Unlike last week’s parade of mostly bland box office dead weight, this week sees a number of highly anticipated new Blu-ray releases. With numerous quality titles for your delectation, the end of January could bring with it some financial difficulties for those of us with a pathological need to ‘collect’.
First up this week is Nicholas Winding Refn’s 70’s throwback Drive.
For a man whose name sounds very much like a font, Winding Refn is fast grinding out a rep as one of the most promising directors of the moment. Drive, which sees man of the moment Ryan Gosling channelling the likes of McQueen and Eastwood, is unlikely to derail the Dane’s upward trajectory. Despite a top notch cast which also boasts Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston and Albert Brooks, it’s the style of the film which sets it apart from similar pictures. Set in the seedy, neon, Hollywood underbelly, ‘Driver’ as he is simply known is a man out of time; figuratively speaking only. A stoic protagonist with an unyielding moral compass, Gosling traverses between heartfelt tenderness and unspeakable brutality. Both are filmed bravely; Winding Refn knowing exactly when to cut away and when to linger. Though not one of the most prolific award season nominees, Drive is picking up the odd nomination here and there and everyone of them is deserved.
In contrast Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is arguably one of the most over hyped films of last year. That’s not to say it’s without merit. On the contrary, it was an expertly crafted film in almost every way. Gary Oldman is certainly an outsider for a Best Actor Oscar and there is some great support work from hot properties like Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch. Like Drive, Tinker Tailor comes to us courtesy of another Scandinavian director, Tomas Alfredson. Like his contemporaries, Alfredson is a master craftsman when it comes to ‘show, don’t tell’. There’s certainly no unnecessary monologuing in the film which affords you the opportunity to really take in the expertly recreated cold war setting. The film’s weakness however, lies in it’s complicated, in places convoluted story. As is often the case with adaptations, the density of the original novel is simply not transferrable to the screen. Often at times, key plot points are sacrificed in favour of a more palatable running time and unfortunately in this case, it felt like key elements of John Le Carre’s seminal story were lost on the cutting room floor. With that in mind, home entertainment may in fact be the film’s saving grace. Repeat viewings coupled with the supporting features may just be enough to clear the fog.
In the barrage of mindless, plotless ensemble rom-com flicks that seem to be the trend of the moment, everyone was glad to see a date movie that might avoid the same trappings. Crazy Stupid Love was off to a flyer even before it was released with one of the most likeable cast lists ever put together. With Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling all starring, it’s no wonder that the movie went down well with both genders, and although not exactly a classic, it does have a lot going for it. At the centre of the story is a Hitch type story where Gosling’s suave womaniser coaches a post-separation Steve Carell in the art of seduction. Carell and Stone are as good as ever, but the real revelation is Gosling as a comedian. If we didn’t already hate him enough the triple threat proves that he’s got the comedy chops to rival the best of them, even picking up a Golden Globe nomination in the Comedy/Musical acting category. Releasing two weeks before Valentine’s Day is no doubt a savy move by Warner Bros. who are no doubt banking on its ‘snuggle up on the sofa’ factor to shift shed loads of copies.
In terms of re-releases, it’s a good week with three classics getting the Blu-ray treatment. First up is the multi-Oscar winning Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Whilst personally I’m sceptical as to how much difference Blu-ray makes to a nigh on fifty year old movie, the epic scale of a Joseph Mankiewicz movie might just warrant the upgrade.
Also released is James Cameron’s Aliens.
With Prometheus looming ominously on the horizon like an abandoned interstellar transporter of mysterious origin, chances are that interest in the original quadrilogy is likely to peak over the next few months. There’s every likelihood the four movies will be all over TV as well, but probably not in the quality of a nice, crisp Blu-ray. This will prove a decent investment, especially if there’s that annoying guy in your office who won’t shut up about how Avatar is the greatest science fiction movie ever made. You can lend him Aliens and prove to him that Avatar isn’t even the greatest science fiction movie James Cameron has ever made.
It’s a quieter week for TV releases this week. The only real release is the first batch of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes. Rather than housing an entire series the Blu-ray contains the pilot episode along with two other classic episodes so not really one for the casual Trekkies (or Trekkers, as they prefer to be called).
Special mention must go to the release of season asix of The Office (US). Although to the best of my knowledge the series is not getting a Blu-ray release (makes sense when you think about it), season six is arguably where the series peaked.
With a cast most movie producers would kill for (Steve Carell, John Krasinski, Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer, Ed Helms, Ellie Kemper and Kathy Bates) the sixth series brings with it closure to one of the love stories of the decade, and en route Steve Carell falls into a Koi Pond. If you’re yet to discover the wonders of The Office, then go back to the beginning (by which I mean season 2, episode 1). For those of you Dunder Mifflin devotees, this might just prove to be the last Office box set you choose to take home.
In conclusion, my recommendation for the week is clearly Drive. Having gotten up early on pay day to pre-order the very reasonably priced Blu-ray, it’d be hypocritical of me to suggest anything else. Yes, there’s no denying the ‘classic’ status of James Cameron’s Aliens however, the savvy consumers should know that you can find the complete quadrilogy online for less than a fiver more than the stand alone release.