The third week of November this year is one of those weird periods in which a huge volume of new Blu-ray releases (over 60 titles!) somehow includes very damn few actually worth consideration.
‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.‘ – With the continued success of the ‘Mission: Impossible’ franchise, as well as the recent revitalization of James Bond, I suppose it was inevitable that someone would resurrect this mostly-fondly-remembered 1960s TV series on the big screen. The man in question is Guy Ritchie, and he made the rather clever decision to stage the film as a retro spy adventure set in the 1960s. The trailers looked like a lot of fun, but the movie was a big box office flop. Was that attributable to the film’s lack of major stars (Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer hardly count), the teenage moviegoing audience’s unfamiliarity with the source material, or just a general case of spy movie burnout this year between the latest ‘M:I’ and Bond entries? Perhaps it was some combination of all three? I look forward to catching up with it on Blu-ray, especially since the disc has a Dolby Atmos soundtrack.
‘Jimmy’s Hall‘ – I’ve never been able to connect with the movies of British social realist filmmaker Ken Loach. I keep intending to give him another try, but something in me resists. Loach has suggested that this Depression-era tale about an Irish man who opens a dance hall in his community against the objections of the domineering Catholic Church will likely be his last film. Our theatrical reviewer Phil described the movie as being like an art house remake of ‘Footloose’, just way more depressing.
‘FDR: American Badass!‘ – On the chance that you thought ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ wasn’t campy or deliriously ridiculous enough for your tastes, this spiritual follow-up brings us the story of America’s wheelchair-bound 32nd President (Barry Bostwick) as he battles Nazis, werewolves, and Nazi werewolves, and kicks lots of ass despite not being able to use his legs.
‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Extended Edition‘ – Middle-earth completists can breathe a sigh of relief that Peter Jackson has finally finished adding footage to his massively bloated ‘Lord of the Rings’ prequel. There is no more blood to be wrung from J.R.R. Tolkien’s slender novel. As with its predecessors, the Blu-ray comes in 2D or 3D versions. (A trilogy box set of all the Extended Editions is also available.) How many movies do you think Jackson will squeeze out of ‘The Silmarillion’?
If you need a couple extra Criterion titles to throw into your cart at the latest Barnes & Noble sale, consider Richard Brooks’ classic adaptation of Truman Capote’s ‘In Cold Blood‘, or Indian master Satyajit Ray’s famed ‘Apu Trilogy‘. (The latter includes the movies ‘Pather Panchali’, ‘Aparajito’ and ‘Apur Sansar’.)
Flicker Alley digs even further back into film history with a box set of ‘Chaplin’s Essany Comedies‘, featuring new restorations of 15 of the silent comedian’s early works.
Assuming you don’t already own most of the movies separately and aren’t afraid to drop a pretty big chunk of change at one time, the Amazon-exclusive ‘Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki‘ box set bundles ‘Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro’, ‘Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind’, ‘Castle in the Sky’, ‘My Neighbor Totoro’, ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’, ‘Porco Rosso’, ‘Princess Mononoke’, ‘Spirited Away’, ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’, ‘Ponyo’ and ‘The Wind Rises’ into one rather handsome package. Sadly, a number of these discs are burdened with “dubtitles” (a written transcription of the English dub) rather than proper English subtitles should you prefer to watch with the original Japanese audio. I would also be very surprised if ‘Ponyo’ were re-authored to include the Japanese soundtrack in lossless format, as it should have been (but wasn’t) the first time around.
*Update: See the Comments section below for new information about the Miyazaki box set.
Sony fills a major hole in my collection with Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro’s delightfully twisted and surreal ‘The City of Lost Children‘. At present, the only Jeunet film not available on Blu-ray in North America is ‘A Very Long Engagement’, which Warner Bros. has shown no interest in releasing.
Shout! Factory brings us Tom DiCillo’s 1995 meta-comedy ‘Living in Oblivion‘, an indie film starring Steve Buscemi as an indie filmmaker struggling to complete his micro-budget opus. Peter Dinklage delivers a hilarious rant about the cliché of casting dwarves in dream sequences.
Far less comedic and much more angsty is Abel Ferrara’s 1993 ‘Dangerous Game‘, which reunites the director with his ‘Bad Lieutenant’ star Harvey Keitel, here playing a film director who makes the mistake of having an affair with his latest leading lady (Madonna, back when she believed she could act). It’s not one of Ferrara’s better movies, but his established fans may find it interesting.
Finally, a little late for Halloween, Scream Factory delivers a double feature of the cheesy horror flick ‘Troll‘ with its notoriously so-awful-it’s-hilarious sequel ‘Troll 2‘. I’m sure that a certain audience will be very excited for this.
‘The City of Lost Children’ is a must-buy for me. While I don’t think I’ll pick up ‘In Cold Blood’ or ‘The Apu Trilogy’ in this month’s Criterion sale, they’ll go on my list for the future. Also a potential wish list item is ‘Living in Oblivion’.
‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ seems like solid rental material.
Do you agree or disagree with any of my picks? Will you spend any money this week?