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Blu-ray Highlights: Week of February 16th, 2014 – Pure Wild Animal Craziness

Although President’s Day isn’t exactly one of the major holidays here in the United States, it was apparently excuse enough for most home video studios to take a little vacation. This week’s new Blu-ray slate is pretty sparse. In fact, one of the most notable releases is a double-dip reissue of a movie that already received an excellent Blu-ray the first time around.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (2/18/14)?

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The 2010 Blu-ray edition of Wes Anderson’s delightful ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox‘ had a terrific video/audio transfer and a couple of pretty good bonus features. Of all the movies in need of rescue by the Criterion Collection, this one seems like a pretty low priority to me. Of course, Anderson has a close relationship with Criterion, and his fans tend to be obsessive completists. I can’t imagine that the new Criterion disc will look or sound much different than the prior Blu-ray from Fox, but in its favor, this one has a whole lot more supplements. Personally, I’d rather have seen Criterion direct its attention to ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou’. (Yeah, I understand that it’s owned by a different studio, but it’s the only Anderson movie without any sort of Blu-ray release yet.)

In addition to that, Criterion also offers Alfred Hitchcock’s second American movie (following the Oscar-winning ‘Rebecca’), 1940′s ‘Foreign Correspondent‘. Our reviewer David makes the case that this oft-forgotten effort is one of the master’s “most thrilling and perfectly executed films.” When talking about Hitchcock, that’s saying quite a lot.

Long before he was handed the keys to the ‘Spider-Man’ franchise, director Sam Raimi tried his hand at creating his own comic book superhero with the 1990 ‘Darkman‘. The character isn’t based on an actual comic book, mind you, but the movie was made in clear imitation of ‘Batman’, ‘Dick Tracy’ and other comics-based films of the era. I saw this in the theater and thought it was a total piece of crap. That seemed to be the prevailing sentiment among others at the time as well. When it was released to the HD DVD format in 2007, I revisited the movie to give it another shot. Sorry, but I still think this thing is painfully stupid. Nevertheless, it somehow developed a cult audience attracted to its hyperactive stylistics and over-the-top camp. If you’re one of its fans and were disappointed by Universal’s Blu-ray release in 2010, the new Scream Factory reissue is something of a mixed bag. It recycles the same (crappy) A/V transfer, but at least adds some new bonus features so you can learn all about how the movie’s atrocious blue-screen special effects were created.

Television

On the TV front, premium channel programming makes a strong showing this week, with the third season of HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones‘ and the fifth season of Showtime’s ‘Nurse Jackie‘. I stopped collecting TV content on disc when I realized that I’d never have time to watch any of the box sets I’d purchased, but ‘Thrones’ certainly makes a compelling case for investing both the money and time into rewatching its episodes.

As if fans of Cartoon Network’s animated ‘Beware the Batman‘ weren’t already disappointed enough that the show has been canceled, Warner Bros. rubs salt in the wound by splitting its only season into two separate releases.

‘Foreign Correspondent’ beckons me. Even though I already own the older Blu-ray, I’ll probably also add ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ to my wish list for Barnes & Noble’s next Criterion sale. Will you pick up anything, or are you sitting the week out?

32 comments

  1. William Henley

    No love for Anime, Josh? Funimation releases Dragonball Z Season 2 today, which is a pretty notable release (especially considering the mixed reviews season 1 got – me personally I am okay with the cropping as I see what they are going for, but the DNR really caused some strange visual anomilies), and there are three more anime series, Jurmongand, Naruto and Robotics Notes coming out today. It is a good week to be an Anime fan! I wish I could go back and edit my vote – I only voted for Dragonball, and after looking at the list, realized I was interested in the other animes as well. I had just voted on what I had preordered, without really paying attention to what else came out today.

      • William Henley

        :-) You either love it or hate it. I hated the show for the longest, until someone convinced me to watch it from the begining. It is a LONG show, though, so unless you have a summer to kill (like I did in college when I first sat through it) that’s fine.

        Also, as it’s season 2, probably not as much hype as season 1 got (especially with the controversy around it). But trust me, Dragonball fanboys are going to be all over this, and reviews for this release are probably going to be all over the place, from 0.5 stars all the way up to 5 stars. Anime fanboys are a strange bunch.

  2. Elizabeth

    I actually really like Darkman. It’s probably my favorite Sam Raimi superhero movie. I really enjoy the look of it too, how you could easily imagine each shot being a comic book frame. Yes, it’s dumb, but then again most superhero movies. Even the supposedly “good” ones. Tim Burton’s Batman was basically style over substance. The Avengers could fill a textbook on stupid plotting. There’s a magical cube that can do whatever the plot calls for. A bunch of superheroes beat each other up for no real reason. And then there’s Thanatos and the Chitauri who ally with Loki to get the cube or invade Earth or something. Honestly, the cleverest part of any Marvel movie is Stan Lee’s inevitable cameo.

  3. Timcharger

    Da da da da dun!
    Da da da da dun!
    (Strings play in…)
    Gears from a stag sigil start spinning, and builds a city around it.
    Camera pans northward on the map…

    Game of Thrones!!!

    • William Henley

      I couldn’t make it through the first episode. Yeah, I know, winter is coming and dragons are on their way, but all I saw was cussing every other line and sex scenes and incest. In fact, this is pretty much what I thought after watching that show:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sz2DNYa-lbQ

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mmcu-09SHY

      Sorry, I couldn’t resist, but sadly, those clips are not an exageration – that is exactly what the the show seems like to me.

        • William Henley

          Truthfully, my impression was that it was a high-budget porno – eh, which is probably why so many people like it.

          I REALLY tried to give this show a shot, I WANTED to like it, but I couldn’t.

          Now what we need is maybe a television series based on Willow. The worst we will have there is “I love you Sorcia, I worship you Sorcia”.

          Actually, I do still have series out there I can watch. I still got to finish up Legend of the Seeker

          • Timcharger

            William: “I couldn’t make it through the first episode….”

            That’s too bad. You are causing yourself a disservice to not take in at least 3 episodes.

            I think it was sometime between episodes 3 and 4, when I realized I was watching something truly epic. The first couple episodes, didn’t win me over. Too many characters to really get involved with it. But with time, the characters get developed and become beloved.

            William as much as you consume media, you need to give Game of Thrones a second tasting.

          • William Henley

            Tim,

            It’s kinda hard to give something a second chance if you have moral issues with what you have already seen. I can stomach some language, some violence, some nudity, some sex, but when you have it all thrown at you at once in the first 30 minutes of a series, and is ALL that the first 30 minutes was about, it makes it hard to swallow.

            I understand that the entire world is not G rated, but I pretty much got the impression that the show was saying “Hey, we are on HBO, let’s see how far we can push the envelope!” and try to label it as art.

            My line in the sand is pretty vague, because i will let a certain amount of stuff through, but Game of Thrones really crossed over that line.

            If you like it, that is fine, and I want judge you for it (although I may hurl an ocassional joke at you), but from a moral perspective, I just cannot bring myself to finish the episode or go futher in the series. I am not trying to say I am better than someone else for drawing that line, or someone else is worse than me. I was offended by what I saw, and don’t want to finish it. It is as simple as that.

          • Josh Zyber
            Author

            For what it’s worth, I agree with you that the first episode really throws the sex and violence in your face to say, “Look at us. We’re on HBO!” Although there’s still plenty of sex and violence later in the show, it evolves naturally from the story and isn’t (usually) quite as gratuitous.

          • Timcharger

            Many, many of the greatest works of literature and film were considered too immoral or banned at one time.

            William, I tried to convince you.

            It really is your loss to not revisit GoT. And after 3-4 episodes, if it is still too “immoral” for you, I’m sure you’ll be find a way to be redeemed or forgiven for committing such a sin. It was the evil snake, timcharger, that tricked you.

          • EM

            In the comic-book industry there’s an adage that any issue could be a reader’s first—and also that reader’s last. It’s the job of the comic’s creative team to present a good issue every issue, one that will lead the reader back for more.

            It is likewise for TV episodes. And I would say that first episodes (as well as first issues) bear all the greater responsibility of selling their series as a whole.

            Granted, sophisticated readers and viewers know that one or even several noncompelling issues or episodes don’t spoil the entire run. I think I’ve made it pretty clear to anyone who might actually be following my posts here that I’m a fan of Star Trek and particularly the original series, but I can think of at least a few episodes that probably should have been beamed away at maximum dispersal setting (in particular, I suspect “The Alternative Factor” is conducive to severe brain damage).

            Still, there’s too much entertainment vying for our attention—not to mention other things in life—for us to be obligated to give it all a “fair chance”, let alone several fair chances. If a first episode didn’t leave William wanting more, that’s just too damn bad.

          • Timcharger

            EM, when there are just 4 main characters to a show, I understand 1 episode should be enough of a hook.

            Proportionally, GoT has a dozen & half major characters, so it does take a few episodes just get to know them.

            Sometimes we need to let the wine breathe before it’s at its finest.

          • Timcharger

            I highly doubt GoT is guilty in many eyes for failing to tell a compelling story.

            Will you be so bold to explicitly say you hold that opinion?

            Some stories simply need more room than a 24 page comic book can provide.

            Which is curious you use that example in discussing GoT?

            Even the great comic writers use the graphic novel medium to tell their lengthier (yet often much more compelling) stories.

          • EM

            Having never seen Game of Thrones, I have no firsthand opinion of it. Even if I did have one, it would be immaterial to this discussion of your hounding William, just as the opinions of many others would also be immaterial.

            If one cannot tell a compelling story in the medium one has chosen, whether it be a series of 24-page comic books or a series of one-hour episodes, perhaps one is choosing an inappropriate medium, or one is choosing a medium one has not mastered.

            Or maybe you’re right: perhaps, by virtue of deigning to grace the world with their output, makers of TV shows rightfully enslave members of the public into subjecting themselves to that output for extended periods, regardless of their own preferences.

          • Timcharger

            I am innocent, your Honor.

            EM, “hounding” implies someone minding his own business and is pestered at length. I submit evidence that William responded to my post to engage in correspondence. And William’s correspondence was lengthier than my responses. The facts are evidently published and time dated.

            EM, my words: “William, I tried to convince you” suggests a resignation, not a persistence to “hound” him.

            EM, my self-deprecating style (the blame me, the evil snake part) suggest a light-hearted tone.

            EM, unlike you having no opinion of GoT. I have a positive opinion of it, and seeking to share what I consider is good with William. And as kids say: sharing is caring.

            —–

            Let me use your style (executed better) in this section:

            Just because a story isn’t bite-sized, doesn’t mean that there isn’t bite to the story.

            —–

            EM, let’s speak plainly. GoT was approached by several studios to be adopted into a feature film. And instead of a 2-3 hour presentation, George Martin wisely chose HBO TV seasons. Perhaps in EM’s theoretical world, GoT should have picked the medium of 3-hour-per-episode TV shows?!

            And.you.haven’t.watched.GoT! (But that’s not material you say.) But your knowledge of comic-book-industry-adages are material to this subject? Your knowledge of how “sophisticated readers and viewers” overlook the crappy Star Trek episodes, that’s material to GoT?

            —–

            EM: “Or maybe you’re right: perhaps, by virtue of deigning to grace the world with their output, makers of TV shows rightfully enslave members of the public into subjecting themselves to that output for extended periods, regardless of their own preferences.”
            ME: WTF kind of straw man are you building? I have chained and “enslaved” the public to the torture of watching TV shows?! My suggestion to 1 person to give 1 particular show another chance because I believe it’s a good show, amounts to a violation of human rights?! I put William in a Clockwork Orange scenario and forced the “immoral” GoT into his eyes?!

            —–

            EM, is there another TV show or film that you haven’t watched that you want to grace us with your material knowledge?

          • EM

            • The fact that the sentence you offer up as proof of resignation was immediately followed by more badgering is ample evidence that you’re just bullsh‌itting.

            • If you think the solecism “just because A doesn’t mean B” is my style, then you have a lot to learn about my style and, likely, style in general.

            • I haven’t been discussing Game of Thrones so much as I have been discussing theories of storytelling and the behavior you’ve been exhibiting here. Absolutely my points about theories of storytelling are germane to the topic of theories of storytelling. I don’t claim to have read and heard everything on the subject, but I am fairly confident that no guide to good storytelling practice urges storytellers to wait a long time to hook their audience, and in fact such guides tend to recommend the opposite. William made a reasonable investment of time and was not hooked, and so it is reasonable for him to have moved on. If you and others got hooked, bully for you…but don’t bully.

            • What kind of straw man are you building by recasting yourself as one of the makers of TV shows I mentioned? or am I to take it you really are such a person, perhaps responsible for the very show you’re campaigning for so aggressively here? In any case, I am glad you are familiar with the concept of logical fallacies; I recommend you comb your own work for them.

          • Timcharger

            Em, do you know what’s worse than realizing you’re not the smartest person in the room?

            Thinking you still are.

            —–

            GoT will suck for you because you’ll think of me during every minute of it, so please don’t watch it, Em. (But of couse now you’ll love it to spite me.) [But then my "hounding" would have proved you wrong.]

            But seriously don’t watch it. There’s many more conversations of things you haven’t watch or read to contribute to.

          • William Henley

            Wow, I missed this whole thread for a couple of days.

            BTW, EM, thanks for defending me.

            Here it is in a nutshell. If I came across as saying that GoT did not have a compelling story, I am sorry. That was not what I was trying to say. In the amount of time I invested in the show, I saw a backstory forming, and could already tell that this story would be deep and compeling. The production value was incredible. I can honestly see why people like this show.

            I also understand that 30 minutes is rarely enough to judge a series on.

            My issue with the show was over CONTENT. GoT crossed a line with me. Now don’t go thinking that I won’t watch anything worse than PG-13, I am not saying that. Part of my issue was how much was thrown at me in such a short time, and I really do not like overly-graphic sex scenes (I am okay with minor stuff – think Terminator, Elizabeth movies, Other Boylean Girl, etc). I am okay with a little nudity (ie Terminator, Starship Troopers, Dune Miniseries, etc) but really do not want it thrown in my face for prolonged periods of time. And I am okay with some profanity, as long as it adds to the story and they are not cussing every other line.

            In the first 30 minutes of GoT, there are two nude scenes for prolonged periods, a graphic sex scene, graphic carnage, tons of profanity. It was too much in a short period of time, and was not something I wanted to see anything more of.

            Now, will I give the show another chance? If I can find a fan-edit of it, than sure. I did see enough to gather that there is something that is probably really good going on here. But in its unedited form, I don’t want to see it.

  4. Chris

    Ahhhh Darkman…I remember watching that movie when I was 10 and thinking it was one of the coolest movies I’d ever seen. Revisited a few years ago and was shocked at what a steaming turd it truly is. Nostalgia can be a cruel mistress.

    Although I’m not the biggest Wes Anderson fan, I really enjoyed Moonrise Kingdom and I’ve been meaning to check out Fantastic Fox for awhile now…probably rent it in the next few weeks.

    I’ve never seen or heard of King of the Hill, I enjoy some of Soderbergh’s stuff quite a bit, like Traffic and The Informant!. However, he also made the insanely overrated Out of Sight and the just plain silly Side Effects. I’ll probably rent KOTH as well as Criterion blind buys are a pretty big gamble.

  5. Chris

    Hahaha I hadn’t seen those clips before…love it. I tried getting into GOT a couple of times and yeah it just never clicked with me either. I think it may have something to do with all the graphic sex/violence and vulgar language. It’s not that it offends me, I just find in the context of a fantasy show it kind of ruins the sense of escape into another world. I like my fantasy to be more fantastic, all that vulgarity kind if ruins the immersion for me. I hear nothing but great things about it though…

  6. Lord Bowler

    I per-ordered the Shout Factory Release of Darkman, with its poster. I love this movie.

    Also, this week I picked up Game of Thrones Season 3 at Best Buy with exclusive sleeve.

    I like the Amazon exclusive, but a bit pricey.

  7. Chris

    Is there really that much of a fantasy element to Game of Thrones, it seems more like a show about political intrigue and maneuvering that happens to be set in a medieval age…I could be totally wrong though…I’ve only seen a bit of the first season…

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      The fantasy and supernatural elements are slowly introduced over time. The premise of the story is that those things (I won’t spoil precisely what they are) existed in the distant past and haven’t been seen for centuries, but threaten to make a comeback.

  8. Love ‘Game of Thrones’! Bought season 1 for just $20, won Season 2 as a quiz prize, so paying the full whack for season 3 will be a bitter pill to swallow. At least the show’s worth it. At least I hope it is. Haven’t seen season 3, so it’s a blind buy.

  9. Chris

    Like Josh said in his post, I don’t buy TV shows anymore because I never get around to watching them…..being married with a kid severely reduces free time…

  10. Chris

    I like how William referred to the gratuitous nudity and sex as “…hard to swallow”….HA! Pun very much intended I hope!

  11. William Henley

    :-) well, it was a pun, but I didn’t get think anyone would pick up on it.

    Truth be told, there are very few things that I have seen that I have turned off for moral reasons. Shoot, I’m a South Park and Seth McFarland fan!

    As I said I’m not going to judge anyone who likes the show. I am sure people judge me for my choice in viewing material. The show wasn’t for me. And I still got tons of stuff that I want to see that I haven’t had time for. I mean, I just discovered Buffy (it was on the WB, and we didn’t get that network when the show originally aired – I did know what it was, just no way to watch it)!