Movies

A Pair Of Fascinating Flops Lead This Week’s Home Video Releases

Picks of the Week:
Howard The Duck (Universal)
Xanadu (Universal)
A tale of two flops: In 1980 Universal released Xanadu starring Olivia Newton-John and a late-career Gene Kelly. A sort-of disco musical fantasy (with roller skating!), it flopped at the box office, but gradually picked up a cult following tuned in to its campy delights, even inspiring a Broadway musical adaptation in 2007. “So-bad-it’s-good” is a slippery label to lay on a movie. Xanadu knows exactly what it is: A fundamentally silly movie with a game cast and a bunch of great songs from ELO. It’s not trying to not go over the top. It just took a while for others to catch on to how charming its brand of over-the-top could be.

Exhibit B: There’s much less affection for Howard the Duck, a 1986 adaptation of one of Marvel’s more bizarre characters produced by George Lucas and co-written by Lucas’ old American Graffiti pals Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck, and directed by Huyck. By contrast, it has no idea what it wants to be, substituting the finest mid-’80s special effects money could buy for the satirical attitude that made Steve Gerber’s original run on the comic so compelling. It’s not so bad it’s good. But it’s so bad it’s kind of fascinating. Both, in spite of their initial receptions, have lingered in the public consciousness, even if Howard‘s lasted mostly as a cautionary tale. And both make their way to Blu-ray this week.

Also new:
The Peanuts Movie
(20th Century Fox)
That huge sigh of relief you heard this past fall? It came from longtime fans of Charles Schulz’s wise, winning comic strip who feared the worst from a new big-screen adaptation. Instead they got a charming film filled with nods to Peanuts history that seemed destined to win over a new generation of fans.

Macbeth (Anchor Bay)
Shakespeare’s bloodiest play gets a bloody adaptation starring Michael Fassbender and directed by Justin Kurzel, who are currently working on an adaptation of Assassins Creed. That might have less blank verse, but will likely be no less violent than this, which Uproxx reviewer Jenni Miller called “goth as hell.”

Species II (Scream Factory)
Species III / Species: The Awakening (Scream Factory)
It’s a good day for fans of the Species series, and the idea of sex-crazed murderous aliens in general. Not only is the better-than-its-reputation 1998 sequel Species II making its way to Blu-ray via the reliable Scream Factory, so are its follow-ups, which kept the series alive on what was then called The Sci-Fi Channel and DVD.

Paris Belongs To Us (Criterion)
French New Wave director Jacques Rivette died this past January, but there’s little doubt his legacy will live on. This past year saw the revival of the full-length Out 1, long the holy grail of unobtainable movies. It’s been a little easier to catch Paris Belongs To Us, Rivette’s 1960 debut, but that doesn’t make the arrival of a features-heavy Criterion edition any less welcome.

The Tribe (Cinedigm)
Set in a boarding school for deaf students, this Ukrainian film shocked arthouse audiences last year with its frank depiction of sex, violence, and criminality among the hearing impaired.

The Forbidden Room (Kino)
Occasionally a musical artist will release an album of new material that sounds like a greatest hits recording, one that revisits and builds upon past triumphs. This latest from Guy Maddin, which nests films within films within films, all shot in a style that pays homage to the past while still looking like no movie ever made, is a bit like that.

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