Blu-ray Highlights for 6/21/11 – Who Am I and What Am I Buying?

There’s a peculiar theme at work in this week’s Blu-ray releases. In separate movies, both Liam Neeson and Matt Damon find their whole lives taken away from them by mysterious forces. Neeson wakes up from a car accident to discover that no one recognizes or remembers him, not even his wife. Damon gets a look behind the curtain at god-like beings who control every aspect of his life and every decision he makes. Meanwhile, we in the audience continue to wish that we could erase Channing Tatum’s movie career from existence.

Here’s the week’s release slate:

Loyal readers of this blog know that we’ll be giving away two copies of ‘The Adjustment Bureau‘ this week. The movie received very polarizing reviews during its theatrical release. Some critics (including our own at the time) called it a fun blend of the science fiction and romance genres. Others tore every single aspect of it to shreds with merciless abandon. I haven’t seen it personally, but a friend of mine whose opinion I generally respect fell on the positive side.

A couple years ago, audiences really enjoyed watching old codger Liam Neeson show some young punks what’s for in the surprise hit ‘Taken‘. Naturally, that could only mean that we’d be in store for more of the same, which is apparently what we get in ‘Unknown‘. From the trailers, this looks like the teal-est movie that has ever been made. I don’t think there’s a single other color in the whole film.

The Eagle‘ is based on the children’s adventure novel (‘The Eagle of the Ninth’) about a Roman centurion searching for his lost father. Channing Tatum stars… And I’m out. Next.

Speaking of crap made for children, ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid‘ got a sequel this year. It’s at times like this that I’m glad I don’t have kids.

Are you a fan of those pleasantly innocuous indie crowd-pleaser comedies like ‘Little Miss Sunshine‘ or ‘Hamlet 2’ about the wacky antics of dysfunctional people doing goofy things in the cutest way possible? The most recent entry in that Sundance Audience Award sweepstakes was ‘Cedar Rapids‘. I find these things insufferable. Your mileage may vary.

If that’s not quite enough indie rom-com bullshit for you, try ‘happythankyoumoreplease‘, the directorial debut of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ star Josh Radnor, who seems to think that he’s making the next ‘Garden State’. Our reviewer Steven called the movie “bland and unimaginative.” I’ll trust him on that.

On the TV front, we have the complete first season of ‘Louie‘, the FX sitcom starring and almost entirely created and produced by foul-mouthed comedian Louis C.K. I liked him when he had a recurring part on ‘Parks and Rec’, but I absolutely hated his HBO comedy ‘Lucky Louie’, which was just astoundingly terrible. I’ve only caught bits and pieces of this one, but it seems to be a big improvement. I know that Dick is a fan.

Before we move along to catalog titles, let’s not ignore the latest SyFy Channel monster schlock-fest ‘Mega Python vs. Gatoroid‘. This is the one that features a catfight between ’80s pop icons Debbie Gibson and Tiffany in a swamp. Feel free to just watch that scene and skip the rest.

OK then, would you believe that Michael Bay actually made one halfway decent movie and it turned out to be his only box office bomb? Well, you can stop believing that myth, because ‘The Island‘ is actually just as dumb as all of his other movies, if not more so. Ask yourself this: Who are all those product placement billboards, commercials, and logos that litter every inch of the underground clone factory supposed to be advertising to? The clones don’t have money. They don’t buy things. Why would Puma and Apple and Speedo pay to put their logos all over everything down there? It boggles the mind.

In better news, the Criterion Collection brings us Robert Aldrich’s film noir classic ‘Kiss Me Deadly‘, starring a very young Cloris Leachman. I’m way behind in my Criterion collecting these days.

Finally, we get three “movies” from the ‘Ghost in the Shell‘ anime series. For those who haven’t followed the ins and outs of this franchise, let me break it down for you. The TV series is not a direct sequel to either of the ‘Ghost in the Shell’ films by Mamoru Oshii. Instead, it’s a parallel adaptation of the same original manga (comic book) and contains many plot points that contradict the Oshii films. The show ran for two seasons, called ‘Stand Alone Complex’ and ‘S.A.C. 2nd Gig’ respectively, followed by a direct-to-video movie called ‘Solid State Society’. Two of the Blu-rays being released today (‘The Laughing Man’ and ‘Individual Eleven’) are condensed DTV movies that take clips from those two seasons and boil them down to the essential plot-points. Only ‘Solid State Society’ is a fully unedited narrative.

As someone who’s watched the entire ‘Ghost in the Shell’ series, my inclination would be to only pick up the ‘Solid State Society’ Blu-ray and skip the clip-shows. However, since I haven’t seen them, I can’t judge how well they work on their own. It also occurs to me that cutting out most of the cutesy Tachikoma comic relief would probably be a good thing for this show.


  1. I may pick up Ghost In the Shell on a sale. Other than that, nothing this week – I am saving up to be able to afford my LOTR that is shipping next week!

  2. vihdeeohfieuhl

    Jane Morgan? Where are you? I’m anticipating your rebuttal to Josh’s comments about The Island. 😉

    I’ll be picking up The Adjustment Bureau, — it’s brilliant — Unknown, — I’m curious — and Cedar Rapids — I’ve heard many good things — I can’t wait for next week! LOTR!

      • vihdeeohfieuhl

        I was tempted to start, but I knew this one was taylor made for Jane Morgan. Remember, William, she has an admitted, “Michael Bay fetish.” It was just too appetizing to allow her to come in and offer rebuttal. Ha!

        Don’t worry, I don’t plan on ceasing my own offerings from time to time. 😉

    • Jane Morgan

      Anyone who blames ‘The Island’ on Michael Bay knows nothing about Hollywood.

      In the early years of DreamWorks, Spielberg wanted to steal Michael Bay from Bruckheimer to fuck with Disney. He lured him in with an unfinished script, promises of a massive budget, creative control, and a hard R rating.

      Then the DW accountants took over. Because of the studio’s financial problems, they shortened the development period of ‘The Island’ from two years to nine months. They decided to shoot the unfinished script, and to shrink the budget by 20%, which meant removing whole scenes. The producers told Bay they could fix it in editing. He didn’t see how.

      The head marketing woman didn’t know how to sell the mess of a movie they shot, so she ordered it cut shorter and cleaned to a shiny PG-13, then dumped it into theaters without an advertising campaign. The foreign release was handled by another studio, who cut their losses in a similar fashion.

      This the the first movie that Spielberg, as studio head, truly discovered his love of product placement. (It grew out of his love of money.) Bay didn’t want any product placement in the film, but he agreed to be a team player, thinking that his future at DreamWorks would be bright.

      In July, 2005, ‘The Island’ hit theaters not with a bang, but a whimper. And all the little Michael Bay fans collectively said “What The Fuck…?”

      With a budget of $125M, ‘The Island’ grossed $35M domestic and $163 worldwide. With DVD and TV, it ended up becoming quite profitable, and boosted Michael Bay’s reputation as a guy who can make a big return on investment, even in a worst case scenario.

      The “success” of ‘The Island’ is how Bay got the job on ‘Transformers.’

      How much creative control does Michael Bay currently have?

      Spielberg is the one who fired Megan Fox on T3.

      • vihdeeohfieuhl

        Thank you!

        I love it!

        I’ve read most of that information before, but never with it coming from anyone that was passionate about it. I am much obliged!

        I feel like Bay did the absolute most with what he had to work with, and with all of those limiting factors against him. The Spielberg product placement really pisses me off! How could Spielberg fuck with something like that in a film that featured characters who absolutely could not buy anything?!

        If you eliminate the distracting product placement bullshit, allow the characters to speak the way real people would, — meaning allow R rated language and dialogue — raise the budget by even 10%, and give Bay unconditional creative control, The Island could have possibly been transcendent.

        • vihdeeohfieuhl

          By the way, I still love The Island! I watch it with a “read between the lines” attitude, and just imagine what it could have/should have been. I know the final finished product is quite shitty, but there’s just too damn much to love! I can’t believe that Bay could even make it into what it is with all of that nonsensical bullshit imposed on him!

          I received my shiny new blu-ray of The Island last night! I can’t wait to watch it in all of it’s 7.1 lossless and (hopefully) stunning 1080P glory!

      • Josh Zyber

        None of which contradicts the fact that it’s a dumb movie. 🙂

        You can spread the blame as much as you want, but at a certain point it simply must be acknowledged that Michael Bay consistently makes dumb movies.

        • vihdeeohfieuhl

          No, but it does contradict the opinion that it is a dumb movie because of Michael Bay. Bay is a victim to the crimes of Hollywood more than almost anybody realizes. Perhaps he is to blame for settling and compromising, but he’s a victim nonetheless.

          As you know, roughly 90% of HDD readers disagree with you about the first Transformers movie. It was exactly what a Transformers movie should have been! I think that you sometimes let your feelings about the second one affect your opinion of the first one. The Rock is also an example that can be used as proof that Michael Bay is a very capable director.

          I know that you have essentially admitted as much during the rountable discussion comparing him to Stephen Sommers, but I just thought I would point that out. I guess there’s not really anything I can say to counter your statement that Bay consistently makes dumb movies, but I just hope that you’ll remember that a lot of those dumb movies, and the stupidity found in those movies, can and often times should be blamed on a whole host of other people.

          • My question is, can you really call someone a bad director if people keep paying to go see their stuff? I think then that this means that someone must think they are a good director if they keep getting projects and people keep watching. It just means you don’t like them.

          • EM

            It could just mean that his projects have effective publicity machines. People in these forums tend to pay attention to directors, but most of the popcorn-eating public does not. (Some directors manage to get wide public recognition, e.g., Spielberg and Hitchcock, but I’m not sure Bay is in that category.) Financial success does not equal excellence in quality. Does McDonald’s make the best food on the planet?

      • If Michael Bay create at least one half decent movie (well, maybe The Rock), I could believe that The Island is not his fault. But, every part of that movie has his mark on it, and maybe he is not fully responsible for how bad it is, so he and Spielberg can share the blame on this one. Even if Micheal Bay gets the greatest script ever written, the movie he would make of it would be another terrible mix between Bad Boys, Transformers, Armageddon and The Island.

          • Josh Zyber

            Everything. Everything is wrong with Armageddon. Every single scene. Every single shot. Every single line of dialogue.

            Abrams is one of SIX credited writers on the movie, as well as a committee of about two dozen more who didn’t receive credit.

          • Luke Hickman

            As you all know from my professed J.J. Abrams love, I dig ‘Armageddon.’ There’s nothing wrong with a typical fun summer blockbuster. They offer the mindless relief necessary before the heavy awards season!

          • vihdeeohfieuhl

            Gotta agree with you there Josh! Every last millisecond of Armageddon is wrong! There’s not one single aspect that is even remotely sufferable!

        • vihdeeohfieuhl

          No! You’re not! I don’t think it’s crap either! Jane Morgan is with us as well! haha! Why am I using all of these exclamation points?! Somebody stop me now! … Okay stopped! whoops! 😉

          The Island is a missed opportunity. It could have been phenomenal, but it’s still a highly amusing and entirely unique action romp. I love it!

    • Luke Hickman

      You’re correct about The Adjustment Bureau – brilliant!

      Unknown = boooooring.

      Cedar Rapids = hilarious irreverent comedy.

      LOTR – hear mixed things. Sounds like the color is all effed up.

  3. lordbowler

    I’m renting The Eagle to see how good it is. I love historic epics.

    Its been well-reviewed by so its a safe buy.

    • Luke Hickman

      If you’re curious, ‘The Eagle’ is a safe rent. As for the movie itself, Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  4. Jane Morgan

    The tragedy of Michael Bay is that he has never been attached to a great script.

    Hollywood hands him direct-to-dvd material, which he shoots into shiny shiny shit.

    He makes three-hour trailers, infused with two emotions: Courage and Sacrifice. And he punctuates everything with a Hero Shot.

    Like Arthur Miller, he works with blunt tools. But it gets the job done.

    • Josh Zyber

      Jane, you didn’t seriously just compare Michael Bay to Arthur Miller, did you?

      If Michael Bay wanted to direct a good script, he has more than enough sway in the industry to have one written for him. If you watch the bonus features on any of his movies, he is seen time and again coming up with the worst ideas in his movies and demanding them to be written into the scripts. “This movie needs a little robot humping Megan Fox’s leg. Oh my god, that’ll be hilarious! Give me a scene like that! I want to shoot it tomorrow.”

      There is no tragedy here. Michael Bay makes exactly the movies that he wants to make. His movies are stupid because that’s the only level that he’s capable of working on.

      • vihdeeohfieuhl

        I think you completely misunderstood the commentary when Bay was talking about a little robot humping her leg. I interpreted it to be completely sarcastic, and self depracating. It was if he was saying he couldn’t believe that actually ended up in the movie. I didn’t get the impression that it was his idea at all.

        I think that he is capable of working on a whole other level that would shock us all. I predict that within the next five years, Michael Bay will make a film that completely blows us away!

        I’m with Jane on this one. Bay has never been attached to a great script. As much sway as he might have, I have read many articles of him trying his damndest to gain access to shooting scripts that he was really passionate about, and he wasn’t even taken seriously.

          • Michael Bay does one thing, and and one thing only, REALLY well. He does stuff BIG! And LOUD! And he understands action! If he was to push for a good script, it would be great!

            Like Armegeddon was!


            Could you imagine Independance Day 2 directed by Michael Bay? Well, as long as there is no alien humping. And no animal crackers. And no parachutes!

            Wait, I had almost forgot about Pearl Harbor! How the heck has he not been drug out into the street and shot for that catastrophy yet! I take back everything I just said, he’s a horrible director with one or two good movies! (Armegeddon!!!!)

      • Jane Morgan

        ‘The Crucible’ is the ‘Armageddon’ of the theatre.

        Michael Bay is a shooter. He has no sense of story craft, other than the recognition that the audience wants to consume emotion.

        His movies are only as good as the sensibility of his producer.

        Spielberg is mostly a hands-off producer, with questionable taste.

        Look at Bruckheimer’s filmography. Which of his films do you admire?

        Humping Megan Fox is a band-aid on a weak story beat. A distraction to misdirect against boredom. When a script is brilliant, no one improvises.

        The real question is: Is it possible for an action movie to be well written?

          • Yeah, I thought of more after I wrote this. The Matrix (the first one), Demolition Man (although it may not be appreciated by all), Constantine, definately agree with the Bourne films, and will agree with Batman Begins (did not care for The Dark Knight, but I see why people like it), and Battle of the Bulge.

          • Jane Morgan

            The only action movie to win an Oscar for best screenplay is ‘The Return Of The King.’

            The only action movies I can remember being delighted by the writing are ‘Kill Bill,’ ‘ Mr. & Mrs. Smith,’ and ‘Red Cliff.’

            Most of the time when they put a great writer on an action movie we get something like ‘Ronin.’

            Hollywood should get Sorkin and Fincher to reboot John Woo’s ‘The Killer.’

          • Josh Zyber

            We don’t need every action movie to have an Oscar-worthy screenplay. All we ask is that they pare back on the abject stupidity. “Dumb but fun” only gets you so far. In excess, dumb stops being fun and becomes insulting. Michael Bay’s movies are insulting.

          • I don’t mind marginally well written scripts when it comes to action movies, but I DO want the action scenes to be filmed coherently. The biggest problem with action movies nowadays is the camera never backs up to take in the whole picture. Most fights take place in made up spacial areas where closeups of legs and arms flailing about is called action. Quick cut, roughly edited action scenes filmed with handheld cameras are distracting and annoying. I wish action directors would back it up and actually choreograph a fight scene that we could watch and enjoy.

  5. Jane Morgan

    Michael Bay’s movies are insulting to who?

    Cameron? Verbinski? Lucas? Spielberg? Raimi? Howard? Scott?

    Consider all the major action movies of 2010.

    Iron Man 2, Inception, Tron, Clash Of The Titans, The Last Airbender, The Other Guys, Salt, Robin Hood, The Expendables, Prince Of Persian, Red, The A-Team, Knight And Day, Resident Evil: Afterlife, Predators, Machete, From Paris With Love.

    How many of these were significantly better written than The Rock?