What can we say? This isn’t a very robust week for home releases on video, so we’ve done the best we could to come up with some noteworthy (in one way or another) choices. Not all of these are going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but there are at least a couple of entries that should be widely appealing, if only for nostalgic purposes. The two selections competing for most interesting this week are a Werner Herzog-Nicolas Cage collaboration that many critics felt was Cage’s best performance in years (if not his entire career), while the other is Peter Jackson’s epic fantasy trilogy (do we even need to specify it by name?). We made the best of what was out there, so hopefully something here strikes your fancy.
Werner Herzog has stated in so many words that Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is not intended to be taken as either a remake or a sequel to Abel Ferrara’s 1992 film Bad Lieutenant. While the films do share a title, as well as a central character who is a corrupt cop that regularly indulges in gambling and various drugs, Port of Call New Orleans takes on a slightly campier tone, what with Nicolas Cage in the lead. Here, Cage plays a Louisiana cop who injures his back and becomes addicted to prescription drugs as a result; as he tracks down suspects in a post-Katrina murder case, he sinks deeper and deeper into the dirty underworld of New Orleans. Critics largely praised the film, helping it to a Certified Fresh 85% on the Tomatometer, and many singled out Cage’s performance as one of the best of his career. Port of Call New Orleans didn’t open very wide, though, so if you’re curious to see the movie that many feel Cage was perfectly cast for, then you can pick this up this week.
Another classic hitting Blu-Ray this week is Barry Levinson’s beloved sports drama The Natural, starring Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, and Kim Basinger, among others. The inspiring story of a young baseball player who meets with tragedy early in his life and attempts a professional comeback as a 35-year-old was adapted from a novel of the same name and is considered one of the best sports films ever made, incorporating elements of baseball’s grassroots origins and historical significance, and creating a sort of mythology of its own. The new Blu-Ray comes with the same extras found on the standard definition Director’s Cut DVD, which include several featurettes on the making of the film and baseball in general, with appearances by former players like Ryne Sandberg, Don Mattingly, and Cal Ripken, Jr, as well as a featurette on Eddie Waitkus, the former MLB player who was shot by a stalker and who was one of the inspirations for the novel upon which The Natural was based. Fans of great sports films, Robert Redford, or Barry Levinson will all enjoy the movie, which you can pick up this week in its Blu-Ray reissue.
In 2004, a classic sci-fi TV series from the 70s was resurrected with updated special effects and storylines that regularly referenced or paralleled current world events. The result was a highly successful new show that developed a bit of a cult following all its own and ran for four seasons. Now, the complete series of Battlestar Galactica has already been made available in Blu-Ray before, but that set came in a large box with a collectible Cylon head included. While many fans thought, “Free memorabilia? Cool!”, there were obviously some who just wanted the discs themselves in more traditional packaging. Well, that time has come, as BSG is being released in its entirety in a simple box set that’ll be available this week. If you held off on picking up the series before because you had no interest in the nifty Cylon, then now’s your chance to grab the set in a box that isn’t so hard to file away next to your other DVDs.
Its proof of powerful cinema that we can’t talk about slaughter on camera without invoking the ghost of one particular shower-related slashing from 1960. Well, Hammer Studios did for the post-Victorian button-up-your-collar prescriptions of Jolly Old England what J-Horror does for the uptight codes of Japanese business and society. However, Hammer Studios made more than BLOOD AND BOOBS pictures, and the fancy thing about this DVD box set (an international package out on Region 1) is its interest in Suspense over Gore or Fantasy. Cyril Frankel’s Never Take Candy from a Stranger, the Box set’s rarest inclusion, is a class-conscious drama about an elderly child molester with impeccable standing in the small town where he does his (ew) work. Plus, well after Michael Powell got publicly lambasted because of the release of his masterpiece Peeping Tom (aka The British Psycho), Hammer producer and executive Michael Carreras made Maniac (1963), a serial killer tale with plenty of nods to its British expat’s precursor. But the jewel in the crown may be Joe Losey’s 1964 These Are the Damned (aka The Damned), and it rolls around in all the angst of the classic exploitation film: backwater teens, atomic anxiety, technology-imposed human mutation, etc. There are six titles in this box, each of them skating lines of social acceptability; gotta love what’s borne of repression.
Only a few inches from the moral decrepitude and gaudy confusion of Hammer Horror we have Madonna’s Sticky Sweet Tour blu-ray. Those not in the know about Madge’s tours on DVD will think this is a sequel to Truth or Dare, but it turns out it’s the singer’s most extensively attended tour yet. Something like 3.5 million fans in 32 countries saw this Live Nation production and now Live Nation is helping the other bajillion fans and facebook gripers fill the gap in their soul left by missing that tour live. Ah, the magic of Blu-Ray. Fancy bit: the show was shot in Argentina and the highlight of that particular stop was a stand-alone performance of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.” Classics like “Material Girl” and “Borderline” are present along with newer titles like “Beat Goes On” (reportedly featuring Kanye) and “Get Stupid.” Behind the scenes bonus features included. And yes, that’s right, you just read an RT on DVD writeup for a Madonna concert DVD… Don’t blame us; blame the studios for releasing almost nothing this week!
Another 1980s phenomenon finds its way to Blu-Ray this week, as Ron Howar”s 1985 sci-fi tearjerker Cocoon gets its first high definition rerelease. For those unfamiliar with the film: the story revolves around a handful of senior citizens at a rest home who discover strange alien pods resting at the bottom of their pool; when the seniors decide to take a dip anyway, they discover they feel rejuvenated in both mind and body, and this creates a stir amongst the rest of the residents. Starring a slew of distinguished older actors, including Don Ameche, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Wilford Brimley, and more, Cocoon ultimately won two Oscars (including a Best Suporting Actor trophy for Ameche) and even spawned a sequel three years later. Special features include a Ron Howard commentary as well as featurettes on the actors’ underwater training, how the Antareans (the aliens) were created, and a general making-of special.
Peter Jackson made a name for himself when he adapted one of the most beloved (if not THE most beloved) fantasy novel series of all time, the Lord of the Rings trilogy. None of the three epic masterpieces he crafted received any lower than a 92% Tomatometer rating, and the series culminated in a multiple Oscar-winning finale with 2003’s The Return of the King. Now, watching the entire series in one sitting would be quite a feat, but if you really wanted to, now you can finally do it in Blu-Ray, as the LOTR trilogy is finally available in high definition. For those who haven’t yet experienced Middle Earth in all its glory and intrigue, what better way to make the introduction than on Blu-Ray? One thing to note here is that the box set contains the theatrical versions of each film, so you hardcore fans out there may have to wait just a little bit longer to get the extended editions in this format, but if you liked the theatrical versions just fine, then you’d be doing yourself a disservice not to snatch this up right away.
Written by Ryan Fujitani and Sara Schieron