This week, Universal Studios is releasing the Blu-ray version of its CGI-animated adventure The Lorax. One would think that this adaptation of the classic Dr. Seuss children's story should be even more relevant today than the book was after its publication in 1972; Seuss uses his trademark whimsy to comment on how humans can threaten the planet, and his themes of deforestation and environmental protection have only increased in importance. However, the film version takes its cue from breezy cartoon entertainments like Horton Hears a Who or Despicable Me, downplaying the political message in favor of splashy digital effects and a celebrity-packed voice ensemble (Danny DeVito plays the Lorax, and Ed Helms, Taylor Swift, and Zac Efron pad out the supporting cast).
On those terms, the film works, but as Kenneth Brown notes in his Blu-ray review, "Family films are an easy sell. They don't have to be great, just good enough to make the kids laugh, the parents pleased that the kids are laughing and....that's about it. Dr. Seuss' beloved, environmentally prescient children's book deserves more than The Lorax, though, decent as it may be. As an adaptation, it underwhelms. As a Seuss adaptation, it under-delivers. As a family film, it does what it needs to do."
Disney Home Entertainment offers another book-to-film adaptation on Tuesday with its HD upgrade of High Fidelity. If filmmaker Stephen Frears' dramedy only did a faithful job of bringing the cult Nick Hornby novel to the screen, it would still be a success; like Hornby, Frears has infinite sympathy for his cast of thirty-something slackers trying to find meaning in life through the pop culture touchstones that consume them, and that sympathy lets the director affectionately chronicle his protagonists without excusing their immaturity and selfishness. But High Fidelity has additional thematic relevance that exceeds the novel - John Cusack's lead performance acts as a canny deconstruction of the brand of sensitive heartthrobs Cusack immortalized in 1980s classics like Better Off Dead or Say Anything. His Rob Gordon could be Lloyd Dobler ten years later, older but certainly not wiser.
Borrowing a page from the movie itself, Kenneth Brown's Blu-ray review ranks "The Top Five Reasons High Fidelity Still Works," which he lists as "1) Cusack connects despite Rob's narcissism and overwhelming flaws. 2) His supporting cast nails the laughs, and makes it easy to believe they'd tolerate their misanthropic friend. 3) Frears has a solid grasp on the script, so much so that Rob's fourth wall confessions become something more than a gimmick. 4) The Grosse Pointe Blank [screenwriting] team delivers on the page and off with a story of yet another man forced to deal with the ghosts of his past. And 5) The music, the music, the music."
The 1985 comedy Clue is also an adaptation, though not one of a book: director Jonathan Lynn's film takes inspiration from the popular board game of the same name. Those origins might seem dire - anyone who saw the bombastic, bizarre Battleship this summer already knows the perils of trying to create a movie from what is, essentially, an interactive cardboard box - but Clue happily defies negative expectations. It's a goofy, fast-paced farce that is half And Then There Were None and half His Girl Friday, and it contains witty performances from the likes of Michael McKean, Madeline Kahn, Lesley Ann Warren, and the great Tim Curry.
Martin Liebman's Blu-ray review praises the feature's modest-but-enjoyable charms, how Clue is "an effective, funny, nicely-acted film that's the beneficiary of great source material and high quality production design. The cast easily falls into [their] roles and seems to enjoy every second of the movie. Clue may not hold as much appeal as the board game, considering its limited endings and options, but it's a wonderfully authentic and genuinely entertaining little slice of pop culture brought to glorious life on the silver screen."
Finally, Olive Films' Bound also streets on Tuesday. This twisty neo-noir marks the directorial debut of the Wachowski Siblings, and at first glance, it appears wholly different from their groundbreaking 1999 epic The Matrix. Bound eschews the latter film's sci-fi leanings in favor of pure pulp fiction, as it tells the story of two femme fatales (Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon) plotting to double-cross a Mob flunky (Joe Pantoliano) and his very nasty associates. Nevertheless, one can sense the Wachowskis' touch in every frame of this early picture: in the stylish, prowling camerawork, in the creatively staged violence, in the gender reversals that subvert typical film noir conventions in the same manner that The Matrix's philosophic and religious undertones subverted the traditional sci-fi-actioner.
In his Blu-ray review, Jeffrey Kauffman comments on how well Bound has held up despite living in the shadow of The Matrix, writing that, "Bound is an absolutely brilliant debut film, and it's a bit surprising that it hasn't achieved the renown that, say, Blood Simple has. The fact that the film features some explicit lesbian sexuality and a lot of bloody violence may make it a complete turn off for some viewers, but for those with a particularly skewed sense of humor and with a love for films which tip idioms on their heads, Bound is a viscerally exciting experience."
Anniversary version of Spaceballs, Grosse Pointe Blank, Clue, Bound, hell..even Blues Brothers 2000 (strickly for the music, I assure you), this week is full of things I'll pick up at some point. Probably when all of their price points go to 9.99 or lower.
If you are considering getting Bound, keep in mind the French Blu-ray is superior (and region-free). Aside from the picture quality (which is a bit different between the 2 releases, as detailed in Blu-ray.com's reviews of both releases), the French has 5.1 DTS-HS MA (DD 2.0 on the US), and the commentary by the Wachowski brothers and a couple of additional special features (nothing on the US). Plus, the French subtitles on the French release are optional.
@keb33509: spot on. First time I learnt about the Larry to Lana change, it was on the Matrix Trilogy BD page on amazon UK. I was about to submit a data correction suggestion, then decided to check it on imdb first.
cheld is right. Liberal environmental alarmists use shoddy science to push their agenda of higher taxes and snatching power from individuals, and went from global cooling to warming to "climate change" (meaning they can blame any bad weather on evil polluting humans). Thank goodness this drivel was mostly removed from The Lorax. It was still kinda crappy though.