Are you looking for another exciting blockbuster movie to own on Blu-ray? This week brings us the biggest box office hit of the year… assuming that the year we’re talking about is 1960, that is.
‘Magic Mike XXL‘ – Strange. Steven Soderbergh’s 2012 drama about male strippers didn’t exactly call out for a sequel. Soderbergh did not return to direct the follow-up (his producing partner Gregory Jacobs took over for that), yet he is back behind the camera as cinematographer. I guess that’s the sort of stunt you’d expect him to pull. The original film drew complaints about being a bit of a bait-and-switch. While the trailers promised a scandalous, non-stop clothes-ripping party, the actual movie was a subdued and even arty character drama. By most accounts, the sequel gives audiences what they expected the first time around. Is that a good thing?
‘Insidious: Chapter 3‘ – I’ll be honest, I have no idea what the ‘Insidious’ franchise is even about. Ghosts, I think. And it comes from the people who made the first few ‘Saw’ movies. That’s as far as my interest in this goes. From what I understand, this third chapter is a prequel and even fans of the first two found it disappointing.
‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl‘ – This Sundance festival favorite initially drew rave reviews, but was almost instantly slammed by a backlash of complaints about its perceived regressive treatment of female and minority characters as tools to help the narcissistic white male hero become a better person. I can’t speak to that (though the trailers sure do look like an art house version of some John Green story). Personally, I’m more bothered by why Olivia Cooke keeps getting typecast as dying girls.
‘Manglehorn‘ – In his theatrical review, Phil says that Al Pacino actually puts in some effort to deliver a real performance (a rarity for him these days) as an aging locksmith trying to start his life over. Unfortunately, the film around him by director David Gordon Green lets him down.
‘When Marnie Was There‘ – In what may be the final animated feature from Japan’s famed Studio Ghibli, ‘The Secret World of Arrietty’ director Hiromasa Yonebayashi returns to helm a gentle ghost story about a young girl whose new friend has a tragic past. Officially, the studio is taking a “hiatus” after this. Hopefully it won’t be a long one.
‘Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief‘ – Alex Gibney, Oscar winning documentarian of ‘Taxi to the Dark Side’ and ‘Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room’, aims his lens at the most controversial religious organization in the world – and kind of whiffs it. The film doesn’t reveal much of any information that hadn’t been covered by various TV news magazine shows. I think it was a mistake to focus almost exclusively on allegations of abuse from former church members, few of which can be substantiated and many of which sound implausibly outlandish. If you want to scare people away from Scientology, all you really need to do is describe some of the batshit nutso things that are part of the religion’s official dogma. I’m talking Xenu, thetans, and all the other stuff that’s held back from new members until they advance up the church’s ladder. ‘South Park’ did a far better job of deconstructing this religion in a single half-hour episode than Gibney does in two hours.
‘Escobar: Paradise Lost‘ – Do you remember that storyline on ‘Entourage’ when Vinnie made a Pablo Escobar bio-pic that turned out to be a huge flop and almost derailed his career? Well, Benicio Del Toro has now actually made that movie for real, and it kind of sounds even worse than the fictional one.
‘Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!‘ – With Los Angeles and New York already in ruins, the latest deadly sharknado tracks Ian Ziering and family to Washington, D.C. If I may make a suggestion to the goofballs at The Asylum, set the next on in Chicago. I dare you to try to make that work.
‘Final Girl‘ – Not to be confused with the more comical ‘The Final Girls’, Abigail Breslin stars as a teen assassin who targets bullies and psychos. The actress was 16 when she made this, and it sat on the studio shelf for a few years before being dumped on VOD. I would not imagine that’s a good sign.
‘Road Hard‘ – Adam Carolla funded his latest directorial effort (he co-directed, if you want to get picky about it) through Kickstarter. He also stars in the semi-autobiographical tale of a comedian burned out from his life on the road, and created roles for some of his buddies including Jay Mohr, David Koechner and David Alan Greer. Word-of-mouth is that the movie starts out with some funny observational humor but devolves into a lame love story in the second half.
‘Alleluia‘ – I wrote about this French horror thriller a couple weeks ago. I guess the release got pushed back.
Universal’s botched 2010 Blu-ray edition of Stanley Kubrick’s sword-and-sandal epic ‘Spartacus‘ is widely regarded as one of the worst discs ever released on the format. After a long wait, the studio finally tries to correct that error with a brand new restoration supervised by Robert Harris, the man behind the stunning ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ Blu-ray and an authority on this film. This is one of the most necessary Blu-rays of the year, and hopefully will turn out to be one of the best.
Also righting past wrongs is Sony, whose previous Blu-ray for Francis Coppola’s visually dazzling adaptation of ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula‘ was a weirdly miscolored, overly dark mess. The two new Supreme Cinema Series editions (both are the same disc, but the “Limited Edition” has more elaborate packaging and a booklet) sport a new and improved 4k remaster and Dolby Atmos sound. The cover art is pretty hideous on both, unfortunately. If anything, the cheaper copy looks slightly preferable.
The Criterion Collection’s latest high-def upgrade is Gus Van Sant’s surreal drama ‘My Own Private Idaho‘, which loosely reworks Shakespeare’s ‘Henry IV’ into the tale of two young street hustlers (River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves) in modern day (for 1991) Portland, OR. At the time, this seemed like it was the director’s masterpiece. I haven’t seen the film in years to judge whether that opinion still holds true. His career certainly took some strange and unexpected turns afterwards.
Warner Bros. celebrates the legacy of England’s Hammer Films with the ‘Hammer Horror Classics‘ box set, which bundles copies of ‘The Mummy‘, ‘Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed‘, ‘Dracula Has Risen from the Grave‘ and ‘Taste the Blood of Dracula‘ (all also available separately).
At the same time, Warner also shows Jackie Chan a little love with ‘First Strike‘ and ‘Rumble in the Bronx‘ (neither among his best movies, sadly).
Among the week’s repackagings are new releases for ‘Home Alone‘ and its first sequel as well as the ‘Rocky‘ franchise.
The ‘Freak Show’ season of ‘American Horror Story‘ is probably the show’s weakest to date, though completists will no doubt still find some things to enjoy in it.
I didn’t watch a single minute of the Spike network’s six-hour ‘Tut‘ miniseries. The ads for it looked completely ridiculous. If I’m not mistaken, the real child pharaoh Tutankhamun did not live a particularly eventful life before he died around the age of 18. He’s more famous for his tomb than his short life. Nevertheless, the miniseries is stuffed with epic battles and intrigue and other nonsense to justify the budget and pad the running time.
The 1988 ‘Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special‘ is a standalone breakout from the Complete Series box set released last year.
Other TV offerings include the first season of ‘The Leftovers‘, the second season of ‘Penny Dreadful‘, the third season of ‘Vikings‘, and the 18th season of ‘South Park‘.
The two must-own titles of the week for me are ‘Spartacus’ and ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ (standard edition). I’ll also add ‘My Own Private Idaho’ to my ever-growing Criterion wish list.
‘When Marnie Was There’ looks like a rental. I’m sure I’ll catch the ‘Magic Mike’ sequel when it inevitably plays on HBO, which is how I saw the first one.
What grabs you this week?