Blu-rays of the Week
Bringing back Lara Croft in this era of rebooting everything is a no-brainer, as is Alicia Vikander replacing Angelina Jolie, since Vikander’s athleticism is less freakishly superhero-ish—she owns the role for however many sequels the producers want to make. The movie itself is divertingly forgettable, with stunts and special effects galore, but the nonsensical adventure is the last thing anyone will remember with Vikander so busy reviving a blockbuster franchise. The hi-def transfer is excellent; extras include four making-of featurettes.
Hector Berlioz’s 1838 grand opera Benvenuto Cellini—a largely fictionalized overview of events in the life of the great 16th century Italian sculptor—gets an energetic 2015 Dutch National Opera staging by former Monty Python member (and creator of Brazil and The Fisher King) Terry Gilliam, who squeezes out a lot more humor than drama; his cast keeps up with the frenetic pace, led by John Osborn’s Cellini. A virtually unknown opera by Niccolò Jommelli, Il Vologeso, was unearthed centuries after its 1766 premiere, but it’s such a run-of-the-mill baroque work that it’s unsurprising it’s been eclipsed by so many better operas. Still, the Stuttgart production is first-rate, as are the performers and musicians. Both operas have terrific hi-def video and audio; too bad there are no extras, since a Gilliam Cellini interview (or commentary) would have been a hoot.
Helped by a clever plot twist—crooks use an impending hurricane to cover their tracks when they rob a U.S. mint—this basically risible crime drama remains watchable mostly because it’s a blast to discover what ludicrous pieces of nature’s wrath happen to move the crazy plot forward. Director Rob Cohen keeps his tongue in cheek, especially during the nutso finale in which dangerous winds claim victims that include 18-wheelers. A game cast featuring Maggie Grace (an actress who deserves better movies) is another plus. The film looks fine on Blu; extras are Cohen’s commentary, deleted scenes and featurettes.
Philippe de Broca’s 1966 tragicomedy has attained cult status over the years with its optimistic allegorical theme—“in an insane world, the insane are sane”—and a story of inmates of an asylum in a deserted French town at WWI’s end crowning a Scottish soldier, sent to disarm bombs retreating Germans left, as their leader. Alan Bates is charming, Genevieve Bujold is stunning, and a bevy of French performers—Daniel Boulanger, Pierre Brasseur, Jean-Claude Brialy and Michel Serrault, for starters—gives this slight satire the energy it needs to get to the finish line. The new hi-def transfer looks superb; extras are new interviews with Bujold and cinematographer Pierre Lhomme along with a commentary.
The original The Strangers, from 2008, wasn’t necessarily begging for a sequel, and this belated attempt tries but fails miserably to equal or even come near its occasional chills, with a non-existent plot, characters doing the dumbest things imaginable, and a finale that doesn’t even raise a sigh let alone a scream. It all looks good enough in hi-def; extras include an alternate ending and an alternate (unrated) cut of the film, music video and featurettes.