As alarmist opinion pieces proclaim the imminent death of physical media (thanks for nothing, Samsung!), I’m sure not seeing any slowdown in the number of Blu-ray and Ultra HD titles being released, for movies both big and small. New to disc this week are a smash hit boxing sequel, a surprise Oscar winner, and a bunch of little movies that got some attention in limited release and festivals.
The headline this week is kind of a deep cut. I hope someone gets and appreciates it. If not, well, writing these things is a one way street with no easy way out. That’s just living in America.
New Releases (Blu-ray)
Creed II – Writer/director Ryan Coogler was a little too busy with Black Panther last year to return for the sequel to Creed, but star Michael B. Jordan made time for both films. Perhaps disappointed at being relegated to a supporting role, Sylvester Stallone re-asserted his authorship over the franchise by co-writing the screenplay. In doing so, he decided to frame it not just as a sequel to Creed, but also as a direct follow-up to his own Rocky IV. By most accounts, the result is a step down from the first Creed and fairly middle-of-the-road as a Rocky picture, but still offers good performances and a decent amount of entertainment value (and hopefully fewer music montages than Rocky IV).
The Favourite – Olivia Colman pulled off quite an upset in scooping the Best Actress award out from under Glenn Close at the Oscars last week. That may have been the only trophy the film took home, but co-stars Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone were also nominated for their roles in a satirical costume drama set in the 18th Century court of Queen Anne. His highest-profile, most acclaimed, and biggest financial success yet, the movie was a significant breakthrough for eccentric Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos, whose previous efforts (Dogtooth, The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) seemed to actively resist mainstream commercial appeal.
Instant Family – Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne star in a very well-meaning family comedy about a childless couple who make a spur-of-the-moment decision to become foster parents to three siblings. Deirdre didn’t think much of the movie, saying that it lacked either emotion or laughs, and I don’t recall ever seeing so much as a TV commercial for it, but it somehow found enough of an audience to make a solid chunk of money at the box office.
Burning – The new drama from Korean director Lee Chang-dong (Secret Sunshine) weaves a complicated tale about a wealthy playboy (former Walking Dead star Steven Yuen) who insinuates himself into the lives of an aspiring writer and his would-be girlfriend for mysterious reasons. Winner of two prizes at Cannes, the slow-burn thriller was also hotly buzzed at a number of other festivals and critics’ circles.
Vox Lux – Two decades after surviving a school shooting as a teenager, a Lady Gaga-like pop star (Natalie Portman) is deeply affected by another terrorism incident in which the shooters wore masks mimicking the costumes and iconography from her music videos. Reviews for the movie were highly divisive, falling across a wide range from calling it an insufferable failure to a minor masterpiece. Portman’s performance was likewise either praised or lambasted, depending on the critic.
Ben Is Back – Julia Roberts plays a mother struggling to hold her family together over the Christmas holiday when her addict son (Lucas Hedges) comes home from rehab a little too soon. Peter Hedges (Dan in Real Life, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, and father of Lucas), directed. Critics were politely supportive of the performances, but basically nobody went to see the movie in theaters.
The Standoff at Sparrow Creek – When an ex-cop (James Badge Dale) suspects that another member of the militia group he joined after leaving the police force may have committed a mass shooting at a police funeral, he locks down their clubhouse to interrogate them all. Confined mostly to a single location, the tense thriller elicits comparisons to Reservoir Dogs. Phil was mixed on the film after watching it at TIFF, saying that it lacks enough payoff at the end, but a lot of other critics had a better opinion of it.
The only day-and-date title to land an Ultra HD release is Creed II. Best Buy has a SteelBook.
Ahead of its franchise reboot, Guillermo del Toro’s original Hellboy movie was announced for a 4k upgrade this week. However, Amazon and Best Buy pulled their listings, and Walmart says that it’s out of stock, so I don’t know whether it’s really happening or not.
Although it was a box office dud that scored only mixed reviews from critics in its day, the 1993 serial killer road trip thriller Kalifornia was one of the earliest movies to suggest that young star Brad Pitt might be more than just a pretty face. First released on Blu-ray back in 2010, Shout! Factory gives the movie a Collector’s Edition double-dip as part of its Shout Select line.
Kino also digs back into the 1990s with high-def copies largely forgotten movies like Mad Dog and Glory, The Doctor, Before and After, and Untamed Heart.
Sonny Chiba’s Street Fighter movies of the 1970s (no relation to the later video game franchise or Jean-Claude Van Damme flick) were so popular that they inspired four spinoffs starring Etsuko Shiomi. Arrow Video bundles them into a box set called the Sister Street Fighter Collection.
The first season of Syfy’s Krypton, the fourth season of AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead, and the Spacey-less final season of Netflix’s House of Cards are all now conveniently collected on disc for your bingeing pleasure.
The movie I most want to see this week is The Favourite. I’ll probably start with a rental. I’m also curious about Burning and Vox Lux.
What’s your favourite release of the week?