We hope that our readers had a nice Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends. Did you brave the Black Friday retail crowds this year? Sadly, the long weekend is now over and it’s time to get back to work. Fortunately, a few interesting new Blu-ray releases await us this week.
‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes‘ – I never saw what the fuss was over ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’. Although it proved to be a big hit with franchise fans, it felt like a very by-the-numbers prequel to me. This follow-up (Would that make it a presequel? A seprequel?) focuses on the war between apes and humans, and looks more appealing to me. Reviews were strong, and I’m inclined to give director Matt Reeves the benefit of the doubt, if only because I really liked what he did with ‘Let Me In’. The movie is available either on its own (2D and 3D) or bundled with ‘Rise’ in an overpriced gift set called the ‘Caesar’s Warrior Collection’ that also includes an ape head bust.
‘As Above, So Below‘ – The 478th Found-Footage horror movie released in the past six months involves a bunch of Indiana Jones wannabes who go exploring the catacombs beneath Paris in search of the legendary Philosopher’s Stone and wind up unearthing a portal to Hell – like, literally Hell with a capital H. Whoopsies, don’t you hate it when that happens?
‘The Hundred-Foot Journey‘ – Early in his career, when he made movies like ‘My Life as a Dog’ and ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’, Lasse Hallstrom actually used to be a filmmaker worth watching. Unfortunately, he later found that there’s more money in churning out feel-good, awards-bait pap. His latest has bitter French restaurant owner Helen Mirren overcoming racism when a new Indian restaurant opens across the street. Valuable life lessons ensue. Yawn.
‘The Congress‘ – Robin Wright plays a fictionalized version of herself, as a down-on-her-luck actress in the near future who sells the rights to her likeness to a Hollywood studio, which uses it to create a CGI version that becomes a much bigger star than the original ever was. From the director of ‘Waltz with Bashir’ and based on a novel by Stanislaw Lem (‘Solaris’), the film mixes live-action with animation into a surreal head-trip. It sounds very intriguing, yet many critics were underwhelmed by the execution.
‘Kite‘ – Has Samuel L. Jackson really sunk so low as to appear in crappy direct-to-video action movies adapted from obscure direct-to-video anime movies?
Fed up with the ineffectual bozos in Congress these days? Look back to a more optimistic time with Frank Capra’s inspirational classic ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington‘, now nicely restored by Sony in a swell Digibook edition that’s very reasonably priced.
I’m including the ‘Stanley Kubrick: The Masterpiece Collection‘ box set in this week’s roundup even though I’m not really sure of the release date. Amazon says it was released back on November 4th, but it was not available for purchase when I checked last week. (It seems to be now.) Our site and a few others were told December 2nd. Anyway, this is another repackaging of a bunch of existing Blu-rays (‘Lolita’, ‘Dr. Strangelove’, ‘2001’, ‘A Clockwork Orange’, ‘Barry Lyndon’, ‘The Shining’, ‘Full Metal Jacket’ and ‘Eyes Wide Shut’) that Kubrick fans no doubt already own. The main selling point is an extra disc with three new documentaries. Even if they’re really good documentaries, I find it hard to justify the high asking price of the set.
Kino has some interesting titles this week, including the classic British sci-fi thriller ‘The Quatermass Xperiment‘.
I don’t think I’ve seen the Gene Hackman/Tommy Lee Jones chase thriller ‘The Package‘ (directed by Andrew Davis, who’d later have a big hit with ‘The Fugitive’) since the VHS days, but I kind of remember liking it. I have no idea whether it holds up at all.
Joe Dante’s live-action/animated ‘Looney Tunes: Back in Action‘ was panned by critics and bombed at the box office when it was released in 2003. I know some people who will defend it as a misunderstood work of genius. I am not one of those people, but I thought I should mention that it’s now available on Blu-ray in case you are.
CBS Films has finally completed its high-def restoration of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation‘. Available this week are a Season 7 box set or a standalone copy of the ‘All Good Things’ finale.
Also hitting Blu-ray are the first season of Guillermo del Toro’s uneven, largely disappointing ‘The Strain‘, the fifth season of ‘Justified‘, the 17th season of ‘The Simpsons‘ (which is currently in its 26th on air, for the record), and a third collection for ‘The Legend of Korra‘.
‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ and ‘The Quatermass Xperiment’ will go on my to-buy list, and I’ll contemplate rentals of ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ and ‘The Congress’. What’s your plan for the week?