Director Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows makes its Blu-ray debut on Tuesday. For Warner Bros., the release provides a monetary opportunity to exceed the film's modest theatrical performance; despite having an aggressive marketing campaign, A Game of Shadows proved far less financially popular than its big-screen competitor at the time: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. Nevertheless, the film's failure to ignite the box office does not stem solely from scheduling issues. Even with some good action and spirited turns from Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, and Jared Harris, A Game of Shadows doesn't quite capture the energy of its 2009 predecessor.
As Kenneth Brown writes in his Blu-ray review, the film is "wildly entertaining...But it misses the mark again and again, muddying the waters with wall-to-wall action, abandoning reason with rapid-fire flashbacks and impossible logic puzzles, and tossing aside almost everything that makes the Steven Moffat-run BBC series an accessible cerebral thrill-ride and Ritchie's first Sherlock Holmes, flawed though it may be, a fun, popcorn-fueled diversion."
Also streeting this week is one of 2011's Best Foreign Film Oscar Nominees, the Holocaust drama In Darkness. Filmmaker Agnieszka Holland - who helmed Europa Europa - tells the story of Nazi-stricken Poland, and how a Polish sewer worker became the unlikely savior to local Jews trying to escape the Third Reich's persecution. Holland directs In Darkness with a more muted tone than many viewers might expect; the picture doesn't have the emotional or visceral impact of a Schindler's List, choosing instead to present day-to-day survival efforts in an objective, documentary-esque manner.
Yet Martin Liebman's Blu-ray review argues for the merits of this style, how "the material is so bleak and emotionally draining that audiences might choose to simply slip away...Yet no matter one's emotional reaction, how hard the movie hits, and whatever dramatic highs or shortcomings may exist even in the retelling of a story this strong, audiences cannot deny this movie's technical merits, which are nearly above reproach."
Far less draining is the Criterion Collection's new Shallow Grave release. The first feature film from Academy Award-winner Danny Boyle, Shallow Grave is an exciting, fast-paced film noir about three roommates (Christopher Eccleston, Kerry Fox, and Ewan McGregor, in his second film role) who descend into violence and depravity when they stumble upon a briefcase full of money. Though the movie lacks the emotional resonance of Boyle's Trainspotting or Slumdog Millionaire, it is no less entertaining and remains one of the most accomplished directorial debut films ever made.
When Svet Atanasov recently assessed the picture, he noted that, "there are certain aspects from Shallow Grave that are as effective as they were when the film was first screened. For example, the dialog, courtesy of John Hodge, has some terrific lines that have not lost their edge. Cinematographer Brian Tufano's (Billy Elliot) lensing remains one of the film's strongest assets as well."
Finally, the long-delayed Meatballs Blu-ray hits the HD format, courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment. In 1979, Meatballs' impressive box-office showing helped put star Bill Murray and writer/director Ivan Reitman at the forefront of American comedy filmmaking; viewed today, the movie seems less impressive. It doesn't have the polish of later Murray-Reitman collaborations like Stripes and Ghostbusters, and most of its inspiration seems to come from the 1978 comedy smash Animal House. However, regardless of its deficiencies, Meatballs is still funny, and Murray remains the film's anarchic, improvisatory highlight.
Due to arrive tomorrow from my preorder is my major BD upgrade to a movie that is easily one of my cherished films of all time, Harold and Maude, from Hal Ashby, a master director of his time.
Although H&M the only film releasing this week I plan to receive immediately, I'll likely blind buy Danny Boyle's Shallow Grave and Charles Chaplin's The Gold Rush during one of Barnes & Noble's big Criterion sales in the upcoming months.
In Darkness is another film I'm interested in seeing. It may turn into a rental or even a blind buy in time. Perhaps I'll consider reliving a bit of late 70s nostalgia and buy Meatballs at some point in the future.
Sherlock Holmes was a first day purchase... btw, I know it didn't make as much as MI-4, but to call the 540 million worldwide that Game of Shadows made a MODEST performance is kind of crazy.... I'm just sayin