Sorry, What to Watch took a turkey day break as last week was really light on new product worth mentioning. This week? Pretty much the same but we don’t want you to miss us too badly. Here’s five recent Blu-ray, DVD, and streaming releases that may have caught your attention on new release shelves lately, ranked in the order we’d add them to our holiday wish list.
CHICAGO – Veteran actor Bruce Dern is now up to bat. That is how he describes what is at stake in his role as Woody in director Alexander Payne’s new film, “Nebraska.” But this film icon – with an over 50 year career – also has plenty other stories to offer, regarding Jack Nicholson, his family, his life and performing a “Derns-ser.”
CHICAGO – Hollywood stuntwoman Zoë Bell is best known for an acting bit she did in Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof,” playing “herself.” Otherwise she has had a prolific career doubling on stunts for Lucy Lawless, Sharon Stone and Uma Thurman, among others. She attended the 49th Chicago International Film Festival last weekend to premiere her new film, with director Josh C. Waller, called “Raze.”
CHICAGO – Who but Quentin Tarantino could make a nearly-three-hour movie about slavery and turn it into the highest-grossing film of his career? The movie made over $160 million domestically and over $400 million worldwide on its way to two major Oscars — Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor. With all of its massive success, one might expect a lavish Blu-ray release. What we get is a bit more cut-rate. It’s got a good transfer but it’s slight on special features and it’s very likely that a special edition is inevitable. Then again, I’ve been waiting for the “Kill Bill” recut, full-movie edition that QT promised years ago.
CHICAGO – With Seth McFarlane as host, the 86th Academy Awards had more fun, and culminated with “Argo” winning Best Picture. Other major awards went to Daniel Day-Lewis (Best Actor, “Lincoln”), Jennifer Lawrence (Best Actress, “Silver Linings Playbook”) and Ang Lee (Best Director, “Life of Pi”).
CHICAGO – “The Man with the Iron Fists” is the most tedious picture in many a moon. How, you may ask, can wall-to-wall action possibly by tedious? Two reasons: 1.) The action is nonstop, and 2.) The characters are impossible to care about. The single take of Uma Thurman’s devastated outburst upon awakening from her coma is the emotional hook that keeps the audience engaged as she wreaks her path of vengeance through both volumes of “Kill Bill.”
CHICAGO – Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” has some undeniable pleasures, the kind that erupt from the screenwriting abilities of one of the best movie scribes alive.
CHICAGO – A quick search of the web will reveal hundreds of articles and blog posts and message board rants about how the smash hit “The Hunger Games,” both the Suzanne Collins book and Gary Ross movie, wouldn’t exist without Kinji Fukasaku’s amazing 2000 film “Battle Royale” (itself based on a 1999 Japanese book).
CHICAGO – I’m old enough dear readers to vividly remember Quentin Tarantino’s premiere with “Reservoir Dogs” and then how much he took the world by storm with “Pulp Fiction,” a common choice for the best film of the ’90s. At the time, “Jackie Brown” seemed like a disappointment by comparison (how could it not?), but it is now widely respected and even beloved. These aren’t just good movies — they’re classics of their time. What more do you want from a pair of Blu-rays?
CHICAGO – Any conversation of the best Westerns in movie history that doesn’t include Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in the West” is incomplete. It’s one of those rare films that has truly gotten better with age. I’m not sure if it’s just that I appreciate it more the older I get, but I’m not alone. The film now ranks high on nearly every important list of the best movies ever made. Yes, it’s that good, and the Blu-ray restoration, which hit stores this week, is a beauty.
CHICAGO – In a remarkable idea for a film, director Morgan Spurlock (”Supersize Me”) funds his new documentary, “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” by selling sponsorships for financing. However, the process is redundantly explored, and no new ground is broken.