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Blu-ray Highlights: Week of March 24th, 2013 – I’ve Got Faaaaith, Faith of the Heaaarrrtt!

The final week of March brings us a huge new slate of Blu-ray releases. Sadly, it’s mostly a case of quantity over quality. However, a recent Oscar winner, some classics, some cult flicks and a few TV box sets of note stand out above the rest.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (3/26/13)?

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New Releases

Daniel Day-Lewis won his third Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of the titular President in Steven Spielberg’s historical bio-pic ‘Lincoln‘, which was nominated for 12 categories in all. (It also won for Production Design.) While I have no doubt that this is a handsomely-mounted, impeccably tasteful, stirringly acted and perhaps even important film, I still can’t muster up any enthusiasm to watch the damn thing. It just looks so… Spielbergian… you know? I’d probably change my mind if I forced myself to sit for it, but at the present time, I’m not in any rush to do that. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

Brad Pitt reunited with his ‘Assassination of Jesse James’ director Andrew Dominik for a different sort of period piece with the crime thriller ‘Killing Them Softly‘, which takes place against the backdrop of the 2008 Presidential election. This one proved very divisive. While the film earned some admirers, many viewers called it “tedious” and “pointless,” and complained about its seemingly-confused political statements. Our Blu-ray reviewer Kevin Yeoman is one of the defenders. His review is linked above.

Billy Crystal used to be a funny guy, but those days are long past. As if his stint hosting the Oscars last year wasn’t painful enough, he also made a bid for a big screen comeback with the generic family comedy ‘Parental Guidance‘. The movie’s currently rocking a 19% favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes, though it somehow managed to gross just over $100 million based on a modest $25 million budget. Crystal will probably chalk this up as a success, but I think he would have been better off to just stay retired and leave us with fond memories of his better days.

The Danish period piece ‘A Royal Affair‘ stars ‘Casino Royale’ villain (and new Hannibal Lecter) Mads Mikkelsen in the tale of a royal physician who has an affair with the queen under the nose of her mentally ill husband. Sounds scandalous. The movie was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this year.

Catalog Titles

The assortment of catalog titles this week include a fair amount of both class and trash. Let’s start with the respectable stuff and work our way down.

The Criterion Collection continues its mission of putting out quality editions of classic films with Charlie Chaplin’s black comedy ‘Monsieur Verdoux‘ (in which the star plays against type as a serial widow murderer!) and Robert Bresson’s 1956 jailbreak thriller ‘A Man Escaped‘.

Twilight Time offers its latest limited edition Blu-ray with the 1943 religious drama ‘The Song of Bernadette‘. Somehow, I suspect that this one will have more difficulty selling out its 3,000 copy run than, say, the ’80s horror flick ‘Christine‘ did recently.

Timed to promoted the upcoming 3D conversion of the first film, Universal finally breaks all three ‘Jurassic Park‘ movies out from the Ultimate Trilogy box set into separate Blu-ray editions, much to the relief of those half-dozen fans who’ve waited patiently for a standalone release of ‘The Lost World’.

Fox brings us Elia Kazan’s 1950 thriller ‘Panic in the Streets‘ and a 20th Anniversary Edition (is the movie really that old?) of the beloved baseball comedy ‘The Sandlot‘.

Olive Films rolls out high-def editions of the Jack Nicholson/Meryl Streep drama ‘Ironweed‘ and the 1941 Jean Arthur workplace comedy ‘The Devil and Miss Jones‘. Be careful not to confuse the latter with the similarly-named ‘The Devil in Miss Jones’, which is something different entirely. Trust me on that.

Hoping to capitalize on Warner Bros.’ recent release of Michael Crichton’s sci-fi thriller ‘Westworld‘, Shout! Factory delivers its (Crichton-less and far inferior) sequel ‘Futureworld‘. Meanwhile, spin-off label Scream Factory has the cult horror flicks ‘From Beyond‘ and ‘Phantasm II‘. (Apparently, distribution rights to the other ‘Phantasm’ movies belong to Starz/Anchor Bay.)

Over in the bargain bins, you can find a young Natalie Portman in Echo Bridge’s release of the dramedy ‘Beautiful Girls‘. Among its cheapie double-bills, Mill Creek has a couple of interesting titles including the appealingly sleazy ’80s thriller ‘D.O.A.‘ (paired with the less appealing ‘Consenting Adults’) and the notorious Bruce Willis flop ‘Hudson Hawk‘ (paired with the much blander dud ‘Hollywood Homicide’).

Television

TV fare this week includes the second season of Showtime’s lurid historical soap opera ‘The Borgias‘, the first season of the Canadian sci-fi drama ‘Continuum‘ (which airs on the Syfy network here) and the first season of HBO’s hilarious political satire ‘Veep‘.

Finally, as the studio is still in the middle of remastering seasons of ‘The Next Generation’ for Blu-ray, CBS Films (and distributor Paramount) skip forward past a couple of the ‘Star Trek’ series that aired first to jump right to the franchise’s last show, ‘Star Trek: Enterprise‘ (which didn’t actually carry ‘Trek’ branding during its first season). Because this is the only ‘Trek’ series to actually air in high definition during its original run, it doesn’t require much remastering. (However, note that most of the CG visual effects were rendered at a low resolution and will be upconverted.) Be warned that the first season is pretty terrible. I gave up after about the fourth episode in a row where the ship’s crew landed on a planet and got trapped in a cave. I’m told that later seasons got better, but I was so burned out on ‘Trek’ at that point that I couldn’t be bothered to care. In any case, even if it does get better, the prequel series still shits all over four decades of established franchise canon. To be fair, so does J.J. Abrams’ reboot movie, but at least that had some fun doing it. The ‘Enterprise’ Blu-ray will contain lossless audio on all episodes, to ensure that each and every note of Diane Warren’s horrid theme song will feel like it’s stabbing you directly in the ear drum.

Out of everything I’ve listed above, the only titles I actually plan to buy are the two Criterions. I might rent ‘Lincoln’ some day. Given that I bypassed the trilogy box set, the solo edition of the first ‘Jurassic Park’ has some appeal, but I think I’ll just wait for the 3D edition later this year. I watch ‘Veep’ on broadcast, but don’t need to own it. I also have a perverse desire to watch ‘Hudson Hawk’ again, but don’t think I can bring myself to actually buy a copy, no matter how cheap.

How about you? What will you buy or rent this week?

32 comments

  1. HuskerGuy

    Nada this week. I’ll rent Lincoln as I don’t see that as one with great re-watchability. My wife and I walked out on Killing Them Softly and while there are some good catalog items in this batch (Jurasic Park, Sandlot) I’ll snag those cheaper much later on.

  2. Kevin

    Say what you will, but I’m really looking forward to “Enterprise” on Blu-Ray. I watched the episode “Shuttlepod One” yesterday on Netflix streaming, and even with the greater compression, I thought the show looked really nice in HD, upconverted effects and all.

    And while it may not be the greatest “Star Trek” series ever made (though I still say “Voyager” is far worse), at least it’s more “Star Trek” on Blu-Ray, which can only be a good thing.

    • Kevin

      Not to mention that I’m also very curious to check out the new bonus features… especially the apparently very candid chat with Rick Berman and Brannon Braga.

    • William Henley

      I actually really like the theme song. Yeah, its not like other Star Trek’s, but so what? It’s a great song, and fits the mood of the series quite well.

      I feel that Enterprise was the most polished of all the shows. Characters and the universe are established really well from the very first episode. The whole show feels realistic to me.

      I think the only thing that “broke” four decades of Trek lore is that the ship was named Enterprise, and even then, it could be argured that the NX-01 doesn’t count, as it is not a Federation vessel. I am still trying to find something in one of the episodes or movies that specifically says how many ships named Enterprise there was, and I cannot find this anywhere. A couple of the movies had pictures of different ships named Enterprise, but nothing that says “these were the only ships named Enterprise”

      In fact, I have just spent an hour and a half searching the internet, and can find nothing that states how many ships are CANNON. The best thing I can find is this discussion:

      http://www.trekspace.org/forum/topics/1977635:Topic:41779

      Every other thing I have looked at discusses the NX-01 as an official ship, and one site I looked at listed 35 ships named Enterprise – way more than any of the movies or shows listed, as there were way more than two navel vessels named Enterprise.

      Anyways, that was a tanget. Back on topic, I just got a text from Amazon saying that my copy of Enterprise is out for delivery.

      I was not impressed with Lincoln, so I am passing on that.

      • Josh Zyber
        Author

        It might help your searching if you spelled “canon” correctly. :)

        The theme song is horrible. This is an objective fact. If you like it, you’re a masochist.

        As I recall, Enterprise also has the crew encounter the Borg decades before humanity’s first contact with that race, and yet conveniently forget to record any mention of the incident for anyone to know about later. Stuff like that was pointless and galling.

        • William Henley

          The encounter with the Borg stemed from an alternate time line – ie after Star Trek: First Contact (or before) when the Borg went back in time. If I remember the episode correctly, they were found in Antartica and had been there since the middle of the 21st Century. As such, it follows what was established in the movies.

          As far as spelling, who needs to learn how to spell when Google corrects it for you? :-)

          • William Henley

            So I am sure this is going to be noted in the review, but I have one issue with the Enterprise Blu-Ray. I think I have been spoiled by TOS and TNG on Blu-Ray, but in Enteprise, even though the show was shot on film and was post-produced in HD, all the CGI in the show is upconverted SD. It looks horrible. I’ve let it pass over the years, just thinking it was an issue of over-compression on Netflix or the channel I was watching, but when you see it on Blu-Ray… Sigh. I guess Enterprise just wasn’t a big enough show to justify redoing the special effects on.

          • William Henley

            Duh, and Josh did mention it in blurb up above. Anyways, the special effects look really really bad.

  3. Is it bad to admit that out of that list the film I’d like the most is Hudson Hawk? Sue me, I enjoyed it!! :-D I’m curious to see Continuum, but not enough to buy till I’ve seen it.

    I want Jurassic Park, mostly for the special features (I strangely rarely feel the urge to watch the film). Haven’t owned it(or the making-of) since VHS, so time for an upgrade. Might eventually get JPIII which was fun, but it’s nice to be able to skip the hideously bad Lost World.

    I feel the same about Lincoln. Just no enthusiasm or desire to watch it.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      Continuum is pretty cheesy (especially the PS2-quality CGI) and frequently suffers from dodgy writing, but it has some interesting ideas. Comcast still has the last half of the season available On Demand, if you felt like checking out a random episode. While the show is serialized, you can get the gist pretty quickly.

  4. Lord Bowler

    Good week for some very old John Wayne Movies, unfortunately they’re a little steep for movies that are under an hour.

    Then there’s movies like McClintock and The Quiet Man, two great pairings of Wayne and O’Hara.

    Also, Star Trek: Enterprise!

    Terminal Velocity (Ok Movie) and White Squall (Great Movie) on one disc, great deal!

  5. Scott

    Lincoln is fantastic. I think it’s hilarious when people make assumptions about a movie they have never seen especially when it’s directed by Steven Spielberg. Not sure when it became cool to hate on one of the greatest filmmakers of all time but oh well. There’s no accounting for taste. This movie has tons of rewatchability and will be a first day purchase for me.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      Spielberg is not infallible. Most of his attempts to make “important” movies are smothered in sanctimony, schmaltz and obvious Oscar baiting. Even Schindler’s List succumbs to this at the end. The trailers for Lincoln remind me far too much of Amistad, and I just have no interest in watching that. Sorry.

      Spielberg is a master of light entertainment. He’s at his best with movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark or Jurassic Park. Aside from the ending, I’ll give him Schindler, but in general I don’t care for his heavy dramatic work. You are free to disagree.

      • William Henley

        Amistad was at least watchable. Lincoln bored me to death. And yes, I did see the movie. And I honestly prefered the Lincoln in Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter over the actor they got to play Lincoln in Lincoln. Do yourself a favor and pass on Lincoln, it is such a bore.

        • Scott

          so youre making a comment about how bad Lincoln is and don’t even know who the actor is who played Lincoln? The actor who won an Oscar this year for playing Lincoln? Are you kidding me? Well William, I guess the new Transformers movie is only a year away so thats something to look forward to.

    • Scott, I have to say, I’m with Josh on Spielberg. I’ve always found him a great visual director, but not necessarily the best at picking his stories or who writes them (or the alterations he makes to them).

      I can see where you’re coming from in that some people ‘hate on’ certain film makers because it makes them seem cool, but sometimes others of us just don’t like some director’s work for normal personal taste reasons.

      I’m a late 70′s/80′s kid, and many of Speilberg’s movies (and produced-by movies) helped define what I enjoy, but I’ve still never been a huge fan of his. I’ve always found him hit and miss. Jaws? Great! ET? Loved it as a kid, torn on it as an adult. Jurassic Park? Always loved more for the ground breaking stuff than the story (which fell down more on the characters than the concept, though I love Alan Grant). Amistad? Hated with a passion, couldn’t even finish watching. Saving Private Ryan? Fantastic opening and visuals, but disappointing plot. etc., etc… All of those are things that are personal reasons, not just because it’s cool. Like any director, it’s personal taste. :-)

  6. Scott

    I will disagree and to call his serious work Oscar baiting is just plain wrong. Kundun, Gangs Of New York and The Aviator are pure Oscar bait from Martin Scorsese. War Horse is probably the closest thing to Oscar bait in Spielbergs filmography. And in response to your critique of Schindlers List’s ending I present the following.

    Schindlers List

    In the aftermath, he packs a car in the night and bids farewell to his workers. They give him a letter explaining he is not a criminal to them, together with a ring engraved with a Talmudic quotation, “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire”. Schindler is touched but deeply ashamed as he leaves, feeling he could have done more to save lives, such as selling his car, his golden party badge and begins to regret all the money he spent carelessly. He breaks down.

    Your version goes like this. In the aftermath, he packs a car in the night and bids farewell to his workers. They give him a letter explaining he is not a criminal to them, together with a ring engraved with a Talmudic quotation, “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire”. Schindler is touched. He looks over the nearly 1000 people he has saved. There is a short pause. “Well, see ya later”. Schindler waves, climbs in his car and drives off into the darkness.

    And to say that Spielberg is best suited for light hearted affair … are you serious? The Sugarland Express, The Color Purple, Empire of the Sun, Schindlers List, Amistad, Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can (dramedy), Munich, War Horse, which I’m sure you hated but its excellent and Lincoln. 6 out of 10 were nominated for Best Picture. But you’re right, the guy can’t direct a Drama. You could also make the argument that Catch Me If You Can, one of the best reviewed movies of 2002 should have been nominated for best picture.

    2002 Rotten Tomatoes
    Catch Me If You Can – 96%
    Chicago – 87%
    The Hours – 81%
    Gangs of New York – 75%
    The Two Towers – 96%

    And probably should have won!

    And now you’re going to say his Dramas are too Spielbergian but most are actually pretty dark.

    The Sugarland Express, Clovis is killed and Lou Jean spends fifteen months on a five year prison term in a women’s correctional facility.

    The Color Purple, Nettie, Samuel, Olivia, Adam, and Tashi arrive at Celie’s house. Nettie and Celie embrace, having not seen each other for over 30 years just like the ending in the novel.

    Empire of The Sun, Jim is reunited with his parents having survived the horrors of war. But he’s no longer a little boy and probably won’t be staying home for long.

    Amistad, Cinquè and the freed Africans return to Africa only to find their country in civil war and his wife and child missing, probably sold into slavery.

    Saving Private Ryan, Cpt. Miller and most of his platoon are killed. With his dying breath he says “James earn this, earn it” a burden private Ryan carries with him for the rest of his life.

    Catch Me If You Can, Frank and Carl become good friends and catch some of the world’s most elusive money forgers. Frank earns millions of dollars each year because of his work creating unforgeable checks.

    Munich, Avner openly questions the basis and effectiveness of the operation, and Ephraim admits that there was no evidence linking any of the targets to the Munich massacre. In a show of respect, Avner asks Ephraim to break bread with him, Ephraim rejects him and leaves. Avner leaves as well turning his back on his home land.

    War Horse, Albert returns to his family’s farm with Joey, where he hugs his parents and returns the pennant to his father. The elder Narracott extends his hand to the boy, now a man and like him, a former soldier.

    Lincoln, Lincoln is assassinated shortly after the passing of the thirteenth amendment. I’m defensive because I am a fan of his work. He has a reel that every Director would kill to have and history will remember him as one of the greatest Directors who ever lived. But I’m sure someone out there will dispute this.

  7. Barsoom Bob

    Lincoln is saved by a very intelligent, witty script by Tony Kushner and some very good performances all around. It is not a bio or an action movie, but it is very interesting to watch, not so self important, heavy handed as you might think. It is surprisingly schmaltz free and really the only mild misfires occur at the end. Arron was right, there was an ideal exit point about 8 minutes before the end.

  8. Good lord! I HATE THE TERM “OSCAR BAIT”. Can we stop using it to classify entire movies? It’s like this catch-all that ends every discussion. “Well, that’s Oscar Bait so it must be bad.”

    This is one of the most overused phrases in all of film criticism and discussion.

    /rant

  9. I loved ‘Lincoln’ too, and Spielberg is my favourite director of all time. But that doesn’t make me a “fan boy”, because one always needs to be honest about the merits of a movie. I love “Jurassic Park” (can’t wait for the re-release), but I don’t like “The Lost World”.

  10. JM

    Josh is intolerant of stupidity, yet when a master playwright pounds out a razor-brilliant screenplay he ignores it.

    Maybe he’s more of a tech geek than a film geek (on the spectrum).

    My only question is will ‘Jurassic Park 3D’ on blu-ray bring with it a better 4K transfer, and can I have a 2D copy of that?

  11. Drew

    Jane, the ‘Jurassic Park’ 3D Blu-ray does contain an all new 4K transfer. It’s unclear if the 2D re-release will contain the new transfer, but if ‘JP3D’ is like ‘Top Gun – 3D’, you should be able to play it in 2D mode, and reap the rewards of the new transfer. I was able to play ‘Top Gun – 3D’ that way.

  12. August J Lehe

    Hudson Hawk is my favorite “Guilty Pleasure,” but why can’t I get a Blue Ray copy of Song of Bernadette? They keep sending ONLY the DVD!?!? I’m really ticked off!

  13. Josh Zyber
    Author

    If Mill Creek puts together a double-bill of Hudson Hawk with Color of Night, I’ll buy it. I have no interest in the other movies these two are currently each paired with, however.