Do you remember the days when the only place to find a costumed superhero was in the pages of a comic book, or maybe a Saturday morning cartoon? Nowadays, superheroes are everywhere, dominating our movie theater screens, TV programming schedules and, of course, our top Blu-ray release of the week.
Considering that he’s perhaps the most iconic of all comic book superheroes, Superman has had a bumpy ride in his movie career. After the huge success of Richard Donner’s 1978 blockbuster and its first sequel, the ‘Superman’ film franchise took a terrible dive in the mid 1980s, and Bryan Singer’s attempt to revive it in 2006 with the deadly dull ‘Superman Returns‘ was a huge dud. So now we have a new reboot, produced by ‘Dark Knight’ mastermind Christopher Nolan and directed by the wildly uneven Zack Snyder. While a pretty big box office hit this summer, ‘Man of Steel‘ proved to be one of the most divisive comic book movies in years. Some fans praised it for finally delivering the epic action that was so badly missing from the Singer film. Others complained about its muddled plot, and insisted that the storyline undermined the core concept of who Superman is supposed to be. If you missed it in theaters, now you can decide for yourself on Blu-ray, in either 2D or 3D – though most viewers agreed that the 3D post-conversion was mostly disappointing and pointless.
If you need something to keep your young kids occupied while you have other things to do, and your tykes are burned out on your Pixar collection or ‘Wreck-It Ralph’, DreamWorks races to your aid with ‘Turbo‘, in which Ryan Reynolds voices a snail who ingests a performance-enhancing substance that allows him to compete with professional sports car drivers. If you ask me, this doesn’t sound like it delivers a very good message for the young ones. From the looks of it, the animated feature is aimed at the 3-year-olds and younger crowd, no parents invited.
For as many classic films as have appeared on Blu-ray to date, silent cinema remains in relatively short supply on the format. Kino tries to fill that hole with another major title, F.W. Murnau’s ‘Nosferatu‘, the granddaddy of all vampire movies. An unauthorized adaptation of ‘Dracula’, the film was almost lost to history after a lawsuit by the Bram Stoker estate attempted to destroy all known copies. Fortunately, the work survived. Max Schreck’s performance in the lead is still one of the creepiest portrayals of a vampire ever committed to celluloid.
Love or hate their business model, the Limited Edition specialists at Twilight Time continue to license some noteworthy titles that might not otherwise ever appear on Blu-ray, since the studios that own them don’t have much interest in doing it themselves. The latest batch of Twilight Time discs include the 1944 adaptation of ‘Jane Eyre‘ starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine, Carol Reed’s Oscar-winning musical ‘Oliver!‘, and the Barbra Streisand vehicle ‘The Way We Were‘, which won composer Marvin Hamlisch his first Oscar.
If you missed your chance to own the anime landmark ‘Akira‘ when it was first released on Blu-ray in 2009 (and went out of print not long after), Funimation has acquired the rights to release a new 25th Anniversary Edition. As I write this, it’s unclear whether the new disc will be any different than the earlier one, or just a simple reissue under a new distributor.
Other notable titles this week include the underrated Cuban Missile Crisis drama ‘Thirteen Days‘ and John Carpenter’s 1993 horror anthology ‘Body Bags‘.
This week marks the Criterion Collection’s first two Dual-Format Editions, one from the early days of cinema and the other from earlier this year. Charlie Chaplin’s silent classic ‘City Lights‘ and Noah Baumbach’s indie drama ‘Frances Ha‘ include both Blu-ray and DVD copies in the same case. While that’s a common practice among other studios, Criterion has taken the extra step of discontinuing its DVD-only or Blu-ray-only releases. Going forward, all new titles in the Collection will only be available as Dual-Format Editions in its Blu-ray sized cases.
In case you missed the news last week, Barnes & Noble’s semi-annual 50% off Criterion sale is running now through December 2nd. This would be an excellent time to pick up the above two titles, or any prior Criterion releases. If you have any interest at all in the massive 25-film ‘Zatoichi‘ box set scheduled for release on November 26th, I would advise pre-ordering now to lock in the great price.
I guess I jumped the gun last week when I announced the final season and Complete Series collections of ‘Dexter‘. Those actually come out this week.
As far as I’m concerned, the two most exciting titles this week are both silent films: ‘Nosferatu’ and ‘City Lights’. (I may have to import the UK SteelBook copy of ‘Nosferatu’, though.) I’m undecided on whether I want to risk blind-buying ‘Man of Steel’. Otherwise, ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Thirteen Days’ will go on my wish list. I’ve also placed an order for a few Criterion titles.
What are you up to this week?