It seems to me that, with Black Friday coming up in a few days, this ought to be a really good time to release some major new Blu-ray titles. Instead, as so often happens, the studios have decided to dump a bunch of turkeys on us this week. Thankfully, the selection of catalog titles is more appealing.
‘The Expendables 3‘ – I guess the nostalgia factor only stretches so far for Sylvester Stallone’s testosterone-fueled, shoot-em-up franchise. Despite wrangling in even more aging former action stars (including Harrison Ford, somehow), moviegoers found the latest ‘Expendables’ sequel to be pretty… well, expendable. Lowering the rating to PG-13 in an attempt to appeal to younger viewers was probably a mistake, as the core audience for this franchise all grew up in the 1980s and expect some hard-R violence and mayhem. If it has no other appeal, the Blu-ray is only the third title released so far with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which may pull in a few extra sales from home theater gearheads.
‘The November Man‘ – Hoping that people still remember that he used to be James Bond, Pierce Brosnan returns to the spy genre with an alleged action thriller that our theatrical reviewer Phil called “deeply, deeply mediocre.” The film was directed by Roger Donaldson, who has made some excellent movies like ‘No Way Out’ and ‘Thirteen Days’, but also made some very bad movies like ‘Cocktail’ and the misguided remake of ‘The Getaway’. Most accounts put this in the latter camp. The trailer explains the title with a line of dialogue stating: “After you pass through, nothing lives.” Ummm, what? That doesn’t make any sense at all.
‘The Giver‘ – All the publicity for the latest Young Adult, dystopian future sci-fi flick bent over backwards trying to convince viewers that, no, it’s not just a rip-off of ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘Divergent’. In fact, the Lois Lowry novel it’s adapted from actually predates those other franchises, which were largely ripped off from it. Nevertheless, the movie version would not exist if not for the success of ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘Divergent’, and quite frankly it does look like a generic copycat clone.
‘A Madea Christmas‘ – Tyler Perry is still cranking these things out? Really? Ugh.
‘What If‘ – Also known as ‘The F Word’, Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan struggle to determine if men and women really can just be friends. Given that this is a rom-com, the answer is clearly no. Phil says that the movie is moderately charming despite its adherence to formula clichés.
‘A Merry Friggin’ Christmas‘ – It cannot possibly be a good sign that even containing one of the final screen performances from Robin Williams wasn’t enough to drag this Joel McHale comedy out of direct-to-video oblivion.
‘Nymphomaniac: Extended Director’s Cut‘ – Nearly six solid hours of cinematic torture from Lars von Trier. Count me out.
As I said in the intro, this week’s catalog releases are much stronger than the day-and-date titles.
The Criterion Collection stares into the abyss of alienation and emotional despair with Michelangelo Antonioni’s beautiful, challenging ‘L’avventura‘. The film was the first part of a thematic trilogy with ‘La Notte‘ and ‘L’eclisse‘ (both previously released by Criterion).
I’m not too familiar with documentarian Les Blank, but Criterion’s compendium of 14 of his films, called ‘Les Blank: Always for Pleasure‘, sounds pretty interesting as well.
RaroVideo brings us a new restoration of Bernardo Bertolucci’s early masterpiece ‘The Conformist‘.
Kino, meanwhile, remembers the great Robert Altman with his terrific revisionist noir ‘The Long Goodbye‘ and the period heist caper ‘Thieves Like Us‘.
I will completely understand if most of our readers choose to sit this week out, but personally I find the trio of ‘The Conformist’, ‘The Long Goodbye’ and ‘L’avventura’ almost impossible to resist. Is anyone with me on that?