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Blu-ray Highlights: Week of November 17th, 2013 – The End Is Nigh

November is proving to be a very busy and potentially expensive month for Blu-ray collectors. While this week may not have any super-powered blockbusters, I’m sure that if you take a good look, you might find a thing or two of interest among the diverse array of new titles.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (11/19/13)?

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New Releases

Stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost reunite with director Edgar Wright (‘Shaun of the Dead’, ‘Hot Fuzz’) for the third but hopefully not final time in the alien/robot/Stepford/clone invasion parody ‘The World’s End‘. As far as fans are concerned, this team can do no wrong. I didn’t get a chance to see this in theaters, but am eager to catch up with it on Blu-ray. On the off chance that you don’t already own the first two movies, Universal also offers a ‘Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy‘ triple-pack – but it’s just a simple bundling of the three discs with ugly cover art and no new or unique content.

Although the two ‘Cars’ movies are generally considered lesser efforts from Pixar, they’ve both been huge money-makers for the studio and its Disney parent, especially in the area of merchandising. This year’s spin-off ‘Planes‘ was produced by DisneyToon Studios, Disney’s direct-to-video unit, originally with the intention of premiering on DVD and Blu-ray. However, someone at the House of Mouse determined that its plush toys and coloring books would sell better if the movie got the exposure of a theatrical release first. From the accounts of those parents unfortunate enough to sit through it, the movie is basically a shameless remake of the first ‘Cars’, just with airplanes substituted for automobiles.

I already mentioned ‘2 Guns‘ a couple weeks ago when I had the release date wrong, so you’ll have to forgive me for repeating myself. The trailers for this buddy action flick starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg looked thoroughly inane, but word-of-mouth claimed that it’s surprisingly funny and entertaining.

The innovative, disturbing ‘The Act of Killing‘ stretches the definition of “documentary” in fascinating ways. The directors not only interviewed the leaders of Indonesian genocide death squads, but invited them to re-enact their crimes as though making a Hollywood movie, complete with fake blood and gory makeup, and even musical numbers. The subjects, it turns out, are more than happy to participate without apology or remorse for their actions. Chilling.

How did the producers of the lame Liam Hemsworth surveillance thriller ‘Paranoia‘ score Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman for the supporting cast? Actors of that caliber seem to wildly outclass this material. I have to imagine that this project started off as something very different and much more interesting, until it was watered down by rewrites and studio interference.

If you’re looking for laughs, the Jennifer Aniston/Jason Sudeikis con artist comedy ‘We’re the Millers‘ (not to be confused with the current and unrelated CBS sitcom ‘The Millers’) scored well with audiences this summer, if not with many critics. On the other hand, Aubrey Plaza failed to break out as a movie star with the blatant ‘Superbad’ knock-off ‘The To Do List‘.

Saoirse Ronan and Alexis Bledel play teenage assassins in ‘Violet and Daisy‘. No, this isn’t a sequel to Ronan’s ‘Hanna’, unfortunately. In one of his final roles, James Gandolfini is their intended victim. Screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher (‘Precious: The Insufferably Overrated Misery-Porn Produced by Oprah and Madea with the Ridiculously Long Title Based on the Much Shorter-Titled Novel “Push” by a Woman Whose Real Name Is Ramona Lofton Even Though She Pretentiously Credits Herself as Sapphire’) makes his directorial debut. As I recall, this wasn’t very well received when it played at the Toronto Film Festival a few years ago. That reaction seems to have carried through to its very brief theatrical release.

Michael Cera plays an obnoxious prick (typecasting!) on a drug-fueled vision quest through Chile in ‘Crystal Fairy‘. I just can’t muster up any interest in this. Sorry.

Paul Rudd and Paul Giamatti made a Christmas comedy called ‘All Is Bright‘. Do you remember this being released? Neither do I. That’s probably not a good sign.

Catalog Titles

Let’s start with the classy stuff and work our way down.

Feel like travelling the world through cinema? The Criterion Collection upgrades Yasujiro Ozu’s delicate masterpiece ‘Tokyo Story‘ to high definition, while Kino Classics visits the Hermitage Museum for the staggering technical achievement of Aleksandr Sokurov’s ‘Russian Ark‘, which consists of a 90-minute unbroken take filmed without cheating or editing trickery.

The Cohen Film Collection may not yet have the profile of a Criterion or Kino, but the little studio has done some good work with some interesting titles, including the César Award-winning musical drama ‘Tous les matins du monde‘ (‘All the Mornings of the World’). This week, Cohen also celebrates a Hollywood legend before she came to Hollywood. The ‘Vivien Leigh Anniversary Collection‘ compiles four British movies the actress made during the prolific period of 1937 to 1938: ‘Dark Journey’, ‘Fire Over England’, ‘Storm in a Tea Cup’ and ‘Sidewalks of London’.

Having won an Oscar for ‘Going My Way’ the year before, Bing Crosby reprised his role as Father O’Malley in the 1945 sequel ‘The Bells of St. Mary’s‘, now available on Blu-ray from Olive while we still wait for the original.

Moving onto the cult classics, Shout! Factory continues its recent John Carpenter streak with a Collector’s Edition reissue of the 1976 siege thriller ‘Assault on Precinct 13‘.

Like, ohmigod, gag me with a spoon! It’s like totally a zombie apocalypse and stuff in the Valley Girl classic ‘Night of the Comet‘. Whatever!

Speaking of apocalyptic disasters, Lori Petty and future Oscar nominee Naomi Watts embarrass themselves in the notorious bomb ‘Tank Girl‘, loosely and ineptly adapted from a famous punk comic. Ice-T plays a kangaroo. Really.

Other cheesetastic guilty pleasures include the ‘Puppet Master’ offshoot ‘Demonic Toys‘, Gregory Hines chasing a sexy cyborg in ‘Eve of Destruction‘, and the duo of ‘Maniac Cop 2‘ and ‘Maniac Cop 3‘. Still no sign of the original ‘Maniac Cop’, though.

Television

Paramount continues its high-def restoration of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation‘ with a Season 5 box set and a separate release of the ‘Unification’ two-parter. Elsewhere, HBO gives us the third season of the acclaimed ‘Treme‘, and FUNimation likewise has a third season of the much less respectable ‘Lost Girl‘.

I’ve preordered the UK SteelBook edition of ‘The World’s End’. ‘Tokyo Story’ and ‘Russian Ark’ will go on my wish list for later. Which titles are on your radar this week?

5 comments

  1. William Henley

    I canceled my preorder for Star Trek to see if it will go on sell here next week during the Black Friday sales. I ended up spending what I was planing to spend on Star Trek picking up discounted Blu-Rays – I picked up 5 $10 discs in the past couple of days, and didn’t leave myself enough for Star Trek. Oh well, I just finished disc 2 of season 2 of Enterprise, so I can wait a couple of weeks to pick up TNG.

    Still thinking of picking up The Little Mermaid trilogy eventually (waiting on price drops / pre-owned).