Blu-ray Highlights: Week of November 15th, 2015 – Cry U.N.C.L.E.

The third week of November this year is one of those weird periods in which a huge volume of new Blu-ray releases (over 60 titles!) somehow includes very damn few actually worth consideration.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (11/17/15)?

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New Releases

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.‘ – With the continued success of the ‘Mission: Impossible’ franchise, as well as the recent revitalization of James Bond, I suppose it was inevitable that someone would resurrect this mostly-fondly-remembered 1960s TV series on the big screen. The man in question is Guy Ritchie, and he made the rather clever decision to stage the film as a retro spy adventure set in the 1960s. The trailers looked like a lot of fun, but the movie was a big box office flop. Was that attributable to the film’s lack of major stars (Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer hardly count), the teenage moviegoing audience’s unfamiliarity with the source material, or just a general case of spy movie burnout this year between the latest ‘M:I’ and Bond entries? Perhaps it was some combination of all three? I look forward to catching up with it on Blu-ray, especially since the disc has a Dolby Atmos soundtrack.

Jimmy’s Hall‘ – I’ve never been able to connect with the movies of British social realist filmmaker Ken Loach. I keep intending to give him another try, but something in me resists. Loach has suggested that this Depression-era tale about an Irish man who opens a dance hall in his community against the objections of the domineering Catholic Church will likely be his last film. Our theatrical review Phil described the movie as being like an art house remake of ‘Footloose’, just way more depressing.

FDR: American Badass!‘ – On the chance that you thought ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ wasn’t campy or deliriously ridiculous enough for your tastes, this spiritual follow-up brings us the story of America’s wheelchair-bound 32nd President (Barry Bostwick) as he battles Nazis, werewolves, and Nazi werewolves, and kicks lots of ass despite not being able to use his legs.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Extended Edition‘ – Middle-earth completists can breathe a sigh of relief that Peter Jackson has finally finished adding footage to his massively bloated ‘Lord of the Rings’ prequel. There is no more blood to be wrung from J.R.R. Tolkien’s slender novel. As with its predecessors, the Blu-ray comes in 2D or 3D versions. (A trilogy box set of all the Extended Editions is also available.) How many movies do you think Jackson will squeeze out of ‘The Silmarillion’?

Catalog Titles

If you need a couple extra Criterion titles to throw into your cart at the latest Barnes & Noble sale, consider Richard Brooks’ classic adaptation of Truman Capote’s ‘In Cold Blood‘, or Indian master Satyajit Ray’s famed ‘Apu Trilogy‘. (The latter includes the movies ‘Pather Panchali’, ‘Aparajito’ and ‘Apur Sansar’.)

Flicker Alley digs even further back into film history with a box set of ‘Chaplin’s Essany Comedies‘, featuring new restorations of 15 of the silent comedian’s early works.

Assuming you don’t already own most of the movies separately and aren’t afraid to drop a pretty big chunk of change at one time, the Amazon-exclusive ‘Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki‘ box set bundles ‘Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro’, ‘Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind’, ‘Castle in the Sky’, ‘My Neighbor Totoro’, ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’, ‘Porco Rosso’, ‘Princess Mononoke’, ‘Spirited Away’, ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’, ‘Ponyo’ and ‘The Wind Rises’ into one rather handsome package. Sadly, a number of these discs are burdened with “dubtitles” (a written transcription of the English dub) rather than proper English subtitles should you prefer to watch with the original Japanese audio. I would also be very surprised if ‘Ponyo’ were re-authored to include the Japanese soundtrack in lossless format, as it should have been (but wasn’t) the first time around.

*Update: See the Comments section below for new information about the Miyazaki box set.

Sony fills a major hole in my collection with Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro’s delightfully twisted and surreal ‘The City of Lost Children‘. At present, the only Jeunet film not available on Blu-ray in North America is ‘A Very Long Engagement’, which Warner Bros. has shown no interest in releasing.

Shout! Factory brings us Tom DiCillo’s 1995 meta-comedy ‘Living in Oblivion‘, an indie film starring Steve Buscemi as an indie filmmaker struggling to complete his micro-budget opus. Peter Dinklage delivers a hilarious rant about the cliché of casting dwarves in dream sequences.

Far less comedic and much more angsty is Abel Ferrara’s 1993 ‘Dangerous Game‘, which reunites the director with his ‘Bad Lieutenant’ star Harvey Keitel, here playing a film director who makes the mistake of having an affair with his latest leading lady (Madonna, back when she believed she could act). It’s not one of Ferrara’s better movies, but his established fans may find it interesting.

Finally, a little late for Halloween, Scream Factory delivers a double feature of the cheesy horror flick ‘Troll‘ with its notoriously so-awful-it’s-hilarious sequel ‘Troll 2‘. I’m sure that a certain audience will be very excited for this.

My $.02

‘The City of Lost Children’ is a must-buy for me. While I don’t think I’ll pick up ‘In Cold Blood’ or ‘The Apu Trilogy’ in this month’s Criterion sale, they’ll go on my list for the future. Also a potential wish list item is ‘Living in Oblivion’.

‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ seems like solid rental material.

Do you agree or disagree with any of my picks? Will you spend any money this week?

34 comments

  1. Csm101

    The Hobbit extended 3d. BBC Earth 3d. I would definitely rent The Man From U.N.C.L.E. I don’t think I’ve ever seen City of Lost Children but I have lots of friends that have and they love it, at a good price I’d blind buy. I would love to pick up Killer Workout, the big reveal at the end was fantastic! 🙂 I should probably wait for a review on pq. I might stop by B&N today and get some Criterions, so that’ll probably rule out In Cold Blood for me. I remember watching the first Troll movie countless times as a kid, but part 2 I don’t think I’ve ever seen, maybe this set will be a future pickup for me.

    • Deaditelord

      I sort of remember thinking Troll was okay when I was a kid (I haven’t seen it since then), but good lord Troll 2 is TERRIBLE. It makes Sharknado look like a deeply nuanced film with state-of-the-art special effects and Oscar caliber acting. Frankly, I’m shocked Mystery Science Theater 3000 never used Troll 2 – especially when the show moved to what was then the Sci-Fi Channel – since the movie is mind bogglingly-stupid in a way that makes it tailor-made for riffing. At least RiffTrax gave it a proper send up and really the RiffTrax version is the only way to watch this trainwreck of a film.

        • Deaditelord

          CSM I haven’t seen The Room so I can’t give a comparison. I can’t say that there is zero entertainment value in Troll 2 since there are a handful of unintentionally funny scenes where I was left wondering WTF were they thinking/smoking, but I’m not sure those few moments are worth suffering through the rest of this “movie”. If you have seen any of the 80’s movies that Mystery Science Theater 3000 selected like Pod People, Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell, The Final Sacrifice, or (especially) Hobgoblins, that’s about what Troll 2 feels like… only cheaper.

          Still, Troll 2 does have a cult following – the documentary Best Worst Movie is all about Troll 2 -so there are people who think the movie falls under the so-bad-it’s-good category. Just know that Troll 2 has absolutely no connection to the first movie (there are no trolls in the movie and it was only later changed to Troll 2 in the hopes that it might earn a little more money if viewed as a sequel) and was written, directed and filmed by Italians that reportedly spoke little to no English who thought it wise to employ local Utah townsfolk with no acting experience as actors (both lead and supporting roles).

        • Dave Strohmenger

          It was never even intended to be a sequel. The word “troll” is never mentioned in the film. It was filmed under the title “Goblins” since that’s what the creatures actually are (the town is called “Nilbog” – I think you can figure that one out). After filming the title was changed to Troll 2 in the hopes of capitalizing on the first film.

  2. Lord Bowler

    I’ve already pre-ordered the final Hobbit Extended Edition with Statue to complete my collection.

    Other than that, I’ll be renting The Man From UNCLE.

  3. Bolo

    I saw ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ in cinemas and it just wasn’t a very good movie. It went flat too many times to forgive. Some of this being Guy Ritchie’s decision to shoot, edit, and score huge portions of the film as montages.

    Also, several of the lead actors just didn’t hit their mark. Cavill was pretty good, he brought a hustling charm to his klepto conman character. Elizabeth Debicki, in her very few moments of screentime as the main villain, showed great charisma. But Armie Hammer was pretty bad. They pull his character in different directions and he fails at both of them. Sometimes he’s supposed to be the stereotypical deadpan Russian, but he just sounds like a dumb wrestler being fed his lines. Other times he’s supposed to be this Hulk-type rage monster, but he never feels dangerous. Alicia Vikander has proven solid in dramatic roles, but she lacks the light flirty touch needed for something this tongue-in-cheek.

  4. NJScorpio

    – ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ looks like the perfect Redbox rental. I look forward to seeing it, but I’m in no rush. I totally forgot about it in fact.

    – ‘Hobbit – Five Armies – Extended – 3D’ – I’ve been excited to see this one since I finished the last entry. Like the last two, I’ll wait until the 3D extended edition gets down to about $20 at Best Buy.

    – ‘City of Lost Children’ – A great movie, and one to add to the long list of catalogue titles I need to pick up.

    – ‘BBC Earth 3D Gift Set’ – I didn’t know about this until this blog post, but now I’m interested!

  5. Deaditelord

    Preordered the Hayao Miyazaki box set since I don’t have most of the movies and because I don’t expect Disney to ever go back and fix the dubtitles or the Japanese audio issue with Ponyo. I’m also planning to buy The Hobbit – Five Armies extended edition (3D version), but like others I’m waiting until it goes on sale. I also meant to go see The Man from U.N.C.L.E in theaters when it came out this summer and am looking forward to renting it this week.

  6. Chris B

    Lol, if you look carefully at the banner image at the top of this post, Armie Hammer seems to be pointing to a VERY SPECIFIC AREA OF HIS BODY.

  7. Hobbit 5 Armies EE 3D is a for sure thing, We’re Back is a stron maybe this week.
    Some of the Screen Media entries interest me-I thought that a no-name company would release all crap you’ve never heard of, but many of their releases have some star power.
    Wish list: Cinco de Mayo, City of Lost Children, Jack & the Beanstalk, Mask Maker, Troll 1&2.

  8. Josh Zyber
    Author

    *Some reports on another site (at the moment, unconfirmed) claim that several of the movies in the Miyazaki box set have new English subtitles and that Ponyo has lossless Japanese audio. However, the box set drops most of the extras that were included on the previous individual releases. (For what it’s worth, most of the extras were fluff anyway.)

    What isn’t clear yet is whether the new subtitles are a more accurate translation of the Japanese dialogue or not. Disney has a habit of badly simplifying subtitles even when they don’t do dubtitles.

    Regardless, this is very interesting if true.

    • Deaditelord

      Josh, I just received the Miyazaki box set and can confirm this is true. I popped in Ponyo and the Japanese audio track is lossless DTS-HD MA. I also tested Princess Mononoke by running the English audio with the English subtitles to confirm that they are no longer dubtitled. If you give me a list of the dubtitled movies I’ll check the others real quick. There are no extras on either movie so it looks like the extras are whatever is on the bonus disc that comes with the set. In any case, just having the movies properly subtitled is a huge plus and makes me even more happy I bought the set.

        • William Henley

          “Worst offenders” make it sound worse than it is. 🙂 While the dubtitles were not exact translations, they were pretty close, and stuff like Kiki had minor things were Coffee was changed to Hot Chocolate and stuff like that. Any translation from one language into another has to have changes made, and as long as it doesn’t change the meaning or the story, I’m good.

          The whole “subtitles” versus “dubtitles” debate is like someone complaining that they got a New Living Translation version of the Bible versus King James. 🙂

          In any case, I am really surprised to learn that Disney went through the time and trouble and expense to do new subtitles tracks and reauthor the discs.

  9. Deaditelord

    I actually own the previous blu-ray of Castle in the Sky so I looked at chapter 3 on both blu-rays. The original blu-ray is definitely dubtitled. The Miyazaki box set blu-ray is not dubtitled. As for Kiki, the subtitles in the box set are different from the English dub on the blu-ray. However, I also remember Streamline issuing a subtitled version of Kiki so I did some quick research to see if I could learn anything about it. I found a thread about the box set (probably the one you hinted at Josh) suggesting that Disney is using Streamline’s dubtitles on the blu-ray. I’ve never seen Streamline’s version of Kiki (this will be my first time watching the movie), but from what I read their dub is supposedly faithful to the original script.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      Thanks for looking into this. Because it’s Disney, my concern is that even if they put new non-dubtitle subs on the movies, the subtitles may still not be a faithful translation. Disney has a habit of using really “dumbed down” simplified subtitles on foreign movies (ex: Hero).

      This may be a lot to ask, but if you or anyone else were able to compare the new subtitles on these discs to previous DVD editions or import Blu-rays known to have better subtitles, that might provide a lot of clarity.

      Failing that, if you watch the movies and just feel that the subtitles are “off” in any way, that might point to something being wrong. Watching Hero, it’s pretty obvious that the subtitles suck even if you’ve never seen the movie before. They sound like they were written by a middle schooler.

    • Deaditelord

      One thing I should have noted is that while the movies are not straight dubtitles any longer, I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the new subtitles since I don’t speak Japanese. Hopefully, their accurate.

  10. Deaditelord

    Is the original Princess Mononoke DVD dubtitled? I have the old one released by Miramax and would be willing to compare the two.

      • Deaditelord

        I didn’t find any complaints about the old DVD. The DVD menu claims the English subtitles are a “literal English translation” and Aaron’s review for the site also notes the accuracy of the original DVD subtitles so I did a comparison with two chapters. While many lines were exactly the same, there are some differences between the literal DVD translation and the blu-ray translation. However, I feel like these changes are relatively minor and probably were done to make it flow more smoothly when read. For example:

        Original DVD (literal translation):

        Jigo: “So the boar became a monster.”
        Ashitaka: “I tracked it back to where the samurai attacked the village, but…”
        Jigo: “You lost it. See over there? When I was last this way, there was a fine village here. There was a flood, maybe, or a landslide. I’m sure many died. The land teems with the twittering of bitter ghosts… dead from war, sick or starved and fallen where they stood. A curse you say? This world is a curse.”

        Blu-ray (revised translation):

        Jigo: “So the boar became a demon.”
        Ashitaka: “I followed its tracks, but lost them in the village.”
        Jigo: “I’m not surprised. Look around you. This used to be a fine village. There was a flood, maybe, or a landslide. I’m sure many died. This land teems with bitter ghosts… dead from war, sick or starved and fallen where they stood. A curse, you say? This world is a curse.”

        The dub is noticeably different from either of these translations, with lots of extraneous dialogue added.

        The other chapter I watched also had these little changes, but again I felt like they were not very egregious and done with the intention of making the dialogue flow more smoothly rather than to dumb down or alter the meaning. I’ll be watching all the movies over the next few days and will post an additional comment if find something worth mentioning. Otherwise, I’m somewhat optimistic that the subtitles on this box set will do justice to the movies.

        • William Henley

          For futher comparison, here are the Dubtitles

          960640||964400||So the demon monster turned out to be\~a giant boar.||
          964480||967000||I followed its trail westward through\~the mountains…||
          967080||969380||to where the samurai were attacking\~those villagers.||
          969450||971710||- But then…\~- You lost it. That’s life.||
          971780||973910||See this place here?||
          973990||978290||When I came here last, a few years back,\~this was a lovely little village.||
          978360||981620||But then there must have been\~a flood or a landslide or a Fire.||
          981690||984420||The only sure thing\~is that everybody’s dead.||
          985960||989760||These days, there are\~angry ghosts all around us,||
          989830||992530||dead from wars,\~sickness, starvation.||
          992600||994540||And nobody cares.||
          994610||999410||So you say you’re under a curse?\~So what? So’s the whole damn world.||

  11. CC

    Most people today probably don’t know this- but LIVING IN OBLIVION was made as a quasi commentary on Tom DiCillo’s horrible experience working with enfante terriblé BRAD PITT while making JOHNNY SUEDE.
    And Ken Loach’s films aren’t Social Realist…they are Socialist.

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