Blu-ray Highlights for May 8th, 2012 – Somebody Needs a Nap

Cult films take center stage on Blu-ray this week. Mainly, that’s because the new releases are such a snoozefest.

The following discs see release this week:

New Releases

I don’t normally promote reviews from other publications around here, but DVDTalk is our sister site, and our friend and regular Roundtable contributor Adam opens his review of the week’s biggest release with a perfect line: “The movie’s called ‘Underworld: Awakening‘ and all that, so why does it keep putting me to sleep?” Seriously, did anyone really think that the cheesy vampires-vs-werewolves ‘Underworld’ franchise needed a fourth entry? Did it even need a second? Why is this a franchise at all? These are questions I can’t answer, but if you’re desperate to see Kate Beckinsale slink back into the leather catsuit and shoot at werewolves, here’s some more of the same, this time with a lower budget and worse production values than usual. Oh, but it’s in 3D! Enjoy that.

Speaking of soulless, undead monsters, Channing Tatum has a new movie too! This guy must have the greatest agent alive, and I fear that poor Rachel McAdams needs to fire hers. She really ought to be several leagues above working with an oaf like Tatum. Nonetheless, the two are paired up in the romantic drama ‘The Vow‘, which was surprisingly not based on a book by Nicholas Sparks, even though it sure looks to come straight from his playbook. I’m falling asleep just thinking about this one, so let’s move on.

Catalog Titles

I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever be able to bring myself to watch ‘Gremlins 2: The New Batch‘ again. As a huge fan of the original ‘Gremlins’, I eagerly went to see the sequel in its very first screening on its first day of release, and was absolutely mortified by what a gigantic piece of garbage I sat through. It felt like director Joe Dante decided to piss all over everything good about the first movie and then set it on fire. I hated this movie. In the years since, ‘The New Batch’ has accumulated a cult following (including E., who reviewed the Blu-ray for us), and I probably ought to give it another look, but I’m not sure that I’ll be able to suffer that crushing disappointment again.

For many years, the 1973 urban vampire flick ‘Ganja & Hess‘ was considered a lost film. When the original distributor, which expected a trashy blaxploitation thriller, was dissatisfied with writer/director Bill Gunn’s experimental and arty take on the genre, the movie was pulled from his hands and recut into something more easily marketable. Gunn’s original version became something of a cult legend over the years (Video Watchdog magazine talked it up on a number of occasions), until finally finding resurrection on DVD a few years ago. While that disc has fallen out of print, Kino has picked up the film and issued a Blu-ray based on a new restoration performed by The Museum of Modern Art and The Film Foundation.

Fox offers John Wayne fans a choice between the Duke’s early Western ‘The Big Trail‘ and his oddball period piece ‘The Barbarian and the Geisha‘. Meanwhile, Criterion adds Mathieu Kassovitz’s gritty violent-youth drama ‘La Haine‘ to the Collection, while Twilight Time provides limited editions of Fritz Lang’s famed film noir ‘The Big Heat‘ and the original 1959 cheeseball adaptation of ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth‘.

Television

On the TV front this week, we have the complete first season of the dopey cop show ‘Rookie Blue‘, and the final season of ‘Chuck‘.

I’ve had ‘The Big Heat’ on preorder and very much look forward to receiving that one. I’ll probably pick up ‘La Haine’ during Barnes & Noble’s next Criterion sale, and might give ‘Ganja & Hess’ a look some day. What catches your eye this week?

17 comments

  1. HuskerGuy

    Chuck Season 5 is on its way right now. Looking forward to watching the ending again to see if I still love it as much as I originally did.

  2. Barsoom Bob

    Sorry, but I was a young lad when Journey to the Center of the Earth came out in ’59. These were our biggest, fun adventures and inspirations for fantastic, speculative fiction to a whole generation. Cheesball is what they did to the story with Brendon Fraiser. My parents took me and my brother on NYE to go see it. Of these kinds of flicks by the likes of Ray H. and George Pal, this flick more than held it’s own. It was in my top five with 7th Voyage, War of the Worlds and Forbidden Planet. These weren’t cheesball to us back then, and they are still classic and do hold up well even now if you view them as pieces of their time, not against modern visual standards.

    • The new one was fun though. That is about the only good thing I can really say about it. My goddaughter and I had a good time seeing it, but man, was it badly written!

      • Barsoom Bob

        William welcome back.

        Josh, I counter your Pat Boone, who actually wasn’t a pompous, Christian righty at that time, with James “fucking” Mason and Arlene Dahl’s magnificent breasts !

        The production values and intelligent script were very good for the time. It is still considered the best example of the “Let’s tape some fins onto our pet Igaunas and call them dinosaurs” method of creating the mammoth beasts. LOL

        • Josh Zyber
          Author

          Fair enough. You may have just talked me into ordering a copy after all, if they have any left. 🙂

          FYI, I had to moderate the part of your comment to William. Site rules prohibit discussion of that topic. Sorry.

  3. Gremlins 2 comes in today for me. I HATE the Underworld series. Maybe I am just weird that way, because everyone else seems to love it (then again, as I said in the Video game release blog, Minecraft bores me too, so maybe I AM weird).

    I got the first couple of seasons of Chuck from WB on the DVD2Blu program, but haven’t watched them. Its on my to-do list (I have never seen a single episode), so not buying season 5 yet.

    I have never seen Tora! Tora! Tora!, but I love this genera of movies, so I may pick it up eventually.

    So the only movie that I am picking up today is Gremlins 2.

  4. August Lehe

    Josh, it (JOURNEY) also starred James Mason and Arlene Dahl, (who was still a PLAYBOY centerfold at 55!) I agree that some of the sets were ‘Cheeseball.’ Nobody, but NOBODY, improved upon Pal’s WAR OF THE W0RLDS!

  5. Gremlins 2 is definitely on my list, love both that and the original, Gremlins 2 was more cornball than the first and it was hilarious stuff, never get bored of either of those. Underworld Awakening is also on my list eventually, have the other 3 on Blu and they are a blast, of course I’m a fan of every Resident Evil movie, just so you know where I’m coming from, I’m a sucker for stuff like this 🙂

    • Yeah, this is where I am on Gremlins 2. It was NOT the same thing as Gremlins, but as a comedy, it stands very well on its own. Josh, try watching it again, but this time, instead of thinking of a continuation or sequel to Gremlins, look at it as a comedy, which is what it is, and you might find that you enjoy it.

  6. August Lehe

    William, think you need to pick up Tora! Tora! Tora! and then picture yourself as a ground crew stunt man in the several scenes of the bombing of US air bases near Pearl. I STILL can’t believe nobody was killed during the filming by flying metal as those Ameican fighter planes disassembled while blowing up!

    • Okay, I will put it on my to-do list. I just got into the war-genera a little over a year ago, but loss-of-job put a serious damper in my movie hobby. So yeah, I will put it on my To-Do list, and hopefully see it here in a month or two.

  7. JM

    Rachel McAdams’ agent is fine.

    He put her in Brian De Palma’s new erotic thriller with Noomi Rapace.

    ‘Passion’ also has an intriguing cinematographer and a legendary composer.

    I won’t paste the full synopsis, but, suffice it to say, the keywords are: naked, seduction, manipulation, dominance and humiliation.

  8. EM

    Gremlins 2 isn’t one of my favorites, but I do have an appreciation for it. I saw it when it was new, and I’ve seen it a few times on video. As William says, it’s not a straight-up sequel; it’s more of a satire that uses the world of Gremlins as a launchpad or a framing device.