This Week in Blu-ray / DVD Releases: Whiplash, Big Hero 6, Horrible Bosses 2

This Week: Beaten down by Oscar winner J.K. Simmons in Whiplash, worn out by the needless Horrible Bosses 2, and closing the book on Sons of Anarchy.

► J.K. Simmons mastered the art of assholery during six seasons of ‘Oz,’ and it earned him an Oscar for WHIPLASH. Playing a brilliant music teacher at the Shaffer Conservatory in New York, Simmons is vicious and borderline psychotic with his demands, convinced greatness is molded through fear and humiliation. Miles Teller is the young drummer who catches his ear then feels his wrath as the studio band prepares for a major competition. Brilliant editing in the climactic sequence makes a concert performance as tense and draining as any action scene.

► No matter how jaded you are, there are some movies you just know will deliver. Pair John Lassater with a Marvel property for Disney’s follow-up to ‘Frozen,’ and the odds of BIG HERO 6 being a disappointment are next to zero. Naturally they delivered with a spectacular-looking movie blending comedy and sci-fi with the best of Pixar (who suddenly don’t rule animated movies like they did five years ago). Worldwide, one of last year’s biggest movies. Blu-ray includes the ‘Feast’ short film and Marvel’s Joe Quesada and Jeph Loeb discussing the Big Hero 6 comic.

► ‘Horrible Bosses’ was one of those mildly amusing comedies you chuckled at and instantly forgot…until HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 came along. Pointless? You bet! Tired of working for ‘The Man,’ the boys decide to patent their own idea (a car wash inspired shower head) with help from a retailer played by Christoph Waltz. Of course, this being Christoph Waltz, he screws them over and they retaliate by kidnapping his son (Chris Pine). Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx all make their token appearances. The extended cut adds eight minutes.

► No matter how ridiculous SONS OF ANARCHY got during its first six seasons, it always seemed to anchor itself just in time. But there was no saving the seventh and final season, as Kurt Sutter’s biker saga goes so completely over the top and far-fetched, it needs a laugh track.. Always intended to be a Shakespearian tragedy, the show hits such a stupid stretch of episodes midway through there’s no recovery. After the death of his wife last season, Jax goes on a rampage which claims – rough count, here – at least 100 lives before he finally realizes it was his mom who did the deed. By that point, we’re just numb to the carnage and random deaths, to the point what should have been an emotional final episode was just good riddance. And we’ll need another column to explain the evil genius of Abel Teller. So farewell, SOA – your clumsy exit doesn’t erase the good times we had.

► For a few weeks in 1980, Paul Schrader’s AMERICAN GIGOLO was the coolest friggin’ thing going on. As a male escort pegged as the top suspect in a murder investigation, it made Richard Gere a star (a role John Travolta stupidly turned down). It had a killer soundtrack by Giorgio Moroder. It had Lauren Hutton setting the template for cougars. Its theme song, Blondie’s ‘Call Me,’ was an instant classic. Oh, and that miserable blu-ray cover can’t touch the iconic movie poster. The patchy script barely holds up 35 years later, but this was R-rated, early ‘80s chic, and a clear influence on ‘Miami Vice.’

► After ‘It’s Alive’ and before ‘Q,’ Larry Cohen directed the oddball 1976 thriller GOD TOLD ME TO. Tony LoBianco is a New York cop investigating a murder spree in which random citizens start killing people for no reason, insisting God told them to do it. He learns all of them were visited by a cult leader before they went crazy. Watch for Andy Kaufman in his first film appearance as a cop who shoots up a Saint Patrick’s Day parade.

► An unlikely animated classic, Martin Rosen’s WATERSHIP DOWN is the dystopian tale of a community of rabbits fighting for survival after one of them has a vision of their doom. Dark, violent, and mortifying to every unsuspecting kid, this was a huge hit in Britain when it came out in 1978. Features the voices of John Hurt and Richard Briers. Criterion Collection blu-ray includes a discussion with Guillermo del Toro, a new interview with Rosen, and an essay by comic book writer Gerard Jones.

► Another month, another Danny Trejo movie. He doesn’t show up until the end of VANISH, and it isn’t to deliver flowers. He plays a drug cartel boss whose daughter (Maiara Walsh) is snatched by three dimwits hoping to score a huge ransom. The story takes place entirely within their van. Tony Todd drops by as a cop. First effort from writer-director Bryan Bockbrader.

Also out this week:





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