner Herzog Collection box set. This week brings us the director’s masterpiece ‘Aguirre: The Wrath of God‘.
Currently featured in Tina Fey’s new Netflix series ‘The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ as well as a recurring role as The Penguin’s crazy mother in ‘Gotham’, comedienne Carol Kane is perhaps best known as the daffy Simka Gravas in ‘Taxi’. Did you realize that the actress also received an Oscar nomination for the period drama ‘Hester Street‘?
I once had an acquaintance (note that I did not say “friend”) who was an obsessive Shelley Long fan and would expound at length about the supposed brilliance of her dopey comedy ‘Troop Beverly Hills‘. Wherever he is today, I bet he’s stoked to see the movie released on Blu-ray. I can’t imagine that too many others are. (I’m certainly not.) Amusingly, the internet tells me that a young Carla Gugino was among the child actors in the film. Try watching this one and ‘Sin City’ back-to-back without feeling dirty.
Also from Sony, and a little more respectable, is the much-loved coming-of-age drama ‘My Girl‘.
I lost interest in AMC’s historical Revolutionary War drama ‘Turn‘ pretty early on. I see that the network has awkwardly retitled the show ‘Turn: Washington’s Spies’ in an attempt to make it sound more exciting or something. Maybe it got better after I stopped watching? I can’t say, but if you’re a fan, the complete first season is now available on disc.
Aside from a possible rental for ‘Song of the Sea’, my interests this week are mostly classics. ‘The Lady from Shanghai’, ‘The Wild One’, ‘Aguirre’ and maybe ‘Mark of the Devil’ will go on my wish list. Does anything grab your attention?