For the week of December 18th, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is bringing Premium Rush to Blu-ray. Criminally underseen during its initial theatrical release - the $35 million feature only grossed $20 million domestically - Premium Rush might be the year's most underrated action-adventure. A suspenseful and gleefully silly chase picture about a cocky bike messenger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who spends a perilous afternoon avoiding a dirty cop (the great Michael Shannon), Premium Rush makes great use of his Manhattan locales and never overstays its welcome - at just over ninety minutes long, the film maintains a relentless forward momentum. Plus, Gordon-Levitt and Shannon are just wonderful - they alone turn Premium Rush from junk food into great junk food.
In his Blu-ray review, Martin Liebman echoed that claim, calling the picture "an exciting, quickly-paced adrenaline flick with a good but admittedly somewhat generic core story pushing the action forward. Nevertheless, the movie succeeds thanks to its novelty, slick direction, fast action, and quality acting. It's not the best film of 2012, but it's one of the most unique and purely entertaining of the year.
Sony also has Total Recall planned for this week. Since its inception, this picture has courted no small amount of controversy from science-fiction fans; though the filmmakers behind it claimed this Total Recall was taking inspiration from Philip K. Dick's classic short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale," early previews suggested that Total Recall 2012 would be nothing more than a watered-down version of Paul Verhoeven's 1990 cult classic.
The end result falls somewhere in between. The new Total Recall casts its leading man (Colin Farrell) as an everyman hero more in line with Dick's hapless protagonist than with Arnold Schwarzenegger's confused superman, but other elements - Kate Beckinsale's seductive-scary "faux" wife, the presence of a heroic underground resistance, and a generously endowed mutant prostitute - are lifted whole-cloth from the Verhoeven version. For an action-movie, it works well enough, though one can't help but wish it hadn't been so reliant on the previous film iteration; as Martin Liebman writes in his Total Recall Blu-ray review, "it's a film in the midst of a terrible identity crisis, a remake largely in name only that tries to be so different from its predecessor but at the same time take advantage of every opportunity to remind viewers of the other, superior production."
Tuesday also brings another literary adaptation, courtesy of Shout Factory: Sometimes A Great Notion. Director Paul Newman's film doesn't approach the psychedelic-mythic allure of Ken Kesey's novel, nor could it; so much of what makes the book a masterpiece is Kesey's hallucinatory, stream-of-consciousness tone. Yet the film maintains an appeal all its own as an earthy, rugged family drama. Pulling double duties as director and lead actor, Newman gets great performances from Henry Fonda, Michael Sarrazin, and Richard Jaeckel, and his use of the film's striking Oregon backdrops is worth the price of admission.
Josh Radnor's Liberal Arts also hits Blu-ray this week. His first film as a writer-director, 2010's Happythankyoumoreplease, showed real promise but suffered from a case of the indie "cutes"; happily, Liberal Arts evinces clear artistic and intellectual maturity on the How I Met Your Mother star's part. His new film is surprisingly wry and knowing about the pull of the collegiate world, and while a semi-romantic attraction between Radnor and co-star Elizabeth Olsen feels a little forced, Radnor mostly avoids the navel-gazing of his debut feature and scores great supporting work from the likes of Allison Janney and Richard Jenkins.
Casey Broadwater's Blu-ray review notes that "Liberal Arts...is an affecting rom-drama aimed squarely at thirty-something guys who haven't quite found themselves yet. This is something of a niche audience...[but] still, if a film that's honest about the way guys get older appeals to you, definitely add Liberal Arts to your to-watch list. It's not earth-shattering in its insights, but it definitely speaks to a certain subset of educated young men ill-prepared for the real world."
Finally, TV-on-Blu-ray gets another addition through the release of Shameless: The Complete Second Season. The first season was one of 2011's big surprises, and Season Two only doubles-down on what its inaugural year so much fun. Nominal star William H. Macy gets all the juicy stuff to do as the rowdy, substance-abusing patriarch of the poverty-row Gallagher clan, but it's Phantom of the Opera star Emmy Rossum who serves as the show's heart. Her Fiona Gallagher is an imperfect heroine in the best sense of the phrase; she forces herself to hold her family together even though all she wants to do is rebel, and Rossum's delicately shaded work lets this conflict play out on the molecular level. Along with Homeland, Shameless is the best series on Showtime's programming roster.
Don't waste your money on the individual releases of Ninja Turtles. Just buy the triple pack on amazon or at Walmart for 9 bucks. You get Turtles 1, 2 and a nifty coaster that reads Ninja Turtles 3 ;-)