Blu-ray Highlights: Week of June 15th, 2014 – Welcome to Cloud Cuckoo Land

This week may only bring a small volume of new Blu-ray releases, but packed within the short list of titles are some real standouts. Maybe not everything is awesome, but at least a few things could be.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (6/17/14)?

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New Releases

The Lego Movie‘ – What might have been little more than a crass merchandising tie-in blossomed into one of the best-reviewed movies of the year and a (no pun intended) blockbuster hit. You can thank Chris Miller and Phil Lord, masterminds behind the ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’ and ’21 Jump Street’ franchises, for that. The Blu-ray is available in either a standard 2D release or a more expensive (and bulkier) “Everything Is Awesome Edition” box set that comes packaged with a Lego minifig and other physical swag. The latter is the only way to get the movie in 3D, unless you import from overseas. The 3D disc can be purchased from Amazon UK in a standard keepcase for less money. (I’m quite surprised that no retailers have offered a SteelBook edition yet.)

The Grand Budapest Hotel‘ – I’m really disappointed that I didn’t get to see Wes Anderson’s latest visual extravaganza on the big screen, but I’ve had too much going on in my life this year to get out to the theater. I hear this is one of his best. The movie has an alternating aspect ratio gimmick that I fear will not be optimized for Constant Image Height playback on Blu-ray. Anderson fans should also be a little wary of buying this Blu-ray from Fox since we all know that a Criterion Collection version will follow eventually.

Joe‘ – This little slice-of-life drama was publicized as a redemptive role for Nicolas Cage, and proof that the troubled star can still deliver a decent performance when called to. It was also hailed as a return-to-form for director David Gordon Green, who sacrificed the indie cred of his early efforts such as ‘George Washington’ and ‘All the Real Girls’ for Hollywood paydays churning out terrible comedies like ‘Your Highness’ and ‘The Sitter’. As much as I might like to give both men the benefit of the doubt, I’ll probably wait for this to show up on cable.

Ernest & Celestine‘ – An Oscar nominee for Best Animated Feature this year, the story of an odd friendship between a bear and a mouse is drawn in a very charming watercolor style. The Blu-ray has both the original French soundtrack (with English subtitles) and the English dub populated with celebrity voices (Forest Whitaker, Paul Giamatti, William H. Macy and others). While both have been encoded in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio format, it appears that the dub has been prioritized with a full 5.1 track while the French original has been relegated to stereo.

Walk of Shame‘ – Appropriately titled, the Elizabeth Banks comedy was both terribly reviewed and a box office bomb. To rub salt in the wound, Banks was even sued for allegedly lifting portions of the screenplay from another script. (Lawsuits like this are common in Hollywood and typically meritless. Banks was neither a writer nor a producer on the film.) The actress sure does look good in the yellow dress featured in the poster art, though. That’s something, right?

Catalog Titles

The Criterion Collection has a big week with three new high-def releases: Peter Weir’s enigmatic masterpiece ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock‘, Georges Franju’s cool French caper ‘Judex‘, and the Oscar-winning (yet incredibly divisive) Vietnam War documentary ‘Hearts and Minds‘.

Do not take this as an endorsement, but I feel compelled to point out that this week’s listing for ‘Almost Human‘ is not the recently-canceled sci-fi TV series about Karl Urban and a robot. This one is a schlocky alien abduction thriller about which I’ve heard nothing positive.

Television

Don’t subscribe to Netflix? No worries. So long as you’re patient, you can still catch up with Kevin Spacey’s acclaimed political drama ‘House of Cards‘. The second season is now available on Blu-ray.

I’m really tempted to import the 3D version of ‘The Lego Movie’ from the UK, but I have a nagging feeling that a SteelBook will turn up somewhere eventually. I may need to wait for that and rent the movie in the meantime. Likewise, I will probably wait for the inevitable Criterion edition of ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’.

‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’, on the other hand, is a must-own for me. The other two Criterions are pretty appealing as well.

What floats your boat this week?

17 comments

  1. William Henley

    Well, I got the Everything Is Awesome Edition for $25, as I had originally preordered the 3D release, and they canceled it, and gave everyone a $10 credit to apply towards the Everything is Awesome Edition. Works for me.

    It was a blind buy – I was going to go see it with a girl, and last minute, she contacted me and was like “Oh, is this a date? I’m not ready to date at this time in my life”. By that time, everyone else had seen it, and I couldn’t find anyone else to go with me.

      • Chris B

        Yeah I was just bustin Will’s balls a little bit…I’m actually headed to an afternoon showing by myself right now haha

    • Timcharger

      When you learn one day about the mindset of going to movies alone,
      it’s actually very liberating. When you don’t care about what others
      think about a very personal experience of watching-a-movie really is.
      Watching a movie is NOT a participatory group activity. Discussing
      the movie afterwards, sure. that’s a group thing. But you don’t need
      to watch the movie together to do that.

      Often times, it’s a chore to be hassled with making sure Wifey and
      kids got their restroom run in on time and the snacks and the
      jackets and the I’m hungry again, I’m cold, I’m hot, this is boring.

      Even with friends, I got to compromise showtimes to get our
      schedules to match. Or 3D or not. Or IMAX of not. I rather just go
      to dinner or drinks with friends so that we CAN talk.

      —–

      You tell that girl: Oh? You’re not going? Alright, too bad. I’ll still
      enjoy the film and can give her a review if she wants to hear about it.
      Maybe next time.

      She’ll then ask: you’re going to the movie alone?!

      Yeah so what? Why should I be bothered by what strangers think?
      I know who I am.

      And if she’s interested to learn more about who you are, then you
      might know if she’s a keeper.

      • William Henley

        If I go to the movies alone, it depends on the movie. I actually quite enjoy it. However, Family and kid films, I feel like a creep going alone. In fact, at the theater I usually go to, on most movies geared toward kids, they actually require all adults to be accompanied by a child, so I could not go there alone to see something like, say, Alvin and the Chipmunks. This actually stems from overreaction to a theater in my area a few years ago where a child was assaulted in the auditorium.

        • Timcharger

          William, stop wearing your black trench coat to the movies.

          Seriously, go see those films at the late showtimes. I get that Pixar & some Dreamworks films are worth the theater experience.

          Plus, you don’t want to sit with strangers’ kids in your row, much less next to you.
          Any parent who would sit their kid next to a stranger and not be an adult buffer
          needs better parenting skills.

          And if you end up not being able to watch Alvin & the Chipmunks in the theater,
          you’re better off anyway.

          —–

          Back to that girl…

          You should assured her that it ISN’T a date, anyway.
          You just needed her to gain admission to a kid’s movie at that theater.
          No worries about dating complications.

          —–

          I wish I had the knowledge now that I didn’t have then.

          • I’ve been going to movies alone since I was 12 years old, so it’s second nature to me…although I’ve heard others say it’s like dining in sit-down restaurant alone, which I guess I can relate to, since it’s something I’d never do. Going to movies alone not only feels natural, but preferable at this stage in my life.

          • Timcharger

            I would suggest that dining is a participatory group activity.
            (Not that there’s anything wrong with eating alone.)

            Wait, did you say 12? Ummm, I don’t know about that.
            I would have quite a few questions for my 12 year old kid,
            if he/she tell me: yeah, Dad, I’m going to the movies
            alone.

            I guess it’s better than many, many other things kids can
            get into.

          • William Henley

            I was probably about 12 when I started going to the theater alone – there was a dollar theater within walking distance of the school. I would stop off at McFrugals (now Big Lots) next to the theater, get a pounder bag of candy, put in my coat, and catch the 3:30 or 4pm show, and have my mom pick me up afterwards.

            Considering that you don’t do much talking in the theater anyways, I don’t NEED movie going to be a social experience. I prefer it (I prefer talking to people before / after the movie), but I got tablets / phones / eInk readers that keep me entertained before the movie if I go alone. Shoot, I saw XMen by myself. It really doesn’t bother me.

            However, I am an early riser (on work days, I am at work at 5, so on my off days, sleeping in is like 7 AM). My offdays are Thursday through Saturdays, so I usually usually pick up movies at 11AM on Thursdays. (It’s like $3 for a 2D show, much better than the $10-$15 during prime time). Problem with that is, that is the mommy-and-me prime time at the theater (and during the summer, packed with kids 12 and under). It really doesn’t bother me for the PG-13 and R rated shows as there are no kids there, so I will usually be the only person in the theater. I love that. However, it just gets significantly harder on movies like How To Train Your Dragon and Maleficent – there really is a “creeper” stigma given in my area to guys who go see those movies by themselves. I choose not to go alone not because I have had problems, but to avoid potnetial problems.

            I say I haven’t had issues at theaters, but I have had issues at theme parks. A buddy and I went to Epcot a few years ago. Some crazy woman went off on us, and even got a park employee involved because here were two grown men wondering around Epcot without kids – we were obviously up to no good. Disney appologized to us and threatened to throw that lady out if she didn’t calm down. However, it was inconvienant and embarrasing, and I would prefer to prevent a rehash of something like that.

          • William Henley

            Worst movie dating exprience:

            I was living in a small college town. All the theaters were old and run down. Suddenly, Century built a brand new 13 screen cinema with stadium seating. The weekend before they opened, they got to be one of the few theaters that had the remaster of Gone With The Wind (like the 1998 / 1999 remaster – forgot the exact year). One showing only, and you could see the theater a week before it opened. My friend Jennifer and I were excited about this (I knew her from class, but we had never really hung out outside of class). We were to meet up at the theater that Saturday, and she had invited four other friends who were supposed to meet us up at the theater.

            I arrived at the theater about 20 minutes early. Jennifer had arrived about 3 mintues earlier, and she was visably upset. Even back then, hardly no one our age carried around cash, because in college towns, everyone took checks (back before Check Cards really took off). Except for the new theater – they were cash only. She didn’t have any cash. So I paid her way in, and bought her food and a drink. So we are in the theater, and don’t see her friends. We take a seat. 10 minutes. 5 minutes. She is visably nervous. 4 minutes. 3 minutes. Manager comes out and welcomes us to the theater and talks about the restoration process on this movie. We look around. Lights are still up, her friends are not there. Movie starts. We love this movie, but we are both uncomfortable. I have trouble seeing in the dark theater, but she is turning white with fear. 30 minutes. An hour. No friends.

            So here I am thinking, “she just made me pay her way into the theater, bought her food, and her friends whom she had set up these plans with convienantly did not show up. Um, is this like some kind of stealth dating?”

            At the two hour mark, there is an intermission. She leaves to make a phone call. Comes back in all red. “They decided not to come because they thought the movie would be sold out. I told them there was only about 20 people in the auditorium, and still over two hours left in the movie. They said they were on their way”.

            20 minutes later, her friends show up and everyone was much more relaxed.

            We hung out for the next few years of college (many times alone), and still keep in contact, but nothing beyond friendship ever developed. She is married now with two kids.

            Its not the only movie I have seen with a girl, but certainly the most memorable.

        • Chris B

          On the subject of movies and girls…About 10 years ago, I had had been dating this one for a few weeks and everything was going fairly well. One weekend, I was visiting her in the big city (we lived about 45 minutes apart) and saw that a local theatre there was having a one-time showing of the martial arts flick “House of Flying Daggers” that very afternoon. I think the film had come out a few months prior to that, had already left most theatres and I had missed it in it’s initial run. I excitedly suggested we go watch it and she immediately got a sour look on her face and with a grimace asked me: “you SERIOUSLY want to go watch THAT?”. Suffice to say we didn’t last long…and I have no regrets.

  2. Chris B

    With all the rave reviews for The Lego Movie, I’ll be renting it within the next few weeks for sure.

    Joe looks kind of interesting, might give that a rent as well. I never saw “The Sitter” but I shamefully admit, I thought “Your Highness” was hilarious!

    Judex looks intriguing, hopefully it’s included in the B&N Criterion sale next month and I’ll probably blind-buy it then.

    I’ve never been a fan of Anderson but my wife loves TRT and I’m sure she’ll want to see Grand Budapest. Maybe it will be the movie that changes my feelings on him…

  3. NJScorpio

    I will likely pull the trigger on ‘Grand Budapest’ instead of waiting, as we still haven’t heard anything about a Criterion release of ‘Moonrise Kingdom’.

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