This week is all about those Robots in Disguise as Michael Bay’s latest rock ’em sock ’em sequel hits Blu-ray, and everything else moves out of its way.
‘Transformers: Age of Extinction‘ – I seem to recall Michael Bay swearing that he was done with his ‘Transformers’ “trilogy” after ‘Dark of the Moon’ and would let someone else take over the franchise. Then somebody told him that he could have dinosaur robots in the next one and he enthusiastically signed up again. Despite grossing over $1 billion worldwide, near universal consensus is that ‘Age of Extinction’ is the worst of the ‘Transformers’ movies yet, and that’s saying quite a lot for a series that gave us ‘Revenge of the Fallen’. I’m sure it’ll sell like hotcakes on video anyway. The Blu-ray is available in a host of packaging variations and retailer exclusives. Note that only the 3D version has the alternating aspect ratio gimmick seen in IMAX theaters. From what I’m told, there is absolutely no rhyme or reason as to why Bay chose to film some shots in IMAX and others in 35mm, so the aspect ratio rapidly flitters back and forth even in talky dialogue scenes (both of them!). Sounds fatiguing.
‘Chef‘ – Jon Favreau’s latest movie, about a big-time chef whose career implodes and forces him to rebuild from a modest food truck, could be read as a metaphor for where the director himself is at these days. Favreau of course tried his hand at directing big-budget blockbusters, but after the failure of ‘Cowboys & Aliens’, has returned to the type of small, character-driven comedy where he started. The effort was very well received.
‘Decoding Annie Parker‘ – Based on a true story, Helen Hunt plays a geneticist researching the hereditary link between DNA and cancer. This appears to be the type of heavy yet inspirational drama that plays big at film festivals but fails to make headway in mainstream release.
‘Are You Here‘ – ‘Mad Men’ creator Matthew Weiner makes his feature film directorial debut with a supposed comedy about a pair of aging losers (Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis) who face familial strife when they return to their home town after one’s father dies. The movie was excoriated by almost every single critic who saw it. Perhaps Weiner should stick to television.
‘Third Person‘ – ‘Crash’ director Paul Haggis is back with another ensemble drama with a big cast of characters whose lives all conveniently and schematically intersect when the plot requires them to. This one was widely panned and barely made it out of the festival circuit before disappearing.
‘Leprechaun: Origins‘ – One of the dopiest of all horror franchises is revived in this direct-to-video reboot that replaces original star Warwick Davis with WWE wrestler Dylan Postl (a.k.a. “Hornswoggle”). Why? Seriously, why does this need to exist?
If one crappy horror movie isn’t enough for you, binge on all seven with the ‘Leprechaun: The Complete Movie Collection‘ box set. If this is anything like Lionsgate’s recent ‘Saw’ movie collection, unfortunately, you can expect all of the movies to be compressed onto a couple of discs with only lossy audio.
A little classier is Warner’s ‘Audrey Hepburn Collection‘, which repackages the existing Blu-rays for ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, ‘Funny Face’ and ‘Sabrina’. Pointless if you already have those discs, but perhaps a good deal if you don’t.
Still in the mood for another comprehensive collection? MPI has a whole bunch of ‘Sherlock Holmes‘ titles from the 1980s and 1990s, featuring Jeremy Brett in the title role.
Sergio Leone’s gangster epic ‘Once Upon a Time in America‘ was already a very long movie in its 229-minute theatrical cut. The so-called “Extended Director’s Cut” (very much a misnomer since the director has been dead since 1989 and had nothing to do with the extended cut) restores more than half an hour of deleted scenes. Be warned that the new footage only exists in very poor, degraded condition, and the restoration team has apparently drained the entire movie of color in a misguided attempt to help it blend better. Fans seem to be up in arms about this. Two Blu-ray editions are available, one with just the Extended Cut and another packaged along with the older Blu-ray of the theatrical cut, which has the correct original colors but is a very soft, dated transfer.
Warner is big on reissues this week. Also from the studio is a new ‘Gone with the Wind‘ 75th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition box set. I have no idea how this differs from the already excellent 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition, except that the box has a new design. (I like the old one better.)
At the very least, the 20th Anniversary Edition of Neil Jordan’s ‘Interview with the Vampire‘ upgrades the old disc’s audio to lossless DTS-HD Master Audio. The new cover art sucks, though (no pun intended), and the recycled video transfer was pretty underwhelming the last time around.
The fantasy/sci-fi cheesefest ‘Krull‘ will no doubt hit a guilty pleasure sweet spot for a lot of our readers who grew up in the 1980s and probably watched it dozens of times on HBO back in the day. Unfortunately, the title has been licensed out to notorious cheapskate distributor Mill Creek for Blu-ray. I wouldn’t expect much from this in terms of quality.
I’ll wrap up this section of the post on a positive note. The two latest titles from the Criterion Collection share a common thematic thread about unlikely relationships that shock those around the main characters. Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s ‘Ali: Fear Eats the Soul‘ filter’s Douglas Sirk’s classic race-relations melodrama ‘All That Heaven Allows‘ (also on Blu-ray from Criterion) through the iconoclastic German filmmaker’s grittier sensibilities. The 1962 Oscar-winning French film ‘Sundays and Cybèle‘ tells the story of a shell-shocked veteran who spends a lot of time with a young child who helps restore his humanity, only for everyone else to misinterpret his actions as pedophilia.
You just can’t keep Jack Bauer down. Four years since his show limped to a disappointing conclusion, TV’s ultimate badass returns in a 12-episode half season called ‘24: Live Another Day‘. Our recapper Shannon had a lot more fun with this than I did, but I’ll agree that it fortunately ends better than the last supposed “series finale.” Even so, despite its abbreviated length, the miniseries still suffers from the same sort of pointless filler and redundant storylines that dragged down the previous few seasons. This show peaked in Season 5 and has never come close to hitting those heights again.
From across the pond comes the BBC period gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders‘. What an odd title for a show, even by British standards.
If the new live-action ‘Gotham’ series has you yearning for more Dark Knight action, Warner rounds out the first season of the animated ‘Beware the Batman‘.
I’m a little ashamed to admit that, despite not liking any of them very much, I own SteelBook or MetalPak editions of all three of the previous ‘Transformers’ movies. My collector’s impulse drives me to get the Best Buy SteelBook for the latest one too, even though I should know better. Can I resist?
I’m curious about a few other titles this week, especially the new cut of ‘Once Upon a Time in America’, but I’m not sure that I’ll commit to purchasing anything else right now.
How about you?