This week may seem like a breather after the bombardment of new Blu-ray releases we’ve seen recently, but the good titles are really, really good. Of course, you’ll have to wade through a little bit of muck to get to them.
‘Sex Tape‘ – Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel must have gotten along pretty darn well on the set of ‘Bad Teacher’, because they’ve reteamed for another raunchy comedy. As much as I wouldn’t mind seeing Cameron Diaz in an actual sex tape, this one is reportedly little more than a 94-minute Apple product placement ad disguised as a movie. I wonder, does the script address the fact that the phrase “sex tape” is a big misnomer in the modern digital world?
‘Snowpiercer‘ – Korean director Bong Joon-ho (‘The Host‘, ‘Mother‘) makes his English-language film debut with a post-apocalyptic action flick set aboard a futuristic train. The movie was a massive blockbuster in Asia, but unfortunately it was acquired in North America by the Weinstein Company, which tried to cut almost a quarter of the running time out for no apparent reason. After a huge feud with the filmmaker, the studio relented and let him have his Director’s Cut, but in retaliation basically sent the picture direct-to-VOD with only a negligible theatrical release, seemingly just out of spite. Pretty much everyone who’s seen the movie has raved about it, so this Blu-ray release has been eagerly awaited.
‘The Purge: Anarchy‘ – The concept behind ‘The Purge’ (that in a dystopic future, the government declares all crimes – even murder – to be legal for one night a year so that the public can vent their aggressions) is pretty stupid, to be blunt. Such a plan, or society, could never possibly work. Nevertheless, the first movie was enough of a hit to justify a sequel. Even though this one replaces the entire cast, I’ve heard that it’s a slight improvement overall – though still quite nonsensical.
‘Earth to Echo‘ – I feel like J.J. Abrams’ ‘Super 8’ was enough of an homage to early-1980s Spielberg-produced family adventure films to last us a good decade or so. That’s just not the way Hollywood works, of course. ‘Super 8’ made money, so here’s another pastiche in the same mold. This one applies a Found Footage conceit to the Amblin formula, as if that would somehow be more appealing. The movie looks generic, has a no-name cast, and got middling reviews.
‘Life After Beth‘ – Aubrey Plaza stars in a zombie rom-com that had the misfortune of being released a year after ‘Warm Bodies’ and, from all accounts, being about half as good.
‘The Fluffy Movie‘ – I have yet to hear comedian Gabriel Iglesias say anything that I’ve found remotely funny, so it’s safe to say that I’m not the audience for this stand-up concert film.
Thank you, Criterion Collection! Federico Fellini’s ‘La dolce vita‘ has been at the top of my “Holy Grail” Blu-ray wish list for several years now. I’ve seen the movie a couple times in 35mm and just could not bring myself to watch its ravishing visuals on DVD, especially after hearing so many negative reports about the quality of said DVD. If any movie ever deserved the full-on Criterion treatment, this is it.
No slouch either is Orson Welles’ twisty fraudumentary ‘F for Fake‘. This is the last movie that Welles directed (at least, the last that he completed), and it’s one of his greats.
In 1983, Michael Apted directed an adaptation of Martin Cruz Smith’s potboiler Cold War thriller ‘Gorky Park‘. The movie captures at least the rudimentary essence of the novel and has its pleasures, but is hampered by casting a bunch of American actors (including star William Hurt) doing dodgy accents to play Russian characters.
Volume II of Scream Factory’s ‘Vincent Price Collection‘ contains high-def upgrades of ‘The Last Man on Earth’ (you may recognize the story as having been re-adapted a couple times as ‘The Omega Man’ and ‘I Am Legend’), ‘The Comedy of Terrors’, ‘Dr. Phibes Rides Again’, ‘The Tomb of Ligeia’, ‘The Raven’, ‘Return of the Fly’, and ‘House on Haunted Hill’.
With the decline of TV product on physical disc releases, I honestly never thought I’d see ‘Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series‘ remastered in high-definition for Blu-ray. It’s kind of amazing, actually. I hope that enough time has passed now since Paul Reubens’ sex scandal for people to appreciate the delightfully demented genius of his brilliant kids’ show again. The recent hit Broadway stage revival undoubtedly paved the way for this.
Is ‘Mad Men‘ still going? It sure feels to me like “The Final Season” started about six years ago. I understand that fans are still waiting for the final “final” batch of episodes to air. Frankly, it infuriates me when networks play games and split up seasons like this. Just admit that they’re two separate seasons! No one’s buying this “Final Season, Part 1” and “Final Season, Part 2” bunk.
I already have ‘La dolce vita’ in hand. ‘F for Fake’ is another must-own, and that ‘Pee-wee’s Playhouse’ box set is very, very tempting. Beyond that, ‘Snowpiercer’ seems like strong rental material.
What calls to you this week?