There are plenty of new Blu-rays on tap this week, and as usual, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. I didn’t even bother writing entries for Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar” and the “Shrek” spin-off “Puss in Boots” because the sooner we forget about both movies the better, while other noteworthy titles like Criterion’s “Anatomy of a Murder” and the first season of BBC’s “The Fades” weren’t available for review. Fans of Criterion’s previous releases can confidently blind-buy the former, however, knowing it will live up to their standards.
Sean Durkin’s directorial debut was a big hit at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, and after finally seeing the movie myself during its theatrical release, it’s easy to understand why. A disturbing yet mesmerizing psychological thriller about a girl who runs away from a cult only to become increasingly paranoid that its members have tracked her down, “Martha Marcy May Marlene” (so titled for the various names that its protagonist uses throughout the course of the film) is bone-chilling suspense at its best. Durkin’s cleverly edited transitions between past and present are so disorienting that you start to become as paranoid as Martha herself, while star-in-the-making Elizabeth Olsen delivers an incredible performance that should have netted her an Oscar nomination. “Martha Marcy May Marlene” is one of those rare movies that stay with long after it’s over, sparking debate about its purposefully vague ending. It’s sure to enrage some, but most cinephiles will love every gripping minute.
Blu-ray Highlight: The list of included bonus material isn’t as impressive as it sounds, but fans of the movie will still no doubt be interested in director Sean Durkin’s short film “Mary Last Seen,” which serves as a companion piece to “Martha Marcy May Marlene.”
Though a lot of people were quick to condemn “Tower Heist” before they even had a chance to see it, I was hopeful that Brett Ratner – who’s a better director than he gets credit for – would prove them wrong. After all, not only did the movie boast a promising setup and a great cast (including the potentially dynamic pairing of Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy), but the script was co-written by Ted Griffin, who penned the “Ocean’s Eleven” remake and co-created the excellent but short-lived FX drama “Terriers.” In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have been so optimistic, because despite its timely subject matter and the aforementioned components, “Tower Heist” never really makes the most of its potential. There are a handful of humorous moments littered throughout, but for the most part, it’s a rather unmemorable heist movie that’s biggest disappointment is its mediocrity.
Blu-ray Highlight: Universal has provided a solid collection of bonus material for the two-disc release, but the audio commentary with director Brett Ratner, co-writers Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson, and editor Mark Helfrich is the clear standout. In addition to revealing some interesting anecdotes about the long road from development to production (including Eddie Murphy’s original pitch for an all-black cast with guys like Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and Chris Tucker), the quartet also talks about working with the ensemble cast and the challenges of filming the movie’s various set pieces.
Channing Tatum must have made a deal with the Devil earlier in his life, because it’s the only possible explanation as to why Hollywood is so obsessed with him. After seven years in the business, Tatum hasn’t delivered a single performance that’s convinced me he has any real talent as an actor, and yet he continues to get work in high-profile projects. Director Dito Montiel is perhaps the worst offender, having cast him in all of three of his films, including this laughable police drama that also stars Al Pacino, Ray Liotta and Katie Holmes. The only thing worse than watching Tatum bumble his way through yet another leading role is the dreadful script by Montiel, which lazily strings together a series of incredibly pointless events and moments of manufactured conflict that are so easily avoidable it can be viewed as nothing less than an insult to the audience’s integrity.
Blu-ray Highlight: There are only two extras on the disc, but the audio commentary with writer/director Dito Montiel and executive producer/editor Jake Pushinsky offers up some interesting nuggets about making the film despite the long stretches of silence.
For as many times as “Weeds” has had to reinvent itself over the years, it’s pretty amazing that the show is still on the air. But instead of bowing out on what would have been a fairly suitable ending with Season Six, the Showtime comedy has returned with perhaps its most ludicrous set of episodes yet. Season Seven not only feels like a retread of previous years, but the episodes are all over the place, with character ambitions and loyalties changing so frequently that you wonder whether creator Jenji Kohan came into the season with any sort of game plan. “Weeds” has never been a very realistic show, but some of the things that happen over the course of the season are so implausible that it doesn’t even feel like the writers are trying anymore. Even the cliffhanger in the season finale – generally one of the show’s strong points – is pretty lame, and it’s the first time that I haven’t been genuinely excited about the possibility of more “Weeds.” Although the return to the show’s weed-dealing roots was a smart move, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s long past time for Showtime to pull “Weeds” from its rotation.
Blu-ray Highlight: “Weeds” has never been particularly great about delivering quality special features, but you can always count on there being at least a few commentaries with the cast and crew. This time around, there are six to choose from, including Jenji Kohan on the premiere and finale, Justin Kirk on “Object Impermanence” and Kevin Nealon on “Vehement v. Vigorous.” They would have been a lot more entertaining if they had gotten these guys in the same room together, but something is better than nothing.