Everything’s going to Blu-Ray these days, man.
Here are the new home-video releases, in stores and available to order today. Some are hitting DVD and Blu-Ray for the first time, and some are older movies in nice new packaging. As always, your click-throughs help out our site, so click through as many times as you can!
ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES (2013)
I had a terrific time with this long-awaited sequel, even while I’d have to concede that it’s inferior to the original. 2004’s ANCHORMAN is the rare cult classic that is paradoxically widely popular, not to mention one which basically created TV & film comedy as we’ve known it for the past ten years. I’m talking beyond what it meant for star Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay; without this movie producer Judd Apatow and co-star Steve Carell don’t get to make THE 40-YEAR OLD VIRGIN, so no Seth Rogen and no KNOCKED UP and henceforth, and no PINEAPPLE EXPRESS and so no Eastbound & Down, and no The Office on NBC and then no Parks & Recreation and probably no Arrested Development and every other mockumentary-style sitcom on every major network. The reason ANCHORMAN worked so well is that it’s funny. It’s a joke machine. The sequel is that also, a joke machine, consistently hilarious, and it has a new, nifty, sly conceit which moves Ron Burgundy and his San Diego news team out of the 1970s and into the 1980s, at the dawn of the 24-hour cable news paradigm. A comedy movie’s job is to make you laugh, and ANCHORMAN 2 does that job exceedingly well. But the classic comedies have both formal integrity and consistent, thorough vision, which the first ANCHORMAN has and the sequel does not. ANCHORMAN 2 tries to do too much; it loses focus. You can see how McKay and Ferrell, brilliant comedy minds, strove to do something new, to avoid repeating themselves, and for a while, you get that.
Ron Burgundy and his former rival and now-wife, Veronica Corningstone (the invaluable Christina Applegate), are driven apart when the big man at their network promotes Veronica and fires Ron. Harrison Ford plays that role, and he nicely provides a sense of venerability and intimidation for Ferrell to bounce off. Not only that, but his brief return late in the movie is a highlight of the whole enchilada. Ron hits yet another rock bottom, only to end up rebounding with a job at the country’s first 24-hour cable news channel, which the characters naively see as a fool’s errand. This new setting brings a bunch of new characters, including the hustler who hires Ron & company named Freddie Shapp (Dylan Baker, playing awesomely against type), a love interest for Steve Carell’s Brick Tamland named Chani Lastnamé (Kristin Wiig), a conceited star anchor named Jack Lime (James Marsden) who bedevils and underestimates Ron Burgundy, and a pretty station manager named Linda Jackson (Meagan Good), whose blackness fascinates Ron. Black.
The movie starts to buckle under the weight of its cavalcade of gifted comedic performers, and ultimately, as good as they are in their roles, James Marsden and Meagan Good combined aren’t enough to replace the void where Christina Applegate used to be. Veronica is Ron’s greatest foil. By the time she returns, in the midst of a protracted and severely absurd sequence where Ron again finds himself lost and alone in the universe, the movie has long since wandered away from itself. The most problematic aspect of the over-achieving plot is that it somehow manages to sideline Paul Rudd, David Koechner, and even Steve Carell, despite his higher profile due to the romantic sub-sub-subplot. There’s just not enough of Ron Burgundy with his trusty news team, which is what we came to see. The movie never once stops its consistent hilarity, yet it’s missing something, cosmically, when it strays from those three supporting characters. We’d have followed that quarter on any adventure the movie provided, but whenever Ron Burgundy is away from Champ, Brian and Brick, which is frequently, it’s hard to differentiate this ANCHORMAN movie from any other Will Ferrell movie — never a bad thing, just less unique,
47 RONIN (2013)
Sure that’s gonna be enough ronin? Or do you need to go get some more? I’ll wait. Look, from the cover art you’d be forgiven for seeing this as a remake of THE LAST SAMURAI, swapping out Tom Cruise for Keanu Reeves, but in reality, believe it or not, 47 RONIN is based on a true story, one which has been dramatized on film twice before. I’m in the pocket for any martial-arts action flick Keanu is involved with, since — no kidding — his directorial debut, MAN OF TAI CHI, was one of the very best action flicks last year. I’ve heard wretched things about 47 RONIN but I still intend to check it out, although maybe I’ll watch MAN OF TAI CHI a couple more times before I do that,
KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM (2013)
To those of us who keep track of such things, it feels like this movie has been delayed forever. KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM is the second feature from Joe Lynch, who caught a lot of horror fans’ attention with the agreeably deranged WRONG TURN 2: DEAD END. This new one has a fun premise in that it’s about a band of live-action role-players (basically Dungeons & Dragons nerds but in full costumes) who end up fighting real-life demons, and it has a great casting in-joke with Peter Dinklage, star of HBO’s dragons-and-swords series Game Of Thrones. I haven’t gotten my hands on a copy yet, but as soon as I do, I’ll be giving this one a look.
KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1962)
I could write a wordy paragraph about this movie, or I could refer you back to its title and allow it to sell itself. KING KONG VS. GODZILLA. That’s King Kong, a giant gorilla with temper problems, versus, which means fighting, Godzilla, the King Of Monsters, a fire-breathing dinosaur who crawls out of the ocean whenever he feels like stepping on things. That might just be the finest high-concept of all time and space. If the movie itself doesn’t live up to the movie that undoubtedly already exists in your imagination… well, what movie could?
KING KONG ESCAPES (1967)
Basically, you might think you’re big and bad, but y’all ain’t shit until you face down a robot version of yourself. This goes for every tough guy and would-be tough guy, from Godzilla to 50 Cent. Despite having been directed by Ishir? Honda, who made both the original GODZILLA (a necessity) and the aforementioned KING KONG VS. GODZILLA, this is pretty far from the greatness of the original KING KONG, and even some distance from the best bits of the Peter Jackson re-do. Interestingly, this Toho co-production was jointly made with Rankin-Bass — that’s right, the stop-motion animation house which brought us just about every Christmas special that matters. That makes it a fascinating oddity, and besides that, you know, King Kong fights Mechani-Kong in it. Also, he fights a dinosaur. There’s no real down side.
THE BAG MAN (2014)
Once guarantors of cinematic quality, the names John Cusack and Robert De Niro, above the title of a movie you probably have never heard of, are now like tantalizing berries growing in the woods. They could be good, or they could be poison. You can’t possibly know! In addition to Cusack and De Niro, THE BAG MAN features Crispin Glover (one of the all-out weirdest guys in movies, period), Sticky Fingaz (the only guy to play Blade who wasn’t Wesley Snipes), Dominic Purcell (a.k.a. “British Stallone”, who coincidentally was the villain in BLADE 3), and Martin Klebba (look him up). That’s a mixed bag of nuts for sure, but a friend of ours saw it and said it ain’t all bad, and we trust his opinion.
THE WAR WAGON (1967)
Universal is putting a handful of Westerns out on Blu-Ray today. This one teams John Wayne and Kirk Douglas in a film from director Burt Kennedy, a journeyman whose most interesting film, in my opinion, is the flawed but awesome Western revenge tale HANNIE CAULDER, starring Raquel Welch. It’s one of the first few movies to feature Bruce Dern, and one of the last few to feature Bruce Cabot (once the heroic lead from 1933’s KING KONG). It’s also one of the last scores from the prolific Dmitri Tiomkin. A lot of close-to-lasts here, fitting because the popularity of the American Western film, at this point in time, was fast fading.
ROOSTER COGBURN (1975)
John Wayne won both the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for his role as pugnacious U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn in 1969’s TRUE GRIT, his only Oscar win in a five-decade career. As one of the movie stars most acutely aware of his own iconography, it’s no surprise that he wanted to revisit a part that worked. Unlike TRUE GRIT, ROOSTER COGBURN did not have the benefit of drawing from the writing of the incomparable Charles Portis. Still, the belligerence and the tarnished iconography of the role remained a great fit for Wayne, maybe even more than it was for Jeff Bridges, who otherwise made the better movie of TRUE GRIT. Even those who disparage Wayne for his off-screen politics must acknowledge the power of his onscreen persona, and seeing that persona gone to seed in the form of the troubled, drunken Cogburn has redoubtable visual potency. In this film Wayne was joined by Katharine Hepburn, another aging star from the golden era of Hollywood. They’d never starred together in a film, likely because their appeal as stars were so diametrically opposed: Hepburn’s persona was intensely verbal, Wayne’s overwhelmingly physical. By 1975, their individual trajectories dovetailed, to the point where Hepburn could be a potent sparring partner to Wayne. As a facile metaphor, ROOSTER COGBURN in 1975 would be like if Meryl Streep made a movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger today. It’s likely interesting more for the collision of contrasting stars than for what it is as a film and a story.
TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA (1970)
Speaking of contrasting stars, here’s another object lesson. Shirley MacLaine, the brassy, forceful and assertively verbose romantic comedy star, represents pretty much the exact inverse of what Clint Eastwood and his immediately distinct whispers-and-killshots screen persona. This was early in Clint’s career as a star, coming after the Sergio Leone pictures but before the Dirty Harry series. Clint has always been a better actor than his critics and even his fans give him credit for being, but his default mode is recessive, prone to stillness and quietude right up until it’s time for an outburst of violence and a mordant quip. In TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA, Clint plays a taciturn mercenary, not too visually removed from his Leone-era style, who ends up helping an American nun and a band of Mexican revolutionaries. With respect, Shirley MacLaine is not ideal casting for a nun. It seems the studio wanted her, which is how it happens sometimes. The director was Don Siegel, who more than any other filmmaker besides Leone and Eastwood himself was instrumental in delivering unto the world the imagery and the popular idea of “Clint Eastwood.” Since Ennio Morricone did the music, you could say it’s something of a bridge between the Leone films and Clint’s films with Siegel. TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA originated with the terrific director of Westerns, Budd Boetticher, but ended up with Siegel and Eastwood, who’d clicked while making 1968’s COOGAN’S BLUFF. Siegel could and did direct anything, but he had a special proficiency for brutally efficient action films, and those were very clearly Clint’s wheelhouse. Siegel knew how to use Clint, but not so much MacLaine; the onscreen Shirley MacLaine seems not too far removed from the off-screen Shirley MacLaine, whereas Clint’s mythic persona has always served as a means to obfuscate whatever Clint is off-screen (even his biggest fans, for example, me, don’t have a bead on Clint as a human being.) By all accounts Siegel and Eastwood didn’t get on too well with MacLaine, and soon enough Clint had enough weight as a star that he didn’t get paired up a female co-star he didn’t sign off on. As such this is a transitional film in the Eastwood canon; DIRTY HARRY was only a year away, and that changed everything.
JOE KIDD (1972)
Clint Eastwood, in a film written by Elmore Leonard and directed by John Sturges (THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN), shot by Bruce Surtees (DIRTY HARRY), edited by Ferris Webster (THE GAUNTLET), scored by Lalo Schifrin (DIRTY HARRY, ENTER THE DRAGON), and co-starring Robert Duvall and John Saxon (ENTER THE DRAGON). Nobody ever seems to rank JOE KIDD all that highly, but it’s sure got pedigree to spare. The Blu-Ray will run you somewhere near fifteen bucks; surely you can skip at least one haircut.
THE PIRATE FAIRY (2014)
Pretty sure that’s what my bookie calls Johnny Depp. But seriously folks, here’s another direct-to-video Disney movie that your sons and daughters and nieces and nephews probably already know about. There is little doubt I will see this long before I see the Captain America, Spider-Man, or X-Men movies that are hitting this year. If it helps any, vocal talent is provided by Anjelica Huston, Tom Hiddleston, Christina Hendricks, and Lucy Liu, among others.
THE JESUS FILM (1979)
This came out the same year as THE MUPPET MOVIE, which is the first movie I ever saw. I wonder how different a person I would have turned out to be if I’d been taken to see THE JESUS FILM instead of THE MUPPET MOVIE.
SEAL TEAM 8: BEHIND ENEMY LINES (2014)
SEAL TEAM 8? Well, that’s two more than SEAL TEAM SIX! They must be even tougher! Not only that, but they drafted Tom Sizemore back into action, and he hasn’t fought in a war since World War II! Apparently this is the fourth film in a secret franchise that began with BEHIND ENEMY LINES, the Owen Wilson military epic. I was kidding around in the first few sentences of this paragraph but that last part is actually true. I understand if you have trouble believing me at this point.
** PICK OF THE WEEK! **
NO HOLDS BARRED (1989)
Look at that cover art and tell me you don’t want to see this movie right this minute. And yeah, it’s as entertaining as it looks. Maybe more. Tommy “Tiny” Lister Jr., you have our hearts forever.
That’s it for this week, thanks for reading, support us if you can, and I’ll see you a week from today!
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