Holiday weeks are usually slow for home video, but with Black Friday imminent, the Blu-ray studios offer us a couple of major titles. Yes, one of them was a huge bomb, but I’m sure it’ll look awfully pretty in 4k. Also of interest is a notable indie that scored surprising buzz for a star many had written off.
New Releases (Blu-ray)
‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard‘ – I know what you’re thinking: The hitman needs a bodyguard? Whaaaaa…? Hitmen don’t usually need bodyguards. That’s so silly! Ryan Reynolds plays a bodyguard assigned to protect a notorious assassin (Samuel L. Jackson) en route to testify against someone even worse. Bickering and bonding and shooting and ‘spolsions are the order of the day in the buddy action comedy that looks about as formulaic as they come. Critics had no love for it, but the movie landed at an opportune moment this summer where it didn’t face much direct competition. That good fortune plus a couple of appealing stars with strong chemistry propelled it to be a big sleeper hit. Best Buy has a SteelBook for the Blu-ray.
‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets‘ – Two decades after ‘The Fifth Element’, Luc Besson delivers another sprawling space opera set in a bold and colorful comic-influenced universe. Sadly, it didn’t prove to be the return to form that fans may have hoped. Despite a cool teaser trailer set to the Beatles’ “Because” that looked like a dazzling visual spectacle, audiences shrugged it off as just another overwrought CGI-fest, and leads Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne had zero star power (and reportedly not much chemistry) to draw anyone in. Reviews were also largely negative, which doesn’t help. The movie was one of the biggest flops of the year. However, its eye candy factor will surely look great on disc. Although an Ultra HD edition is available on these shores, you’ll need to import if you want 3D. SteelBook collectors should note that Best Buy’s Pop Art case is 2D 1080p only. The Amazon UK SteelBook is the all-around best package with Blu-ray, 3D and UHD.
‘Good Time‘ – Robert Pattinson has struggled for a while to shed his image as the vapid ‘Twilight’ hunk, to mostly mixed success. He may have finally had a breakthrough with an indie thriller in which he plays a lowlife criminal having a very bad night as he frantically tries to keep his mentally ill brother out of prison. Not only were reviews for the movie much stronger than expected based on the plot description, nearly every single one of them singled out Pattinson’s performance for praise. Perhaps it’s time to get back on Team Edward?
‘Birth of the Dragon‘ – 1993’s ‘Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story’ wasn’t a particularly good movie, but at the very least director Rob Cohen had the basic sense to let Bruce Lee be the main character in his own bio-pic. Two decades later, George Nolfi (writer/director of the moronic ‘The Adjustment Bureau’) attempts another bio of the kung-fu legend and, by nearly all accounts, fails miserably. A festival cut of the film was torn to shreds by audiences and critics, who complained that it sidelined Bruce Lee as a supporting character, in favor of making one of his white students (Billy Magnussen) the hero instead. This certainly didn’t play well right in the middle of Hollywood’s whitewashing controversy. Nolfi later recut the movie to shift the balance more toward Lee, but that doesn’t seem to have helped much. The film was still overwhelmingly rejected by everyone who saw it.
‘California Typewriter‘ – Tom Hanks and John Mayer get to show off their hipster sides in a documentary about the nostalgic joys of using manual typewriters while the rest of the world has moved on to computers. How precious.
‘Leap!‘ – Here’s Dane DeHaan again, having a really bad year (or couple of years, since this was released overseas in 2016). He voices a role in a very cheap-looking animated family flick about a ballet troupe in Paris. Elle Fanning is the other lead. The movie tanked at the box office, and given that anything associated with The Weinstein Company is totally toxic now, will not likely make up any ground on video.
‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard‘ and ‘Valerian‘ are the week’s only 4k offerings.
The medieval farce ‘Jabberwocky‘ was Terry Gilliam’s first feature as a solo director. Though technically not a Monty Python production, Michael Palin stars in the lead and Terry Jones appears as well. This also marks Gilliam’s fifth movie to get a Blu-ray edition from the Criterion Collection (and his seventh Criterion title in all, counting Laserdisc and DVD). It’s an early work for Gilliam and generally not regarded as one of his best, but his wit and inventiveness are on display, and it’s an interesting example of his development as an artist. Gilliam always puts together good supplements for Criterion, which should be a selling point for the disc as well.
With renewed attention on Stephen King this year following the success of ‘It’ (and the failure of ‘The Dark Tower’), the Warner Archive digs up Taylor Hackford’s 1995 adaptation of ‘Dolores Claiborne‘.
Kino compiles a pricy 12-disc box set of all of Fritz Lang’s silent films called, simply enough, ‘Fritz Lang: The Silent Films‘. Of the 11 features, I believe four are new to Blu-ray. Fans who’ve collected the previous standalone editions of the others may find this a little galling.
The GKIDS reissues of Studio Ghibli titles continue with 1992’s ‘Porco Rosso‘ and 2010’s ‘The Secret World of Arrietty‘.
Beyond the anime that I can’t speak to, the most prominent TV releases this week come from the UK. The third season of the serial killer drama ‘The Fall‘ may or may not be the show’s last. You can buy that individually or as part of a so-called Complete Collection that will seem a lot less complete if a fourth season eventually happens.
If that’s too bleak for you, the sci-fi comedy ‘Red Dwarf‘ is now up to its twelfth season, and it only took 29 years to get there.
Even with all the negative buzz, I kind of want to give ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ a shot. I just don’t think I can bring myself to blind-buy the 3D edition from the UK. Perhaps I’ll do a streaming rental first.
‘Good Time’ looks interesting. I’ll rent that if I can. ‘Jabberwocky’ and the two Ghibli titles will go on my wish list. I’m sure I’ll probably catch ‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’ on cable in a few years.
What’s your pleasure this week?