For a holiday week (admittedly, a minor holiday), the Blu-ray release schedule is surprisingly packed with new discs this week. Just looking at the huge list makes my eyes glaze over. How can we pick out the few titles possibly worth buying?
‘San Andreas‘ – In the event that the biggest earthquake in history finally tears California right off the mainland coast, I should hope that Dwayne Johnson would not abandon his duties as an emergency rescue pilot and steal an invaluable rescue chopper in order to go save his own wife and daughter but nobody else. What a jerk. How many innocent victims will needlessly die because of his actions? If you play the Blu-ray too loud and its thunderous Dolby Atmos soundtrack shakes your house apart, don’t expect The Rock to dig you out. He’ll be too busy with his own stuff for that.
‘Tomorrowland‘ – This year’s ‘John Carter’, former Pixar animator Brad Bird tries his hand at live action again (after the far more successful ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’) and delivers a big dud. Perhaps not every Disney theme park attraction needs its own feature film? (My apologies if you’ve been waiting with baited breath to learn the thrilling backstory behind the Tea Cups.) Not even George Clooney’s star power could get people into theaters this time. Damon Lindelof’s name in the credits probably didn’t help. Consensus from those who did see it is that the movie’s not terrible but also not great. Our expectations for Brad Bird are higher than that.
‘Dope‘ – The key to making a movie that will be a big hit at Sundance is pretty simple: Just tell a coming-of-age story about social misfits with some weird obsession or affectation. It works every time. Although the story is set in the present day, the trio of kids featured here are fixated on 1990s hip-hop and pop culture – fade haircuts, Will Smith’s music career, the works. Then they get tied up in some dangerous business involving a local drug dealer. ‘Cuz, see, the title ‘Dope’ has two meanings. I probably shouldn’t be so dismissive, but I remember the ’90s and am happy to leave them behind me.
‘The Gallows ‘ – Found-footage horror flick about idiot teens who get stalked and chased by something evil when they break into their high school after hours. Probably serves them right.
‘Call Me Lucky‘ – Bobcat Goldthwait makes a documentary about his friend Barry Crimmins, an acerbic yet little-known stand-up comic who became a prominent activist against child abuse. Is it supposed to be funny or depressing? I can’t tell.
I’ve had the UK SteelBook edition of Disney’s ‘Aladdin‘ for a couple years already. I’m not sure what took so long to bring the movie to Blu-ray on these shores. To make up for the delay, the disc’s soundtrack has been upgraded to DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (formerly 5.1) and it adds some new bonus features.
David Cronenberg’s early horror feature ‘The Brood‘ crawls into the Criterion Collection this week. Also getting inducted is ‘A Special Day‘, a 1977 Italian drama starring the great Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren.
Twilight Time prepares for Halloween with the horror movies ‘Count Yorga, Vampire‘ and ‘Scream and Scream Again‘, plus the horror spoof ‘Strange Invaders‘. Bob Rafelson’s ‘Black Widow‘ is more thriller than horror flick, but involves a serial murderess, so it fits the theme well enough. On the other hand, the noir-ish Denzel Washington mystery ‘Devil in a Blue Dress‘ has nothing horrific in it at all. Did someone at the label get confused by the word “devil” in the title?
If you buy the Twilight Time copy of ‘Count Yorga’, Scream Factory hopes that you’ll find some room in your budget for the sequel ‘The Return of Count Yorga‘ as well.
Widely regarded as one of the worst movies ever made, ‘Manos: The Hands of Fate‘ is probably best remembered for being featured in the most popular episode of ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’. Recently, a fan discovered the original 16mm negative and painstakingly restored the film’s grungy photography to the limits of its possible quality. Now that restoration is proudly presented on Blu-ray by Synapse.
As if that weren’t terrifying enough, Synapse also offers a 20th Anniversary Edition of the mutant bug chiller ‘Mosquito‘. I have no memory at all of this movie being released in 1995. Is that just me?
The 2007 Blu-ray release of Tim Burton’s ‘Edward Scissorhands‘ had some pretty underwhelming video quality. Fox promises to rectify that with a newly remastered video transfer for the 25th Anniversary Edition.
On the other hand, Fox does not appear to have remastered any of the films in the goofily-packaged Nakatomi Plaza edition of the ‘Die Hard Collection‘, even though the first movie is known to have undergone a new 4k film scan a couple years ago which has never shown up on home video. What’s the hold-up with that?
Don’t expect anything new from the latest reissues of the ‘Star Wars‘ saga either, other than UltraViolet Digital Copies and new packaging (including SteelBook versions).
Among Warner’s latest batch of titles are the hilarious Trey Parker/Matt Stone marionette satire ‘Team America: World Police‘, Peter Weir’s Oscar-nominated drama ‘Witness‘, Ridley Scott’s con-artist caper ‘Matchstick Men‘, Clint Eastwood’s prison-break thriller ‘Escape from Alcatraz‘, and the dopey disaster flick ‘The Core‘.
Getting the jump on Pixar’s upcoming feature ‘The Good Dinosaur’, Universal would like to remind you that ‘The Land Before Time‘ was once a thing that kids cared about.
After that, Universal gets its JCVD on with ‘Hard Target‘ and ‘Sudden Death‘. For some reason, the studio felt that Ron Howard’s ghastly eye-sore adaptation of ‘Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas‘ was worth reissuing. (I believe it’s even been remastered.)
I know that I saw director Wolfgang Petersen’s Hitchcockian amnesiac thriller ‘Shattered‘ in the theater back in 1991, but the only thing I remember from it is the elaborate car crash set-piece that happens near the beginning of the film. I’m sure that scene probably doesn’t hold up. Bob Hoskins was in this? I have no memory of that. The movie was part of a spate of overheated suspense thrillers from that time period. Like most of the others, it probably hasn’t aged well.
If you happen to be in the mood for some Old West action, Paramount brings us the James Stewart classic ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance‘, while Arrow has the Spaghetti Western ‘Requiescant‘.
It’s a big time for TV series closure on Blu-ray this week. Lionsgate finished off ‘Mad Men‘ with the final season or a Complete Series package. Warner does the same for ‘The Following‘. Meanwhile, Sony bundles together the full run of ‘Justified‘, and Universal tries to drum up some interest in the new reboot by reissuing the original run of ‘Heroes‘.
‘Bates Motel‘ has been renewed for two more seasons. If you missed Season 3 during broadcast, now’s a good time to catch up.
PBS commemorates Ken Burns’ epic documentary ‘The Civil War‘ with a 25th Anniversary Edition that remasters all 12 hours into high-definition from a new 4k scan of the camera negative.
If I didn’t already own import copies of ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Team America’, I’d certainly jump all over those. I would like to see if the domestic copy of the latter is an improvement over the mediocre import.
I’m pretty excited to see Cronenberg’s ‘The Brood’ enter the Criterion Collection. That will go on my wish list along with ‘Witness’, ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ and ‘Edward Scissorhands’.
I expect that I will just wait to watch ‘Tomorrowland’ when it eventually hits cable.
I’m sure that I’ve probably missed something interesting buried in the huge release slate this week. Tell me what caught your eye.