This week on home video, we again have a wide variety of films to choose from, ranging from the highly acclaimed to the widely panned. First off, we want to let you know that Universal is celebrating their 100th anniversary with a ton of Blu-ray reissues, like The Blues Brothers, Charade, Duck Soup, and The Deer Hunter. There’s also a new Blu-ray for the Hitchcock thriller To Catch a Thief, and Season 1 of the hugely popular HBO series Game of Thrones is available. As for other new releases, we’ve got Tarsem Singh’s Greek myth actioner, Craig Brewer’s ’80s remake, and Adam Sandler’s latest Razzie nominee. Then, we’ve got a highly acclaimed documentary, a Certified Fresh romance, Pedro Almodovar’s psychodrama, and a couple of cult classics on Blu-ray for the first time. See below for the full list!
One thing is for sure: former music video and commercial director Tarsem Singh has an uncanny knack for visual flair. Unfortunately, most critics agree that if he were equally as adept at telling a story, his feature films would be at least twice as impressive. As it stands, last year’s Immortals, his third film, is his lowest-rated effort thus far, and the criticisms leveled against it were familiar ones. The story, loosely based on Greek myth, follows the efforts of mortal king Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), who embarks on a destructive campaign in hopes of locating a powerful bow once wielded by the Gods, and the outcast warrior Theseus (Henry Cavill) who sets out to stop him with the help of an oracle (Freida Pinto). Recalling the hyperstylized graphic novel aesthetic of 300, Immortals contains a wealth of evocative imagery and technically impressive cinematography, but most critics found the story largely inert, with slack pacing and thin plotting that served primarily to fill the gaps between battles. In other words, it’s a jumble of a tale told with spectacular visuals, and in still other words, it’s par for the course for Tarsem Singh.
Yeah, we know; we were thinking it too: “A Footloose remake? Why?” If there was any saving grace to the idea, it was that the film was to be helmed by the man who brought us Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan, two movies steeped in the music and culture of the American South. As it turns out, much to the surprise of moviegoers who initially balked at the remake, Craig Brewer’s updated Footloose isn’t half bad. Following cues from the original film relatively closely — with a few tweaks — the story revolves around a big city high schooler (Kenny Wormald) who moves to a small, conservative Southern town where, due to a past teenage tragedy, loud music and public dancing have been outlawed. Throw in a star-crossed romance with the local reverend’s (Dennis Quaid) rebellious daughter (Julianne Hough), and you’re looking at a pretty faithful remake. Critics felt that Brewer did a respectable job both paying homage to the original film and updating the story for a new generation, infusing Footloose with the same kind of energy he harnessed for his previous films. At 70%, this probably won’t blow your socks off, but it may surprise you.
By now, enough has been written about Jack and Jill that there’s really no reason to beat up on it any more; that horse has been dead for a while. The most recent condemnation came when the Adam Sandler vehicle racked up a whopping 12 Razzie nominations, a feat made even more (un)impressive by the fact that there are only 10 categories. Directed by Dennis Dugan, who has inexplicably cobbled together a career out of several terribly-reviewed films (including seven starring Sandler), Jack and Jill is a screwball comedy about an advertising exec (Sandler) who receives an annual visit from his twin sister (Sandler in drag), who happens to drive him crazy. Despite an amusing extended cameo by Al Pacino — playing himself — Jack and Jill failed to impress almost every critic who saw it, earning a miserable 3% Tomatometer rating. If you’re a big fan of Sandler’s other films, you may get somewhat of a kick out of it, but if not, it’s probably best to steer clear.
Spanish director Pedro Almodovar isn’t known for delving into the realm of horror or psychological suspense, but his 2011 film, The Skin I Live In, his first film with longtime collaborator Antonio Banderas since 1990’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, proved he could craft an effectively bizarre and uncomfortable mystery. Based on the French crime novel Mygale by Thierry Jonquet, The Skin I Live In focuses on a cosmetic surgeon (Banderas) who, having lost his burn victim wife and traumatized daughter to suicide, strives to develop a fire-retardant skin. With the help of his childhood caretaker, Marilia (Marisa Paredes), he conducts experiments on a captive patient (Elena Anaya), until a visitor from his past shows up and unravels deep family secrets. Critics conceded that the film lacks Almodovar’s typical romantic flourish, but makes up for it with a stylish and engaging foray into arthouse psychodrama. For what it’s worth, The Skin I Live In is Certified Fresh at 80% and it won the BAFTA for Best Foreign Language Film, a pretty good indication of its quality.
Looking for a little romance to fill your Friday night with the significant other? If you don’t mind them in the bittersweet variety, Like Crazy may be right up your alley. After two little-seen films, director Drake Doremus achieved some significant buzz for this third feature, which took home the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2011 and achieved a Certified Fresh 73% Tomatometer. Based loosely on Doremus’s real life experiences, the film stars Anton Yelchin as American college student Jacob and Felicity Jones as Anna, the British exchange student he falls in love with. After a passionate summer together, Anna overstays her student visa but returns to London; when she attempts to return to Jacob, she is denied reentry into the States, and a difficult long-distance relationship ensues. Critics agreed that, while Like Crazy sports a lot of the elements one would expect to find in a romance, the film succeeds in portraying real characters and genuine emotion, crafting a true, intimate study. It’s not your average happy-go-lucky movie, but if you relish the ups and downs of rapturous joy and deeply felt heartache, this could be the movie for you.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is, on many levels, a timeless comedy, crafted by some of the most creative comic minds of the last generation. Endlessly quotable and full of memorable gags, Holy Grail marked the first film by the legendary comedy troupe that was comprised entirely of new material and essentially followed a single plotline. Loosely based on the legend of King Arthur — but packed with absurdist humor — the story centers on the famous king’s (Graham Chapman) quest for the titular chalice, as he journeys across his kingdom, rounds up the Knights of the Round Table, and encounters various obstacles along the way. This week, the film, arguably the most beloved of the Monty Python canon, receives the Blu-ray treatment for the first time, and fans will be happy to know that there are a lot of bonus features to be found. Some of the extras are ported over from previous DVD editions, but a few, like never-before-seen animations that weren’t used in the film, an interactive iPad behind-the-scenes experience, and new outtakes and extended scenes, are brand new for this hi-def version. Definitely worth a pickup for anyone who ever uttered the line “It’s only a flesh wound.”
Recently, Plan 9 From Outer Space‘s status as the worst movie ever made has been challenged from several fronts. First, cult audiences have embraced other so-bad-it’s-good fare like The Room, Troll 2, and Birdemic: Shock And Terror with a passion that’s taken some of the luster off Ed Wood’s anti-masterpiece. Second, it turns out that Plan 9 isn’t bad enough; it’s Fresh on the Tomatometer, and more than a couple highbrow critics praised Wood for having a unique cinematic vision, however misguided it might have been. Still, this is the granddaddy of bad movies, and for aficionados, a new Blu-ray edition of Plan 9 comes loaded with goodies, including a colorized version, commentary from Mystery Science Theater 3000‘s Mike Nelson, and commercials and home movies shot by Wood.