Blu-ray Highlights: Week of May 24th, 2015 – Unlucky Numbers

I have some good news! Whatever money you normally have allocated for your weekly Blu-ray addiction can be saved for other purposes, because this week does not offer much worth buying.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (5/26/15)?

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New Releases

Seventh Son‘ – In what may prove to be the most misguided ‘Big Lebowski’ reunion ever, respected A-List actors (and now both Oscar winners) Julianne Moore and Jeff Bridges somehow got roped into a cheesy medieval fantasy epic about an evil witch and a grizzled monster hunter. After sitting on the studio shelf for over a year, the film was dumped into theaters this past February where it immediately sank without a trace. The trailers looked atrocious and most reviews confirmed as much. It’s basically this year’s ’47 Ronin’. Even though the movie played theatrically in 3D, Universal has opted not to bother offering the 3D version on Blu-ray.

Cut Bank‘ – After his work on the ‘Fargo’ TV series, director Matt Shakman apparently got stuck in a Coen brothers frame of mind. As such, he threw together a little suspense thriller in the ‘Blood Simple’ or ‘Fargo’ mold and populated it with Coen-approved casting choices like Billy Bob Thornton, John Malkovich and Michael Stuhlbarg. For some reason, he then put block-of-wood Liam Hemsworth in the lead. Reviews were unkind.

The Loft‘ – Karl Urban and James Marsden star in a remake of a Belgian thriller (adapted by the original director) about a group of buddies who share a secret love nest penthouse to use for cheating on their wives. This genius plan goes awry when they find the body of a dead girl, and each member of the group suspects another as the killer. Our Belgian reader Julian is a fan of the original film, but the 12% Rotten Tomatoes score for the remake suggests that something got lost in the translation.

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus‘ – How sad is it when a new Spike Lee movie flies so far under the radar that I hadn’t even heard of it until writing this post? From what I gather, this is a remake of the 1973 Blaxploitation vampire cult film ‘Ganja & Hess’. Lee funded the extremely-low-budget project through Kickstarter, shot the whole thing in just 16 days with a mostly unknown cast, and released it simultaneously in a tiny number of theaters and on VOD. The few people who saw it gave it a lukewarm reception. After ‘Oldboy’ and this, I think Lee should stay away from doing any more remakes for a while.

Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles‘ – I can’t say I really understand the recent trend of celebrating the 100th anniversary of a famous dead person’s birthday, but I guess somebody decided to make a marketing hook out of that pointless trivia tidbit. In any case, here’s a profile of the legendary filmmaker put together buy a guy mostly known for assembling the film clip montages that play during the Oscars. Peter Bogdanovich is of course interviewed, because, you know, you can’t talk about Orson Welles without Bogdanovich horning himself into the conversation. I’m sure Henry Jaglom is probably in there somewhere as well.

Catalog Titles

The most respectable of this week’s catalog titles come from the Criterion Collection, which offers up a batch of three discs rather than the usual two. First are a pair of 1970s political thrillers – ‘The Confession‘ and ‘State of Siege‘ – from one of the masters of that form, Costa-Gravas. Next is ‘The Merchant of Four Seasons‘, a satirical melodrama made by iconic German filmmaker R.W. Fassbinder during his Douglas Sirk phase. (See also Criterion’s earlier release of ‘Ali: Fear Eats the Soul‘.)

In the mood for something a little less highbrow? Kino caters to your craving for ’80s cheese with the Golan-Globus epics ‘Enter the Ninja‘ and its sequel ‘Revenge of the Ninja‘, while Olive Films will shame you into admitting that you watched the dopey comedy ‘Ski School‘ more than a few times on HBO or Cinemax.

Fans of schlock horror have a veritable feast of the stuff with high-def editions of ‘Cannibal Ferox‘, ‘Island of Death‘, and double-features of ‘Frogs‘ & ‘The Food of the Gods‘, as well as ‘Empire of the Ants‘ & ‘Jaws of Satan

In 1983, half the members of ‘Monty Python’ reunited for the pirate comedy ‘Yellowbeard‘. Two of them, John Cleese and Eric Idle, would later name it one of the worst movies ever made. They were perhaps exaggerating about that – a little bit, anyway.

Television

I enjoyed the Showtime drama ‘Ray Donovan‘ just enough to watch it through the first season, but when the second season came around, I let all the episodes pile up in my DVR until I was finally forced to admit that I’d never watch them. It’s a decent enough show, but I just lost interest and had other things taking up my time.

My $.02

The three Criterions are interesting enough to at least go on my wish list, but that’s it for this otherwise very dreary week. Am I missing something that you’re more excited about?

10 comments

  1. EM

    Heh. The Welles centennial was an excellent excuse for a festival of Welles films around here, plus commentaries and an exhibition of written materials and photos. Magician was shown too, not that I saw it. Perhaps it is an excellent socumentary, but for now the festival as I experienced it is good enough for me.

  2. William Henley

    Seventh Son may have been good if it was like twice as long. I felt like major story elements had been cut, and that the story that was there was rushed. I felt lost for most of the movie, walked out of the movie thinking “Its over already? Its shorter than a kids cartoon movie.” I honestly walked out still not knowing what the movie was about. I pretty much got “witch lady who turns into a dragon, and some fake knight who is trying to destroy her after having a failed love affair with her”. I don’t think the people I went with even got that much out of it. In fact, it pretty much felt like a Legend of the Seeker episode that should have been a two parter – the movie was that short, that rushed, and story that pretty much should have been a television episode.

    I honestly could not believe how badly the movie flowed. I honestly felt the entire time “there has got to be about another hour or two of this movie sitting on the cutting room floor somewhere”. If there is a directors cut or an extended edition of this ever released, I will take another look. Otherwise, everything this week is a pass for me

  3. I’m quite excited about this week. I’m anxiously awaiting my UPS man to deliver Enter the Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja, and last but not least, Madman. Madman has a special place for me because it may very well be the earliest horror movie I remember seeing the trailers for on tv and being creeped out by. The myth went that if you said his name in the woods he would come for you. For years before I even saw the movie for myself, I would tell the story of Madman Marz to my buds as if it were my own. I’m on the fence about Cannibal Ferox as it has real animal cruelty and that doesn’t sit too well with me, but on the other hand, I love cannibal nasties. Seventh Son would’ve been a total 3d blind buy, but they pulled out of it and lost a sale from me for it. Maybe they could do a website exclusive, I’d be willing to do that for the 3d. I red boxed it this morning and it was okay. I’m sick of Jeff Bridges doing his Rooster Cogburn thing. This is the third time. No more please. The movie was pretty fun though.

  4. Chris B

    I’m interested in The Confession and State of Siege, but to be honest, I’m a lottle burnt out on reading subtitles at the moment. The last 5 movies I’ve watched have been foreign and I could use a break. They’ll make it on my wishlist though. Other than that nadda. We’re in a bit of a dry spell for interesting blu-rays…even the next few weeks look kind of bleak. Good oppurtunity to catch up on the “unwatched” pile I suppose.

    • Chris B

      Although I’ll probably end up renting “Cut Bank”, it was filmed in and around my city so I can’t help but be curious.

    • William Henley

      I’ve been burned out on subtitles myself lately, especially anime. The subs go by so fast, and I am just wanting to appreciate the visuals, not having to speed read subs on a Japanese film. And on the Godzilla movies, I think half the fun is watching the horrible English dubs. Pretty much, unless the English dubs suck, I have gotten to where I prefer watching the dubs. That just feels so wrong to say that, five years ago, there is no way I would watch a dub.

      Now if something is in French, Spanish or German, I will go ahead and watch the subbed versions, as I feel I have enough of a grip on those languages that I can get by with glancing at the subtitles every now and then.

  5. Wow. An honourable mention on HDD. I can die in peace. No irony (no, really, this makes my day 🙂 )

    For what it’s worth, ‘Loft’ (without the article) is an excellent movie. I highly recommend it. I haven’t seen the remake, but by all accounts, it’s terrible. I really don’t know what went wrong. The salvaged director told the local press he encountered major vitriolic and downright hateful comments (in person) from some moviegoers and critics, with some claiming ‘a movie about adultery? That’ll never catch on. In America, men are faithful to their spouses’.

    Still, check out the original ‘Loft’. I’m guessing it’s a case similar to ‘The Vanishing’. Excellent Dutch original, icky remake.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      The success of movies like Fatal Attraction and Unfaithful, or more recently the Showtime TV series The Affair, suggests that American audiences don’t actually have a problem with the adultery theme. Not to mention the still very high divorce rate in this country. The film’s box office failure is largely due to a complete lack of advertising or promotion. I don’t believe I ever saw a single trailer or TV ad for it. Most people didn’t even know it existed.

      Of course, that may be the result of a lack of faith in the film from the studio, which could have stemmed from poor test screening feedback or early reviews.

  6. Lord Bowler

    I’ll probably pick up ‘Sons of Liberty’ and possibly ‘Invitation to a Gunfighter’ because I’m a big western fan.

    I’ll rent ‘Cut Bank’, ‘The Loft’ and ‘Seventh Son’.

    I’m really curious about ‘Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles’. I don’t know a lot about Orson Welles other than War of the Worlds and The Transformers Movie, and possibly a few others. I’ll certainly rent this and it may trigger an Orson Welles binge afterwards.

  7. Nothing jumps out this week, so the ole wishlist gets longer, perhaps importance is listed in order here, top to bottom.
    Frogs/Food of the Gods, Empire of the Ants/Jaws of Satan, Seventh Son, River of Death, Island of Death, Cannibal Ferox.

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