From a pineapple under the sea to the far reaches of outer space, this week’s new Blu-ray releases attempt to court many audiences. Are any of them actually worth buying? Well, that’s for you to decide.
‘The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water‘ – Now this was unexpected. Eleven years after his last feature film, and while his TV cartoon is still on the air, the undersea world’s goofiest fast food employee returned to cinema screens in a part-live-action adventure. As if the existence of such a thing weren’t strange enough, the movie somehow even got decent reviews and became a pretty big hit. Personally, I’ve never really understood the appeal of SpongeBob, but if his brand of surreal, quasi-stoner humor is your thing, the Blu-ray comes in both 2D and 3D options.
‘Jupiter Ascending‘ – The Wachowski siblings (it was so much easier when we could call them “brothers,” wasn’t it?) deserve points for ambition, even as their post-‘Matrix’ movies continue to disinterest audiences. They never take half-measures. The siblings’ third flop in a row, the gargantuan space opera epic was excoriated by just about every critic and viewer who saw it. Nevertheless, I’m intrigued enough to want to see it. I just hope it’s more like ‘Cloud Atlas’ (which I liked, even if no one else did) than ‘Speed Racer’ (which was godawful). Also available in 2D or 3D, both Blu-rays have a Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which is still rare enough on the format to be appealing for that alone.
‘Focus‘ – Early in his career, Will Smith played an ambitious young con artist in the excellent ‘Six Degrees of Separation’. Since that time, he somehow got shoehorned into headlining overstuffed action and sci-fi tentpole blockbusters. As if to take a breather, Smith has deliberately downscaled a bit for this modest romantic caper comedy from the directors of ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’. Reviews were mixed and the picture didn’t make much money, but the movie looks more interesting to me than another ‘Men in Black’ or ‘Bad Boys’ sequel, or whatever he’s working on next.
‘McFarland, USA‘ – Kevin Costner gets inspirational in a feel-good Disney drama about a pure-hearted white guy who teaches downtrodden Mexican teens how to run really fast. Because they couldn’t figure out how to do that on their own, being helpless minorities and all. Yeah, I think I’ll skip this one, thanks.
‘Monsters: Dark Continent‘ – The original ‘Monsters’ was a successful calling-card that nabbed director Gareth Edwards a much bigger gig doing ‘Godzilla’. As he went off to do that, director Tom Green (no, not that Tom Green – just another random person by that name) hoped for the same from this from this barely-related sequel. Seems unlikely. Frankly, I’d be more inclined to watch this if it had been directed by the “Bum Bum Song” guy. Now that might be interesting.
‘Wolfcop‘ – Much like the recent ‘Zombeavers’, I think the title alone does a better job of selling this than anything I could possibly say. He’s a wolf… he’s a cop… he’s Wolfcop!
When you’re done with ‘Wolfcop’, you might feel like checking out a more straightforward, less comedic werewolf flick like ‘Wolfen‘. Released nearly simultaneously with ‘The Howling’ and ‘American Werewolf in London’, this was perhaps the weakest of the 1981 werewolf cycle, but still has some notable gore effects and a good lead performance from Albert Finney. Based on a novel by Whitley “I Was Anally Probed by Aliens, No Really That Actually Happened to Me” Strieber.
To be blunt about it, Universal screwed up the last Blu-ray release of Ron Howard’s enduringly popular Space Race drama ‘Apollo 13‘ with an overly-processed video transfer. To make amends, the studio has reissued the title in a 20th Anniversary Edition which promises a brand new film scan. If you’re a fan of the movie (personally, I’m not), this should hopefully be a worthy upgrade. Sadly, it’s unlikely that anyone would take this opportunity to remove the stupid “Zoom Zoom” sound effects from all the scenes that take place in the soundless vacuum of outer space, but what can you do, right?
Warner celebrates The Duke with a box set of John Wayne Westerns that compiles new high-def editions of ‘Cahill U.S. Marshal’ and ‘The Train Robbers’ (both also available separately) with previously-released titles ‘Fort Apache’, ‘The Searchers’ and ‘Rio Bravo’.
Meanwhile, Shout! Factory tosses Mickey Rourke a little appreciation with a double-feature of ‘The Pope of Greenwich Village‘ and ‘Desperate Hours‘.
I’m not sure what marketing genius at Sony thought that the beginning of June would be the right time to release a new restoration of the acclaimed Revolutionary War musical ‘1776‘. This is the sort of thing people will want to watch around the Fourth of July, if they haven’t forgotten about it in a month.
HBO’s crime drama ‘The Wire‘ is routinely cited as one of the best TV series of all time. Unfortunately, it never aired in high definition during its original run, even though the later seasons were broadcast well into the HD era. For the Complete Series Blu-ray set, HBO has remastered every episode from the original film elements. In doing so, the studio made a controversial decision to reformat the aspect ratio from the original 4:3 to widescreen 16:9. Even though the show’s creator David Simon was brought in to supervise, he made it clear on his personal blog that this was a compromise he had no choice but to accept. Thankfully, most reports say that the change has been handled tastefully, and new viewers will probably not even notice that anything is wrong. Still, it’s a disappointment in what should be one of the best Blu-ray releases of the year.
Other notable TV offerings this week include the terrific final season of ‘Justified‘ (what a great finale!) and the fourth season of the “Wait, is that really still on?” alien invasion drama ‘Falling Skies‘.
I may regret it, but I think I’m going to wind up buying ‘Jupiter Ascending’ in 3D. Even though I’ve made a conscious decision to no longer collect TV series I’ll have a hard time finding time to rewatch, that box set of ‘The Wire’ also calls to me. ‘1776’ and ‘Wolfen’ are appealing too.
How are you starting the month of June?