Blu Tuesday: Vampires, Asteroids and Bohemians

Don’t be deceived by the small selection of titles in this week’s column, because there are a lot of great Blu-rays hitting stores that weren’t available for review, including the 30th Anniversary Edition of “Blade Runner,” a special edition of the “Universal Classic Monsters” collection, and Steven Soderbergh’s “Magic Mike.” That doesn’t mean that the following Blu-rays aren’t any good, but the ones that aren’t featured are even better.

“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”

There have been quite a few movies about the end of the world released over the last two years, which means that either people are more miserable than I realized, or the Mayans were right. Of course, the problem with basing a story around such a bleak topic is that it’s depressing – something that “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” tries to avoid by injecting some humor into the proceedings. But even though it fancies itself a rom-com of sorts (albeit one with a dark and not so chewy center), there’s nothing very funny about the apocalypse, and so “Seeking a Friend” is never able to become the movie it wants to be. Though the idea of pairing Steve Carell with Keira Knightley may sound strange, they work well together. It’s definitely a welcome change of pace for Knightley from the stuffy period pieces we’re used to seeing her in, and she brings some much-needed emotional weight to the film. It’s just too bad that the end product is so unbalanced, because “Seeking a Friend” had more than enough talent (between its two stars and the various cameos) to suggest it would be better than this.

Blu-ray Highlight: It may seem a bit weird to hear people like Patton Oswalt and Adam Brody on an audio commentary for a movie they’re barely in, but the two actors help make the track – which also includes writer/director Lorene Scafaria, her mother Gail, and producer Joy Gorman – more lively and entertaining. Brody, in particular, does a good job of keeping the group on course by asking general questions about filming.

“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”

You’d expect that a movie called “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” would have a certain amount of humor to it, but save for a couple unintentional laughs, Timur Bekmambetov’s big screen adaption of the Seth-Grahame Smith novel plays things surprisingly straight. That wouldn’t be such a problem if it was meant to help sell the comedy of its ridiculous premise, but the movie is starkly serious and almost completely void of any fun. Granted, watching Lincoln slice and dice vampires with a silver-tipped axe provides some amusement (especially when we finally get to see the older, bearded version in action), but those moments don’t come often enough. Benjamin Walker proves himself an adequate choice for the role of the 16th President, and Dominic Cooper is good as Lincoln’s vampire hunting mentor, but the movie always seems to be just on the precipice of embracing its comic potential, only to resist at the last minute, and in that regard, it fails pretty spectacularly in delivering the kind of B-movie guilty pleasure that its whimsical title would suggest.

Blu-ray Highlight: In addition to a fairly informative audio commentary by writer Seth Grahame-Smith, the disc also includes a collection of production featurettes (ranging from a basic making-of documentary, to more specific departments like make-up effects and fight choreography) that fans of the movie will definitely want to check out.

“Sunday Bloody Sunday”

John Schlesinger’s 1971 British drama “Sunday Bloody Sunday” may have been really well-received when it was originally released in theaters, but it doesn’t quite hold up by today’s standards. Though there’s no question that it was way ahead of its time (and some might even say groundbreaking) in the casual treatment of its gay relationship between Peter Finch’s closeted doctor and Murray Head’s bisexual artist, it’s also incredibly slow and boring at times. I love a good character study just as much as the next person, but none of the characters in “Sunday Bloody Sunday” are fascinating enough to hold your interest, and when a movie relies on its characters as much as this one does, that can prove troublesome. The constantly shifting perspectives makes it very difficult to connect to any of the three leads, and there are a few weird moments scattered throughout (like the pot-smoking kids, the dog’s death and the flashbacks) that feel random and completely pointless. It’s still worth checking out for Finch’s performance, but it’s questionable whether the movie deserved the Criterion treatment.

Blu-ray Highlight: There’s not as much on tap as some Criterion discs, but fans will be happy to discover a nice collection of interviews with John Schlesinger, actor Murray Head, and others that worked on the film, as well as an interesting retrospective on the movie by Schlesinger biographer William J. Mann titled “On Sunday Bloody Sunday.”


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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to June

With the exception of Marvel’s “The Avengers” (which not only lived up to expectations, but is also currently destroying the competition at the box office), last month wasn’t exactly the greatest start to the summer season. Thankfully, June looks like it’s going to fare a little better, with a return by director Ridley Scott to the genre that made his name, the latest from animation giants Pixar, and even some good old schlock in the form of Abraham Lincoln versus vampires. It’s hardly the type of blockbuster month we’re used to, but there’s enough variety and promise among these films that it doesn’t matter.


Who: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron and Sam Claflin
What: A twist on the classic fairy tale where the Huntsman ordered to kill Snow White winds up becoming her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen.
When: June 1st
Why: First-time director Rupert Sanders’ coming out party looks mighty impressive from a visual standpoint, and I’d like to believe that a cast of this caliber (from the three leads down to the seven dwarfs) wouldn’t have signed on to the project if the script wasn’t good. The idea of adapting the popular story into a fantasy action film is certainly an inspired one, as it not only broadens audience appeal, but allows for the introduction of newer elements as well. I’m a bit surprised that Universal hasn’t revealed more of the aforementioned dwarfs in the marketing campaign, but while they’ll likely play a bigger part in the movie, it’s quite refreshing not to have every single detail ruined in advance.


Who: Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green, Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron
What: A team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind, leading them to a distant world where they must fight to save the future of the human race.
When: June 8th
Why: Whether or not “Prometheus” has anything to do with the original “Alien” (and at this point, I don’t think even Ridley Scott knows for certain), it’s shaping up to be one of the coolest movies of the year, despite my concerns that it’ll pull a “John Carter” at the box office. The trailers have done an excellent job of whetting our appetites while still remaining fairly elusive about what the hell is going on, and from the footage I’ve seen, it’s obvious that the film shares many of the same visual and tonal cues with the 1979 sci-fi horror classic. Though Noomi Rapace has a lot to prove in her first Hollywood leading role, Scott has smartly surrounded her with enough talent that she’s under no real pressure to carry the movie on her own. With that said, however, she certainly looks the part of an Ellen Ripley substitute, and that’s something worth getting excited about.


Who: Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson, Mark Duplass and Karan Soni
What: Three magazine employees head out on an assignment to interview a guy who placed a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel.
When: June 8th
Why: I had the good fortune of seeing the Sundance hit at SXSW earlier this year, and I can’t say enough great things about it. Based on a real-life classified ad that became an Internet meme, “Safety Not Guaranteed” is a magical film about the human spirit whose charm is difficult to ignore. The character-driven dramedy is an amalgamation of everything that’s great about indie filmmaking – from its hugely original script, to the quirky characters, to the incredibly honest and funny performances by its cast. But the one thing that it does better than anything else is create a cinematic experience that’s rich in both comedy and emotion. A lot of movies have tried to juggle the two in the past, but “Safety Not Guaranteed” is one of those rare few that pull it off almost effortlessly.

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