Blu-ray Highlights: Week of May 3rd, 2015 – Mr. Grey Will See You Now

Aww, how thoughtful. Just in time for Mother’s Day comes that embarrassing S&M sex movie your mom’s been wanting to watch with you. What a great gift. Savor the awkwardness!

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (5/5/15)?

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New Releases

Fifty Shades of Grey‘ – I just don’t understand the world sometimes. How did a ridiculous piece of half-literate ‘Twilight’ fan-fiction ever become a worldwide bestseller and now a blockbuster movie? While I’m sure that most of the people who went to see this in the theater did so ironically, why would anyone ever give money to support the creation of such a thing? I even liked Dakota Johnson in her short-lived ‘Ben and Kate’ sitcom. If she thought starring in a film like this would propel her to movie stardom, she probably ought to study the example of Elizabeth Berkley a little more closely.

Selma‘ – The prospect of a Martin Luther King, Jr. bio-pic was such an inevitability that I’m surprised it took this long to actually happen. While it may seem like blatant Oscar bait, both critics and audiences widely praised the film for director Ava DuVernay’s nuanced treatment of the material and her depiction of King as a real human being rather than just an icon. Naturally, because the movie turned out better than expected, the Oscars mostly ignored it.

The Last Five Years‘ – The long-running Off-Broadway musical tells the story of the rise and fall of a romantic relationship using an innovative structure. The woman’s side of the story is told in reverse chronological order from its dissolution back to the happier days, while the man’s side goes the opposite direction and they meet with a wedding in the middle. The film adaptation, directed by Richard LaGravenese (‘P.S. I Love You’) received some warm notices mainly for Anna Kendrick’s performance, while co-star Jeremy Jordan (reprising his role from the stage version) took criticism for his broad theatricality. The skill set required to be a good theater actor doesn’t always translate to cinema, unfortunately.

Mr. Turner‘ – For one of his occasional dabblings in period piece drama, British filmmaker Mike Leigh profiles famed 19th Century artist J.M.W. Turner as a miserable sod incapable of maintaining relationships with other human beings even as his work captures the beauty of the world around him. As usual for Leigh, expected terrific performances from a fine cast (star Timothy Spall won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival) and quality storytelling.

Winter Sleep‘ – Speaking of Cannes, last year’s Palme d’Or winner was a three-and-a-quarter-hour-long Turkish drama about a cranky old man who hates everyone, and is hated right back in return – a conceit borrowed from the writings of Anton Chekhov. Our theatrical reviewer Phil didn’t buy into the festival hype. He called the movie “desperately dull and unforgivably long.”

Black or White‘ – I remain mystified at how writer/director Mike Binder has a career in Hollywood. Years back, I tried to watch his HBO sitcom ‘Mind of the Married Man’ and found it utterly uninteresting. His feature films, including ‘The Upside of Anger’ and ‘Reign Over Me’, have all either flopped or barely made back their money. Yet he keeps finding people, even notable stars, to work with him. This time, his ‘Upside’ leading man Kevin Costner returns for a heavy-handed Issue Movie about race relations in America. I cannot imagine wanting to watch this.

Lost River‘ – For his directorial debut, Ryan Gosling has taken lessons from his good pal Nicolas Winding Refn, whose approach to filmmaking consists of identifying other directors he likes and imitating everything they do as closely as possible. Gosling apparently really likes David Lynch and David Cronenberg. Words like “folly,” “mess” and “fiasco” come up a lot in reviews of this.

Black Sea‘ – Jude Law captains a submarine of treasure hunters searching for a sunken WWII U-Boat filled with gold. Do you think he’ll have to deal with leaky pipes, valves that need turning at crucial moments, burst pressure gauges, and a desperate dive to depths the sub can’t take? Hmm, I wonder…

The Pyramid‘ – Found-Footage horror flick about a team of dim-witted archaeologists who get stalked ‘n chased by a mummy or some nonsense. Pass.

Double-Dips, Triple-Dips, Etc.

Martin Scorsese’s gangster masterpiece ‘Goodfellas‘ was one of Warner Bros.’ earliest Blu-ray releases. Unfortunately, the disc had a rather poor video transfer nearly indistinguishable from DVD as well as lossy audio. The studio reissued it a couple of times with fancier packaging (a Digibook and a SteelBook), but didn’t bother to remaster the movie. Thankfully, the time has finally come to correct those wrongs with a 25th Anniversary Edition featuring a new 4k film scan approved by Scorsese. Of course, that hasn’t stopped people on other web forums from already grumbling that they don’t like the look of the early screencaps.

Amazon claims that MGM is releasing a 20th Anniversary Edition of the wildly overrated ‘Get Shorty‘, plus a weirdly-named ‘John Travolta Big Hit Collection‘ which pairs that movie with its even worse sequel ‘Be Cool’. I don’t see these listed at other domestic retailers, and the French text on the cover art makes me assume that the discs are actually Canadian imports.

From the category of “Let’s Promote the Upcoming Sequel” come reissues of the original ‘Pitch Perfect’ and the first ‘Mad Max’. The main selling point of the new ‘Pitch Perfect‘ disc seems to be sing-a-long onscreen lyrics, which is to say that if you already own the movie on Blu-ray there’s no need to upgrade. The Scream Factory Collector’s Edition of ‘Mad Max‘, meanwhile, has some new interviews with the cast and a (supposedly) remastered video transfer that our reviewer E. wasn’t too impressed by.

The Auteurs

Universal is finally breaking apart last year’s ‘Steven Spielberg Director’s Collection‘ box set with separate releases for ‘1941‘, ‘Always‘, ‘Duel‘ and ‘The Sugarland Express‘. Although it wasn’t part of that box set, the studio also expands ‘Munich‘ (formerly a Best Buy exclusive) to wide retail at the same time.

While splitting up one box set, Universal bundles together another for the ‘Clint Eastwood 7-Movie Collection‘, which includes reissues of ‘Two Mules for Sister Sara’, ‘Joe Kidd’ and ‘High Plains Drifter’, along with new-to-Blu titles ‘Coogan’s Bluff’, ‘The Beguiled’, ‘Play Misty for Me’ and ‘The Eiger Sanction’. Give it a year or so if you’d like to get those individually.

MGM’s ‘The Sergio Leone Anthology‘ compiles Eastwood’s three “Man with No Name” Westerns ‘A Fistful of Dollars’, ‘For a Few Dollars More’ and ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ with the non-Eastwood ‘Duck, You Sucker’. These are all reissues, though I’m not sure which edition of ‘The Good, The Bad’ is included. I would presume it’s the recent remaster but can’t say for certain.

Frank Sinatra would be 100-years-old in 2015… if, you know, he hadn’t died back in 1998. Regardless, Warner Bros. celebrates the centennial of the Chairman of the Board with a five-disc ‘Frank Sinatra Collection‘. Unlike the other studios, Warner is nice enough to simultaneously provide standalone copies of ‘Anchors Aweigh‘, ‘On the Town‘ and ‘Robin and the 7 Hoods‘. (The other two titles, ‘Guys and Dolls’ and ‘Ocean’s 11’, were previously released on Blu-ray.)

Guilty Pleasures

OHHHHHHH!! Have a Twinkie, snapperhead. Starz has dredged up the Andrew Dice Clay vehicle (heh, “vehicle,” get it?) ‘The Adventures of Ford Fairlane‘ from the depths of obscurity. I haven’t seen this since I was a teenager and watched it about 20 times on VHS. I’m pretty sure it’s a terrible movie, but a very quotable one. Un-fuckin-believable.

Bird-lady Michelle Pfeiffer is in love with wolf-man Rutger Hauer, but only wisecracking teenage thief Matthew Broderick can save them from an evil bishop. If you can read that summary without rolling your eyes, you might have a nostalgic soft spot for Richard Donner’s silly medieval fantasy ‘Ladyhawke‘, now available through the Warner Archive.

Tiny Tim Thomerson battles an evil jack-in-the-box in the epic crossover ‘Dollman vs. Demonic Toys‘. It’s too much awesomeness for just one franchise to handle!

Television

TV offerings this week include the first season of A&E’s ‘Halt and Catch Fire‘ (I’m very surprised it’s popular enough to have been renewed for a second), the second season of Showtime’s excellent ‘Masters of Sex‘, and the third season of PBS’ period drama ‘Mr. Selfridge‘.

My $.02

The new edition of ‘Goodfellas’ is at the top of my must-buy list. I’m also excited that ‘Duel’ is finally available on its own, because the other Spielberg titles don’t interest me much. ‘Selma’ and ‘Mr. Turner’ deserve at least rentals.

How about you? Please tell me you’re not buying ‘Fifty Shades’.

18 comments

  1. Although I’m a little bummed about the picture being cropped, the screen caps for Duel look gorgeous and that’s on the top of my list for this week. I guess I’ll just have to keep the dvd. I’ve been curious about 1941 for about a decade now and still haven’t got around to seeing it. Maybe a blind buy. Anyone else see this, is it funny, good? Goodfellas remastered is definitely going to be in my collection, but I might wait for a price drop. I might start playing catch up on tiles I didn’t purchase in the past few weeks, but I’m very anxious to see this new master in action. It would be awesome if this new Terminator reissue would include the mono soundtrack, but that would probably be asking for too much. New packaging, HOORAY!! I just don’t know which version of 50 Shades of Grey I’m going to get, maybe all of them!! : )

    • Chris B

      Ehhh…I wouldn’t recommend a blind-buy for 1941. It’s a rather particular brand of humor and depending on your tastes it could really go either way. They play it on TV fairly regularly I find…just keep an eye out.

  2. Chris B

    I want the Goodfellas reissue as well but it’s listed at 30 bucks where I live. Pretty steep for a movie that’s been released that many times, definetly waiting for a price drop. I’ll pick up Duel eventully as well. I’ll probably end up renting Lost River out of curiosity. I haven’t seen Munich since it was in theatres. I remember finding it a little slow and overlong, maybe a second watch will be different.

  3. 1941: I like it! My movie going gang saw it several times when it was new, but we were young and silly.

    I recommend the theatrical cut over the director’s, which slows down the comedy too much.

    -Bill

  4. “Thankfully, the time has finally come to correct those wrongs with a 25th Anniversary Edition featuring a new 4k film scan approved by Scorsese. Of course, that hasn’t stopped people on other web forums from already grumbling that they don’t like the look of the early screencaps.”

    Yeah, that would be me. 🙂

    It looks like they boosted the hell out of the contrast, Scorsese-approved or not.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      Screencaps are unreliable and can’t be trusted to judge something like that. Maybe it’s a real problem and maybe it’s not, but I wouldn’t pass judgment without actually watching the disc on a calibrated high-def screen.

  5. cardpetree

    I really liked Halt and Catch Fire and can’t wait for Season 2 at the end of this month. I’ve turned into a pretty big fan of Lee Pace. Not interested in buying Season 1 on Blu-ray though.

  6. Josh – you realize “Mr. Grey” is a character in Dreamcatcher right?

    Anyways – I may still pick up the Spielberg set from the past, even the UK version, but otherwise I have a wishlist interest in 1941, Duel, Munich, Dollman vs Demonic Toys, The Pyramid.

    • EM

      He even sounds like a character in the board game Clue: “It was Mr. Grey in the playroom with the leather collar.”

  7. So I just picked up Commando steelbook at Best Buy, it’s an exclusive for now. This one has the Director’s cut and possibly all the extras from the dc DVD. The cover art sucks but the content is great. I’m glad i held out buying Commando until now. I guess this may of come out on the fifth as well.

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