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Blu-ray Highlights: Week of December 8th, 2013 – A Spoonful of Sugar

As we continue our charge towards Christmas, it should come as no surprise that this week’s new Blu-ray releases put a major focus on movies that appeal to children and parents. I suppose I’ll be in that category soon, so I better get used to it.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (12/10/13)?

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Fun for the Whole Family

Those adorable Minions are back in ‘Despicable Me 2‘, a sequel that most viewers agreed exists more for marketing purposes than artistic ones. As cute as I found the first ‘Despicable Me’, I wouldn’t say that it was one of the best animated movies I’ve seen. Nor did I feel the need for a follow-up. Nevertheless, buoyed by 3D ticket prices, Gru’s second adventure struck box office gold, collecting almost a billion dollars worldwide. A third entry is a foregone conclusion.

Obviously timed to bolster interest in the new drama ‘Saving Mr. Banks’, which tells the story of the film’s creation, Disney offers a new restoration of the beloved classic ‘Mary Poppins‘, which may not have been the first movie to mix live action and animation, but took the process to an unprecedented level. I don’t think I’ve seen this since I was the age of the children in the movie. Does it hold up for adults?

Also from Disney comes a two-fer of ‘The Great Muppet Caper‘ and ‘Muppet Treasure Island‘. I would have thought that ‘Caper’, one of the franchise’s best entries, was strong enough to stand on its own – but I suppose that ‘Treasure Island’ isn’t. I haven’t seen the latter since its theatrical run. I recall thinking that the movie would have seemed a lot better if its middling musical numbers had simply been cut out. With this double-bill, all of the Muppets’ theatrical features (save for the one due next year) are now available on Blu-ray.

Does it bother anyone else that Tom Hanks’ character in ‘Big‘, who is technically a 12-year-old boy disguised in an adult’s body, has sex with Elizabeth Perkins? It amazes me that no one even questioned issues like that back in the ’80s.

Other New Releases

Not to be morbid or cynical (well, no more than usual, anyway), but I suspect that the very recent death of star Paul Walker will probably spur even more interest in the home video release of ‘Fast & Furious 6‘. I was never a fan of the franchise, personally, but this latest entry was its biggest box office hit yet over the summer. Universal claims that a portion of Blu-ray sales will be donated to Walker’s Reach Out Worldwide charity foundation. How significant a portion, I’m not sure. (Is that me being cynical again?)

Keanu Reeves made his directorial debut with the martial arts drama ‘Man of Tai Chi‘, which built some small amount of buzz on the film festival circuit earlier this year but was never granted a wide release. Modestly produced for $25 million, it’s effectively going direct-to-video. I’m sure that the studio hopes to piggyback on the marketing push for Reeve’s new mega-budget starring vehicle ’47 Ronin’.

‘Hannibal’ star Mads Mikkelsen rather cleverly plays off his usual typecasting in villain roles by playing a teacher falsely accused in a sex abuse scandal in the Danish drama ‘The Hunt‘, which is so far one of the best reviewed films of the year.

Less favorably received was ‘Adore‘, the new drama from ‘Coco Before Chanel’ director Anne Fontaine. Naomi Watts and Robin Wright star as longtime friends who fall in love with each others’ sons. The film was positively savaged by most American critics.

Although perhaps not as cruelly torn apart as that one, ‘Touchy Feely‘, the latest dramedy from ‘Humpday’ director Lynn Shelton, was also found to be a disappointment. Rosemarie DeWitt (star of Shelton’s ‘Your Sister’s Sister’) plays a massage therapist ironically stricken with a malady that leaves her repulsed by human contact. Most viewers and critics who saw it felt that the movie was a gimmick in search of a story.

The Criterion Collection

This week, the Criterion Collection inducts ‘Grey Gardens‘ – the original, perversely fascinating 1975 documentary about a pair of eccentric shut-ins with ties to the Kennedy family (not the recent crummy Drew Barrymore dramatization of the story). Also, ‘Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project‘ collects six obscure foreign features in need of evaluation.

Television

Fresh from both its TV airing and limited theatrical engagement, BBC Video rolls out the 50th Anniversary special ‘Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor‘ – in 3D, no less. ‘Doctor Who’ has never been my thing, but I find it amusing how many of my friends who claim to be fans of it spend all of their time complaining about how much they hate everything that ever happens in the show. I can only conclude that ‘Doctor Who’ fandom is a peculiar form of masochism.

I have kids on the way, so I need to start stocking up on family-friendly movies. ‘Mary Poppins’ and the ‘Muppets’ double-bill are going on my wish list for later purchase, along with ‘Grey Gardens’ for the adults. Do you plan to buy anything this week?

41 comments

  1. William Henley

    Doctor Who, Mary Poppins and Muppets for sure. I will probably get Mary from the UK though, it is dramatically cheaper than it is in the US (although note – the UK release does not include digital copy or DVD, and only has a 5.1 mix instead of the 7.1. I do not know if the bonus features are the same or not)

    If I can find Big on the discount rack (under $10), I will probably pick it up. I have some fun memories of this movie, but I don’t think I have seen it in 25 years.

    • William Henley

      Oh, Josh, in response to your Doctor Who friends, the show has been running for 50 years. The show has seen many evolutions over time – you pretty much have, in my opinion, three different shows, the show from the 60s-70s, the shows from the 80s-90s, and the shows from the last 7 seasons that started around 2005. I think a true fan loves all the series. I think the best are from the 80s and 90s. A lot of diehards like the shows from the 60s and 70s. New fans of the show may not even be aware there was a show before 2005, and don’t get the references to Sarah Jane or her spinoff, may not get why the Doctor has so much fear when the Darleks or Cybermen show up, the references to The Time War, etc. Then you have a legion of Tourchwood fans who do not get that that is a Doctor Who spinoff.

      The shows from the 60s through the 90s were more serialized, with a single story playing out over 4 or more episodes. In the new ones, while you have a continuing story, a story is normally wrapped up in 60 minutes. The shows are also a lot more action packed. There is nothign wrong with any of this, but it IS a different style. It would be like taking someone who has only seen the Original Star Trek series with Kirk, and showing them several episodes of Deep Space 9, and trying to have them grasp that it is still Star Trek.

      So I can very much see why fans of the old style Doctor may not like the new Doctor. I have seen many fans refuse to accept any Doctor after Sylvester McCoy. I get that. I like it all myself. But there was something almost unique about the old shows – it was almost like it was its own genera – I cannot think of another show that felt the way Doctor Who did. The new shows feel like just abotu any other sci-fi/action show on the air now, in fact, I think I could probably compare the new show to having a feeling similar to Stargate.

      In any case, I got discs of some of the old doctors and discs of the new doctors. And I will for sure be picking up this one – especially since it is in 3D – I am just giddy about that!

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      Where did you hear about the 5.1 vs 7.1 issue? I can’t imagine that Disney actually authored the disc any differently. It may just be a misprint on the packaging.

        • Super-VHS

          Forget Amazon reviews. The UK edition of Mary Poppins is confirmed by those who have it (the BD came out in November over there) to be a completely different disc than the one that’s going to be released in the US tomorrow. And the audio issue isn’t just a simple (some might say insignificant) 5.1 vs. 7.1; it’s DTS-HD High Resolution vs. Master Audio. The US disc has a lossless 7.1 track AND a lossy Dolby Digital option for the original theatrical stereo. The UK Mary Poppins disc has an English DTS-HD HR 5.1 track, and a number of dubs and subs for other parts of Europe, but no lossless. And it doesn’t include the original audio at all.

          Disney authors different discs for Europe and the Americas all the time. Some of Disney’s other, more recent live action releases, like the BD of John Carter, include multiple DTS-HD HR tracks and subtitles in a variety of languages, but not a single lossless track.

          Or look at the UK version of Peter Pan. That one isn’t just a slightly altered disc; it’s a completely different, vastly inferior, product. The UK Pan has a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track (US is 7.1), doesn’t include the original mono (the US does), uses a static menu design, doesn’t offer DisneyView, and drops a majority of the special features found on the US release. It does include a DTS-HD HR French dub, and several other audio options not offered on the Region A release though.

          Most of the company’s non-Diamond animations have been released in Europe sans DTV sequels, and are authored with different menus, supplements, and audio options than a comparable “2 Movie Double Feature” counterpart in the US. The worst of these is the UK release of Tarzan, which has 7 audio options: the original English, and 6 dubs; all in Dolby Digital 5.1.

          This is an unfortunate pattern for Disney UK/Europe, and the main reason why it’s often better to wait for the US release.

          • William Henley

            Thanks for the reply. I actually have the UK version of Flight of the Navigator. The UK version isn’t even released under the Disney name (although it does have the Disney logo at the begining of the movie), the audio track is different than the US version, and the German release has yet another audio release. The UK release is by SecondSight / TriStar and has a PCM 2.0 track. The German version has a 5.1 DTS_HD track (not sure if its lossless or not).

            This is why I would love someone to actually take the US and UK release of Mary Poppins and do a comparisson between the two. I pick Luke to do this.

  2. Elizabeth

    When it comes to “Big” and the issue of a 12-year old boy having sex, I think it comes from how America treats having sex between the two genders. A male who has sex often is positively referred to as a stud, but a woman who has sex often is negatively referred to as a slut. If the roles had been reversed and Elizabeth Perkins’ character was 12 and Tom Hanks was the adult, I guarantee that scene wouldn’t have been in the final cut.

    It’s just part of the Christian misogyny that underlies much of American culture. Boys = good (Adam), girls = evil (Eve). It underlies blaming rape victims (she dressed like a slut so she was asking for it), to using girl as a negative term (you throw like a girl). Pretty disgusting really.

    • William Henley

      I honestly don’t see why this is an issue. He is a 12-year-old boy. 12 year olds think about sex. He turns 30 overnight, and a good-looking girl wants to sleep with him. So they sleep together. Who cares if she is technically older than him, what preteen / teenage boy hasn’t looked at underwear ads / Playboys / something else and fantasized about the girls?

      I honestly do not think it would have been that big of an issue if it was a girl either. She is physically 30. She does it once in her 30s, then to keep it from being a big deal, the story writters write something in about how it wasn’t as great as she thought it was, she becomes 12 again and decides she doesn’t need to do it again until she is married. Yeah, still a double standard, but it would have worked.

      Now if the movie had of actually depicted the 12-year-old actors having sex with the 30-year-old partner, THEN there would have been an uproar. BUt the movie wasn’t shot that way, it lead to a few laughs, and no one really thought anything about it.

      • Josh Zyber
        Author

        William, a 12-year-old cannot consent to have sex with an adult. That’s statutory rape, and there’s a very good reason it’s illegal. The movie glosses over this by putting the character in an adult body, but we in the audience know that he still has the intellect and emotional maturity of a 12-year-old.

    • Timcharger

      Elizabeth is right about this.

      Think of this example:
      A 30 year old retarded woman with a mind of a 8 year of girl. Despite being in body of a adult woman (corollary to Tom Hank’s Big with a gender switch), that retard woman is technically raped because her mind cannot comprehend consensual sex.

      This double standard is unfairly applied in our culture. Adult female teachers having sex with minor boys, and marrying that boy after he turns 18. No way an adult male teacher gets away with this.

      • There is a big difference between the mind of an 8 year old and the mind of a 12 year old. A 12 year old knows what sex is, and probably wants it. The reason its illegal is that the 12 year old does not understand the consequences of their actions.

        Truthfully, I find the scene funny, and I believe that is what they were going for. I really think you guys are trying to read too much into this.

        • Josh Zyber
          Author

          I know it isn’t your intention, but rationalizing like this comes across as a defense for something you don’t want to defend. A 12-year-old cannot be considered capable of consenting to have sex with an adult – not legally, and not morally. (Note that we are specifically talking about an adult having sex with a child, not two children having sex with each other, which is a separate matter.)

          I’m sure the writers of the movie didn’t intend the scene to be anything other than a silly gag. They didn’t put enough thought into what they were doing. They should have. The scene is creepy.

          • William Henley

            I wasn’t trying to come across as to whether its right or not. I meant it as saying that the movie is a comedy, it was a comedic moment, and you can rationalize it by saying that all 12 year old guys think about sex. If such an event were to happen in real life (which it wouldn’t), the situation would be different.

            Its a joke, like the killing of Kenny over and over again in South Park (but killing of a human is something horrible that we cannot condemn), the robbing of a bank or stage coach, street racing, drug use, or any other illegal activity that is joked about or glorified in films and television. To pick out this scene in this movie is like saying that any other illegal activity in any other movie is fine, and that is really what the double standard is.

          • JM

            What about the film ‘Malena’?

            Or the TV show ‘Rome’?

            It took 2.5 million years of human evolution for you to develop the political correctness to be unsettled by a teenage sex gag?

            I do find it odd that all Gary Ross does is animals and underage.

            Maybe he’s got a little Polanski in him.

      • Now you guys have me wondering if Jenny raped Forrest Gump, since he probably couldn’t comprehend consensual sex, either.

        How many movies has Tom Hanks been raped in?!

        • Josh Zyber
          Author

          If Forrest Gump the movie bends over backwards to make anything clear, it’s that Jenny is always the victim. In every relationship with a man she ever has in life, starting with her father, she is victimized over and over and over again. Because she’s a woman who doesn’t know her place, and has the gall to want to make something of her life beyond what people tell her she can be, she’s abused, raped, abandoned, becomes a drug addict and is even given AIDS – until she has no options left except to move back home and marry the town moron she’d spent her whole life trying to get away from.

          He may be too feeble-minded to understand it, but Forrest is the aggressor in that relationship. He keeps pursuing her until she has no choice but to accept her miserable fate with him.

          Forrest raped Jenny, and the movie wants us to feel like that’s a good thing, and right, and exactly what she deserved.

          • William Henley

            As much as I hate this movie (and as such I haven’t seen it in years), I always took it that Jenny finally realized that, despite all she had been through, Forrest still loves her, and because of his simplicity, there was no perverseness in his love. However, Jenny recipricated this love the only way she knew how, realized she did to Forrest the same thing every other guy had ever done to her, and fled. Jenny ended up throwing away the one thing she had been looking for all that time, because she did not know how to receive it.

            In any case, I don’t really care. The movie is overrated. I wouldn’t say its a bad movie, it just isn’t a good movie. I will be fine if I never see this movie again.

          • Timcharger

            Josh, I know you hate Forrest Gump. You can fault Jenny’s choices as a adult with drugs, selecting bad boyfriends, drug abuse. Okay, that’s fair.

            But no, you can’t fault her for the sexual abuse from her father. Take that off the list of things she’s a weak victim of.

            Obviously to you, being loved even by the town moron is a miserable fate. But the film disagrees, and I’m sure thousands/millions of people wish they felt the love of another even if he/she is of below average intelligence.

            And the discussion is whether Jenny statutorily raped Forrest. Yes Forrest pursued Jenny all his life, but that’s not a condition to rape. You’re being silly to say Forrest raped her, an adult who made bad choices, but still a mature, full-faculty-ied adult.

          • Josh Zyber
            Author

            Tim, my point was that Jenny’s father abused her because she defied him. She had the audacity to attempt to have a mind of her own, to want things beyond the plan he laid out for her – and for that, the screenwriter punishes her by giving her an abusive father. Everything bad that happens to Jenny is a consequence of her trying to assert herself and be an independent person. That stupid girl, she should know better…

            Jenny did not want to settle for Forrest. She wanted more from her life than that. That’s why she left. Yet every time she tried to make a life for herself, she was beaten back down – sometimes literally, by the people she has relationships with, and sometimes by the hand of fate. She cannot escape her destiny to wind up back in the arms of the town moron she never wanted to be with. In the end, that’s all she’s left with. Everything else is taken away from her until she learns her lesson. She doesn’t deserve anything better than what she’s given. And then, when she finally accepts her fate, she dies a horrible lingering death, just to hammer the point home that this is what a woman gets when she doesn’t do what she’s told.

            The movie tries to disguise its terrifying misogyny with a layer of syrupy schmaltz. (Oh, it’s OK, because Forrest loooooooooooves her. That’s all that matters. That’s all she really needs.) I don’t buy it for a second.

          • Timcharger

            Okay, Josh, at least with your last reply, you’re not saying Forrest raped Jenny. That’s progress.

            We have different views on the movie and that’s fine.

            But not every farm country boy (in this case, a girl) will make it in the big city. Failing at chasing the big city dream and going back home to your childhood love is a common theme to many movies. In this case with Forrest Gump, it happens to a country girl who doesn’t make it. And the retard boy is successful globally. And you’re reading it as misogyny.

            In other films that use this same theme (going back to simple life after failing), but uses a male protagonist, when you watch those films you don’t cry that it’s misandry (I learned a new word today). When male hero goes back home to plain Jane country girl after sleeping with many swimsuit models in the big city, you don’t cry foul that writers are squashing the dreams of horny teenage boys. Or do you?

            Just because Jenny failed, I don’t think the filmmakers are making a statement about all farm girls to not chase their big city dreams. But your mileage may vary.

          • Josh Zyber
            Author

            Tim, it isn’t just that Jenny has to return home after failing to live out her dream. The movie makes a point of systematically punishing her for ever having a dream in the first place. She couldn’t have ever succeeded. She should have known better than to try.

          • Timcharger

            Josh, I ain’t gonna convince you to like the film, Forrest Gump. I know that.

            But to say that the film is about punishing small town girls from ever having dreams at all is completely ridiculous. You know, I know you know, that this claim of yours is a shock-effect, I’m-being-witty wink-wink.

            Much of the film is about people overlooking and dismissing Forrest. It’s the reasonable thing to do; ignore this retarded simpleton. Jenny who is a childhood friend also makes this same mistake. Jenny isn’t being “punished” for having big city dreams, just like Gary Sinise isn’t being punished for being a patriot.

            I get it; you don’t like the syrupy, roll-your-eyes, everything works out for the retard for just being lucky, okay, okay, okay…

            If Forrest Gump is masked misogyny out to crush the dreams of girls, then Dune is a proponent of animal torture and cruelty.

            Unless you call my mama a name, I’ll give you the last word…

          • Josh Zyber
            Author

            No, I’m not just exaggerating for shock value. That really is one of the implicit messages of the movie, coded indelibly into every scene with the Jenny character. The movie is a parable, and all of the characters are designed to be archetypes. Everything that happens to them is a deliberate thematic message.

            The movie’s also rather bluntly racist. All of the black characters are either abusive thugs (the Black Panthers who smack Jenny around) or even dumber than the single-digit-IQ Forrest (Bubba and his whole family).

            That’s to say nothing of the obvious battle that the film pits between the ignorant, complacent masses (pure, kind-hearted, angelic) and anyone educated or with half a functioning brain cell (all sneeringly evil villains).

            The film’s politics are shockingly reactionary. It really is one of the most despicable movies ever made. And it’s not even subtle about what it’s doing. All of this is right out there in the open for anyone to see if you just look at it. But of course, the movie discourages you from looking. “Stupid is as stupid does.” Be like Forrest, it tells you. Don’t think too hard. Don’t ever try to change your lot in life. Look at how simple and happy Forrest is. He doesn’t think too much about anything. He doesn’t want to change the world. He just wants to play some ping-pong. That makes him so happy. Don’t you want to be happy like Forrest? Happiness is good. Thinking bad. Thinking make unhappy. Unhappy very bad. No want unhappy. Brain turn off be better. Forrest sooo happy. Me want be like Forrest. Sooo happy Forrest. Bad thinking bad…

          • Timcharger

            Wow! You already played the misogynist card. And now, you are have revealed the race card, too?!

            Go for the trifecta, Josh. The film promotes obesity, too. The constant feeding of chocolate to strangers at bus stops. It’s the poor who ride buses, so the film is waging war on the poor by promoting diabetes to them.

            Forrest Gump is “most despicable movie” ever!!!

            Are there yellow minions in that film, too?

            :) You win, Josh, you win.

          • Timcharger

            I can watch bowling and “see” racism of a black ball knocking over white pins.

            I can watch billiards and “see” racism of the ultimate goal of the white cue ball is to knock the black 8 ball into a hole.

            I can rewatch Forrest Gump and “see” all those things you cited. But that doesn’t mean you’re right about any of it.

            Remind me to never go bowling or play pool with you. :)

          • Timcharger

            Josh, you clearly have an outlier, extremist position on the movie (maybe you’re the only one that is correct, it could happen?):

            http://www.metacritic.com/movie/forrest-gump/critic-reviews

            I’m not saying it’s the best movie of all time. But you are saying it’s the most despicable movie of all time.

            And in defense of your extreme position, you’re going to resort to questioning my intelligence and education? Be nice, Josh; play nice.

            Perhaps you are correct and that 99% of all critics missed seeing the subtext you saw. Or it could, maybe, just maybe, be that you are wrong. It could happen?

          • JM

            Josh, I’m taking away your wannabe-feminist card.

            To type “Forrest raped Jenny” (though laughable/pretentious) makes light of rape with a casualness that someone who respects women would never do.

            Make this anti-’Forrest Gump’ rant in a room with a girl who has been raped and look at her face to see if she finds you clever.

            [This reads harsher than I mean it to, but I've looked into that girl's face before.]

        • Timcharger

          Good question Shannon.

          Yes, Gump was retarded. But he wasn’t like a kid playing with dolls all day, needing to hold his hand to cross the street, couldn’t cook or operate appliances.

          Perhaps this goes back to the double standard again. If Forrest was female and Jenny was a guy, we may see that scene differently.

          • William Henley

            I am not meaning this to be funny, so please don’t think I am joking about this issue (I am afraid it may come across that way) but….

            In this instance, maybe we should invent a new term and call it statutory seduction. I think this may make more sense than saying either party raped the other.

          • Josh Zyber
            Author

            Let’s be clear that the Elizabeth Perkins character did not know that Hanks was a child, and arguably could not have known (though she probably should have found his behavior odd). This isn’t about wanting to label her a rapist. It’s about the way that the filmmakers failed to think through the implications of the scene they wrote and shot. They thought it was “cute” that the boy gets to lose his virginity to the fantasy older woman, and that’s considered acceptable due to the double standard in our society. A boy who’s sexually active at a very young age is a stud. But we can’t show him having sex with a girl his own age, because a young girl who’s sexually active is a slut. Therefore, he has to seduce an adult woman who should be out of his league. Aww, how adorable…

          • William Henley

            Okay, I throw in the towel. I just find it odd that we are on completely opposite ends of the spectrum here – I am usually the ones offended by sex scenes in movies because they are usually not necessary to move the story along. I guess the only reason this one didn’t offend me is (if I remember correctly, it has been 20 years since I’ve seen it)it was an implied scene.

            Anyways, I will let you have the last word on this, because quite frankly, you are making a REALLY GOOD argument. I just disagree.

  3. Super-VHS

    “Does it bother anyone else that Tom Hanks’ character in ‘Big‘, who is technically a 12-year-old boy disguised in an adult’s body, has sex with Elizabeth Perkins? It amazes me that no one even questioned issues like that back in the ’80s.”

    Cocaine is a hell of drug.

    • Timcharger

      You’re quoting Josh and adding a cocaine comment?!

      What are you saying about our Dune lover? It’s not just mounds of sand that he likes?

      • Super-VHS

        No, Tim. I’m saying no one questioned the ‘Big’ issue specifically because it was the ’80s! Because everyone was doing cocaine! Get it?

        Like, I doubt ’80s era movie executives pondered the logical or moral implications of a 30 year old woman bedding a 12 year old kid in a grown man’s body at all… because they we all high. They said, “yes… to more coke”, and most things a writer pitched to or put in front of them.

        The joke failed, I suppose.

    • JM

      Cocaine Theory is the best explanation of how 80s movies got greenlit. I particularly like the irony that our villains were drug dealers because the US government was subsidizing the propaganda. That’s so War On Drugs.

  4. JM

    The only tragedy of America is that boys get Big and girls get Jennifer Garner’s regurgitated bullshit.

    Re; Mary Poppins, I find myself not watching any of the movies I saw as a kid. Do they hold up without nostalgia? Or is like when you try to get a ten year old to play Atari. I find all my nostalgia is movies I loved in my 20s.

    Fast 6! I’m all giddy for. 5 was the only one I saw previous, but it kicked all the ass. My understanding is that 6 kicks all the ass + 26% more ass. It’s sad that the dude died, but Justin Lin’s action excess is all I’m in for.

    Minions!