It’s another small week, sadly, with just a few titles to report on. But check out what’s below to see if there’s anything that strikes your fancy.
Cocaine Bear – I was really excited to watch Cocaine Bear, just because it has such a fun and over-the-top concept, plus a great cast that includes Ray Liotta (in one of his final roles), Keri Russell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Margo Martindale, O’Shea Jackson Jr., and Alden Ehrenreich. So I settled in to watch a little bear mayhem and, while that is ultimately exactly what I got, I really didn’t enjoy the movie at all. As directed by Elizabeth Banks – who I generally enjoy in her outings as both an actor and a director – the film is effectively a slasher film, just with a bear hopped up on cocaine rather than a mask-wielding psycho. And that’s fine, of course, but the main problem with the film is that there is a dearth of likable characters. Honestly, at certain points I was rooting for the bear because the characters are all paper-thin cliches who are mostly losers, criminals, and just plain jerks. There are maybe one or two characters that are mildly likable, which makes it tough to root for anyone to survive. Luckily, they’re also all so incredibly stupid that survival isn’t really likely for most of them. On top of that, the film is weirdly gory. Now, I get that in a film like this, that’s to be expected to some degree but it takes things way too far for my tastes in some instances; there’s one scene in particular involving a hospital gurney that was simply disturbing and unnecessary. I know that a lot of people will like Cocaine Bear more than I did, and that’s fine, but it really wasn’t my cup of tea. File under “Disappointment.”
Magic Mike’s Last Dance – Steven Soderbergh returns to direct the third (and presumably final) Magic Mike film with the somewhat tamer-than-usual Magic Mike’s Last Dance. This outing sees Channing Tatum’s stripper getting by in the post-pandemic world by working as a food server, until a fateful meeting with a rich and sexy woman, played by Salma Hayek. She gets wind of Mike’s dancing prowess and enlists him to launch a musical show in London, which leads to an all-new cast of male dancers gracing the screen, and possibly a hint of romance. The supporting cast from the previous films is absent this time around – and their presence is missed – but the film still manages to check most of the boxes that I’ll assume the target audience wants, namely lots of sexy dancing. Now, personally, I’ve always enjoyed the Magic Mike films and while I found this one the weakest of the three, it’s still relatively enjoyable. Salma Hayek’s presence is always welcome and she adds a new dimension to the film that I enjoyed. Tatum is in prime form as usual, and the dance sequences are spectacularly choreographed. The film is still rated R, but it definitely feels a little less dangerous than the previous two, although there are still a few fairly steamy moments. Ultimately, though, if you liked the first two films, I suspect you’ll enjoy this one as well.
Rebel Without a Cause – As part of Warner Bros.’ 100th Anniversary Collection, the studio is dropping new 4K Ultra HD releases of a number of their perennial catalog favorites. This week, James Dean’s signature role hits the premium format with the inaugural 4K release of Rebel Without A Cause. Dean is smoldering and electric in his most famous role, the one that would cement his place as a Hollywood legend for decades to come. Co-starring Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo, the film sees Dean as a young man with a troubled past in a new town. Teen melodrama ensues, leading to things like a switchblade duel and a deadly came of chicken, and while the events may be a snapshot of a particular time in American history, the emotions underlying them remain alive and well. James Dean – in his iconic red jacket – is obviously the star of the show here, but both Wood and Mineo also give excellent performances. The film has been remastered and restored for its inaugural 4K presentation, and it looks and sounds astounding for a film pushing 70 years old. The colors are vibrant (check out Dean’s famed jacket), imagery is crystal clear with fine details, and shadow delineation is excellent in the nighttime scenes. The Dolby Atmos surround soundtrack offers up more use of the discrete channels than you’d expect from a ‘50s film, and the entire presentation is terrific. The extra features are carried over from a previous Blu-ray, but since that includes a feature-length documentary on James Dean, it’s hard to argue with that. Rebel Without a Cause is a truly legendary film, and it’s never looked or sounded better on home video.
The Seventh Seal – The Criterion Collection brings one of cinema’s most celebrated films to the 4K Ultra HD format this week with the release of Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. Even if you’ve never seen the film, chances are good that you’re familiar with the scenes where Max Von Sydow’s knight plays chess with no less than Death himself. It’s a famous sequence that’s been paid homage to and spoofed many times (including, famously, in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, one of my favorites) and so it’s no surprise that this film was chosen for inclusion in the prestigious Criterion Collection. (It was originally released on Blu-ray and DVD back in 2009, and now it’s been re-released on 4K Ultra HD for the first time, with a Blu-ray included in the set as well.) Now, normally, I would say that 65-year-old esoteric ruminations on life and death in black-and-white (and another language) are not my cup of tea, but such is the power of Bergman’s work (and Von Sydow’s performance) that The Seventh Seal is a really powerful and fascinating film. If you’ve never seen it, I can’t say it’s a rollercoaster thrill ride, but I do think you’ll enjoy it more than you might expect to based on the description of it. The film has been restored and remastered for the 4K Ultra HD release, and it looks and sounds incredible. While color saturation is obviously not a factor, the contrasts and subtleties in the black-and-white presentation are nuanced and textured. Image clarity is very impressive, and the overall look of the film is extremely pleasing to the eye. The extra features include an audio commentary, multiple featurettes, and a feature-length documentary on Ingmar Bergman, plus the usual insight-filled essay booklet. As always, The Criterion Collection delivers in spades.
What’s New on Home Video – April 18th, 2023 – Cocaine Bear, Magic Mike, James Dean, & More!
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