The Blu-ray scene kind of fell to pieces the last couple weeks without any major new movies on disc. This week begins to rebuild with a recent box office hit that looks pretty fun.
New Releases (Blu-ray)
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part – Following the Batman and Ninjago spinoffs, Chris Pratt and crew return for a direct sequel to 2014’s delightful The Lego Movie. Creators Phil Lord and Christopher Miller wrote the script, but were pulled in too many other directions (also shepherding Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and putting a lot of work into Solo that was eventually discarded) to direct, so those duties fell to Mike Mitchell of Trolls. By most accounts, the sequel is a worthy and entertaining follow-up, if not quite as fresh or inventive as the original. In addition to the Blu-ray, Ultra HD, and even 3D editions, Best Buy offers a SteelBook (standard Blu-ray only, sadly), while Target and Walmart have their own exclusives packaged with Lego toys.
What Men Want – Despite being directed by a woman, the 2000 Mel Gibson comedy What Women Want had some fairly simplistic and regressive views on women and gender politics. The remake, which is directed by a man, attempts to flip the dynamic by casting Taraji P. Henson as a high-powered businesswoman who develops the telepathic ability to read men’s minds, inevitably finding that all they’re capable of thinking about is sex. This does not seem to be much of an improvement. Aside from Henson’s performance, which was singled out for some praise, critics panned the movie. Audiences were more lenient and made it a modest box office hit.
The Prodigy – Taylor Schilling plays a mother concerned that her hyper-intelligent but also weird and creepy son may be possessed by the spirit of a dead serial killer. Ain’t that just the pits? It sounds like Child’s Play, but with a real kid instead of a doll, and played without camp. Reviews were about what you’d expect from a mid-budget horror film like this (i.e. poor), but Deirdre had some fun with it.
Blaze – No, not the Paul Newman/Lolita Davidovich dramedy about a horny Louisiana governor who fell in love with a stripper. (Remember that one?) Ethan Hawke writes and directs (but doesn’t star in) a bio-pic about cantankerous country musician Blaze Foley, whose short and troubled life ended violently in 1989. For verisimilitude, Hawke cast actual musician Ben Dickey in the lead. While bios about tortured artists are a well-worn genre, especially in recent years, most critics found a lot to like in this one.
Everybody Knows – Acclaimed Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, The Salesman) ventures outside his home country and his usual social dramaturgy to helm a Spanish-language kidnapping thriller starring Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz. Pretty much everybody who saw it was in agreement that this is a minor work from the filmmaker. At their respective festival screenings, Phil enjoyed it more than Jason did.
They Shall Not Grow Old – Peter Jackson brings all of his technical wizardry to a documentary about World War I. Starting with hundreds of hours of vintage footage shot on the battlefields and behind the lines, he cleaned it up, colorized it, frame-rate corrected it, converted it to 3D, foleyed a soundtrack, and even recruited actors with regional appropriate accents to dub speaking voices based on lip-reading analysis. The result is probably the closest a modern audience will ever come to experiencing that war. Unlike anything else Jackson has directed in the past decade-and-a-half, the film’s critical reception was unanimously glowing. The Warner Archive brings it to Blu-ray, though only in 2D.
Her Smell – Elisabeth Moss plays a self-destructive punk band frontwoman named Becky Something in a drama from her Listen Up Philip and Queen of Earth director Alex Ross Perry. Moss’ performance was praised a little more than the film around it. Amazon has a Blu-ray listing with a release date of May 11th, but details on the page are kind of sketchy and I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t really come out.
The Lego Movie 2 is the only day-and-date title to score an Ultra HD release this week.
Catalog upgrades include Backdraft and Hellboy II: The Golden Army from Universal, and Black Hawk Down from Sony.
Paramount released Forrest Gump in 4k last year. I assume that the 25th Anniversary Edition is just a repackage of the same disc. (See Shannon’s comment below for an update on this.)
The Criterion Collection invites you to spend an evening with The Heiress, William Wyler’s 1949 adaptation of a stage play which was in turn based on the Henry James novel Washington Square. Olivia de Havilland won her second Oscar for the film, much to the annoyance of younger sister Joan Fontaine, who only had one Oscar on her shelf. The movie would likely make an interesting comparison with the 1997 adaptation of Washington Square, which was also recently released on Blu-ray.
It might also make a good pairing with The Nightcomers, Michael Winner’s 1971 prequel to Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, starring Marlon Brando.
Still feeling the Jim Jarmusch vibe after the recent Criterion copies of Stranger Than Paradise and Night on Earth? Kino offers the director’s 2005 dramedy Broken Flowers, starring Bill Murray as an aging lothario who makes a road trip to search for a possible son he may have had with a former lover. The problem is, he isn’t sure which of the many spurned women in his past might be the mother.
In 1974, The Producers stars Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel reunited for an adaptation of Eugène Ionesco’s surreal, Theatre of the Absurd classic Rhinoceros. Unfortunately, the film version was not nearly as well received as the play.
Coinciding with the Ultra HD reissue for the film’s 25th anniversary, Best Buy carries a standard Blu-ray reissue of Paramount’s Forrest Gump in a SteelBook case.
Arrow Video locks and loads its latest Spaghetti Western acquisition, 1972’s The Grand Duel starring Lee Van Cleef.
Even as I mentioned it last week, I felt skeptical that the Blu-ray edition of David Mamet’s The Spanish Prisoner would really get released on time. Sure enough, Amazon now shows it pushed back to Friday, May 10th. I’m not getting my hopes up that date will hold either.
With four seasons down and a fifth on the way (though not until 2020), AMC’s prequel series Better Call Saul is set for a run at least as long as Breaking Bad.
I have a 3D SteelBook for The Lego Movie 2 on preorder from the UK. Annoyingly, it won’t be released until June.
If it ever actually comes out, I’m still very interested in The Spanish Prisoner. I’m also curious about They Shall Not Grow Old. A streaming rental will probably suffice for that. The Heiress and Broken Flowers will go on my wish list.
What do you want this week?