I’ve mentioned on several occasions how great the selection of Blu-rays has been this summer, and it’s not just the quality of the films that matters, but the variety as well. This week’s lineup of new releases is a perfect example, with something for just about everyone. Though I wish that a review copy of “Lockout” had arrived in time to include in my column, there’s still quite a bit here to keep you entertained for most of the week.
“Mean Streets” is one of those movies that’s lingered on my must-see list for years but I never found the time to watch, so this Blu-ray release was the perfect opportunity to remedy the situation. But whether it was just a case of my expectations being too high or something else altogether, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. Although there’s some great stuff in the movie that Martin Scorsese went on to utilize to even better effect in future projects, the sum of those parts feels too raw and unpolished. Robert De Niro delivers a stellar supporting performance in the first of his many collaborations with Scorsese, but the rest of the acting isn’t quite up to par. The story is also pretty lacking for a movie that runs nearly two hours in length, and it wastes so much time on petty confrontations that by the time the big finale finally arrives, my interest had waned considerably. I may be in the minority when it comes to the gritty crime drama, but when you’ve already seen all the other Scorsese/De Niro team-ups, it’s understandable why this might pale in comparison.
Blu-ray Highlight: Any audio commentary with Martin Scorsese should be considered mandatory listening material, and the one included here featuring the director with co-writer/frequent collaborator Mardik Martin and actress Amy Robinson is no exception.
For a movie that’s considered by many to be the best musical of all time, it’s surprising that Warner Bros. took so long to release it on Blu-ray, although you could say the same for a lot of their classic titles. In celebration of its 60th anniversary (hardly an important milestone, but one that sounds impressive nonetheless), the studio has spared no expense for the film’s Blu-ray debut, which boasts a new 4k high definition video transfer that looks amazing. Though it’s a little strange to watch the movie after having seen “The Artist” (which, let’s be honest, was obviously heavily influenced by “Singin’ in the Rain”), it’s still a really enjoyable flick. The story is admittedly a bit cheesy, but almost every song-and-dance number is memorable, and the main three actors are perfectly cast in their roles. In fact, although the film may be a Gene Kelly vehicle, it’s his two co-stars that steal the show. Donald O’Connor manages to keep up with the fleet-footed Kelly every step of the way (and makes you laugh while doing so), while Debbie Reynolds is so charming that you’d be crazy not to fall madly in love with her the minute she appears onscreen.
Blu-ray Highlight: The Ultimate Collector’s Edition box set comes packed with some pretty cool goodies (including a 42-page hardcover book and your very own umbrella), but the all-new documentary “Raining on a New Generation” is the best of the limited bonus material. Featuring interviews with the likes of Paula Abdul, Matthew Morrison and Harry Shum Jr. of “Glee,” and the directors and choreographers of recent movie and TV musicals, the featurette is an interesting retrospective on the film that covers the choreography, ensemble cast and the effect that it still has on Hollywood today.
The Will Ferrell Spanish-language comedy “Casa de mi Padre” is exactly what you’d expect from the “Saturday Night Live” alum; although it’s good for a few laughs, the film’s one-joke premise ultimately results in more gags that miss their marks than hit them. One part telenovela and one part cheesy Mexican Western, “Casa de mi Padre” has its share of funny moments, but it’s the kind of movie that rarely yields more than a chuckle from the audience. It’s also a very odd film – even more so than the typical Ferrell comedy – complete with musical numbers, painted backgrounds and talking animal puppets. Ferrell handles the challenge of acting entirely in Spanish remarkably well, and co-stars Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal seem to be having a blast playing along, but it’s a gimmick that loses its charm pretty fast. Fans of the actor will undoubtedly enjoy his latest effort in a series of bizarre career moves, but for everyone else, the movie’s quirkiness only goes so far.
Blu-ray Highlight: The audio commentary with director Matt Piedmont, writer Andrew Steele and star Will Ferrell isn’t taken very seriously, but in between all the joking, they offer up some small morsels of info about things like the script and location shooting.
Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s “Intruders” is one of the most frustrating horror-thrillers in recent years, because while the initial setup boasts a lot of potential, it’s executed so poorly that the movie comes off looking more inept than it really is. Fresnadillo tries to cram so many different genre tropes into the story that it’s hard to figure out whether he’s trying to make a straight-up horror movie, a psychological thriller or a supernatural fairy tale. In the end, “Intruders” is a tame mixture of all three, only without any of the scares or suspense you’d expect. Though the first act does a pretty good job of setting up its two connected stories and building tension, you never feel like the characters are in danger because the villain isn’t frightening at all. But where “Intruders” really drops the ball is in the final ten minutes, dragged down by a flimsy twist ending that’s not only predictable, but requires Fresnadillo to cheat a little to get there. I admire the attempt at creating something different, but when a movie can’t even play by the rules, there’s no point in watching.
Blu-ray Highlight: There are two behind-the-scenes featurettes included on the disc that are comprised almost entirely of cast and crew interviews, but the subtitles have been translated so poorly that you’d be better off just skipping the extras altogether.