This Week in Blu-ray / DVD Releases: 12 Years a Slave, Catching Fire...
This week: Your Best Picture winner; the biggest movie of 2013; and an Oldboy remake that got hammered.
► You will likely hate the human race by the end of 12 YEARS A SLAVE. Even with its glimmer of hope and redemption, you will wonder how we ever, at any point in history, resorted to the soul-crushing things this movie will show you. It doesn’t flinch and doesn’t apologize for making you feel awful – it’s also a modern masterpiece which should be shown in schools from here on, whether uppity parents like it or not. Back in the ‘70s, ‘Roots’ was a revelation to kids like me who never knew slavery existed, much less how bad it was. Steve McQueen’s movie, based on an 1853 memoir, shows the absolute misery and vile indifference of this era, with a straight-up brilliant performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor. You don’t so much ‘like’ a movie like this as you applaud it. A truly agonizing classic.
► ‘Iron Man 3’ was 2013’s biggest movie for months until THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE surpassed it, surprising pretty much no one. As a franchise, it has managed to satisfy its core audience without all the sneering and mockery that came with the ‘Twilight’ movies – there’s good stuff here, and Jennifer Lawrence winning an Oscar last year didn’t hurt. Chapter 2 in the trilogy sends Katniss back into the Games as defending champ, even as her rebellious nature threatens to topple the corrupt regime running it. Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland and Philip Seymour Hoffman (sigh) is introduced as the new gamemaker.
► Well, that OLDBOY remake didn’t go as planned, did it? Whether the unusual choice of Spike Lee as director was the problem, this American version of one of the great South Korea films – perhaps THE great South Korea film – was a non-event. Glossing over so much of what made the original a masterpiece, Josh Brolin steps in as an ad exec who is forced to live in a prison-like hotel room for 15 years while the outside world believes he killed his ex-wife. At barely $2 million box office, this was among the worst bombs of Lee’s career.
► Best Picture nominee PHILOMENA is based on the true story of a woman (Judi Dench) who attempts to find the son she was forced to give up 50 years earlier by the nuns at her Abbey, and the recently unemployed writer (Steve Coogan) who agrees to help her despite a disdain for human interest stories. From that clichéd set-up is a mostly fun tale which takes a somber turn. This is Dench at her greatest.
► Bob Dylan concerts ain’t what they used to be (“What song is this?”), but one of his all-time greatest was in 1992 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his first album. The 30th ANNIVERSARY CONCERT CELEBRATION is a four-hour classic in front of a packed Madison Square Garden, featuring George Harrison, Tom Petty, Chrissie Hynde, Neil Young and Johnny Cash, with Dylan himself playing the last song of the night, ‘Girl of the North Country.’ Includes nearly 40 minutes of behind the scenes footage and three bonus tunes, including Booker T & the M.G.’s doing ‘Gotta Service Somebody.’ Best thing about this show? Bieber wasn’t even born yet.
► Hong Kong legend Tony Leung stars as Bruce Lee’s mentor Ip Man in THE GRANDMASTER, which became the biggest hit of director Wong Kar-wai’s career over in China. This is more ‘inspired’ by his life than based on a true story. Ip Man has been the subject of several films, along with a TV series in China last year.
► The end was near for RAWHIDE as it galloped into its seventh season, as the cattle drivers confront gypsies, Mexican missionaries and buffalo hunters while guiding 3,000 head of cattle through the American heartland. Eric Fleming, as trail boss Gil Favor, was the undisputed star of the show during its run (1959 to 1965), but the DVDs put Clint Eastwood, in his breakthrough role as Rowdy Yates, front and center. As with the past five seasons Paramount has divided it into two separate boxed sets, doing nothing but pissing off fans who have to pay $90 for the entire season.
► Only one thing left to do with zombies: Send ‘em to space. THE LAST DAYS ON MARS has a research crew about to wrap things up and head back home when they make one last expedition. Where, of course, shit goes bad and a Martian biological agent starts turning the crew into the cast of ’28 Days Later.’ Liev Schreiber and Elias Koteas star.
Also out this week:
SO WHAT DVD/BLU-RAYS ARE YOU GUYS STOKED ABOUT THIS WEEK?!