Halloween may be behind us, but the first week of November has some new treats in store anyway. As you come down from your sugar high, try to bolster your spirits with an interesting Blu-ray or two.
‘Inside Out‘ – By most accounts, Pixar bounced back from its recent string of disappointments with this inventive tale about the anthropomorphized emotions inside a little girl’s head. Does this signal a new resurgence for the studio? It’s too soon to tell. Trailers for ‘The Good Dinosaur’ don’t look very promising. In any case, the Blu-ray is available in both 2D or 3D, because Pixar is exempt from Disney’s current “No 3D on Blu-ray” policy.
‘Vacation‘ – Part sequel, part reboot, maybe even part remake, Ed Helms takes the reins to the now National Lampoon-less franchise, playing Griswold son Rusty on a quest to recreate the events of his childhood trip to Wally World. Audiences had no interest in this. The movie tanked at the box office. Of those who did see it, word-of-mouth was divided between “Not as bad as expected” to “Exactly as bad as expected.” I don’t see much enthusiasm from anybody about it. Of note, the film was co-directed by actor John Francis Daley, which explains why his character was so brutally killed off on ‘Bones’ last season. (True story. When the actor asked for a leave absence to direct his first feature, the show’s producers murdered his character and wrote him completely out of the series. Ouch.)
‘Before We Go‘ – Imagine if Marvel had pulled that kind of stunt and killed off Captain America. The fans would riot. Fortunately, no one even seemed to notice that Chris Evans made his own directorial debut with a rom-com about a pair of strangers who have an adventure when stranded in New York for the night. I frequently confuse the title in my mind with Sam Mendes’ insufferable hipster dramedy ‘Away We Go’, and am inclined to dislike it for no other good reason.
‘The End of the Tour‘ – Jason Segel plays the late author David Foster Wallace in a bio-pic about his book tour for ‘Infinite Jest’. Jesse Eisenberg plays a journalist tagging along to cover the event for Rolling Stone. They talk… a lot. Critical response was mostly positive, though I’m not sure I can buy Segel playing a real person in a non-comedic role.
‘The Final Girls‘ – Not to be confused with Abigail Breslin’s ‘Final Girl’ which just recently hit Blu-ray, this extremely meta horror comedy stars Taissa Farmiga and Malin Ackerman. Years after a former 1980s scream queen dies in a car accident, her daughter attends an anniversary screening of mom’s most famous slasher flick and, through some magical ‘Last Action Hero’ shenanigans, gets sucked into the world of the movie, where she finds time to bond with her mother’s on-screen character as they’re both stalked by a murderous psycho. This is the sort of thing that ought to have played like gangbusters at film festival midnight screenings, but reportedly the movie’s execution doesn’t live up to its clever premise.
‘She’s Funny That Way‘ – At this stage of his career, Peter Bogdanovich is lucky to get one movie into theaters per decade. For as much as he’s determined to bring back the classical screwball farce, nobody cares to see them. Enabled by Noah Baumbach and Wes Anderson as producers, Bogdanovich’s latest attempt stars Imogene Poots and Owen Wilson in the tale of a call girl who wants to be an actress, and the theater director who helps her with that dream. Critical consensus is that the movie is… well… not that funny.
‘A Lego Brickumentary‘ – Our Blu-ray reviewer Daniel loved this documentary about the popular children’s toy. Our theatrical reviewer Phil had a very different reaction and called it a “90-minute commercial” that should have gone straight to Netflix. I haven’t seen it, but I suspect that Netflix is probably the right venue to stumble across something like this, unless you happen to be a massive Lego fanatic. [Side note: I find it annoying that the LEGO Group insists on capitalizing every letter in the brand name. It’s not an acronym, nor is the word pronounced by sounding it out letter-by-letter (like IBM or BMW). I side with the AP Stylebook (that’s an acronym for “Associated Press” and should be pronounced “A P” not “ap”) in only capitalizing the “L” in Lego.]
‘Best of Enemies‘ – A documentary about the bitter rivalry between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley, the two grandstanding ideologues from opposite ends of the political spectrum whose sharp-tongued televised debates enthralled the American public during the 1968 Presidential election. Sadly and unintentionally, their popularity and notoriety signaled the birth of the modern TV news landscape, in which blowhard pundits scream at each other on cable all year round. The difference, of course, is that both Buckley and Vidal were intelligent men who each genuinely believed the things they argued for, so unlike the buffoons and paid shills who have taken their places today.
‘Stung‘ – Our Roundtable contributor Adam raved about this killer wasp horror flick in Friday’s post. He knows way more about it than I do, so check out what he wrote.
Long before YouTube or Funny or Die, audiences actually paid to see parody short films in a movie theater, either as part of a short film compilation or attached to the beginning of new features. One of the most famous of these was the ‘Star Wars’ spoof ‘Hardware Wars‘, in which bumbling heroes Fluke Starbucker and Ham Salad do battle against the dastardly Darth Nader. Filled with other such sophomoric puns and humor, and “special effects” recreated using common household objects, the 13-minute film will no doubt seem inane and inept to kids today, but should still hold a fond place in the hearts of the original ‘Star Wars’ generation. With a new ‘Star Wars’ revival due in theaters imminently, the parody has been remastered to restore every bit of quality its $8,000 budget will allow. To justify the purchase price, the disc also includes other shorts by the director and some bonus features.
Beyond that, the catalog slate looks awfully bleak this week. The only other title to catch my eye in the acclaimed Clive Owen gambling drama ‘Croupier‘.
The week’s TV assortment, on the other hand, is positively bursting with new releases. Among them are the new Dolby Atmos reissues of the first two seasons of ‘Game of Thrones‘ (in SteelBook packaging), a Gold Record Edition reissue of the first season of Fox’s ‘Empire‘, the second season of Starz’s ‘Black Sails‘, the second season of HBO’s ‘Getting On‘, the first half of the ninth season of ‘Doctor Who‘, a complete series collection for ‘That ’70s Show‘, NBC’s inane ‘A.D. The Bible Continues‘ miniseries, and Disney’s ‘Toy Story That Time Forgot‘ holiday special.
My wife is a huge fan of the 1985 ‘Anne of Green Gables‘ miniseries. I bought her the DVD edition years ago and it was, no joke, the worst-looking videodisc I’ve ever seen. Despite being an officially licensed product, it looked like a bootleg VCD. A “restored” version was issued in 2012 that, according to this article, appears to have made a number of questionable decisions in the restoration process, such as cropping and stretching the original 4:3 ratio down to 16:9, employing heavy Digital Noise Reduction, and actually digitally erasing the live-action backgrounds of certain scenes and replacing them with CGI mattes if they were judged to look too grainy. That all sounds pretty horrible to me, but to be fair, I never saw it for myself. Nor could it possibly be much worse than the prior release. Anyway, a few more years have passed and now a Blu-ray edition of that restoration is available for the program’s 30th anniversary.
I already have the two ‘Game of Thrones’ box sets in hand, and an order in place for the UK SteelBook edition of ‘Inside Out’ (which won’t be released until November 23rd). I suppose I may break down and buy the ‘Anne of Green Gables’ set for my wife, though the list price is awfully high for a product of dubious quality. The ‘Best of Enemies’ documentary looks like a potential rental.
What interests you this week?