The two best Blu-rays this week are actually reissues of movies previously released on the format. That either speaks toward how badly these titles deserved a do-over, or how uninteresting everything else is.
‘Zoolander 2‘ – The original ‘Zoolander’ had precisely one funny scene, involving a bunch of bimbo male models throwing a “gasoline fight.” But the movie was the first major comedy released after the 9/11 tragedy and people really needed a mindless laugh to distract them from the miserable state of the world. The film made decent money at the time but was quickly forgotten afterwards – by everyone except writer/director/star Ben Stiller, anyway. Still hanging onto that past glory, he brought the original cast back together for a sequel 15 years later. This is not a thing anyone wanted. Curiously, it seems that Stiller and the studio couldn’t even figure out what to call the movie. It’s titled ‘Zoolander 2’ on screen but ‘Zoolander No. 2’ in most of the marketing materials. From the accounts of most people who bothered to see it, it’s a big, stinky number-two all right.
‘How to Be Single‘ – Rebel Wilson, Dakota Johnson, Leslie Mann and Alison Brie headline an overstuffed rom-com that looks so painfully generic I’m surprised Garry Marshall didn’t direct it.
‘The Finest Hours‘ – Chris Pine better hope that this summer’s new ‘Star Trek’ sequel is another hit, because he has yet to find any success outside that franchise. In this attempt, he trades captaining a starship for captaining a Coast Guard boat through a daring rescue mission during a terrible blizzard in 1952. Loosely based on a true story, the movie is said to have pretty impressive action set-pieces but pretty bad everything else. From the trailers, the photography appears to be 100% teal with no other colors used at all.
‘Risen‘ – Joseph Fiennes is Roman military tribune tasked with locating Jesus’ missing corpse in that brief window between the Passion of the Christ and Easter. From the director of ‘Waterworld’, the movie was marketed as though it were ‘Passion 2: Return of the Christ’ but is reportedly much closer to amateurish faith-based productions like ‘Fireproof’ and ‘Courageous’. Phil called it “church basement Christploitation.” Ouch. Also available in UHD so you can see the shoddy production values in extra clarity.
Way back in 1993, the Criterion Collection issued a very nice Laserdisc edition of Robert Altman’s biting-the-hand-that-feeds-him Hollywood satire ‘The Player‘. Unfortunately, the label lost the rights to the title for most of the DVD and Blu-ray era. Warner Bros. put out an adequate if unexceptional Blu-ray in 2010. With another six years passed, the studio has finally loosened its grip on some of its properties and allowed Criterion to license Altman’s film again. The Criterion edition sports a newly remastered video transfer and a superior selection of bonus features.
Although overshadowed in popular culture by ‘The Silence of the Lambs’, its crappy sequels, and (more recently) the ‘Hannibal’ TV series, many fans will argue that Michael Mann’s superlative serial killer thriller ‘Manhunter‘ is still the best Hannibal Lecter movie (even if the film changes the spelling of the character’s name to “Lektor” for no particular reason). The picture appeared on Blu-ray as a bare-bones disc from MGM back in 2009 as part of ‘The Hannibal Lecter Collection’, bundled with ‘Lambs’ and Ridley Scott’s ‘Hannibal’. That same disc was later repackaged as a standalone copy. The new Collector’s Edition from Shout! Factory offers both the original theatrical cut (allegedly… Michael Mann has a frustrating habit of making changes to the movie every time he looks at it) and the inferior “Director’s Cut.” Due to limitations in the available source material, the latter is cobbled together from a mix of high-definition footage (from the theatrical cut transfer) and standard-definition footage for the added scenes. Also included is a pretty impressive selection of new supplements.
Rob Lowe may be firmly entrenched as a TV star today, but in the late 1980s his career was in freefall following his Oscar telecast musical debacle and his sex scandal. The 1990 erotic thriller ‘Bad Influence‘ was the first stage in his comeback. While not a box office success, the film playfully toyed with Lowe’s image as a naughty bad boy and showed that he had a sense of humor about his own failings. Certainly no great lost masterpiece, it’s essentially a formulaic B-movie thriller, but it’s slickly put together by future ‘L.A. Confidential’ director Curtis Hanson and has one really suspenseful and blackly-comic set-piece in the middle. A few years ago, I caught a streaming version of this on VUDU that looked pretty lousy. I’d hope that the Blu-ray has a better transfer, though I’ll admit that I’m not really inclined to buy this movie in any case.
After the failure of his disco nightclub drama ‘54‘ (set in the infamous Studio 54), director Mark Christopher claimed that studio interference forced to him hack out the core of the movie. He later held private screenings of a bootleg cut that reportedly added about 45 minutes of new footage, reinstating a significant storyline in which Ryan Phillippe’s lead character was revealed to be bisexual. The Amazon listing claims that the new “Director’s Cut” Blu-ray has a 103-minute run time, which (if accurate) appears to be a compromise that’s about 10 minutes longer than the old theatrical version. Whether any of this really makes the widely-panned movie worthwhile now is unknown to me.
Best Buy stores have an exclusive window on several star-driven comedies from the 1980s, including Tom Hanks in ‘The Money Pit‘ and ‘The ‘Burbs‘, Dan Aykroyd and John Candy in ‘The Great Outdoors‘, and Michael Keaton in ‘The Dream Team‘.
Also dredged up from the 1980s is the Scott Baio classic ‘Zapped!‘, in which the former Chachi and future Charles in Charge plays a high schooler who gets telekinetic abilities following a failed science experiment. The only part of this movie I remember at all is a scene where he uses his power to rip off a girl’s clothes from across the room – which at the time was considered hilariously ribald but today clearly marks him as a sex predator.
Finally, it seems that the Cohen Film Archive’s release of the 1964 Jean-Luc Godard infidelity drama ‘A Married Woman‘ (which I first mentioned back in March) was delayed to this week.
I’m currently working on a review of ‘The Player’. (Short version: It’s a very worthy upgrade.) The new copy of ‘Manhunter’ is also a must-buy.
I enjoy ‘The Money Pit’ and ‘Bad Influence’, but not enough that I need to own them. I know that ‘The ‘Burbs’ has a cult audience, but I never got into it.
What’s on your docket this week?