Love and vampires.
That's one way to sum up some of the new releases on DVD and Blu-ray released Tuesday, which include the difficult romance of Take This Waltz (Magnolia, $26.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray) and the ax-slinging bloodshed of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Fox, $29.98 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo and $10 more for a package including the 3-D Blu-ray).
Take This Waltz is a wrenching tale starring Michelle Williams as a married woman who falls for her neighbor. Seth Rogen plays her husband, Luke Kirby is the new romantic interest, and Sarah Silverman has several terrific moments as a friend of Williams.
Directed by Sarah Polley, who also did Away From Her, the movie is very much about the difference between romantic fantasy and mundane reality, about what commitment means and about what we should be willing to do in the name of love. Extras include a making-of segment.
I had to see a movie called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Well, I thought I had to see it. Like another misfire, Cowboys and Aliens, it had a title that seemed so loony that a movie with the same tone would be fun to watch. But the Vampire Hunter that actually appeared onscreen was a very somber effort.
Based on the novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, the movie really seems to think audiences will ponder whether vampires would have shaped Lincoln's character and America's course as much as the real-life horrors of slavery and war did. But that's elevating the subject far too high; this deserves more of the giddy tone of the old Saturday Night Live sketch pondering what Spartacus would have done with a Piper Cub. Absent any campiness, Vampire Hunter proves too self-important. It has some thrilling action, especially in 3-D, but overall it's a wasted opportunity. Extras include audio commentary by Grahame-Smith and a making-of segment.
Turning to classic films, Criterion is releasing a restored version of Sunday Bloody Sunday ($29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray), the 1971 film with Glenda Jackson and Peter Finch as people romantically involved with the same man (actor-singer Murray Head). Directed by John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy), it is still admired for its matter-of-fact approach to sexuality, even if at times it is too talky or Schlesinger's images too artsy. Finch and Jackson are both wonderful.
Extras include a long discussion of the making of the film, including the struggles over the script; Schlesinger saw it in very personal terms, and battled with writer Penelope Gilliatt. There are also interviews, an audio interview with Schlesinger (who died in 2003) and a booklet with an essay about the film and Gilliatt's introduction to her published screenplay in 1971.
Also of note: A new Tinker Bell adventure, Secret of the Wings (Disney, $29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray/ DVD combo, $49.99 with the 3-D Blu-ray added to the combo); The Ernie Kovacs Collection Volume 2 (Shout! Factory, $29.93 DVD), more TV adventures of the broadcasting pioneer, including a rare interview, and Blade Runner: 30th Anniversary Collector's Edition (Warner, $34.99 Blu-ray/DVD combo). the latest repackaging of various incarnations of the film.
Down video road
Director William Friedkin's Killer Joe arrives on Dec. 21. Cult film Two-Lane Blacktop, with James Taylor and Dennis Wilson, will be on a Criterion Blu-ray on Jan. 8. Hope Springs, the delightful Tommy Lee Jones/ Meryl Streep comedy-drama, will be available Dec. 4.