Among other titles, a movie I saw about 20% of in the theater last year comes to Blu-ray this week. Should I bother to watch the rest of it?
‘Sing‘ – I told the story of my experience with ‘Sing’ in a January Roundtable post. My three-year-old boys were not quite ready for their first trip to a movie theater. I spent more time chasing them through the lobby than watching the film. From what I saw of it, the animated musical about an animal singing contest was cute and innocuous enough, and thanks to the inventiveness of co-director Garth Jennings (‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, ‘Son of Rambow’), more tolerable than I expected. Even so, it didn’t strike me as particularly memorable. Kids will probably enjoy it, but I don’t see this becoming a classic. Then again, I missed most of it, so perhaps I shouldn’t judge. The movie is available this week in a host of options including 2D, 3D or Ultra HD. Best Buy has an exclusive UHD SteelBook.
‘Assassin’s Creed‘ – The long-running videogame series with a terribly convoluted plot involving time travel and Medieval parkour ninjas gets turned into a big-budget action movie featuring an overqualified cast of Oscar nominees (Michael Fassbender, Charlotte Rampling) and winners (Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons) who really should have known better. Like most movies based on videogames, this one’s said to be pretty crappy. It was a box office dud in the U.S. but did a little better overseas. As with ‘Sing’, you can get it in 2D, 3D, UHD or a Best Buy exclusive SteelBook.
‘Live by Night‘ – They can’t all be winners, Ben. Denied a Best Director nomination for ‘Argo’ that he surely felt he deserved, Ben Affleck goes gunning for Oscar again with a period gangster drama based on novel by Dennis Lehane (who was also the source for his ‘Gone Baby Gone’). The results this time failed to impress anyone. The movie was trashed by most critics, who complained that it felt like a jumbled mess edited down from a presumably much longer original cut. Given its lousy box office performance, Affleck will probably never get a chance to release his complete vision for the material. Warner Bros. is apparently so disappointed with the movie that the studio isn’t even bothering to offer it on Ultra HD in North America (though it will be available on that format overseas).
‘Miss Sloane‘ – Jessica Chastain stars in a political thriller about a powerful Washington lobbyist who decides to change her ways and use all her most conniving skills to bring down the gun lobby she used to work for. This would probably have played better if our national election last year had gone a different direction. As is, it seems like naïve wish fulfillment fantasy. Surprisingly, it wasn’t written by Aaron Sorkin. Unsurprisingly, the script is said to read as if in direct imitation of Sorkin’s style. Reviews were mixed, largely praising Chastain’s performance while dismissing the rest of the movie.
‘Julieta‘ – With the title of his latest movie, Pedro Almodóvar seems to be leaning really hard into the “Spanish Fellini” thing. His new candy-colored melodrama about an aging woman reunited with her estranged daughter was greeted well by most critics – except for our Phil, who wasn’t having any of it.
‘Tower‘ – The first (sadly, of many more to come) mass shooting at an American school occurred in August of 1966, when a gunman took a position in the clock tower at the University of Texas and opened fire on the students and teachers below, killing 16 and wounding 33 more over the span of one hour and 36 minutes. Part documentary, part animation and part harrowing thriller, this film recreates the events of that day in real-time. It received almost universal praise from critics.
In Hal Ashby’s 1979 satire ‘Being There‘, Peter Sellers plays a man of diminished mental capacity who inadvertently (and obliviously) rises to become one of the most influential power players in American politics. The movie is widely beloved and regarded as a classic, but has never entirely worked for me. Nevertheless, its cultural standing is significant enough that it merits inclusion in the Criterion Collection. I have no doubt that the Criterion edition will be a significant upgrade from the Warner Bros. Blu-ray released back in 2008, which had very underwhelming video, audio and supplements.
After that, Criterion dives into the early trash cinema of John Waters. ‘Multiple Maniacs‘ was Waters’ second feature-length film, and stars his muse Divine as the homicidal ringmaster of a band of sideshow misfits. Those who only know Waters from ‘Hairspray’ on should be warned that his early work was largely an exercise to see how much he could offend and repulse an audience.
Arrow Video makes a pilgrimage to the ‘Cinema Paradiso‘, Giuseppe Tornatore’s wistful 1988 Oscar winner about a young boy whose burgeoning love of movies is fostered by a kindly projectionist. Although the movie was released on Blu-ray by Lionsgate in 2011, that disc had a disappointing video transfer and only included the shorter theatrical cut of the film. The Arrow edition provides both the two-hour theatrical cut and the nearly three-hour Director’s Cut, each sourced from a new restoration. (Most fans prefer the shorter cut anyway, but it’s nice to have both.)
Also from Arrow is the strangely-titled ‘Property Is No Longer a Theft‘, a 1973 Italian dark comedy about a bank clerk who wages a vendetta against the local butcher.
Kino takes a ride in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Lifeboat‘, the suspense classic set entirely in the single, cramped location.
Shout! Factory revisits ‘RoboCop 2‘ and ‘RoboCop 3‘ with new Collector’s Editions. They’re both pretty crummy sequels to the brilliant original, but I can at least see part 2 having a small fan base. I can’t imagine anyone other than the most masochistic of completists buying a solo copy of ‘RoboCop 3’.
Looking at TV product, we get the first season of HBO’s ‘Insecure‘ and the third season of something called ‘The Brokenwood Mysteries‘. (It appears to be
Britishfrom New Zealand.) The third season of the animated ‘Batman: The Brave and the Bold‘ comes via the Warner Archive.
I have no memory of a spinoff/reboot of ‘The Untouchables‘ airing in 1993, but apparently it ran for two seasons, both of which are now available in high-def.
My home theater is named after ‘Cinema Paradiso’, so it stands to reason that I will need to own that disc. I would also consider ‘Lifeboat’ a high priority if I hadn’t already imported a Blu-ray of it from the UK a few years ago.
‘Julieta’ and ‘Tower’ seem rental worthy. I should probably upgrade the old Blu-ray copy of ‘Being There’, but I can hold off on that for a while.
I have to debate whether ‘RoboCop 2’ is enough of a guilty pleasure to purchase. Probably not.
Which Blu-rays will you sing the praises of this week?