I hope you like random catalog movies finally getting a release on Blu-ray, because this is an oddly sparse week for new releases. That’s okay, however, because one of the few new films out this week also happens to be one of the best films of the year.
Note: Normally we link to Amazon just for the pure convenience of it, but there’s an atypically large number of MGM/UA catalog Blu-rays exclusive to Walmart hitting this week. So while we don’t have any links for them, head to Walmart if any of these strike your fancy: A Fish Called Wanda, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Legally Blonde, Throw Momma From the Train, When Harry Met Sally.
The Movie: Since I was lucky enough to catch 13 Assassins last October at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, I keep forgetting that, as far as US dates go, it’s a 2011 release. That’s important to remember, of course, because every time I start to think to myself, “Man, it’s been a pretty lackluster year for movies so far,” I can be reminded that Takashi Miike’s best film in well over a decade is the best film of the year (so far, of course, though if it does end up getting dethroned, I’ll be both stunned and incredibly excited for whatever unthinkable title takes the crown).
Magnolia has made the film available on pretty much every On Demand platform in the country (in addition to a theatrical run) over the past few months, but there’s no doubt that the majority of film goers have still never even heard of this truly glorious film about samurai doing what samurai do best: defending honor. Only, because this is in fact a Miike film (though vastly more accessible than 99% of his movies), said defense of honor ends in a blood bath that will make your head spin. This is the kind of movie that will be slowly but surely discovered over the years. Friend after friend will say, “Man, I just watched this totally badass samurai movie you just have to see!” And you’ll go, “Yeah, yeah, 13 Assassins-- I saw that ages ago. Show me something I don’t already know about.”
The Features: There are roughly 18 minutes of deleted scenes, all of which were chopped out of the original Japanese release for this cut (the international release). Considering the international cut is already the perfect length, the absence of this non-crucial material really isn’t felt. Beyond that there’s a roughly 18-minute making-of that gives a succinct overview of the most of the creative choices behind the film.
Buy It If: You love cinema. 13 Assassins is a truly magnificent film that should be missed under no circumstances.
The Movie: I really wish I liked Hobo With a Shotgun more than I do. It’s got all the makings for a movie I should inhale like crack - Rutger Hauer killing fools with grindhouse stylings - but I just don’t seem to be in love with it the way a lot of people are. I don’t hate it by any means, and I do think it’s a more robust film than you’d expect from a fake trailer turned into a real movie, but there’s just something about it that never fully connected with me. Perhaps I’ll respond more to it at home on the small screen than I did on the big screen.
The Features: Magnolia isn’t in the habit of loading their Blu-rays with goodies, but fortunately for Hobo fans, there are a ton of goods here including, but hardly limited to: multiple audio commentaries, alternate ending, deleted scenes, multiple making-of featurettes, video blogs, and something called “Shotgun mode,” though since a review copy wasn’t available, I have no idea what that actually is.
Buy It If: You’ve got a sweet tooth for the single minded simplicity of grindhouse flicks. If you require a bit more meat on your genre bones, however, rent this instead.
All the Rest:
I kind of love this movie, probably much more than I actually should.
Just look at Ving Rhames on that cover. I've never heard of this movie, but now I just have to see it.
Gettysburg / Gods and Generals Limited Collector's Edition (Warner Bros., $55.99)