Welcome back from the long weekend. Did y’all have a good time memorializing? As we start this new, short week, the Blu-ray pickings are a little slim. In fact, perhaps the most interesting title of the week is one of the biggest box office bombs of all time.
The Queen of the Nile
Joseph Makiewicz’s 1963 production of ‘Cleopatra‘ was an epic in every sense. The film was made on an epic scale at a time when that meant actually building massive sets and hiring thousands of extras (no CGI trickery in those days). It had an epic budget that broke records for its day, ran for an epic length (a butt-numbing four hours!), and was an epic flop. Although movies today cost a lot more to make and frequently lose more money, the Elizabeth Taylor star vehicle is still held up as one of the standard bearers for Hollywood indulgence.
Does that mean that it’s a bad movie? No, the film offers plenty of grand spectacle and is interesting as the type of movie that Hollywood truly doesn’t make anymore. However, it’s very slow and talky, which is a problem given its excessive length. But that’s less of an issue on home video, where you can break it up into two pieces like a miniseries.
Released on Blu-ray in the UK over a year ago, the new domestic edition of ‘Cleopatra’ is mostly identical aside from two changes. Fox has packaged the disc in a nice Digibook, and has reportedly corrected the placement of the entr’acte to put it at the beginning of Disc 2 rather than the end of Disc 1. If you’ve already imported the UK version, those may not be significant enough to require an upgrade.
The only two notable day-and-date titles this week both feature stars slumming in projects beneath their talents. Keri Russell, who’s so terrific in ‘The Americans’ on TV, headlines the low-budget horror thriller ‘Dark Skies‘, which Luke called a “mishmash of every generic scary movie ever made” in his Blu-ray review. Meanwhile, John Cusack appears in some sort of spy thriller called ‘The Numbers Station‘ that’s essentially going direct-to-video.
Starz unearths a bunch of middling, largely forgotten comedies this week, from as far back as Whoopi Goldberg in the 1986 ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash‘ to as recent as Uma Thurman in the 2002 dud ‘My Super Ex-Girlfriend‘. Between these, we also get Brendan Fraser in ‘Airheads‘ and ‘Bedazzled‘, Martin Lawrence in ‘Black Knight‘, Sarah Michelle Gellar in ‘Simply Irresistible‘, and Sofia Vergara in ‘Chasing Papi‘. If you’re not in the mood for lame comedy, Starz also has Julia Roberts in the weepie ‘Dying Young‘ or Michael Douglas in the 1983 vigilante thriller ‘The Star Chamber‘.
If none of those do it for you, Olive Films digs up the Cary Grant classics ‘Father Goose‘ and ‘The Grass Is Greener‘, while Criterion has Mike Leigh’s wonderful ‘Life Is Sweet‘.
‘Doctor Who‘ fans might look forward to that show’s latest half-season and/or the most recent Christmas special. I say “might” because I’ve heard a lot of grumbling about the show’s drop-off in quality among my friends who watch it.
The only sure-fire purchase for me this week is Criterion’s ‘Life Is Sweet’. That’s a terrific movie. I will probably also give ‘Cleopatra’ another look, though it’s far from one of my favorites of that type of film. Does anything beckon to you this week?