One of this year's biggest comedy surprises arrives on Blu-ray this week: 21 Jump Street. The film's early prospects were dire; few were actually clamoring for a big-screen adaptation of a dated 1980s television show. However, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller bring genuine wit and invention to the project, which gets an added kick from stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum's amicably raunchy chemistry.
As Martin Liebman writes in his Blu-ray review, the picture "is the gloriously fun and grossly over-the-top adults-only exception to the cookie cutter rule. It slaps convention in the face, embraces its roots, and refuses to duck back under the safety net that's caught so many movies over the years. 21 Jump Street defies everything audiences know about these sorts of movies, knowingly accepting its place in cinema and happily and willingly bucking the trend that's dashed hopes and all but destroyed the magic of the movies."
Another notable new release is Bullhead, which comes courtesy of Image and Drafthouse Entertainment. Bullhead received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film, though it initially doesn't seem to fit the Oscar mold. This is a gritty and intense neo-noir about a cattle farmer who gets involved in some very shady beef trading deals; the outline alone resembles some bizarre fusion of Fast Food Nation and Out of the Past.
Yet the film has a not-so-secret weapon: lead actor Matthias Schoenaerts, who single-handedly gives Bullhead the weight of a tragedy. Juiced on steroids and growth hormones, his Jacky Vanmarsenille rages through the movie, at times, like an unleashed id, but Schoenaerts lets the viewer see the damaged kid inside. Jacky has endured only betrayal and abuse his entire life, and both the drugs and his criminal activities function as desperate acts of defiance, his only recourse for convincing the world - and himself - that he's no longer a victim.
The week's vintage Blu-rays also offer much of interest: the Criterion Collection, for example, has upgraded The 39 Steps to HD. In many ways, this breathless chase thriller is one of the most important features from master filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock; Hitchcock used it to perfect the "wrong man" template that would serve him so well in pictures like Saboteur, Frenzy, and his great North by Northwest.
Svet Atanasov's Blu-ray review praises the film's pure entertainment aspects, how "Hitchcock introduces a number of characters whose true personalities intentionally remain veiled in secrecy. As a result, one is forced to continuously guess what their exact roles in the espionage affair is ï¿½ a stylish move transforming The 39 Steps into a lot more than the sum of its parts...[and] an impressive achievement. [The] adventures in the Scottish moors are beautifully photographed by Bernard Knowles (The Young and Innocent) and [are], arguably, one of the film's most striking assets."
Finally, Warner Home Entertainment has given catalog favorite Deliverance a new 40th Anniversary Edition. Critics often praise Deliverance for its outdoor adventure elements, but what still surprises about the picture is how legitimately chilling it is; director John Boorman lends the creeping unease of a nightmare to this story of four suburbanites whose canoe trip goes horribly wrong. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Southern Comfort, even the Friday the 13th series: these all took inspiration from Deliverance.
Both Kenneth Brown and Martin Liebman responded strongly to Deliverance's horrific elements; Liebman, in particular, noted that "it accomplishes what so many films today seemingly cannot - it's genuinely horrifying and intense from start to finish, but it doesn't rely on shadows, loud musical cues, and gore to be scary. It instead relies on putting normal people into an unthinkably horrifying situation and uses mood, nature, dialogue, and top-notch acting to relay the terror to the viewer. We see everything up close and personal, and it's scary and very effective."
Probably just Wrath for me this week (still debating on getting the steelbook from Best Buy since they put that annoying "3D" on the spine). Other than that, I'll probably pick up Samurai trilogy once Criterion has a sale.
I am very disapointed there was no mention of the artist especially when you mentioned a film that has already been released and is just getting a rerelease. But I'm also glad you mentioned the criterion release of 39 steps I'm very excited about this release!
The Artist is a fantastic movie. The 39 Steps is solid Hitchcock. However, I thought the Samurai Trilogy was very disappointing. It's a fiscal relief when Criterion releases a movie you don't particularly care for, no?
Bought the Christopher Nolan director's collection, plus The Prestige, for my brother. He had no Christopher Nolan films on blu-ray. I felt buying him the set was better than ratting him out to the authorities.