THIS WEEK’S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
“47 Ronin”: The legend of the 47 Ronin, a real-life group of master-less samurai in 18th-century Japan who avenged the murder of their master, has been the backbone of stories and plays for a couple centuries now, so it’s a shame that the story had to be tarnished by this uninspired special-effects yarn starring Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Kou Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano and Rinko Kikuchi. In this outing, Reeves plays Kai, a half-Japanese, half-British outcast, raised in the forest by mystical Tengu warriors, who is taken in by a benevolent master to become a samurai, only to be sold into slavery when the master is treacherously murdered by a rival warlord. Kai is freed from slavery by one of the ronin, and helps lead the 47 ronin into battle with the evil warlord, but not before fighting a never-ending supply of weird creatures, mystical warriors, and a bewitchingly beautiful witch. Unfortunately, Reeves is just not up to the chore of being an action star, and despite the support of a talented cast, the movie stumbles and falls before the sword of dull action, cardboard characters, and leaden pacing. It’s been done better before. Extras include a behind-the-scenes featurette and deleted scenes. From Universal.
Also due this week: “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” with Will Ferrell and the boys returning for more of their brand of insensitive comedy; here news anchor Ron Burgundy loses his San Diego gig and moves to the Big Apple to foist his ego on a 24-hour news channel. From Paramount. The film was unavailable for review.
“The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Fully Roasted” is a six-disc set with 17 complete and unedited Celebrity Roasts representing the best of the nine years (beginning in 1974) of the “The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts,” featuring a who’s who roster of roastees, including Betty White, (then) Gov. Ronald Reagan, Bette Davis, Muhammad Ali, George Burns, Angie Dickinson, Telly Savalas, Dan Rowan & Dick Martin, Sen. Barry Goldwater, Suzanne Somers, George Washington (portrayed by Jan Leighton), Dennis Weaver, Ralph Nader, Gabe Kaplan, Redd Foxx, Hugh Hefner and Zsa Zsa Gabor. The list of roasters include Milton Berle, Red Buttons, Phyllis Diller, Bonnie Franklin, Rich Little, Abe Vigoda, Jimmie Walker, Orson Welles, Jack Benny, Dom DeLuise, Henry Fonda, Ruth Buzzi, Wilt Chamberlain, Howard Cosell, Billy Crystal, Gene Kelly, LaWanda Page, Jackie Mason, Jimmy Stewart, Shelley Winters, Bob Newhart, Carroll O’Connor, Jack Klugman, Johnny Bench, and many, many others. There’s also bonus comedy sketches featuring Martin, Howard Cosell, Vincent Price, Steve Lawrence, Audrey Meadows, Buddy Hackett and others; three featurettes: “Ladies of the Dais,” “Roast in Hell – Politicians Under Fire,” “Beauty & the Beast: Ruth Buzzi vs. Muhammad Ali”; interviews with Phyllis Diller, Shirley Jones, Tony Danze, Carol Burnett, Ruth Buzzi, Angie Dickinson, Jimmie Walker. On DVD, $59.95 from StarVista/Time Life.
This week’s Blu-ray debuts: “Fargo Remastered Edition” (1996), “Joe Kidd” (1972), “King Kong Escapes” (1968), “King Kong vs. Godzilla” (1963), “No Holds Barred” (1989), “Norma Rae” (1979), “Once” (2006), “Rooster Cogburn” (1975), “Two Mules for Sister Sara” (1970) and “The War Wagon” (1967). Read more.
BUZZIN’ THE ‘B’S:
“The Bag Man” (2014), starring Robert De Niro, John Cusack, Dominic Purcell, Crispin Glover, Sticky Fingaz and Rebecca Da Costa has all the right elements — a great cast, a line-up of weird and off-the-wall characters, and a Quentin Tarantino-like plot — but just doesn’t click. Jack (Cusack), a low-rent thug, thinks he’s hit the jackpot when legendary crime boss Dragna (De Niro) gives him a simple assignment: pick up a package and deliver it — don’t open it, and don’t ask questions. But over the course of a long and increasingly violent night waiting in a seedy motel, the bag attracts the attention of a slew of shady characters — including femme fatale Rivka (Da Costa), the sleazy motel manager, a one-eyed gangster, an undersized hit man and a crooked cop. The result — a lot of bloodshed and inane conversation, false endings and improbable circumstances. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc, from Universal.