This Week in Blu-ray / DVD Releases: Ender's Game, All is Lost, Diana ...
This week: Ender's Game, The Americans and All is Lost deserve some love this Valentine's. Not so much Diana and The Counselor.
► The knives were out long before ENDER'S GAME even hit theatres, as many fans of Orson Scott Card's classic book insisted it couldn't be done. They may have been right, but what we got was still one of last year's seminal sci-fi flicks. Yes, you can nitpick the hell out of it, or you can enjoy a movie that puts ideas ahead of visuals, and culminates in a cruel twist instead of lavish special effects. The battles here are effective, but director Gavin Hood sticks close to the premise of a young military genius plucked from his family to spend years training for an imminent alien attack – a race known as the 'formics' who were defeated before. Character arcs get short-changed, but what's here is true to the book in ways which, sadly, guaranteed its failure at the box office.
► All kinds of love for Robert Redford and ALL IS LOST didn't translate into Oscar nominations even though 'Gravity,' with virtually the same premise (substitute space for water) got a boatload of attention. Redford, 77, carries the entire movie as a man whose sail boat collides with a shipping container, leaving him with no communication and a wrecked vessel. Using only his wits, he tries to survive long enough for a passing ship to notice him. Sharks and a wicked storm aren't helping. Nothing flashy here, just a scary, desperate tale of survival. If you think a movie needs constant dialogue to keep you invested (even 'Cast Away' had Hanks talking to that volley ball), Redford will remind you what a movie star really is.
► It is astounding how a director as great as Ridley Scott and a writer as revered as Cormac McCarthy can make a movie as reviled as THE COUNSELOR, but these ripples in The Matrix can’t be explained. Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Brad Pitt are a killer cast completely skunked in this sleazy tale of a lawyer (Fassbender) who decides to make a drug deal for some quick cash. That goes about as well as the rest of this movie. What a depressing, inexplicable waste of talent.
► Just last year Naomi Watts was an Oscar nominee for ‘The Impossible.’ This year she’s a Razzie nominee for DIANA, the Princess Diana bio-pic that was pretty much one of 2013’s most hated movies. It may be collateral damage for Watts, who is the only remote thing worth watching in this dry, joyless drama with nothing new or interesting to say about one of the world’s most beloved women when she died.
► FX's THE AMERICANS was last year's best new show, a clever spy thriller set in the early '80s in which the bad guys are the good guys. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys play two Soviet KGB officers posing as a married suburban couple in Washington. While evading detection from a determined FBI (one agent happens to be a neighbor), they also deal with traitors in their own party. Fantastic writing and performances, and you have to love a soundtrack with Quarterflash and Pablo Cruise. Season 1 was so good, you worry the show will pull a 'Homeland' in Season 2, which starts Feb. 26.
► More Keri Russell this week? Why not. In AUSTENLAND, she plays a 30-ish woman so obsessed with Colin Firth as Darcy in the BBC version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ that she books a trip to a Jane Austen-themed resort to indulge her Victorian fantasies. As she finds her own Darcy, she comes to realize maybe her obsession is doing more harm than good. Jane Seymour plays the resort owner.
► We can rag on TNT's new DALLAS for being a 90210 version of a classic show, but it was kinda cool Larry Hagman returned to his iconic role before dying in 2012. His death changed everything in Season 2, as J.R. Ewing's passing become the central storyline. Naturally, the family squabbling doesn't end with him gone, and it's really no surprise his body is exhumed in the season finale. Hard to imagine the show can continue without its anchor. 'Dallas' without J.R. is…well, 'Dynasty.'
► Those massive boobs on the cover of ANNA NICOLE belong to Agnes Bruckner, but if you’re watching this bio-pic for the expected nudity, that’s as close as you’ll get. Made-for-TV Lifetime movie awkwardly wants to tell the story of Anna Nicole Smith’s messed-up life by glossing over all the debauchery that led to her early death. Even the strip clubs look safe for work. Virginia Madsen plays Smith’s mom and (sigh) Martin Landau has been reduced to playing the creepy rich old guy she married.
Also out this week:
SO WHAT DVD/BLU-RAYS ARE YOU GUYS STOKED ABOUT THIS WEEK?!