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Blu-ray Highlights: Week of November 24th, 2013 – Pass the Stuffing

It’s Thanksgiving this week, which can only mean that it’s time to bring out the turkeys. Oh, I suppose that’s not entirely fair. Still, holiday weeks are always a slow time for new Blu-ray releases. Fortunately, this one has a couple of impressive box sets worth taking a good look at.

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New Releases

The first ‘RED’, from 2010, was a silly and insubstantial but entertaining little action comedy. I didn’t pay to see it in a theater, but I enjoyed catching it on cable. Even so, it’s not the sort of movie that desperately needed a sequel. Yet here we have one anyway. Reviews for ‘RED 2‘ were pretty mixed. I think I’ll be fine waiting for HBO on this one too.

Jobs‘, formerly titled ‘jOBS’, is a bio-pic about Apple founder and megalomaniac Steve Jobs… as played by Ashton Kutcher. WTF is that about? A recent experience buying and attempting to set up an iPad Air for my mother-in-law reminded me how much I absolutely despise Apple products. (Anyone who says that the iOS interface is in any way even remotely intuitive or user-friendly is a fucking liar.) As such, I didn’t have a whole lot of interest in this movie to start. Add Kutcher, and I’m left puzzled as to whom this is targeted at. Apple fanboys are likely to feel offended at the casting of the ‘That 70s Show’ doofus as their holy lord and savior, and general moviegoers have shown on multiple occasions that they just can’t take him seriously in dramatic roles. We’re left with a movie that appeals to basically no one.

On the one hand, Ethan Hawke has had a very good year, with the surprise box office success of ‘The Purge’ and the art house acclaim of ‘Before Midnight’. On the other hand, his car chase thriller ‘Getaway‘ was one of the biggest flops of the year. For a time after it opened, the movie was spared from a perfect 0% Rotten Tomatoes savaging by just one single favorable review (written by a friend of mine, funnily, who gave it a lukewarm pass on the basis of lowered expectations). It currently sits at 3%. Needless to say, not too many people were impressed by this. I’m sure that Hawke’s career will survive, but I’m not so sure about co-star Selena Gomez.

You might think that the direction of Paul Schrader and a screenplay from novelist Bret Easton Ellis might yield something worthwhile. Not so, says pretty much everyone who saw ‘The Canyons‘. The movie is notable only for pairing actual porn star James Deen with soon-to-have-no-other-options-left-except-porn trainwreck Lindsay Lohan. Reportedly, all of the latter’s nude scenes in the film were leaked online by the producers in an attempt to drive up VOD rentals, but Lohan is so skeevy these days that I can’t believe even that holds much appeal for anyone.

Catalog Titles

The title of Blu-ray Release of the Week (if not the year) simply must go to Criterion’s massive ‘Zatôichi: The Blind Swordsman‘ box set, which contains all 25 films in the long-running and beloved Japanese samurai series made between 1962 to 1973. (The only understandable exclusions are a 26th film produced much later in 1989, and Takeshi Kitano’s attempted reboot from 2003.) If you have any interest in this, get yourself over to the Barnes & Noble 50% Off Criterion sale, where it can be had for only $112.49 until December 2nd.

Although perhaps not as exciting as that, Shout! Factory has unearthed another cult obscurity – George Romero’s 1981 ‘Knightriders‘. The director’s attempt to prove that he could make something other than zombie movies, this one is the bizarre tale of Renaissance Faire re-enacters who perform jousts on motorcycles. Yeah, it sounds weird, but Ed Harris is the lead, so it has that going for it.

Television

Did you, like me, miss out on all the big hoopla about ‘Breaking Bad‘ while the show aired? Now that all is said and done, Sony offers both the final season and a Complete Series package perfect for those who’ve waited for the opportunity to start at the beginning and plow through the whole shebang in one big marathon.

That ‘Zatôichi’ set sure is tempting. Unfortunately, this isn’t a good time for me to be making big purchases, and I probably wouldn’t have time to watch 25 movies anytime soon anyway. I’ll have to put that on my wish list for a later B&N sale. Will you jump in on that or anything else this week?

10 comments

  1. William Henley

    I am waiting for a review on Popeye. Its a BD-R recorded-to-order disc, and judging that I have NEVER seen Popeye look good (faded color, transfers to old tapes, stuff look like its 3rd and 4th generation), and the fact that this disc is put out by a distribution company I have never heard of, I am wondering if this will be a new transfer or, more likely, a bunch of horrible single-def stuff slapped onto a 25 gig disc.

    I think the concept of pressed-to-order shows on discs is great – such as shows that are in HD already (like network television shows). Just author a cheapy disc with a static menu, and put the iso images on a server somehwere. You could probably literally author a disc in a couple of hours (including compressing). It would be a great idea for shows that the network may think may not sell enough copies for a mass pressing.

    I actually have a couple of discs like this. I got some old shows from HD-Net that are HD-DVDs, but they are recorded on DVD-R DLs. I think they were made-to-order.

  2. Barsoom Bob

    Any idea what happened to Grandmaster ? I was kind of looking forward to that having missed it in the theater and I swore I saw it on the release list for this week or next, now it has disappeared.

  3. Drew

    Barsoom,

    I wouldn’t worry about ‘Grandmaster’. If it’s delayed, indefinitely, the distributor will be doing you a huge favor.

    It it one of the very worst films that I’ve seen, all year. Possibly, the worst film I’ve seen in 2013.

    The reviewer on this very site wholeheartedly agrees. It’s flat out terrible. It seems as if it was made by a film school student who didn’t have a clue about a single aspect of filmmaking.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      To be fair, the Weinsteins chopped about half an hour out of the original Asian cut of the movie and jumbled around the rest of the footage.

      I haven’t seen either version myself, but Wong Kar Wai knows a thing or two about making movies.

  4. Drew

    Josh,

    You’re right. I’m sure the Weinsteins are to blame. Nevertheless, the American release was a scattered mess. It had absolutely no sense of pacing, and it felt as if scenes were literally out of order.

    Barsoom, perhaps, the best thing to do, would be to import an original director’s cut.

    • Barsoom Bob

      Yes, that is probably the way to go. Thank you both for the info.

      I will just keep hoping the director of “Snowpiecer” wins and Harvey Scissorhands loses so we get to see the director’s intended cut of that movie.

  5. Lordbowler

    I’m just looking at Jobs and RED 2.

    I would get the Stallone Three Pack Blu-Ray but I already have Tango & Cash on Blu, so I’ll just pick up Demolition Man on Blu instead of the three pack.

    Demolition Man was one of my favorite Stallone movies ever!

  6. I have seen the director’s cut of ‘The Grandmaster’ and it’s still a puzzling movie. Hard to believe this is made by the acclaimed director of ‘In the Mood for Love’ and ’2046′.