Widget Image
 

Blu-ray Reviews for January 16, 2018

Selections from this week’s Blu-ray releases can be found below in this ongoing weekly summary of reviews. Click on any of the following titles to navigate directly to that review. This week’s releases include: Denis Villeneuve’s masterful sequel Blade Runner 2049; Joe Dante’s nostalgic William Castle homage Matinee; and the very silly action spectacle The Taking of Beverly Hills. A list of other titles also available this week can be found at the end.


 Distributor: Warner Bros.

Three decades after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K, unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard, a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

Sequels are nothing new in Hollywood, and there’s no one genre that’s above sequalizing a successful film to death. What’s a little new is the idea of making a sequel to a landmark film (for one reason or another) so very long after that film came out. Notable examples are TRON: Legacy, made 26 years following TRON, and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, made 23 years following Wall Street. Sequels to Top Gun, Twins, and Beetlejuice are also in the offing — if they ever come to fruition, that is, and as of right now, all of them will come more than thirty(!) years following their originals.

We all know sequels are hardly ever patches on their originals. What makes the execution of these very delayed sequels so daunting is not only do they have to overcome the sequel curse, but they have to find a way to at least feel like their predecessor — that is, if filmmakers are doing their jobs. Under the right circumstances, and with the same filmmakers returning (the Dark Knight trilogy, for instance), this can sometimes happen. But it’s rare.

Blade Runner 2049, a thirty-year sequel to an original film that suffered an extremely troubled release history (there are five different cuts — seven if you count the bootlegs), somehow manages to both pack the same visual and emotional experience, but also feel like a natural extension of that universe. Blade Runner 2049, as directed by Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Prisoners) and thankfully only produced by Ridley Scott (much respect to the Sir, but Alien: Covenant proves he needs to stay away from his old franchises), is every bit as stylish, intriguing, bleak, sad, and challenging as the original — a film once initially dismissed before gaining cult status, and before being rightfully hailed as the visionary piece of filmmaking that it is.

From a purist’s point of view, what makes Blade Runner 2049 such a fulfilling experience is that this isn’t solely a reboot masquerading as a sequel — not one of those situations where audiences won’t be confused if they hadn’t seen the original. Sure, they could probably put the pieces together, but going into Blade Runner 2049 utterly blind would absolutely ruin the emotional impact toward which it’s striving. Co-writer from the original Hampton Fancher returns after a long time away from script writing, his last feature being 1999’s The Minus Man; working alongside Michael Green (Logan), he fleshes out a new story every bit as complicated and philosophical, and most importantly, worthy. Again, for delayed sequels like these, having the original director return in some capacity isn’t outside of normal, but for the original writer to return — that almost never happens. The best aspect of the script is the careful execution of two surprises — one which snowballs into the next, and neither of which you see coming.

Keeping this fluid transition from original to sequel going is the spot-on musical score by Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer, taking over for former composer Vangelis (who, I’m sure, would have been asked to return if he hadn’t retired). A somewhat large stink was made when Blade Runner 2049’s original composer, Jóhann Jóhannsson, was removed, but if it was done in aid of making room for the score we eventually received, it was absolutely the right move to make. The ambient and electronic score, which is alternately mournful and dreamy, is pure Blade Runner, which also comes to pounding life during more action-oriented sequences. Like many other aspects to this sequel’s success, the musical component was critical, and it’s a victory.

As tends to happen far too often when it comes to films both good and challenging, audiences didn’t turn out for Blade Runner 2049, as they were too likely distracted by something that required less of them, intellectually, in spite of the critical praise it received. No studio ever embarks on such a risky sequel without keeping an eye on the franchise’s future, so ideas for further films in the Blade Runner universe are likely written on cocktail napkins somewhere. Even when assuming those are now in flux, Blade Runner 2049 is an almost flawless new beginning as well as a satisfying end. It’s the shining example of how to make a sequel — especially one so late to the party. 

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Designing The World of Blade Runner 2049
  • To Be Human: Casting Blade Runner 2049
  • Prologues: 2036: Nexus Dawn
  • Prologues: 2048: Nowhere to Run
  • Prologues: 2022: Black Out
  • Blade Runner 101: Blade Runners
  • Blade Runner 101: The Replicant Evolution
  • Blade Runner 101: The Rise of Wallace Corp
  • Blade Runner 101: Welcome to 2049
  • Blade Runner 101: Joi
  • Blade Runner 101: Within the Skies


Distributor: Shout! Factory

John Goodman is at his uproarious best as the William Castle-inspired movie promoter Lawrence Woolsey, who brings his unique brand of flashy showmanship to the unsuspecting residents of Key West, Florida. It’s 1962, and fifteen-year-old fan Gene Loomis (Simone Fenton) can’t wait for the arrival of Woolsey, who is in town to promote his latest offering of atomic power gone berserk, Mant! But the absurd vision of Woolsey’s tale takes on a sudden urgency as the Cuban Missile Crises places the real threat of atomic horror just 90 miles off the coast. With the help of Woolsey’s leading lady, Ruth (Cathy Moriarty), the master showman gives Key West a premiere they’ll never forget. Anything can happen in the movies, and everything does in this hilarious tribute to a more innocent (and outrageous) time in American cinema.

Lots of filmmakers, especially those in the horror genre, were just kids during the 1960s when the Cuban Missile Crisis was a real threat to the existence of America and stability of the overall world. (If you’re a fan of the horror genre but have never seen the documentary The American Nightmare, you absolutely should, as this topic is discussed by all its horror director participants.) Living through this experience while at the same time escaping to the cinema to see an array of B-pictures made by filmmakers eager to exploit this fear with their tales of gigantic insects or mutants caused by radiation directly inspired many of them to become the filmmakers they became.

Joe Dante is definitely among them, and Matinee is his ode to both that era of filmmaking as well as the turbulent political times of unrest that inspired it. Primarily known as a director adept at mixing horror and comedy, Matinee is a step back from an overtly horror or comedy experience, though the genres are still a huge part of the overall experience. What results is an almost Capra-esque look back at what’s still considered to be the height of American exceptionalism despite the memories of World War II still looming large in the minds of citizens and the threat of nuclear annihilation. America looks back on the 1950s and 60s — especially Baby Boomers — and believe this was the last time society made sense. Dante captures that blemish-free illusion in spite of the international unrest, and like the fictional Lawrence Woolsey (based on the very real William Castle), he looks to the power of cinema as escapism, especially in a genre that would allow Americans to exorcise their fears of the real world and lose themselves in the silly monster movie romp playing on the screen before them.

In this regard, Matinee is a success; where it falters, however, is in trying to tell too many stories and involving too many characters. Along with the international tensions, the drama of a young boy dealing with his father being stationed on a battleship, and the delight of John Goodman hamming it up as a shuckster filmmaker/promoter, we get not just one, nor two, but three teen love antics, a pair of shadowy and mysterious men covertly subduing crime while working on behalf of Woolsey, and a last-act “destruction” sequence that feels more perfunctory and confusing than it does exciting or thematically appropriate. In the supplements, Dante explains his original intention for Matinee, which was much more mystical and esoteric, and much more firmly rooted in the horror genre, so that the finished product seems unfocused isn’t a surprise.

As a nostalgia piece, Matinee is a delight. As a cohesive narrative, it’s less effective, but Dante’s love for the time period and the silly radiation monster movies of the 1950s’ and ‘60s definitely comes through. This is Joe Dante at his most nostalgic and mature, so with that in mind, Matinee is easy to recommend.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

 

  • NEW Master Of The Matinee – An Interview With Director Joe Dante
  • NEW The Leading Lady – An Interview with Cathy Moriarty
  • NEW MANTastic! The Making Of A Mant
  • NEW Out Of The Bunker – An Interview With Actress Lisa Jakub
  • NEW Making A Monster Theatre – An Interview With Production Designer Steven Legler
  • NEW The Monster Mix – An Interview With Editor Marshall Harvey
  • NEW Lights! Camera! Reunion! – An Interview With Director Of Photography John Hora
  • Paranoia In Ant Vision – Joe Dante Discusses The Making Of The Film
  • MANT! – The Full Length Version Of The Film With Introduction By Joe Dante
  • Vintage Making Of Featurette
  • Behind The Scenes Footage Courtesy Of Joe Dante
  • Deleted And Extended Scenes Sourced From Joe Dante’s Workprint
  • Still Galleries
  • Theatrical Trailer


Distributor: Kino Lorber

Get ready for Beverly Hills to crash and burn as Ken Wahl (The Soldier, The Wanderers) takes a one-man stand against one of the most daring heists ever conceived. When a toxic chemical spill sends fumes billowing through the city, emergency teams are on the spot in minutes to evacuate all civilians and set up quarantine. But it turns out that the spill is really a hoax and the emergency personnel are a crew of criminals executing an epic scheme on the entire city. There’s only one hitch in their plan: Boomer Hayes (Wahl), a pro quarterback and local resident, and an undisputed master of moving downfield against the odds. Boomer skillfully evades a deadly SWAT tank and dozens of hired guns, but as the army of criminals are closing in fast, he’ll have to use every trick in his playbook and more – if he’s going to survive this real-life sudden-death match.

The Taking of Beverly Hills is just silliness — the silliest of all the Die Hard rip-offs — and with a hero named “Boomer.”

Boomer!

Indeed living up to its promise as suggested by the usual logline (“It’s Die Hard in Beverly Hills!”), The Taking of Beverly Hills is a dumb, broadly storied, brainless action flick with more plotholes than all the Twinkies in Die Hard (the best one being that the terrorists kidnapping residents from their mansions aren’t concerned when someone tells them “Boomer is still inside!” because they assume she’s talking about a dog). Being that I’ve never heard of actor Ken Wahl, his in-film character as a former NFL player seemed to be echoing real life, as he’s basically a non-presence, offering no charisma whatsoever. Nope, turns out acting was this dude’s only profession, not one he’d harmlessly fallen into after leaving the NFL like Howie Long. That he’s paired up with Matt Frewer, an actor whom I have nothing against, doesn’t help — Frewer, who has enjoyed mostly supporting work during his career, is there to rattle off pithy and dry observations, more or less playing the nervous and apprehensive foil to Wahl’s typical strong man. Together, they are…two dudes. And that’s it.

And that’s pretty much my biggest gripe with The Taking of Beverly Hills — this easily could have made for a fun buddy cop movie version of Die Hard with more recognizable and charismatic leads, like Dolph Lundgren paired with someone amusingly at odds (but not Matt Frewer). (Notice I didn’t shoot for the sky right off the bat and drop Arnold or Stallone’s name instead — they were at their heights in the early 90s and would have balked at this concept; Lundgren would’ve been an easier get.) Had Dolph played hero “Boomer” Hayes, The Taking of Beverly Hills would have made for a highlight of his career. Instead, under the tutelage of Ken Wahl, the film instead gets filed under M for Miscellaneous, to be enjoyed only by those looking to complete their Bobby Davi collection.

If you’re a fan of high concept action cheese (and I am, for sure), The Taking of Beverly Hills is the easiest recommendation for a catalog action release in a long time. Once the action starts, it hardly lets up. Director Sidney J. Furie (who, ironically, would work with Lundgren two times), spares not a single penny of the stunt budget. Everything explodes (or implodes), or crashes, or spews fire, and in that regard, The Taking of Beverly Hills is a lot of fun. Perhaps I’m an ‘80s/’90s action flick snob (if there is such a thing), but man, with a more typical lead, it could’ve been so much…funner.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Audio Commentary by Film Historian Howard S. Berger and Sidney Furie Biographer Daniel Kremer
  • Trailers


Also Available This Week:

Distributor: Sony Pictures

The acclaimed second season of Better Call Saul ended with a pair of cliffhangers: determined to prevent his brother from practicing law, Chuck staged an elaborate con, secretly recording Jimmy’s confession to a felony, and when Mike set his sights on sociopathic cartel boss Hector Salamanca, an ominous intervention stopped him from pulling the trigger, raising questions as to what other dangerous players may be in the game.  As Season Three begins, the repercussions of Chuck’s scheme test Jimmy and Kim’s fledgling law practices – and their romance – as never before. Jimmy’s faltering moral compass is pushed to the limit, leading to a shattering climax. Meanwhile, Mike searches for a mysterious adversary, which brings him to the doors of Los Pollos Hermanos, and into the orbit of the enigmatic Gus Fring.

Special Features:

  • Cast & Crew Audio Commentaries for all 10 Episodes
  • Gag Reel
  • Emmy-winning “Los Pollos Hermanos Employee Training” Videos
  • Featurette: “Gene of Omaha”
  • Featurette: “In Conversation: Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, and Rhea Seehorn”

Distributor Lionsgate

Reality-show shenanigans mix with the fiery-and-fierce world of competitive baking in the deliciously sly mockumentary COOK OFF! As a buffet of quirky contestants prepare for the renowned Van Rookle Farms Cooking Contest, the heat is on to win a one million-dollar prize. The filmmakers follow them as the foodie media and celebrity judges descend on a hotel convention area to see which contestants rise, which ones fall, who will reveal their true nature, and who will find love with the contest’s costumed Muffin Man mascot. Costarring a cast of  improv geniuses including Cathryn Michon, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Melissa McCarthy, Ben Falcone, Gary Anthony Williams, Niecy Nash, Diedrich Bader, Stephen Root, and Sam Pancake, the zesty COOK OFF! is an affectionate nod to ordinary Americans who believe they’re one dollop of spray cheese away from achieving their dreams.

Special Features: None


Distributor: Sony Pictures

In Agatha Christie’s most twisted tale, the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of a wealthy patriarch is investigated by spy-turned-private-detective Charles Hayward (Max Irons), who is lured by his former lover to catch her grandfather’s murderer before Scotland Yard exposes dark family secrets. On the sprawling estate, amidst a poisonous atmosphere of bitterness, resentment and jealousy in a truly crooked house, Hayward encounters three generations of the dynasty, including a theater actress (Gillian Anderson), the old man’s widow 50 years his junior (Christina Hendricks), and the family matriarch Lady Edith de Haviland (Glenn Close).

Special Features:

  • “Agatha Christie: A Timeless Fascination”
  • “Whodunnit? – The Characters of Crooked House”
  • “Elegance & Innovation: The Design of Crooked House”

Distributor: Shout! Factory

Haru, a schoolgirl bored by her ordinary routine, saves the life of an unusual cat, and suddenly her world is transformed beyond anything she’s ever imagined. Her good deed is rewarded with a flurry of presents, including gift-wrapped mice, and one very shocking proposal of marriage – to the Cat’s King’s son!

Haru embarks on an unexpected journey to the Kingdom of Cats where her eyes are opened to a whole other world and her destiny is uncertain. To change her fate she’ll need to learn to believe in herself, and in the process she will learn to appreciate her everyday life.

Special Features:

  • Feature-Length Storyboards
  • The Making of The Cat Returns
  • Behind the Microphone
  • Original Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots

Distributor: Shout Factory

Louisiana, 1954: Brothers Chris & Wayne Dixon (Alan Vint and Jesse Vint) are joyriding through the South before enlisting in the Army. When the wife of a local Sheriff is brutally killed by a pair of psychotic drifters, Chris and Wayne are mistaken for the murderers. Far from home, on the run and out of time, they find themselves hunted by the crazed lawman in a tragedy of rage and revenge that explodes in a shocking climax … once they cross the Macon County Line.

Best known for playing goofy Jethro Bodine on The Beverly Hillbillies, Max Baer forever changed his image by producing, co-writing and co-starring in this powerful movie. With a strong supporting cast that includes Joan Blackman, Geoffrey Lewis, Cheryl Waters, James Gammon, Doodles Weaver and Leif Garrett, Macon County Line became the hit of 1974 as well as one of the most acclaimed drive-in classics of all time.

Special Features:

  • NEW Interview With Editor Tina Hirsch
  • Audio Commentary With Director Richard Compton
  • Vintage Featurette – “Macon County Line: 25 Years Down The Road”
  • Theatrical Trailer

Distributor: Shout! Factory

Join in the adventures of the quirky Yamada family — from the hilarious to the touching — brilliantly presented in a unique, visually striking comic strip style. Takashi Yamada and his wacky wife Matsuko, who has no talent for housework, navigate their way through the ups and downs of work, marriage, and family life with a sharp-tongued grandmother who lives with them, a teenage son who wishes he had cooler parents, and a pesky daughter whose loud voice is unusual for someone so small. Even the family dog has issues! Experience the little victories in life with MY NEIGHBORS THE YAMADAS — featuring the voice talents of comedic stars Jim Belushi and Molly Shannon.

Special Features:

  • Storyboards
  • NTV Special: The Secrets of My Neighbors The Yamadas
  • Behind The Microphone
  • Original Theatrical Trailers, TV Spots

Distributor: Shout! Factory

In Whisper of the Heart, Shizuku Tsukishima, a young girl in junior high, loves to read. Yet, every time she opens a library book, it seems the same name appears on the cards: “Seiji Amasawa”. As Shizuku learns who this person is, she also begins to learn about herself and her goals in life—a discovery that will change her life forever.

Special Features:

  • Feature-length Storyboards
  • Four Masterpieces of Naohisa Inoue
  • Background art from “The Baron’s Story”
  • Behind the Microphone
  • Original Theatrical Trailer

NEW PODCAST LOOP

Share Post
Written by

J. Tonzelli is a writer, film critiquer, and avid Arnold/Van Damme/Bronson enthusiast who resides in rural South Jersey. He is the author of "The End of Summer: Thirteen Tales of Halloween" and the "Fright Friends Adventure" series, co-authored with Chris Evangelista. He loves abandoned buildings, the supernatural, and films by John Carpenter. You can read some of his short fiction at his website, JTonzelli.com, or objectify him by staring at his tweets: @jtonzelli. He apologizes for all the profanity.

No comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.