This week’s new Blu-ray release slate is overrun with wolves, dinosaurs and babies. I’m not sure which is more dangerous.
‘The Wolf of Wall Street‘ – Of the nine movies nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, five walked away completely empty-handed. One of those bypassed was Martin Scorsese’s blackly comic bio-pic about corrupt stock market scammer Jordan Belfort. The movie was actually one of the more divisive of the Best Picture nominees. Some critics and viewers complained that it was an overlong wallow in decadence and debauchery. Scorsese and star Leonardo DiCaprio would no doubt argue that was their whole point. I look forward to judging for myself.
‘Walking with Dinosaurs‘ – Early in its conception, this feature film spin-off of the 1999 BBC documentary miniseries was intended to be completely dialogue-free, a naturalistic depiction of how dinosaurs may have lived on our planet played out with CG dinos against live action backdrops. After picking it up for distribution, studio heads at 20th Century Fox freaked out about that and imposed both a narrator and cutesy voiceover dialogue from a celebrity cast. The result looks like a lame knock-off of Disney’s flop ‘Dinosaur‘, which was already plenty lame. Exclusive to the 3D Blu-ray package (but not the 2D) is a so-called “Cretaceous Cut” of the movie that I believe is meant to be the original version. Whether that’s really any better remains to be seen.
‘Delivery Man‘ – In 2011, Canadian director Ken Scott made a French-language comedy called ‘Starbuck’ about a hapless slacker who learns that the sperm donations he made in his youth have resulted in over 500 children. The movie received tepid reviews and was only a modest success in Canada. Nevertheless, someone at DreamWorks hired Scott to remake his own film as a vehicle for Vince Vaughn… which likewise received tepid reviews and was only a modest success. I feel like the writing was already on the wall for this one from the beginning.
‘The Past‘ – Iranian director Asghar Farhadi follows up his Oscar-winning ‘A Separation‘ with a French-language drama that explores some similar themes. Bérénice Bejo from ‘The Artist’ stars.
The Criterion Collection inducts three new titles this week. Two are classics: Harold Lloyd’s silent comedy ‘The Freshman‘ and Ingmar Bergman’s existential drama ‘Persona‘. Despite the latter’s reputation as one of cinema’s greatest masterpieces, I had a lot of trouble getting into it when I last watched it many years ago. Like many of Bergman’s works, the film is deliberately alienating. I suppose I need to give it another shot. The more recent title is this year’s Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film. The Italian comedy ‘The Great Beauty‘ is said to evoke the spirit of Fellini’s ‘La Dolce Vita’, which doesn’t sound like a bad thing.
Timed to piggyback off Paramount’s promotion for ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, Fox brings out one of Martin Scorsese’s most underrated films, ‘The King of Comedy‘, in which Robert De Niro plays a celebrity stalker obsessed with a late night talk show host. At the time of its release in 1983, the film was largely dismissed as a retread of themes from ‘Taxi Driver’, but the picture stands very well on its own and has a deliciously ironic ending.
From the grindhouse, a label called New Video Group offers up the gritty revenge thriller ‘Ms. 45‘ from Abel Ferrara, the king of ’80s exploitation sleaze.
Distributing for itself, New Line and Paramount, Warner Bros. rolls out a number of catalog title reissues this week. Although the listings at Amazon don’t mention anything about SteelBook packaging, those at some other retailers do. Based solely on price, I’m inclined to assume that they probably are metal cases.
TV box sets this week include the second seasons respectively of HBO’s brilliant political satire ‘Veep‘ and Syfy’s sort-of-OK time travel drama ‘Continuum‘. For an almost astoundingly low asking price, Lionsgate has a high-def edition of the classic family drama ‘Little House on the Prairie‘, said to be restored from the original film elements.
I’m in for ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, ‘The King of Comedy’, ‘The Freshman’ and ‘Persona’. Did I fail to mention something this week that interests you?