Blu-ray Highlights: Week of May 31st, 2015 – Good Morning, Krusty Krew

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.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (6/2/15)?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

New Releases

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!

Catalog Titles

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.

Television

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‘.

My $.02

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?

16 comments

  1. I’ve never watched a single episode of Spongebob, but I bet it’ll be fun in 3d. Jupiter Ascending will make some great eye and ear candy.as well and will hopefully be entertainmening. I don’t think it can be as bad as Speedracer. The mickey rourke double feature will go on my wish list. As soon as red box acquires Focus, I will rent. Wolfen was a pretty awesome flick and I also would like to add it to my collection. Although I can’t remember it, I know I didn’t like how it ended and I almost used it on the good movie with bad ending poll from a little while back, but decided against it for lack of a decent explanation on why the ending was bad. Maybe it seemed rushed or ended to abruptly after a slow buil up. I guess I’ll see when I pick it up.

  2. William Henley

    Are you sure Hoovey is being released by Funimation? This is no where even close to the type of stuff they normally release, and would indicate possibly an entirely new line of business for the company.

    Ranma is something I am interested in, but I am streaming them off of Hulu.

    1776 is a curiosity to me. Never seen it. I think it is on Amazon Prime, so I may stream it and see if I want to purchase it.

    I did pre-order Apollo 13. I had it on HD-DVD, but no longer have an HD-DVD player, so I am slowly replacing films I had on HD-DVD

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      I had never heard of Hoovey, but I just looked it up. Apparently, the disc is being released by a label called EchoLight, which is a division of FUNimation attempting to break into the “faith-based” entertainment market. EchoLight was co-founded by the president of FUNimation (the studio known for distributing jiggly T&A anime) and former hard-Right senator Rick Santorum.

      • William Henley

        Interesting, but not really that surprising. Funimation is actually just a few miles from me, and everyone and their dog in this area are a member of some religion (usually Christian, but we also have Muslims and Buddhist in the area). This would also explain why The Christmas Candle, when it was released theatrically, came to Dallas before the movie expanded nation-wide

  3. Scott

    Just for the record, Jupiter Ascending is truly awful! I mean so bad that you really have no idea how bad it is until you find yourself in the awful position of having wasted time in your life witnessing the awful, terribleness that is Jupiter Ascending. If you plan to buy it just burn your money instead, it’ll be more entertaining and will make a hell of a lot more sense! Seriously, please don’t buy it!!!

  4. Chris B

    I’ll watch Jupiter Ascending when it shows up on Netflix but I’m not willing to risk paying to rent it based on all the shitty reviews. The main reason I’d be into seeing Focus is because it co-stars the INSANELY hot Margot Robbie. Seriously, she’s a goddess ,I’ll watch any movie she’s in. I’d like to checkout Wolfcop as well….no purchases this week though….slow start to the month.

    • William Henley

      I may Redbox it this week. Their last few movies have all gotten bad reviews, but I liked all of their movies (granted, some are better than others – I LIKE Speed Racer, I LOVE Matrix 1). So I am going to at least give it a shot.

  5. C.C. 95

    The restoration of 1776 is amazing. I saw the work in progress 6 months ago with Peter Hunt in attendance- and it is really something. It is my favorite Broadway Musical/Drama put to film- and I mostly hate musicals! (Maybe it’s because 1776 is equal parts dramedy/music, and not wall to wall singing).
    And as a story, it just rocks. Reminds us that when our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, they were- in essence- signing their own very possible death warrants.
    But the film is so light on its feet, that it flows between comedy and pathos effortlessly.
    The cast rop to bottom is amazing. (With Howard da Silva as Franklin a hoot, and William Daniels peerless as John Adams).
    Interesting note is that 3 of the actors of members of congress played (what seems like) almost identical characters years later in Milos Forman’s AMADEUS as the King’s council. (If you compare the 2 films and the roles- there is NO WAY this is an accident).
    Anyway- make sure you get a copy for the July 4th! You are in for a treat!

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      For years, I thought that the Peter Hunt who directed 1776 was the same Peter Hunt who directed On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and had edited most of the early James Bond movies. It struck me as very odd that a British filmmaker would direct a movie about the American Revolution. Of course, come to find out they’re different Peter Hunts, but it took me a very long time to realize that.

  6. Barsoom Bob

    I enjoyed Jupiter Ascending for what it was. The story is nonsense, Cloud Atlas had heart and meaning that we can thank Tom Twyker for, but JA is visually exciting and done with the usual action panache that the former Wachowski brothers do so well. It is not meant to be taken seriously, it is just a hoot that I’m probably going to watch more times than I should. I think it is going to be my new favorite fun 3D flick to watch for a while. Certainly no Matrix but more palatable to me than Speed Racer.

    P.S. Holy Shit last night’s Game of Thrones. Eagerly awaiting Josh’s recap.

    • Barsoom Bob

      Not advertising for the film, just stating how I felt about it and warning Josh that it is nothing like Cloud Atlas.

  7. My answers are slightly skewed but here goes;
    Apollo 13 (Zavvi Steelbook)
    Jupiter Ascending (3D)
    Wolfcop (Zavvi Exclusive)
    Wishlist; Monsters: Dark Continent, Cheesebob Squarepants Cheese out of Water 3D, Scarecrows.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *