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Blu-ray Highlights: Week of September 29th, 2013 – I’ll Tell You a Tale of the Bottomless Blue

As September draws to a close, the first Blu-ray slate for the new month brings us two great family classics refreshed and (some would say needlessly) converted to 3D, plus a newer 3D animated film that probably won’t be remembered six months from now, much less revisited decades hence. Oh, and because it’s October, you might see a few scary movies in here too.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (10/1/13)?

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Family Business

Fresh from its IMAX 3D theatrical re-release, ‘The Wizard of Oz‘ makes a second appearance on Blu-ray with a 75th Anniversary Edition. Not that there was anything significant wrong with the video transfer of the earlier 70th Anniversary Edition, but Warner Bros. went ahead and rescanned the film at 8k resolution. (I’m uncertain whether the new 2D disc benefits from that new scan, or if it was only used for the 3D conversion.) Reports from those who saw it largely say that the 3D is tastefully applied and surprisingly effective in some scenes, if ultimately unnecessary. From what I hear, the background matte paintings have been given a new sense of depth so that they no longer look like matte paintings. I’m not sure how I feel about that, honestly.

While Warner is still bullish on three-dimensionalizing its classic titles, Disney has apparently lost its enthusiasm for doing so. After declining box office returns for ‘Finding Nemo’ and ‘Monsters, Inc.’ in 3D, the House of Mouse canceled plans for a theatrical re-release of ‘The Little Mermaid‘, the film that launched the studio’s modern animation renaissance in 1989. However, since efforts on the 3D conversion were already underway, that process was completed and now debuts on Blu-ray. I doubt we’ll see too many more 3D re-releases of Disney animated titles going forward.

Both the 2D and 3D Blu-rays for ‘The Little Mermaid’ suffer an editing error in which a couple of shots have been swapped during one musical number. Allegedly, the studio doesn’t consider this problem significant enough to need fixing. Fortunately, this seems like the sort of thing you probably wouldn’t notice if no one pointed it out to you (which I just did, sorry!).

I seriously doubt that DreamWorks’ animated caveman comedy ‘The Croods‘ will have anywhere near the staying power of the above two movies. Trailers for it looked atrocious. Nevertheless, it made a lot of money, and now you can buy it for your kids. At this current moment in time, I’m grateful that I’m not required to watch stuff like this, but I may not always be so lucky.

In what must be the fastest double-dip turnaround I can recall, Shout! Factory has a new Director’s Cut of Luc Besson’s 2010 fantasy adventure ‘The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec‘, which premiered on Blu-ray just seven weeks ago. Our reviewer E. says that the new cut adds two minutes of footage, including brief nudity, but is a negligible difference overall. Why this particular (largely unknown) movie should deserve so much attention is a mystery.

Scare Tactics

In preparation for Halloween, Scream Factory offers ‘The Amityville Horror Trilogy‘. The original film was previously released on Blu-ray, but this reissue marks the first appearance of the two sequels, including a genuine 3D transfer for ‘Amityville 3-D’. Is that worth rebuying the first movie for? Frankly, all of the ‘Amityville’ pictures are pretty crappy, but have their fans.

More exciting is the Vincent Price horror classic ‘House of Wax‘, one of the films that ushered in the 3D craze of the 1950s, now restored to its original three dimensions.

Lest anyone be confused, today’s listing for ‘Fright Night 2‘ is not the 1988 sequel to the (in my opinion, really terrible) 1985 cult favorite. Rather, it’s an in-name-only, direct-to-video sequel to the recent remake, sharing none of its cast, storylines or production values. Personally, I thought the remake was better than the original ‘Fright Night’ (though I’m aware that’s a minority opinion), but this is clearly a pointless cash-in. Weirdly, why would anyone try to cash-in on a movie that made no money?

New Releases

In the apocalyptic comedy ‘This Is the End‘, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill and a bunch of their buddies play exaggerated versions of themselves trying to survive a demonic invasion of Los Angeles. If you’re a fan of these performers, or of non-stop dick and fart jokes, the trailers for this looked kind of funny. If you’re not a fan of dick and fart jokes, you probably shouldn’t be watching a movie with this cast anyway.

What happened to poor John Cusack’s career that he wound up co-starring with Nicolas Cage and Vanessa Hudgens in the direct-to-video thriller ‘The Frozen Ground‘? He must have done something bad to really piss off his agent.

Catalog Titles

On the classic film front, Sony gives us a high-def edition of ‘From Here to Eternity‘, Warner puts King Vidor’s 1925 silent WWI drama ‘The Big Parade‘ in a nice Digibook, and Universal breaks out ‘Torn Curtain‘ from last year’s big Hitchcock box set.

In terms of not-so-classics, Starz/Achor Bay has Tommy Lee Jones’ 1997 cheesefest disaster epic ‘Volcano‘. Check out the hilariously awful cover art on that one. It may be more entertaining than the movie. Of course, that’s not a terribly high bar to clear.

Television

From the world of TV comes the fourth season of ‘Glee‘. I’m not sure why this show is still on. It may not be for much longer if the producers can’t figure out a way to address star Cory Monteith’s death.

Elsewhere, PBS bundles the first three seasons of ‘Downton Abbey‘ together, in case you hadn’t already bought them each separately.

I’ve already received my British SteelBook copy of ‘The Little Mermaid‘. Unfortunately, that disc is 2D only, so I may have to pick up the 3D copy separately. I’m also curious to see ‘The Wizard of Oz’ in 3D. ‘House of Wax’, ‘From Here to Eternity’ and ‘The Big Parade’ will go on my wish list.

What interests you this week?

10 comments

  1. August Lehe

    I was about nine years old when House of Wax was released and it was the first film that truly scared me witless for years! Guess I was past my Flying Monkey jitters (Wizard of Oz).

    And I hope the WWI battle scenes in the Big Parade were as groundbreaking as I have been told!

  2. William Henley

    Wizard of Oz 3D 75th Collectors Edition for me – when it goes on sale. I have the disc-only Target set of the 70th Anniversary.

    Also the 3D version of Little Mermaid. Is the trilogy available with the 3D version? If not, anyone know if I can get the second and third movies seperate?

    Reports from those who saw it largely say that the 3D is tastefully applied and surprisingly effective in some scenes, if ultimately unnecessary. From what I hear, the background matte paintings have been given a new sense of depth so that they no longer look like matte paintings. I’m not sure how I feel about that, honestly

    While the Matte paintings do have depth, it depends on the scene as to how the depth looks. For example, at the end of “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”, the road feels like it extends to the horizon, rather than them looking like they are about to walk into the back of the soundstage. However, in the scene when Glinda arrives, and in their first view of the Emerald City, it looks more like a pop-out book, with very different layers. It works quite well. In other words, the sets still look like sets, and the matte paintings look more like they are wood cutouts on a stage rather than paintings. It works surprisingly well without changing the feel of the original.

    I don’t know if that makes sense. Just watch it. I am sure you will find out that it works better than you might think.

    This was noted in the theatrical review, and I noticed this too, but when they first arrive in Oz, and there is a pan, there are some flowers on the side of a hill that seem to mysteriously float around the picture. On a smaller screen than an Imax, this will probably just look like they are blowing in the wind, but it looked really strange on the huge IMAX.

    The rest of the 3D was really good. I wasn’t expecting a film of this age, which was not intended for 3D, to look that good in a conversion, but it worked REALLY well. Give it a chance, Josh.

  3. Kevin

    “Little Mermaid” and “From Here to Eternity” for me.

    I’m fine with the Blu-Ray of “Wizard of Oz” that I already have (no need for 3D), and while I kind of want the “Amityville” set, I’ve heard mostly bad about the sequels and I only JUST bought the original Blu-Ray of the first film a couple months ago.

  4. Josh Zyber
    Author

    I’ve made an edit to the Wizard of Oz paragraph. I’m no longer certain whether the 2D disc is identical to the previous edition or if it uses the new 8k scan after all.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      The original credits were stripped out and re-rendered for the 3D conversion. Apparently, whoever did this also decided to make some changes to their placement and timing. The end credits also have an all new section for the 3D crew that’s present on both 2D and 3D copies, so it would seem that the 2D disc is just the single-eye view of the 3D version.

      Coloring changes and other revisions like this are par for the course with Disney, but the two swapped shots are reportedly a straight-up error.

      • So Disney likes revisions, eh? How do they feel about the original Star Wars films? Do they agree with George Lucas? Or will they release the unaltered versions on Blu-ray?

        • William Henley

          Probabably A New Hope will say Episode 4 on it, and they may use the new color corrections and scrub every last piece of grain from the picture (hopefully their scrubbing will look better than 20th Century Fox’s – I HATE frozen grain), but they will use the original cut for everything else. That seems to be how Disney rolls

  5. Lord Bowler

    My list includes:

    Short Circuit/Short Circuit 2. I’ve held off picking up Short Circuit solo Blu, and am glad I did. Great cheesy movie and the sequel wasn’t that bad.

    Nowhere to Run/The Order. I loved Van Damme’s early movies and Nowhere to Run is one of the few I don’t have on Blu-ray. I’m glad I waited to get it, because now I can get The Order (which was interesting and an opening narration by Charlton Heston) for the price of one. I recently been going through his whole filmography and most of his later movies are pretty bad.

    And, Volcano! I’ve seen this many, many times and still enjoy it. It’s an enjoyable disaster flick.