Last year, Brett Ratner's heist comedy Tower Heist had the misfortune of garnering notoriety for seemingly everything but the finished film. Star Eddie Murphy wanted to create an all-African-American riff on the Ocean's Eleven franchise. After Murphy (initially) abandoned the project, Ratner completely reworked the project, and Universal touted the revised version as the newest and most high-profile video-on-demand feature. However, a projected sixty-dollar rental price and severe backlash from theater chains killed the VOD plans; further complicating the picture's reception were a series of disparaging comments Ratner made shortly before its theatrical premiere. Maybe no film could weather these pre-release concerns, but Tower Heist surprised by leaving little in the way of positive or negative impact. It opened in theaters; it found modest box-office success; it quickly vanished.
The Blu-ray release on Tuesday may improve its overall legacy. Divorced from controversy, Tower Heist plays as an unspectacular-but-genial caper; it's no Ocean's Eleven, but audiences could do a lot worse. As Kenneth Brown put it in his Blu-ray review, "For the better part of a half an hour, it's a bit of a meandering mess...but once Tower Heist hits its stride - 45-minutes in, admittedly - it turns into something else entirely: a decent comedy and a fun little genre pic."
Far more successful a 2011 entry is Martha Marcy May Marlene. The feature film debut of director Sean Durkin, this drama details the psychic damages affecting a woman (Elizabeth Olsen, Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding) who has just escaped from a cult. Martha Marcy May Marlene doesn't play by conventional thriller rules, and some critics have charged that its deliberately obtuse chronology and elliptical storytelling mask a lack of real thematic depth. But Durkin proves himself a master of generating maximum tension from a minimum of incident - his use of the 2.39:1 widescreen frame recalls peak John Carpenter - and Olsen is brilliant as a young woman under emotional duress even before she joins the cult.
For many cinephiles, though, this week's most exciting Blu-rays have a decidedly more vintage appeal. Director Lionel Rogosin's 1957 classic On the Bowery hits the high-definition format in a beautiful 2K restoration. A favorite of filmmaker Martin Scorsese, the vérité-styled On the Bowery comes alongside two other Rogosin features - Good Times, Wonderful Times and Out - and a wide assortment of bonus supplements.
The Criterion Collection adds Rainer Werner Fassbinder to its HD library with the 1973 miniseries World on a Wire. This idiosyncratic tale sees Fassbinder marrying his creative obsessions with Philip. K. Dick-esque science-fiction conceits; one can look at World on a Wire and see the seeds of Blade Runner or The Matrix.
Blu-ray.com's Svet Atanasov used his review to note the film's unique appeal, how "what makes the film so fascinating to behold is the fact that its narrative constantly evolves...The film is guaranteed to surprise many viewers with its incredibly accurate expectations about the future. Clearly, it was well ahead of its time."
Just as exciting is Warner Home Entertainment's catalog edition of Fort Apache. The first in director John Ford's cavalry trilogy, Fort Apache takes inspiration from General Custer and his bloody engagement at the Battle of Little Bighorn in order to examine extreme historical revisionism. This western also features two wonderful lead performances: an uncharacteristically sensitive turn from John Wayne, and an uncharacteristically unsympathetic one from Henry Fonda as the Custer proxy.
Jeffrey Kauffman's recent Blu-ray review praised Fort Apache, highlighting that "those [viewers] who take the time to really peer beneath the surface will find a completely different film, one which exposes and even undermines the mythology of the hero and which questions the whole notion that history is written by the victors. While this Blu-ray isn't quite up to the spectacular standards of a lot of Warner catalog releases, it still is a joy to see."
I'll invest (which is what it really became) in Warner's titles when they stop being anorexic with special features and really put the effort instead of almost putting a sticker on the cover that yells "let's make money first, then in ten years, we'll put out a special edition". I miss the days back when a movie didn't need to make $ 800 million to get some special edition treatement.
I didnt like J-Edgar in theaters but I'm going to give it a second try with a rent. Martha Marcy was a great movie but I'm waiting for a review on it until I make a decision on buying it. Heard mixed reviews on tower heist so I'll give that a rent.
If Best Buy gets the Criterions I might pick up one or both of those. Otherwise I'll wait for the B&N sale. (But, one way or the other, THEY WILL BE HAD.)
Honey tempts me simply because Jessica Alba is always worth looking at.
But then again, I know the synopsis of this title is so far away from something I'd actually find interesting......sigh. Guess I'll stick with my Sin City blu-ray and pop that in when I hear the siren's call...
Honey is a decent movie. It's a little too PG with its naive portrayal poor urban kids trying to make a safe place to dance and have a positive role model, but Jessica Alba raises the level of the movie just enough to make it not cheesie. Only really looking forward to Puss n Boots 3D. Might pick up Honey for nostalgic reasons. A good friend was obsessed with Jessica Alba and we saw every one of her movies.
I won't support anything with Eddie Murphy for the time being. He turned his back to all his original comedy fans for far too long. I'll watch it for free but I'm not buying or renting until he does more.
My big preorders to arrive this today are Anatomy of a Murder and World on a Wire (both had for excellent prices due to their brief price drop at Amazon). The former I've been wanting for years, literally, so I'm really pleased it's finally arriving.
I'm definitely interested in adding to my collection in the near future: J. Edgar; Martha Marcy May Marlene; Fort Apache; and On the Bowery. As one who appreciates digibooks I may, down the line and with a price drop, also upgrade my copy of Unforgiven to the digibook version released today.
Fort Apache is number 1 on my list this week. I hope we don't have to wait long for She Wore A Yellow Ribbon to get its Blu-ray release!
I may go ahead and pick up the Unforgiven digibook as it probably want get a better release and I like digibooks.
J. Edgar as well as Kansas City Confidential / The Stranger might be interesting additions down the road as well.