All things considered, March turned out to be a pretty good month for some major Blu-ray titles. Unfortunately, as we leave that month behind, April gets off to a less impressive start. [Post has been updated since it was first published.]
‘Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues‘ – Forgive the late update. You’ll see this listed at the bottom of the poll because the title was missing from our release schedule when I prepped this post last week. Serves me right for trying to do some work in advance, I guess. In any case, Will Ferrell finally broke his losing streak by churning out a sequel to one of his past beloved comedies. I didn’t get to see this in theaters (I didn’t see much of anything in theaters last year), but pretty much every scene in the trailers looked like a repetition of jokes already told in the first movie. The Blu-ray contains three different versions: the original PG-13 theatrical cut, a slightly longer Unrated version, and the R-rated theatrical re-release. From what I gather, the latter is sort of like the ‘Wake Up, Ron Burgandy’ alternate version of the original, which added new jokes and storylines as well as substituted alternate takes to essentially create a separate movie. Having not seen any of them, I think I’d probably start with the Unrated version.
‘47 Ronin‘ – The original tale of the forty-seven ronin recounts a famous historical event from 18th Century Japan, which is often used as the defining example of bushido, the samurai code of honor. The story has been told in several previous feature films, the most popular being 1962’s ‘Chūshingura’ starring Toshiro Mifune. This latest version is a $175 million action fantasy in which the decidedly not-Japanese Keanu Reeves battles demons and monsters and mutants in overly-dim 3D. Every line of dialogue in the trailer sounds like it was copied directly from the Big Book of Action Movie Clichés. They’re all, “If we do this, there’s no coming back” and “This ends here” and “I’m not afraid of you…” / “You should be.” The movie was a massive flop, released at the tail end of 2013 only so that Universal could claim it as a tax write-off. If its existence serves any purpose at all, perhaps it might inspire Criterion to look into releasing ‘Chūshingura’.
‘At Middleton‘ – Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga play single parents who meet and fall in love while dropping their kids off for a college campus tour. The movie sounds like ‘Before Sunrise’ but nowhere near as interesting. Vera Farmiga’s sister Taissa Farmiga plays her daughter. That must have been awkward.
‘Knights of Badassdom‘ – I swear that I saw trailers for this LARPing comedy at least three years ago. Even with nerd-friendly faces Peter Dinklage (‘Game of Thrones’), Ryan Kwanten (‘True Blood’), Danny Pudi (‘Community’) and Summer Glau (just about every other nerdy TV property ever) in the cast, the film was shelved and is essentially being released direct-to-video now. That can’t be a good sign.
Perhaps the most appealing release of the week is a reissue. The 2009 Blu-ray edition of the Coen brothers’ blacky comic suspense thriller ‘Fargo‘ suffered a pretty crummy, edge-enhanced video transfer. MGM has decided to rectify that with a new 4k scan. Let’s hope the colors haven’t been tealified, as happens to far too many catalog remasters. The prospect of teal snow worries me.
With the stage musical spin-off still going strong on Broadway, 20th Century Fox finally remembered that ‘Once‘ was a pretty great little movie first. Be warned to keep your expectations low for the quality of the Blu-ray, though. The movie was a very low-budget production shot on video with prosumer cameras intended to shoot TV footage, not designed for feature film work. It looked like garbage when I saw it in the theater. I think there’s a limit to how good the material can look.
Universal is on a Western kick this week. The studio offers up two John Wayne classics: ‘Rooster Cogburn‘ (the sequel to ‘True Grit’) and ‘The War Wagon‘. Also on tap are a couple starring Clint Eastwood: ‘Two Mules for Sister Sara‘ and ‘Joe Kidd‘ – the latter directed by John Sturges from a screenplay by Elmore Leonard.
Finally – and I have trouble believing that this isn’t an April Fool’s prank – Image Entertainment is really releasing the cheesetastic Hulk Hogan vehicle ‘No Holds Barred‘. I don’t think I’ve ever sat down to watch the whole thing, but I definitely saw enough bits and pieces of it on cable rotation back in the early 1990s. This may be somebody’s guilty pleasure cup of tea, but I fear that it would be more guilt than pleasure for me.
I’m really hopeful that the ‘Fargo’ remaster turns out to be worthwhile. ‘Anchorman 2’ is rental material for me. Other than that, and perhaps a mild interest in ‘Joe Kidd’, nothing else calls out to me this week. (I already own a Region B import of ‘Once’ that I’ve never gotten around to watching.) What do you see that will get you to open your wallet?