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.
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.
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.
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.”