This Week in Blu-ray / DVD Releases: American Sniper, Hot Tub Time Machine 2

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

This Week: The box office champ of 2014, a Hot Tub Time Machine sequel even Motley Lou can’t save, and the zombie beaver movie the Academy overlooked.

► Hands up if you pegged AMERICAN SNIPER as the biggest movie of 2014. So…everyone then? Clint Eastwood’s out-of-nowhere blockbuster was both blasted and beloved, depending what side of the political debate you sat on. Either way, you and everyone you know had to see it. In that regard, Eastwood delivered the goods – at least during the incredibly tense battle scenes and moments when sniper Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) needs to put a bullet in someone’s head or a whole bunch of Americans die. Cooper is so good here you’ll wish Eastwood expanded the landscape a bit to show the real toll of what he did (150 confirmed kills). Likewise, his wife (Sienna Miller) and child back home feel like an anchor instead of the balance to Kyle’s story. But even as you gripe at the film’s simplistic approach – Kyle must face his sharp-shooting Iraqi adversary in the end – it’s one of Eastwood’s most engrossing films. Blu-ray includes a feature on the journey from book to screen.

► Filed under ‘blowing a sure thing,’ HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 will have you wondering how a sequel pretty much everyone wanted could go so wrong when they had five years to make it. It wasn’t a rush job. It wasn’t direct-to-DVD. Five years! None of that time was spent luring John Cusack back, and the film never recovers from that sour bit of non-casting. The plot foregoes the relative simplicity of the first film, when they were all stuck in the ‘80s, for time-traveling lunacy as they try to find Lou’s would-be assassin. Adam Scott steps in for Cusack.

► The inmates of ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK have a new queen to deal with in Season 2. Lorraine Toussaint joins the cast as Taystee’s mom, and starts taking over the prison’s black market dealings while plotting the demise of Red. It’s by far the most interesting part of a ho-hum second season, as the show is already showing signs of struggling with its format. As ‘Oz’ can attest, a prison show needs to constantly shock and regenerate characters to keep fresh. Season 3 starts June 12.

► Maybe the best horror comedy since ‘Cabin Fever,’ ZOMBEAVERS gloriously lives up to its title. Your standard dumb college kids take a weekend retreat at a cottage, where they’re ambushed by a horde of undead beavers turned into flesheaters by a chemical spill. If that sounds amazingly stupid, that’s the point – the best horror satires can lampoon the genre while still delivering some scares.

► Considering the pure crap she would subsequently make, it’s easy to forget Bette Midler made one of the greatest debuts in movie history. THE ROSE is a raw nerve of a musical, based not-so-loosely on the shortened life of Janis Joplin and boasting an absolute killer performance by Midler. The Criterion Collection blu-ray includes commentary by director Mark Rydell, a new interview with Midler, and an essay by music critic Paula Mejia. The still great soundtrack was also the peak of Midler’s career. This entire movie was lightning in a bottle.

► While it’s nowhere near as popular as ‘Downton Abbey’ in North America, BBC’s CALL THE MIDWIFE actually gets better ratings back home in Britain. Season 4 is the first without star Jessica Raine, with some new faces (Charlotte Ritchie and Linda Bassett) filling Nonnatus House as the 1960s begin. It’s hardly a brutal show, but most every episode takes an emotional toll – the impoverished kids and women the nuns and midwives encounter makes for tough viewing most episodes.

► As annoying as it was – and at its peak, it was insufferable – at least GLEE didn’t overstay its welcome. The show’s spirit was sapped after the death of star Cory Monteith, and creator Ryan Murphy wisely pulled the plug after six seasons. Perhaps he learned his lesson prolonging ‘Nip/Tuck’ past the point of parody. The final 13 episodes find Rachel (Michele Lea) returning to Lima after the failure of her TV show, an invitational to relaunch the New Directions, and a two-hour finale which shows everyone’s lives in 2020. The COMPLETE SERIES is also released this week if you want to relive all 121 episodes and (God help me) 728 music performances.

► Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s LEVIATHAN, nominated for Best Foreign Film at this year’s Oscars, is the somewhat biblical tale of a shady mayor trying to expropriate the land of an alcoholic simpleton (Alexai Serebriakov). As we see the mistakes of his life revisited, he hires an old army friend as his lawyer to blackmail the mayor, which of course goes tragically wrong. Won Best Screenplay at least year’s Cannes.

Also out this week:





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