Well, with the summer movie season in full gear, that excitement has carried over to home video as well, and it's a big week of a releases! We've got box office hits, popular TV shows, cult classics, kids releases, documentaries, and more. Here's the complete breakdown:
Lone Survivor - Mark Wahlberg leads a terrific cast that also includes Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, and Eric Bana in this action film by director Peter Berg. Based on the true story of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and his ill-fated mission in Afghanistan, Lone Survivor gets just about everything right. The film does a great job of creating real, likable, engaging characters that you actually care about, before throwing it all to the wind and turning into an all out action epic. But unlike so many action films these days, you never lose track of it; you always know who you're watching, what they're doing, and what's happening. The film is frenetic and horrifying, yet moving and memorable. Plus, there are some great special features that pay tribute to the real life soldiers the film portrays. All in all, great stuff!
Robocop - Did we need a remake of Robocop? Nope. Is this remake a complete travesty? Not at all. It's helped immensely by a terrific cast that includes Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Samuel Jackson, Abbie Cornish, and of course, Joel Kinnaman in the lead role. The political subtext of the original film has been replaced by a storyline about drone warfare, but that plot keeps the social relevance of the first film intact. This film won't replace the original movie anytime soon, but it's a worthy new take on a popular franchise that's never seemed to die in popularity.
Breaking Bad: The Complete Series - By now, Breaking Bad has been pretty much recognized as being one of the best TV series of all time, and it's easy to see why: it’s an extremely intense, fascinating and compelling series. The key ingredient here is Bryan Cranston, who turns in a transformative and amazing performance as Walt, the chemistry teacher turned drug dealer with a terminal disease. He’s so incredible to watch on this show that you can’t even believe it. And that’s not to slight the rest of the cast, either. Everyone on this show is terrific, and they great cast just complements the amazing writing and compelling story lines. Now, you can own the entire series in one ridiculously awesome box set. Packed with more extra features than you can shake a meth lab at, this is worth owning whether you're a fanatic BB fan or someone who's not yet watched it. Brilliant stuff.
The Nutty Professor: 50th Anniversary Edition - As easy as it is to make fun of Jerry Lewis (which I've never understood; he was a box office giant and truly talented comedian), The Nutty Professor remains a classic comedy film. This new 50th Anniversary Box Set edition of the film is about as great a tribute to Lewis as you can ask for, too. In addition to the film itself, there are literally hours of extra features, including a letter from Lewis himself and a retrospective of the actor/director's career. It also includes two complete other fins Cinderfella and Errand Boy. Plus, it comes with a couple of different books, spotlighting photos, artwork, script notes, storyboards, and more. This is a pretty amazing box set; if you're a fan of Jerry Lewis at all, it's pretty much a must-have.
Alexander: The Ultimate Cut (10th Anniversary Edition) - At first, I wondered, "What the hell is it with Warner Brothers and Alexander?" This has got to be the 17th version of this film on home video, and since I don't know a single person who likes it (that's a lie, actually; I know one), I can't figure out why they keep re-releasing it in new versions. Then I figured it out; the movie was a huge flop, and it cost a ton of money to make. They're probably still trying to recoup their losses. And so we get Alexander: The Ultimate Cut, not to be confused with The Theatrical Cut, The Director's Cut, The Two-Disc Cut, The Revisited Cut, The Cut Cut, The Wine & Cheese Cut, The Flintstones Cut, or any other Cut that's available. This version adds another half hour to the film (because THAT'S what it needed to make it better) and includes a ton of extra features, all packaged in a nice box that also includes a 40-page art book.
Son of God - While this was released theatrically around Easter, it's actually just a feature-length edit of The Bible: The Epic Miniseries, that distills it down to just the parts about Jesus himself. Now, while I don’t read the Bible or belong to a particular faith, I’ve always found religion and the Bible fascinating. I figured, if Hollywood (or in this case, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey) wants to make a big-budget blockbuster version of the Bible. the least I can do is watch it. Besides, I figured, maybe it would actually be good, biblical fun. And it could be, but there are some fundamental problems with it, and they all stem from your faith. If you are a religious person and you read and/or respect the bible as gospel, then you will love this film. But if you don’t belong to the Christian faith, it’s hard to watch it and take it seriously. Honestly, I went in with a completely open mind, and within five minutes I found myself cringing. There are just so many things about the Bible that only work as allegory or on faith; as rational, cohesive events, they fall apart, as there’s no logic to them. And it makes the whole thing hard to take very seriously. At least for me.
Ravenous - I had ever seen this movie starring Guy Pearce and Robert Carlysle, and to be honest, I never had all that much interest in it. It just seemed like kind of an odd horror flick about cannibalism, and it it didn't look terribly interesting. Now, on the eve of the film's Blu-ray debut from Shout Factory's excellent Scream Factory imprint, I've discover that it's actually a terrific, intense, fascinating film, fueled by some really terrific performances. Less about cannibalism than by gaining an evil sort of immortality by consuming man, Ravenous really took me by surprise. It's twisty and turn, riveting, and really unique. This is one of this horror gems that is completely worth tracking down and (re)discovering.
True Blood: Season 6 - I get why True Blood is popular; I really do. Based on the popular series of books by Charlaine Harris, the show holds nothing back. Its filled with sex, violence, and language; of course, you’d expect nothing less from HBO. It also manages to capture a very particular Louisiana vibe; it’s not quite southern gothic, more like “dirty south,” and it really gives the show a flavor and identity all its own. And while the show is definitely easy to watch, it’s also a bit tough to watch at times. I find that I really have to be in the mood to watch True Blood. It’s a good (enough) show, and I like that it explores a darker, more edgy vampire world than fare like, say, Vampire Diaries, but whenever I sit down to watch it, it kind of puts me in a dark place. It’s an engaging show, but it’s not what I would call “enjoyable” per se. I like the series fine enough, but it’s certainly not something I approach with the same fervor as many of the show’s die-hard fans.
Falling Skies: Season 3 - Falling Skies is an odd show for me. Part of me really likes it, and part of me thinks it's a bit lacking. I don’t quite know how to describe it. It’s kind of like, when I’m watching it, I enjoy it, but when I’m not watching it, I don’t really miss it, nor do I feel a huge desire to track it down and watch it. Strange, I know. Which is why the Blu-ray version of Falling Skies works so well for me. Watching it in this format -- as opposed to the week-to-week TV way in which I don't really engage anymore -- lets it play out more like a movie. I took the whole third season in in just a few big chunks, and I found that the key to enjoying the show more. It still has its flaws -- clunky pacing, clunky dialogue… clunky special effects. Yes, you could describe the show as “clunky” -- but the effect of those flaws is minimized when the show is compressed into easily digestible chunks of three or four episodes at a time.
In the Blood - Remember Haywire, Steven Soderbergh's disastrously bad attempt at an action film? Well, that film's star, Gina Carano, is back with another action film called In The Blood. I had hoped this would be the movie that Haywire wasn't, but, well, it isn't. Carano looks great on screen and has the action stuff down pat, but her acting is still pretty bad It's weird, she actually does okay during the heavy emotion scenes (crying, etc.), but she has such a flat affect to her voice that if she's not laughing or crying she sounds bored, uninterested, and uninvested. Which is deadly in a movie about trying to find your missing husband. In the Blood isn't terrible -- in fact, it's pretty easily watchable -- but I wish Carano would take a few acting lessons.
Parts Per Billion - An all-star cast that includes Frank Langella, Gena Rowlands, Josh Hartnett, Rosario Dawson, Penn Badgely, Alexis Bledel, and Theresa Palmer star in this new drama. Unfortunately, Parts Per Billion is all drama, which is only a bad thing because this is a film about a virus wiping out most of the world's population. Now, I like my end-of-the-world movies to have some drama and characterization, too, but this is a movie about three couples and their relationships, and the cataclysm is just a backdrop that barely plays out in any meaningful way. Ultimately, it ends up being a series of conversations between characters, which could have been more interesting if it had iced in a bit more of the end-of-the-world stuff. As it is, it's like a chick flick set in the world of Outbreak.
Also available on Blu-ray this week:
- Robin Williams and Nathan Lane's hit comedy The Birdcage hits Blu-ray for the first time. A huge hit when it was released, I'm not sure if it's aged quite that well, but it's still pretty funny, and I did enjoy revisiting it for the first time since I saw it in theaters. Sometimes you forget just how funny Robin Williams can be, and this was a nice reminder.
- The massively popular anime/manga sensation hits Blu-ray and DVD with Attack on Titan, Part 1. If you haven't heard of this incredibly massive franchise by now, you will soon. Now you can watch it from the beginning, with this two-disc set that collects the first 16 episodes.
- Christopher Meloni, Dean Norris, and Devon Bostick star in Small Time, a charming little dramedy about a pair of car salesman who have to deal with a difference of opinions when on of their sons decides he wants to get into car sales, too. It's not a high concept film, but it is fun and endearing.
- Emile Hirsch and Stepheb Dorff star in The Motel Life, an adaptation of the popular novel by Willy Vlautin. A drama about hard-living brothers, this is a film that works on the performances and the script more than a plot heavy story.
- Comedy Central has some hit shows that I don’t understand the popularity of, and Workaholics: Season Four is one of the key offenders. Man, if this is what passes for comedy on that channel nowadays, I weep for the future of the network. The show wants to be Office Space crossed with The Hangover, but it’s basically just a trio of stoner idiots working a crappy job and trying to find ways to drink, smoke, and get laid more. Hooray. After one episode, I wanted to break my television. After two, I was pretty sure I’d lost enough brain cells to slip into a coma. I know there are people out there who will think this show is hilarious, but I am definitely not one of them.
- Over-the-top action film Black Out has garnered a lot of comparisons to early Guy Ritchie, and while I'm not a Guy Ritchie fan overall, I can see the merits of that comparison. Be aware, though, that the film is in Dutch, so there are subtitles. I don't care personally, but I know that bothers some people.