Blu-ray Highlights: Week of October 12th, 2014 – Future Tense

Time travel seems to be a major theme on Blu-ray this week. From mutant superheroes to talking dogs, everybody’s zipping back and forth from past to future, or vice versa.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (10/14/14)?

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New Releases

X-Men: Days of Future Past‘ – Director Bryan Singer returns to straighten out the mess of conflicting continuity issues in the ‘X-Men’ franchise with a new entry that ties together his original couple of movies with the prequel timeline established in ‘X-Men: First Class’, all while conveniently writing out the events of lesser installments like ‘The Last Stand’. I wasn’t the biggest fan of ‘First Class’ or many of Singer’s other recent movies outside the ‘X-Men’ series, but I still like the franchise and have heard some good things about this one. Because I don’t get out to theaters much these days, I’ve been waiting to catch up with it on Blu-ray. The movie is available in either 2D or 3D. However, despite shooting the production in native 3D, Singer is known to be extremely conservative with his use of 3D depth. Pretty much every report I’ve read has said that any 3D effect was barely visible in theaters and completely wasted. Maybe it will translate better on home video?

Mr. Peabody & Sherman‘ – A mischievous boy and a brilliant scientist (who happens to be a dog) hop in their WABAC Machine and bounce around through history having adventures in this feature film spin-off for a couple of ‘Rocky and Bullwinkle’ supporting characters that that no contemporary child has ever heard of. No surprise, the family flick did disappointing business at the box office despite generally favorable reviews from post-middle-age critics who actually remember ‘Rocky and Bullwinkle’.

Mercenaries‘ – As the producers of the ‘Expendables’ franchise spin their wheels trying to develop an ‘Expendabelles’ spin-off for girls (yes, that’s a real thing in the works), this low-rent DTV knock-off beats them to the punch by teaming up Zoe Bell (‘Death Proof’), Kristanna Loken (‘Terminator 3’), Vivica A. Fox (‘Kill Bill’), Brigitte Nielsen (‘Red Sonya’) and Cynthia Rothrock (numerous low-budget action flicks from the ’80s and ’90s). Could this be much worse than the real ‘Expendables’ movies? Hard to imagine.

Catalog Titles

Responding to the popularity of its horror titles, which frequently sell out quickly, Twilight Time has expanded its Limited Edition run for the 1988 remake of ‘The Blob‘ to 5,000 units (as opposed to the typical 3,000). Word is that this one is selling briskly so far.

Other new Blu-rays from Twilight Time (with the usual 3,000-unit limit) include the Fritz Lang WWII spy thriller ‘Man Hunt‘, Robert Wise’s spooky horror fantasy ‘Audrey Rose‘, John Schlesinger’s religious cult thriller ‘The Believers‘, Nick Nolte and Ed Harris as journalists wrapped up in the Nicaraguan revolution of 1979 in ‘Under Fire‘, and George Sluizer’s 1993 Hollywood remake of his own prior Dutch thriller ‘The Vanishing‘. That last one is notorious as a pretty crappy movie, but it should make an interesting comparison with Criterion’s upcoming Blu-ray release of the original 1988 version.

Speaking of Criterion, the Collection has just one disc this week, the John Ford Western ‘My Darling Clementine‘ starring Henry Fonda.

Another specialty label, the Warner Archive offers what is reported to be a stunning new restoration of the James Cagney musical ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy‘.

Last week, Universal got into the yuletide mood with Bing Crosby’s ‘Holiday Inn’. This week, Paramount follows that with a Diamond Anniversary Edition of the semi-sequel ‘White Christmas‘.

Universal’s box set release of the ‘Steven Spielberg Director’s Collection‘ bundles together the existing Blu-ray releases of ‘Jaws’, ‘E.T.’, ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘The Lost World’ with new-to-Blu titles ‘Duel’, ‘The Sugarland Express’, ‘1941’ and ‘Always’. It seems obnoxious to force fans to rebuy a bunch of movies they already own to get a few new ones, but I’m sure the rest will all be broken out separately eventually.

Kino embraces 1980s comedy with Madonna’s acting debut ‘Desperately Seeking Susan‘ and Jonathan Demme’s delightful farce ‘Married to the Mob‘.

I could have sworn that both Ben Stiller’s ‘Zoolander‘ and the Farrelly brothers’ ‘Kingpin‘ were already released on Blu-ray, but I guess their release dates must have been pushed back.

Michael Douglas and Jane Fonda investigate a dangerous accident at a nuclear power plant in the 1979 conspiracy thriller ‘The China Syndrome‘.

Cameron Crowe’s problematic sci-fi-ish mystery ‘Vanilla Sky‘ is a remake of a marginally superior Spanish film called ‘Abre los Ojos’, but is perhaps most notable as the movie that wrecked Tom Cruise’s marriage to Nicole Kidman when he cheated on her with co-star Penélope Cruz. Ironically, Cruise and Cruz have zero chemistry together in the film, whereas real sparks fly in the scenes Cruise shares with Cameron Diaz. [‘Vanilla Sky’ has been delayed until December 9th. Sorry for the confusion.]

Finally, odds are that you’ve probably never heard of ‘Dragonfly Squadron‘, a mostly-forgotten 1954 B-movie whose biggest name in the cast was pro baseball and pro basketball player Chuck Connors (later star of TV’s ‘The Rifleman’). However, the movie’s release on Blu-ray this week is very important, as it marks the first restoration from the 3-D Film Archive (distributed via Olive Films). Although photographed in native 3D during the original Golden Age of the format, the movie was in fact only released to theaters in 2D by its distributor. This Blu-ray is the first time the film’s true 3D has ever been seen. 1950s 3D movies are famous for their much more aggressive and dynamic use of stereoscopic depth than modern, conservative 3D productions, and this particular film – a Korean War adventure featuring a lot of tank warfare and aerial combat – provides many opportunities for exciting 3D action. Just be sure to keep your expectations in check as far as story and acting quality go.

Television

TV offerings this week include first season collections for FX’s excellent ‘Fargo‘, Showtime’s gonzo horror series ‘Penny Dreadful‘, and NBC’s weird ‘Dracula‘ reboot. I seem to be in a minority in enjoying the ‘Dracula’ show, but I won’t miss it much now that it’s been canceled and don’t feel a great need to own its only season.

As I said, I’ve been waiting to catch up with the new ‘X-Men’ movie. The other titles going on my wish list are ‘My Darling Clementine’, ‘Man Hunt’, ‘Dragonfly Squadron’ and ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’. Will you pick up anything this week?

49 comments

  1. FARGO is fantastic…and I wasn’t even a huge fan of the original movie (like it, but don’t love it). It’s a great blind buy, even it you didn’t care much for the Coen Bros. film.

  2. ‘Steven Spielberg Director’s Collection’ seems to have a different lay-out over here. I saw the box today, and it was a very-wide-not-so-tall box akin to the James Bond collection. The US release looks more like a (very fat) Blu-ray box. “I’m sure the rest will all be broken out separately eventually.” Yeah, but the collection includes a book. Darn. Choices and dilemmas.

    Why would Twilight Time release ‘The Vanishing’? Don’t they only release films with a good (or, at least, acceptable) reputation?

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      The Vanishing remake is an odd choice. It’s really only of interest to people planning to buy the Criterion edition of the original and want to compare. Even though the same director made it, it’s kind of a famous case study of how to ruin a remake by watering down everything that people loved about the original and slapping a stupid Hollywood ending on it.

      Every Twilight Time disc has a booklet essay written by Julie Kirgo. I’d be interested to see her defense of this one.

      Perhaps it was just something that seemed appropriate to coincide with their release of The Blob remake? (The original Blob is also a Criterion title.) Though in that case, the remake also has its own cult following.

      • C.C. 95

        Totally agree. The original THE VANISHING had a twist ending that both TOTALLY worked logically within the context of the narritive AND blew you away.(methinks a young Shyamalan coveted this picture…). How Sluizer got convinced to remake and change it for Hollywood is the oldest story in the book. Bring promising European/Asian director to Hollywood to make movies, then deny him the narrative tools that made him special in the first place (hi there, John Woo… Have a seat next to Phillip Noyce and Jean-Pierre Jeunet). The U.S. Version ending is EXACTLY what you expect. The only thing I remember is, I think Bridges aquitted himself pretty well. But the WHOLE IDEA and SCARY Idea of THE VANISHING (the original)- is the BANALITY of the horror. The very EVERYDAYNESS of the occurence is what brought the chills. It is a weird title for TT to release (the remake). BUT, maybe it would be great to spend a weekend comparing and contrasting the two films.
        The only other occurrence of this kind of phenomena that comes to mind is Shrader’s EXORCIST 4 vs. Harlin’s EXORCIST 4 with the same cast!!

        • C.C. 95

          Oh. And I really wish Criterion had stuck with the original DVD release art for THE VANISHING. The new art is bad. Like a bastard hybrid of the awful MIB3 steelbook and the awful 500 DAYS OF SUMMER seafoam green steelbook….

  3. William Henley

    The only one I preordered was White Christmas to replace a lost disk. One of these days, I will pick up all the XMen movies. Yankee Doodle Dandy might be a future blind buy if I can ever whittle down my To Watch stack – its really sad, my To-Watch stack is about three times larger than my Watched stack.

  4. Chris B

    I remember watching The Vanishing remake years ago and being pretty underwhelmed. Never seen the original so I’ll be picking it up as part of the B&N Criterion sale next month.

    I saw Days of Future Past in theatre and thought it was pretty good but don’t really feel like I need to own it. Am I the only one that thinks the X-men movies are way too predictable? I think they should leave the whole “humans are terrified of mutants” plots behind and just let the X-men kick some supervillain ass.

    I’ve always loved Vanilla Sky, will be picking it up this week for sure.

  5. itjustWoRX

    Vanilla Sky has been delayed until December.

    I went out of my comfort zone and preordered “Guilty of Romance” and “Nothing Bad Can Happen.” I feel confident about “Romance” as I was a big fan of Sono’s “Cold Fish.”

  6. Already picked up Xmen 3D (Walmart) and Mr. Peabody & Sherman 3D. Got my shipping notice for The Blob (TT) – will likely order the Van Damme Collection. Would like to get the Spielberg set but am ticked that this would make like FOUR versions of Jurassic Park. As with others, may want to wait for a breakup of the set, which I doubt will be anytime soon,
    Awaiting Deals or use as a filler to get free shipping: Dragonfly Squadron & The China Syndrome, remembering enjoying the latter on HBO many many years ago, maybe it was Jane Fonda, maybe not.
    After reading the HDD review of White Christmas, I man keep that one on a watch list as well : )

  7. Just saw some screen grabs for Duel. The detail is amazing but I’m a little bummed they cropped it to 1:85. I would be happier with the 4:3 version. I wonder how long for a standalone release. I’m very curious about 1941 as well, but not enough for that box set.

    • C.C. 95

      A crime that gets no airplay. Of course we all grew up loathing cropping of 2.35:1, but zooming 1:33 (pushing in) to fit 16:9 is just as heinous a crime. That FX Simpsons marathon was a visual trainwreck (until they got to the 16:9 eps) because of that.

  8. Drew

    Josh,

    Do you know why the main site has struggled to get reviews up for many recent blockbusters, before the release date. I’ve been a loyal HDD follower for at least five years, and I’ve never witnessed a dry spell lIke this. Looking back at the past few months, there have been some major releases that didn’t get a review until after the release date. This week, ‘X-Men’ didn’t get reviewed. Neither did ‘Peabody and Sherman’. Not trying to complain, just wondering if you can offer any insight.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      Many of the major studios are being very difficult about sending screener copies in advance these days. X-Men is a Fox title, and Fox straight-up refuses to send screeners before street date. In fact, the studio is actually trying to force reviewers to watch low-res digital downloads via a web portal rather than send the actual product that will be released to stores. For movies like that, our reviewers often have to go buy the Blu-ray at retail after it’s released.

      • Chris B

        That seems pretty ignorant on their part. Sites like yours actually promote the buying of physical media when streaming is getting more and more popular. They won’t send you guys one lousy copy to review? WTF

        • Josh Zyber
          Author

          Fox has long had a contentious relationship with reviewers. The studio believes that all reviewers are actually dirty scumbag pirates who plan to upload their movies onto the internet. I don’t know if they still do this, but back in the day their DVD screeners used to have giant watermark text scrolling across the screen that said “PROPERTY OF 20TH CENTURY FOX HOME ENTERTAINMENT. NOT FOR DISTRUBUTION. IF YOU TRY TO DISTRIBUTE THIS, WE WILL PROSECUTE YOU TO THE ABSOLUTE FULLEST EXTENT OF THE LAW AND HAVE YOUR ASS TOSSED IN PRISON. DON’T TEST US. WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE AND WE WILL DESTROY YOU.”

          OK, maybe a little exaggeration there, but it’s honestly not far off. 🙂

          • Having seen a few of these screeners I know what you mean Josh. Those style screeners were popular when tube tv sets still existed. So everytime the scroller comes across the tv, the difference in brightness would cause the tv picture to distort ever so slightly-it was just the nature of crts.

            Could not properly review the video for clarity with that shit on the screen. Also could not properly review the movie itself as well because the scroller would keep popping up at the worst times. And not always at the bottom of the screen either.

            As far as watermarks though, I doubt they existed. And if they did, any new encode of the ripped disc would obliterate the secret code that indicated the source. Which is why they made such glaring threats about copying the disc, to scare you into not doing it!

      • Drew

        Understood. Good to know. Thanks for responding.

        How does a separate site get a hold of a blu-ray screener of a Fox title? Any idea?

        • Josh Zyber
          Author

          I have my theories on that but I can’t post them publicly. All I can say is that High-Def Digest receives all of its Blu-ray screeners through official studio PR channels, and in many cases, those PR channels are not sending discs before street date.

          • C.C. 95

            Also, my two cents, those other sites get that stuff WELL in advance of even screener copies going out…

        • William Henley

          As for the other site, if you notice, they review a lot of their movies at the theater. It seriously looks like they write the movie review, get the list of bonus features from press releases (many of the reviews just have bonus features listed, and nothing on what htey actually are), so when they get the disc, they just stick it in, grab a few screen shots, check out a couple of choice places, and throw the review up. Don’t believe me? Look at how short their audio and video reviews have gotten lately. Truthfully, the only reason for going to them is for their screen grabs and for international release news (you have to change your country from US to world wide).

          I have a theory as to how they post them early though, and as I am not affiliated with either, I’ll go ahead and state it – I think they got people at stores and warehouses that break release dates for them. What I don’t get is how the studios are not cracking down on them – if they are not releasing screeners early to reviewers, then they are doing something not-kosher to get them. I rarely read their reviews any more, I have no respect for them in that area, and pretty much only get news from them.

          • Drew

            William, There’s one key part of your comment that I want to address. You talk about how they put screenshots up, when they get them. Well, I’ve never seen a review go up on the other site that didn’t have screenshots. Isn’t this evidence that they have the physical blu-ray at the time that they’re posting the review? We all have our theories on what they may be doing, in order to post reviews so early. I’m fairly confident that I know exactly what Josh’s theories are. However, you can’t deny that they have the physical copy, at the time they are posting their reviews, unless you are implying that the screen grabs are from a streaming service, or some other digital file.

    • Chapz Kilud

      It really doesn’t bother me that blockbusters aren’t reviewed quickly enough. X-Men is virtually must own anyway. I don’t really need the review to tell me that. For me the reviews on lesser known titles are more useful because occasionally I would discover a gem that would have been missed without the review.

      • Drew

        It only bothers me, because I want HDD to be viewed as the leader. I want HDD to get the traffic and hits that a review of a brand new blockbuster — prior to street date — brings. I don’t want HDD to suffer, because they aren’t reviewing the big titles, during the time frame in which movie geeks will actually care about it. Furthermore, I enjoy looking forward to a spectacular brand new transfer. A review that is posted long before the title drops makes me froth at the mouth in anticipation. A recent example was ‘Live. Die. Repeat.’ 😉 (EDGE OF TOMORROW!!!) I was anticipating it with much fervor. The early review played a big part in that. It’s extremely fun to read an early review and engage in discussion about it. It was fun to read — and shoot down — comments from idiots who were commenting that the ‘Godzilla’ transfer was too dark. I had a review screener for ‘Godzilla’ and knew that was utter BS. The bottom line is: New blockbuster titles generate traffic. I don’t want HDD to miss out on that!

  9. For the record, if you guys want to see something reviewed, post it in the forums (most titles – even the unreviewed ones – have a dedicated thread somewhere). While Josh is correct that FOX and a few other studios aren’t giving out screeners anymore, we can still get the title after it streets and give a comprehensive review of this. Of course, this involves a reviewer actually obtaining the movie, so we don’t do this with every title, but we will do it if the demand for a review is strong enough. So if it’s a few weeks after street and you don’t see something reviewed and would like to, let us know and it will most likely get covered by one of our staff.

    • Drew

      Shannon, my original comment was directly referring to titles that definitely have the necessary demand. I was only ever inquiring about reviews for films in which the demand for a review goes without saying. I’m not asking why HDD hasn’t been reviewing obscure titles, prior to their release dates, or better yet, reviewing them at all.

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