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Blu-ray Highlights: Week of August 25th, 2013 – There Is No Confusion Like the Confusion of a Simple Mind

The dog days of August are almost over. Hopefully, we’ll see some more interesting Blu-ray releases come down the pike next month. In the meantime, Michael Bay makes a trashy movie about scummy lowlifes, while Baz Luhrmann adapts one of the greatest masterworks in English literature. Which one do you think will be more obnoxiously overwrought? My money’s on the Luhrmann.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (8/27/13)?

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That’s a rhetorical question I ask in the intro paragraph, of course. I have no intention of watching either movie.

New Releases

Pain & Gain‘ is the first movie Michael Bay has made in a long time without any giant robots in it. Made on a (relatively) low budget, early buzz claimed that this was Bay’s apology for the ‘Transformers’ franchise and his attempt to get back to his ‘Bad Boys’ roots – as if ‘Bad Boys’ were really a standard of quality that anyone should strive to recapture. (It’s also odd that the man currently in pre-production for ‘Transformers 4′ would feel the need to apologize for the first three ‘Transformers’ movies, but Bay has a habit of trashing his own work sometimes.) This one is based on the true story of three dimwit bodybuilders who went on a crime spree that involved torturing and murdering multiple people. Naturally, Bay thinks that the story is absolutely hilarious and made it into a rollicking action comedy that glorifies the murderers as likeable antiheroes. Of course he did. The word “reprehensible” comes up in a lot of reviews of the film. Our Aaron Peck describes it as “grotesquely idiotic.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby‘ is a novel about the emotional emptiness and spiritual corruption of the American Dream perverted by the decadence and excess of wealth. Baz Luhrmann is a filmmaker for whom decadence and excess are like water and air. He knows nothing else and cannot live without them. It should go without saying that by adapting ‘Gatsby’ into a gaudy, 3D, hyperactive, hip-hop musical extravaganza, the director has utterly missed the point of one of the most famous and influential books of all time. Whether you can forgive him this is entirely up to you. Personally, I suffered through about half an hour of Luhrmann’s ‘Moulin Rouge!’ before my brain threatened to melt and pour out through my nostrils. You couldn’t force me to watch this one at gunpoint. I would beg you for the bullet before the opening credits left the screen.

Of perhaps more promise is ‘Kon-Tiki‘, a Norwegian adventure film about famous explorer Thor Heyerdal’s 1947 crossing of the Pacific Ocean on a wooden raft. The movie was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, and the two directors have since been hired to helm the next ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ sequel. I’ll try not to hold that last part against them.

Catalog Titles

On the classic film front, the Criterion Collection offers a high-def edition of Ernst Lubitsch’s delightful WWII comedy ‘To Be or Not to Be‘, starring Jack Benny and Carole Lombard, while Olive Films brings us Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in the romantic drama ‘Penny Serenade‘.

After the way that Disney botched the recent Blu-ray edition of ‘The Sword in the Stone‘, let’s hope that the studio can do a little better with the charming 1977 ‘The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh‘.

Through its Scream Factory label, Shout! Factory unleashes B-movie auteur Larry Cohen’s 1982 monster flick ‘Q: The Winged Serpent‘. This low-budget cheesefest is corny as hell, but has a cult of defenders.

Television

In most respects, the third season of ‘The Walking Dead‘ is a rebound from the disappointing Season 2, but the show continues to be frustratingly uneven. If you’re a fan, you have the choice of buying the new box set in standard packaging, a Limited Edition with a cheesy fish tank playset (it makes sense when you watch the season), or a Target-exclusive SteelBook. I’m a SteelBook collector, but it would bug me to only have one middle season of an ongoing series in a metal case without any of the others that way.

I still have yet to watch any of ‘Sons of Anarchy‘, the fifth season of which is now available on disc. It seems a little late to start from the beginning now, and I hear that the show took a dive in quality a while back anyway. Is that fair to say?

Very compelling to me is the Complete Collection box set of the original British ‘Prime Suspect‘. Although technically the show ran for seven seasons (which aired sporadically from 1991 to 2006), that really only comes to about fifteen episodes. Still, this is supposed to be one of the best police dramas of all time. And who doesn’t love Helen Mirren?

I have my eye on ‘To Be or Not to Be’ and that ‘Prime Suspect’ box. Does anything tempt you this week?

15 comments

  1. Lord Bowler

    I’m actually buying Barbie this week (for my niece’s birthday) and The Walking Dead Season 3 for myself.

  2. William Henley

    Gatsby 3D and Pooh for me, but I am waiting for Gatsby to come down in price (will pick it up used later if I need to), and waiting for both the review of Pooh and the price to drop a bit before I pick it up.

    • William Henley

      You know, I don’t usually complement other sites on their reviews, but I think this is the first time that the “other” competitor’s site actually really LOOKED a disc rather than giving it a generic score. They are infamous for giving everything a 4-5 star review, regardless of how it looks. In the review for Pooh, however, they actually gave it a 3.5, and went into the longest review I have ever seen any site give in a video review, nitpicking every little thing, and why the score is like it is. Kudos to the competitor site for actually providing a useful review for a change. There’s a first time for everything – I usually just go to them for the screenshots.

      • Timcharger

        Will, you couldn’t just keep it to yourself that the new young receptionist has a hot body. You just had to mention it to your wife. When you go home, are you going to be surprised that all your blu-rays are thrown all over your front yard? ;)

        • William Henley

          Well, as one of the original reviewers from HDD is now at the Other site, and it has been mentioned before how their reviews sometimes come out weeks before HDD even gets their review copies, and how generic their video and audio reviews were, I felt it relevent.

          I think rather than the hot new receptionist analogy, I think a better analogy is “hey, did that hooker on the corner get new nail polish?”

          • Timcharger

            This is fun; continuing with YOUR analogy…

            So you really PAY that much attention to that street walker to notice her nail color changes?

            ;)

          • William Henley

            Well, continuing with the analogy – I may have the trophy wife at home, but the most she wants to show me is her clevage. I want to see it all from time to time. I wouldn’t marry the street walker, but until my trophy wife lets me see more than clevage, I will look at the street walker from time to time.

          • EM

            After all these years I’m starting to get an idea of what pooh might mean, and I’m also beginning to believe bear is a misspelling.

          • William Henley

            Has anyone actually seen the cover art of Guilty Crown Part 2? Read the Amazon description – it doesn’t even sound remotely like what is depicted on the cover art. The cover art looks like the Japanese Hentai version of Pooh-Bare

  3. Barsoom Bob

    A Company Man is a another tough ass South Korean gangster movie. The “Company” in question is a “murder for hire outfit” and when something goes wrong on an assignment with a new rookie, the killer befriends his family and wants to get out of the business, not so easily done.

    I mean you can take the advice of someone who has savaged a movie that he hasn’t even seen with his own eyes, or you could give Great Gatsby a chance. Yes, Luhrman does the frantic modernizing, but the other side of this director is pure, old school, Hollywood beauty. It is this weird combination that makes up his signature style.

    The trick is in the balance, Moulin Rouge, perhaps too frantic, but I love it just the same.
    Australia, too old school for it’s own good, but I enjoyed it too.

    I personally thought that Gatsby was his most balanced work, was pretty darn good story wise and very beautiful to watch in natively shot 3D. The big parties and wild debauchery were done up in frantic mode BUT, the core story, which is the majority of the movie, was done pure old school and was heartbreakingly effective.

    I am also getting Kon Tikki and Making of Dark Side of the Moon.

  4. August Lehe

    I CAN’T imagine anybody NOT ordering To Be or Not to Be….about the ONLY “Got to Own” Comedy from the opening days of WWII…I still can’t believe Robert Stack was one of the stars. Carole Lombard and Director Lubitsch both deserved Oscars…

    Is it true a Giant Digibook is due in October?
    The first HALF of Giant is still one of the greatest films of all time!
    I still CAN’T believe Liz Taylor, James Dean and Rock Hudson all had the exact same shade of WHITE hair in the last reel!